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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Savage Love Letter of the Day

posted by on October 17 at 8:53 AM

I wrote you once before, in response to a column you wrote for Salon, and said how warm and fuzzy I felt about you, even though I’m a straight, middle aged, married guys with a great family. Well, dammit, you did it again! I just read your piece about Mark Foley.
And what do I do with these e-mails? I delete them. Responding—to say nothing of taking any of these kids up on their offers (offers they would most surely withdraw when they saw me in person)—wouldn’t be right. Because the last thing gay teenage boys need in their lives, in my opinion, are gay middle-aged men.

Damn straight. Actually you could have written “Because the last thing teenagers need in their lives, in my opinion, are middle age men.” Duh, eh?

Once, I had a similar situation. A very attractive 16 daughter of a friend got the hots for me (trouble at home, parents eventually divorced over infidelities). Blonde, over-developed for her age, and, actually, very bright and mature. What did I do?

I am proud to say I ran like a bunny. I made sure I was never alone with her without her folks around, and did my best to avoid social situations where she was present at all. I told her folks I felt uncomfortable with her attentions. I shunned her by simple avoidance (I didn’t want to be mean and tell her to leave me alone, but I kept away from her). I told my wife what I thought was happening and asked her to run interference.

Today, she’s well over me and has an age appropriate boyfriend. I’m so glad I did what I did, even though she was by far the best looking woman who has ever evidenced attraction to me (like some of the boys who write you, this gal was hot). I don’t feel guilty. My family isn’t screwed up. And I didn’t start some kid with issues down a dark road. I acted like an adult. So do you.

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Right freaking on. See, we straight males can behave the right way.

Posted by straight guy too | October 17, 2006 9:09 AM

awesome. it's good to hear about people doing the right thing in these situations

Posted by k | October 17, 2006 10:04 AM

Dan always impresses me with his ability to be both biting and succinct. There are a lot of people out there who "do the right thing," it just doesn't wind up on the news.

Posted by Dianna | October 17, 2006 11:09 AM

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I WAS that girl. I wish the men I was (stupidly, wrongly) hitting on had had the same fortitude as this guy.

To the men of the world: when young girls are discovering their sexual power, they aren't thinking like grown ups. When they hit on you, it's up to YOU to be the grown-up, to say NO, to do what this guy did.

Thank you to all the men out there who do the right thing.

Posted by libbertine | October 17, 2006 12:08 PM

I did the girl like that, but she was 18 and I was 22, so it wasn't that bad, but she had some issues.
I feel terrible about it to this day.

Posted by Andrew | October 17, 2006 1:03 PM

Hang on a minute.

What happened to Dan Savage's approval of younger people having sex with older people? He did a couple of columns on the subject in the past year or two. He even had a set of rules for it and everything— one of which was called the "campsite rule," which doesn't look so great in light of current events.

What's going on, Dan? Have you had a change of heart?

Posted by robotslave | October 17, 2006 4:36 PM


I don't think Dan has had a change of heart - there is a distinct and large difference between a "middle aged" individual accepting (or grooming) the advances of a high schooler, and a 30-something sleeping with a college freshman. It's that (sometimes silly-seeming) matter of "legal majority" that makes a 17 year old/25 year old pairing seem squicky and the 18 year old/30 year old pairing seem more odd than squicky (but arguably still squicky, sometimes).

It's a matter of socially-viewed developmental milestones and just how inequitable the age difference makes the power dynamic. If there is not much of a percieved power inequality for whatever reason, it is much easier (for society) to accept the relationship. One way to help that power balance is to make sure the object of your affection can at least vote (assuming you are older than 18 yourself). But there will always be power dynamics, and the older adult has the responsibility to make sure those dynamics don't *drive* the relationship.

As for the campsite rule, it makes a lot of sense. The younger partner (or less experienced partner) has a choice in the relationship - but greater care must be taken to make sure they are healthy at the end of the relationship.

Posted by My $0.02 | October 18, 2006 11:57 AM

What does squicky mean?

Just wanted to point out, 16 is the age of consent in Washington (if the older person isn't an authority figure (ie, teacher)). Not saying it's right or wrong. Just saying.

Posted by him | October 18, 2006 1:56 PM

Yo, two cent:

Yeah, I understand how society feels about older/younger relationships. I don't live under a rock, thank you very much.

But Dan definitely didn't make any "over 40" exceptions when endorsing these relationships. He also didn't make any gay/straight distinctions, which at the time I thought was to his credit, because I know there's a different set of mores at work in the gay community with regard to younger/older pairings.

From the tone of this letter, and the SLOG post that prompted it, it sounds as if Dan has shifted his outlook significantly, to "grown-ups with reputations to preserve must always avoid relationships with young adults."

Dan has always been a stickler for the age of consent (and I've always considered that a viewpoint rather inconsistent with Dan's other beliefs, though obviously convenient). But now he seems at a minimum to be adding more restrictions to his endorsement of younger/older relationships, and I'm curious as to what the boundaries are in his new outlook.

The letter expresses conventional morality. Dan has made a point of endorsing relationships that defy that conventional morality, but now he seems to be retreating from that stance.

I am wondering how close he has come to a position like, say, "the younger person must initiate the sexual relationship, and the older person must have no attachments or responsibilities which might be compromised by the relationship," the shorter version of which would be "it's OK so long as it conforms to an unlikely fantasy scenario found principally in pornography."

Posted by robotslave | October 18, 2006 3:57 PM

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