December 8, 2011

Ask Anything, Tell All | Washington Monthly {featured read}

"Is sex columnist Dan Savage a shock jock, a sagacious ethicist, or both?" Washington Monthly brings us this astute profile of Dan Savage, which shows his wide cultural influence as a new (but radically different) Ann Landers. It is a must-read for how it unpacks Savage's sexual ethics. (Republished by the Utne Reader, Sept-Oct 2011).


After 20 years of churning out Savage Love, the Seattle writer can lay a legitimate claim to being America’s most influential advice columnist. He is syndicated around the world in more than 70 newspapers—mainly alternative weeklies in the United States—with well over 1 million in total circulation. Online, he reaches millions more readers. He is a frequent contributor to the popular radio program This American Life, and a Savage Love television show is under discussion with MTV. His podcast has a higher iTunes ranking than those of Rachel Maddow or the NBC Nightly News, and his books have sold briskly. And when it suits him, the range of his commentary has become increasingly broad. In the space of one column—the one where he announced his purchase of Ann Landers’ desk—Savage offered advice to a 30-year-old woman who wanted to sleep with a 17-year-old coworker, fielded a question from a man with a childbirth fetish, and then, for good measure, advised the Bush administration to take a harder stance on Saudi Arabia.

Savage’s ability to mobilize legions of readers has also matured beyond the lobbing of incendiary Google bombs. Last fall, a streak of suicides by gay teenagers across the country inspired Savage and his husband, Terry Miller, to post a video testimonial on YouTube. The two men recounted their difficulties growing up bullied and harassed, then held up their adult lives—and happiness as a couple—as evidence that, for gay people living in America, “it gets better.” Savage encouraged other people to film their own testimonials and post them online under the heading of the “It Gets Better Project.” A torrent of videos poured in, first from Savage’s regular readers, then from various Hollywood celebrities, and then from leaders in Washington. Hillary Clinton was quickly followed by Nancy Pelosi and President Obama himself, who delivered the line “Every day, it gets better” from the White House.
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