SL Letter of the Day: How You Helped Out Some Infantry Guys
by Dan Savage
on Mon, Aug 19, 2013 at 5:40 PM
It's fair to say that I'm a Dan Savage Acolyte. I've been listening to the podcast for years, been reading your books, and trying to turn anyone I can talk to onto your materials. From comprehensive sex-ed to gay equality, I think your message is crucial to the puritan American ears. But I don't write to flatter, so much as to relate one instance in which this evangelization may just have had a huge impact.
I happen to be in the Army. The military has been trying to wrap its head around the plague of sex assaults that have been occurring in the past years. As part of their solution, my guys were all lined up, standing at attention, in the dead of the July heat in direct sunshine and lectured by three Generals for about an hour. The sum total of the lecture: Rape is bad. By the end of the hour, I was figuratively (and literally) steaming. They could have done SO much better! There was so much more they could have said! I was truly disappointed in our leadership for not going into the mentality of objectification that I see everyday from these guys, a mentality that I directly connect to the mindset of rapists. They could have talked about respecting their partners. They could have, well, listened to you for an hour and come up with a whole lot of info that could be helpful. I was pissed.
Well, about a week later we were set to have a follow-on training. This time it was just my company, a smaller element, and the discussion was to be led by a very reticent Lieutenant. This LT had an attitude about the training, and during the training when the question "What is rape?" was posed, a higher-ranking officer literally turned to me and whispered, "When she wakes up the next morning and decides she regrets sleeping with you." Holy shit. I almost punched him. Because that was my sister. That was a LOT of my female friends. I know a lot of women who have been raped—some, yes, in ambiguous alcohol-induced scenarios. And now my guys are rolling their eyes at a presentation thinking that this is all so much Army bullshit.
I waited until the LT was done with his half-hearted presentation, and he asked for questions. I grew a pair and asked if I could step in. He was glad to be relieved for a minute. I stood up in front of my guys and talked to them for 20 minutes about sex. About consent. About alcohol. About using dirty talk to make sure your partner is consenting to what is going on. I challenged them: "You motherfuckers have been talking about sex non-stop for three god-damned weeks—the whole time we were in the field—but now, as soon as a women enters the room, ya'll gonna be a bunch of chicken shits. You're not gonna have the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing and KEEP talking about sex. But you want to know a truly dirty secret? You want a woman to do truly dirty, nasty things with you? You know how to make that happen? I know at least a couple of you are goddamned clueless so listen up: ASK HER WHAT SHE WANTS!"
It blew their minds. We were able to have an active discussion, had some good laughs, and for the rest of the day I had guys approaching me, thanking me, and wondering if I'd be willing to talk to them about sex privately. I was also pulled aside by a Colonel who shook my hand and said, "Son, they learned more from 20 minutes with you than from an hour with three Generals." That was a proud moment.
I wanted to give you a shout-out about this. I wouldn't have been anywhere near as armed and capable for this discussion if it weren't for all the "Savage Lovecast" I've had in my earbuds.