by Dan Savage
on Mon, Sep 17, 2012 at 2:58 PM
Here's one of the questions that was submitted to me by an audience member at my "Savage Love Live" Q&A appearance last week at the University of North Carolina at Asheville:
I read the question but wasn't able to answer it. Because I couldn't recall ever telling a reader who claimed that she was raped that she hadn't been raped. So I invited the person who asked the question to email a link to the column she was referring to and I promised to answer her question on Slog. And away we go:
Dear Dan: Here it is. I can't believe you don't remember this. I think it speaks to your character. Especially when you told us tonight that you don't know your own flaws. For all the good that you do, sometimes you really suck as a human being. Have a lovely night,
P.S. People ask questions to you like tonight in an anonymous setting because they know that you just brush off any criticism. Being witty doesn't give you "A Get Out of Being a Human Being" card either.
My response to Lauren after the jump...
The question you submitted last night reads: "Regarding your column where you told a reader who claimed she was raped she might the lying… would you like to formally apologize? Have you already?"
I didn't tell the woman whose question I answered in the column you cite that she wasn't raped. Indeed, I told her that I hoped she had gone to the police and I urged her to press charges against the man who sexually assaulted her. Did you read the column? The fact that I didn't say what you claimed I said may be why this particular column, out of the thousands of columns I've written over the years, didn't spring immediately to mind when I read your question. (Also: the LW didn't use the term "rape" in her question, either, and the term "rape" doesn't appear anywhere in my response—but that's hairsplitting.)
In answer your question: No, I haven't apologized for that column and I'm not going to now. I stand by my advice to the LW. I may have been a little too blunt—perhaps I shouldn't have told the LW she was being a total shit—but I thought she was being selfish and cruel to her husband and I was trying to get through to her in my response. Rereading the column now I think the "selfish shit" line should've been cut—I should've pulled that particular punch—but I stand by the advice I gave the LW then and I stand by it now.
And I did not tell her that she was lying about being raped. Where on earth did you get that? "Reading comprehension fail," as the kids say.
I'm sincerely curious what would you would have advised the LW to do. I thought what she was doing was cruel and shitty, obviously, as that's what I wrote; and I thought she needed counseling, which I urged her to get. (And, again, I urged her to press charges—and why would I do that if I thought she was lying about being raped?) What advice would you have given her? Besides not writing to me and asking for mine, of course.
And the fact that LW did write to me and did ask for my advice is material. Remember, Lauren: it's advice, not binding arbitration. This LW, like all LWers, is free to disregard my advice. But, yes, I was blunt. Typically blunt. I'm always blunt. And people who write to me seeking my advice… well, they're reading the column, Lauren, otherwise they wouldn't know to write me and ask for my advice, right? And they know I'm blunt. They want me to be blunt. They're seeking bluntness. Also, there's always a lively debate about my advice—with people offering differing views, second opinions, referrals and research—in the comment threads attached to each of my columns. So every LW, including the one whose letter you cite, gets second, third, fourth, and many more opinions.
Finally, Lauren, if you knew this was the question you were asking about last night—if this was the exchange that you were so angry about—why would you misrepresent it the way you did? I'd love to know what you were thinking. Otherwise i'll have to conclude that you were being intentionally dishonest, misleading, and manipulative, and you baiting me in what was, judging from the response I got at UNCA, a failed effort to turn the crowd against me.
P.S. I was kidding about not remembering my flaws. I didn't rattle any off, true, but I was making a joke at my own expense. Rest assured: I'm aware of my flaws. Acutely aware of them. Most days they're pretty much all I think about.
I appreciate the timely reply, thanks.
I know you weren't accusing her of lying, I just took the opportunity to send you this as well because it REALLY bothered me. I assumed you wouldn't open it unless I put some sort of catchy title. That's my fault. Sorry for being a little bit of an ass. It happens a lot. Re: this column...
I guess we have totally different attitudes toward processing things. I do find you funny and I didn't come just to heckle last night. That column is just a sore spot for me. I still think its damaging to someone who was sexually assaulted to call them a piece of shit especially when people who are survivors act irrationally to a lot of stuff. It isn't a good feeling to be in that place of distrust. There are always other things that may have influenced her irrationality, but it's not productive to kick someone when they're down. She does need therapy—I'm not referring to that—I'm referring to the fact that you accuse her of trying to get out of a relationship and not loving her husband. That's not cool to me. Maybe she is, maybe she isn't, but I feel that since she took the time to write and does seem concerned she still has an attachment. She does say that it hurts her, iirc. Have a nice weekend & sorry for asshattery