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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Savage Gets Too Savage

I know better than to expect Dan Savage to be consistently bland and uncontroversial. Nonetheless, his response last week to A Caring Loving Uncle went decidedly overboard. Given my own past experience with sexual intimidation, I had to respond:

Dan, I must strongly object to part of your advice to ACLU. I don't think it is ever beneficial to threaten physical violence other than as self-defense against same. Further, such a threat will surely make it less likely that the 14-year-old will trust ACLU, regardless of any promise of confidentiality he may have made.

The most important form of instruction from adults to the young is always modeling — demonstrating by example how a caring, responsible person acts. If you are trying to offer a queer role model to someone who hasn't yet had one, setting the right example becomes even more important. There is also every reason to believe that this will be sufficient.

On the other hand, threatening physical violence to someone who isn't yet comfortable with his sexuality can have devastating effects. I was injured, in terms of great anxiety around the opposite sex, merely by being ostracized for expressing my sexual feelings at age 17 (I was in a cult at the time). How much worse for a 14-year-old to be threatened physically? Especially for a kid who's probably not the least bit macho, and quite possibly is a "boyfriend" only because the girl went after him.

I must also take issue with the way you characterize "teen pregnancy." It is true that, at present, our social arrangements are not very supportive of girls who become pregnant in their early reproductive years. But it is actually the most natural thing in the world and, until the past couple centuries, most societies throughout history — patriarchal and matriarchal alike — have accepted it as such. Many of the problems currently attributed to it are properly ascribed to the effects of the stigma and lack of social support for those involved. The most familiar aspect of this is the shaming of the girls but, as your response to ACLU illustrates, another is emotional abuse of the boys. Even so, insofar as current conditions argue for delaying pregnancy, modeling responsibility and not propensities to violence is the way to encourage that. Not to mention emphasizing that sex can be fun in more than one way: pointing out how using a condom can actually be turned into a shared erotic act, for instance, is a more reliable way of encouraging it than making pregnancy prevention a subject he doesn't even want to think about because of scary associations. That only increases the risk of hasty, furtive, ill-thought-out coupling.

Eric Hamell
Philadelphia, PA
(48yo bisexual man)

1 comment:

mike r said...

Don't forget Mr. Savage personally threatened physical violence against a friend of mine because he ran for the U.S. Senate.