Sex-advice ace Dan Savage on the loose in new book

It's been quite a run for Dan Savage. Between speaking gigs, radio and TV appearances and the syndicated sex-advice column he writes from a desk that belonged to Ann Landers, Savage managed another book, "American Savage."

Savage, 48, looks back on his mom, who died in 2008, takes us into his rationale for why cheating may just save your marriage and offers a glimpse of life at home with husband Terry Miller and their 15-year-old son.

He says he wanted to write the book in part because "you know, I'm kind of gay and kind of prominent and I've been slugging away at the marriage equality issue for a long time." But the book is about more than that. Savage recently talked to the AP about 'American Savage.'

AP: How has becoming a father changed you as a sex-advice columnist?

Savage: It has changed me a little bit. I've been getting letters from teenagers who are 14, 15 and 16 years old, and sexually active, and with questions or problems, and I would give them advice, and now when I get a letter from a 15-year-old I look at my son, who's 15, and I think, 'You're too young to be reading my column, you're too young to be in this situation.'

It's that getting older and becoming a parent and sort of drifting into that hypocrisy and the great forgetting of what being 15 is like, because I was sexually active at 15 and I'm fine, but when it comes to your own kid, you look at your own kid and go, 'No, no you have to wait at least 10 more years.'

AP: How does your late mother, who was a lay minister, influence your work?

Savage: My mother was really compassionate. There are three women I credit for sort of stumbling onto this gig and it being the right gig for me, and that was always Ann Landers, Xavier Hollander, who wrote the 'Happy Hooker' column in Penthouse magazine, and my mother.

My mom was Dr. Phil for the neighborhood. I was a weird sort of sensitive mama's boy and I would be in the kitchen, you know, hanging out doing nothing, sitting under the table while my mother sat there and hashed out problems with neighbor ladies and gave them advice. It was really listening to my mother give advice, and talk things out and listen to people and pick up on what they wanted, what they didn't want.

AP: How does your advice on cheating differ from your predecessors' advice on cheating in a monogamous relationship?

Savage: The standard position is that cheating is always wrong, and that we as sex-advice professionals are never allowed to tell anyone that cheating is OK, or the right thing to do. And in reality, there are times when cheating is the right thing to do, when cheating is the lesser of two evils.

I don't think people should violate commitments. I don't think serial adulterers get a pass. I don't think that someone should make a commitment that they can't keep. But knowing what we know about infidelity - something like 60 percent of all men in long-term relationships and 40 percent of all women cheat at some point - our default position should not be cheating must always lead to divorce. ... I look at a marriage and I see a life and a shared history. I see children. I see shared property. I see shared goals. I see real love and longevity, and then there's an infidelity. ... There are cases where women and sometimes men later in life are no longer interested in sex at all and cannot fake it and it's emotionally scarring and traumatizing to fake it and go through the motions. What is the solution, divorce? Or some allowance, some accommodation, the turning of a blind eye.

AP: Tell me about Dec. 9, 2012, the day you got married at Seattle's city hall, having been married to Terry in Canada.

Savage: It was just beautiful; 140-some couples married that day. What you saw were these same-sex couples who had been together 10, 20, 30, 40 years, their friends and their families.

I tell this story in the book of being at this park in Seattle many years ago, where a limo pulls up and a bride and a groom tumble out to get their portraits at this very famous park with a beautiful view of downtown Seattle. And as they're walking back to the limo everyone starts to applaud, and rightly so. Everyone takes delight when two people find each other and make that commitment. I was standing there clapping next to these two older gentlemen with two big dogs. It was clear that they were gay and I was gay. And as they get into their car, the one closest to me looks at me and says, 'We are always happy for them. Would it kill them to be happy for us?'"

We've reached that tipping point, where they are happy for us. Now you see straight people looking at gay people and recognizing something about themselves in us.


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