Day 109 – Dan Savage @ FoDI

Today the Festival of Dangerous Ideas started at the Sydney Opera House. This is the first time that I attended any sessions, and had I known how much fun it would be, I’d have bought tickets for more than just the one session.

I have read Dan Savage’s advice column for years now, and I religiously listened to all episodes in his Savage Love podcast until I caught up. He is a great mix of entertainment and unconventional ideas. Although sometimes (less these days), he is just plain entertainingly snarky.

I mentioned him once before.

Dan! In Real Life! Less than a Chair's Throw Away!
Dan! In Real Life! Less than a Chair’s Throw Away!

Usually his sessions are heavier on the advice-to-audience-questions, but I think in the context of the Festival, he had to speak at length on his Monogamish lifestyle. Of an hour session, he spoke for about 40 minutes before getting to questions.

Monogamish is a term he coined for his mostly monogamous relationship with his husband, but which leaves room for other people as well. He categorised it alongside open and polyamorous relationships. By way of explanation he rolled out an anecdote from The View where he was asked “What Does That Look Like?” by Barbara Walters. I doubt she’d have been ready for his response: “Well, it’s where while I’m cheating with a guy, my husband is cheating at the other end of the same guy”. I wish there was a YouTube clip of the episode, because I can only imagine the response from the panel.

I don’t know why they didn’t make the session longer; the only thing better than an hour of Dan Savage, is two hours! I’d have happily paid double or triple for the privilege.

Some of the topics and angles he covered have come up many times in his podcast and column, which was noticeable in the way his well-worded phrases just rolled off his tongue. But it would be too easy to dismiss this all as just plain exercised monologue; when Dan engages with the audience, especially on some of the rushed questions towards the end, it is clear that his excellent answers come from real consideration no matter how brief. Nothing he said ever felt forced or detached from its context.

I cannot wait for the video to become available on the FoDI YouTube channel, so that not only can I relive the session I attended and memorise a few more of his memorable phrases, but also see the panel session he participated in that I failed to get tickets for.

For now, I’ll leave you all with the most tweeted quote from his session; Dan Savage on the topic of being good at sex being a learned skill that doesn’t just come out of nowhere…

“A vagina is more complex than a violin, and nobody just picks up the violin one day and nails it the first time.” – Dan Savage

I don’t know whether the double-entendre at the end there was intentional, but I would put it forward as prime evidence why Dan is such a joy to read/listen/watch.

And then there was of course the moment where a woman before asking a question told Dan how wonderful it was for him to have said “pussy” on stage in the Opera House. And how wonderful it was to have said it herself. To which Dan led the whole audience in saying it together.

Sydney Savaged – A Dangerous Idea

Mid last week, an envelope arrived from the Sydney Opera House. It took me by surprise, because I wasn’t expecting anything.

The contents of the envelope looked like advertising, but luckily I looked more closely before referring it to the bin. They were my Dan Savage tickets that I had ordered months ago and had completely forgotten about again.

For those that do not know who Dan Savage is, let me give you a small selection of links to follow. Beware; at the other end of these links there is a high dose of snark, sarcasm and wit. Also, sex advice from his column… it is often funny, but I need to make sure you know what you’re in for.

  • Dan Savage’s online columnin which people write in their problems (sometimes hilarious problems, often hilarious advice)
  • Dan Savage’s podcastin which people leave voicemail with their problems (see above)
  • Dan Savage’s YouTube channelin which Dan visits campuses and students write their problems on cue cards
  • Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” projectin which Dan has tried to counteract despair with hope to cut suicide by gay teenagers

I’m not sure what to expect from the show the tickets are for, but my guess is it’ll be somewhere in the ballpark of the third bullet point. It’ll be great to see him speak up-close and in person.