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Monday, April 2, 2007

Don’t Leave Me, Debra Dickerson!

posted by on April 2 at 9:32 AM

Dear Debra,

That’s some open letter you wrote me today on Salon. I’ve lost readers over the years, God knows, but never with quite so public a display of disaffection.

Your Savage Love sex advice column not only made me a better lover but a better person. You introduced me to people, places and things I would have never otherwise been aware of. You were my secret gay crush for five years. Or you used to be. But, sadly, this is both a fan letter and a Dear John, Dear Dan. It’s over and it’s better this way. You’ll see. No, please, Dan—it’s not you. It’s me. But I’m hoping we can still be friends.

Of course we can still be friends, Debra. Why not? You intend to keep on reading Savage Love, but only for kicks now, no longer for tips. I’ve never asked my friends for more. As for the particular column that made you fall out of love with me—the one about a certain diaper-wearin’ husband and the indulgent wife whose needs he was neglecting—I have to say that I’m surprised by your reading of it.

You trained me well, Dan. I know I should applaud my fellow savage for being so GGG (good, giving and game), but I don’t. I think she should have headed for the hills at the first mention of Depends. I know I shouldn’t think it. But the fact is that I do. Now, instead of regretting what I missed out on sexually, I’m terrified of what I might learn if I give the least hint of a sexual openness.

Oh, Debra. As a long-time reader of Savage Love, you should know that the appearance of a kink in the column—and there have been so many others, Debra, and so many worse ones—is not an endorsement, nor is it an indication that said kink has passed into the Must Go There Zone, i.e., it does not mean the kink has suddenly joined the list of kinks that an indulgent partner is expected to, well, indulge. It only means the kink… is. What to do about the kink, how to handle it, assess it, respond, and, if possible, incorporate the kink—that’s where the advice comes in.

You describe me as “a raging ‘mo with no boundaries,” Debra, which is sweet and, oh, how I wish it were true! All people have boundaries and limits and hang-ups (me too!), and I’ve hammered that point home in Savage Love over the years. But I am guilty of insisting that, yes, there are times when it is worth considering expanding our boundaries and limits —for a particular person.

Paris is worth a mass and sometimes “Dave from accounting” is worth a spanking, you know what I mean? That’s why I advise people to be “good, giving, and game,” to be up for almost anything. Because people are package deals—you have to take the good with the bad, the relatives you like with the relatives you don’t, and the desires that align neatly with your own with the kinks that sometimes challenge your ideas about what is and is not sexy. On a case-by-case basis, Debra, all of us will, over the course of our love lives, face moments when we have to decide if person A is worth engaging in kink B for.

When it comes to sex we sometimes mistake unfamiliarity for revulsion, and blurt out “no” without thinking. Really, how bad is, say, being with a foot fetishist? Is a little slobber on your toes too much to ask for love? Taking a hairbrush to someone’s backside now and then? Too high a price to pay for love?

But I’ve never ordered people to charge out of the trenches, Debra, and do absolutely anything asked of them, ever, by a lover, however twisted, however objectively disgusting. All kinks are not created equal. Some kinks are revolting. (And some people with revolting kinks are thin-skinned and shortsighted. Hello, poop fetishists? If you’re turned on because your kink is revolting and taboo then I’m helping to keep your kink hot by reinforcing the idea that it’s revolting and taboo. You’re welcome.) I describe a kink like a thing for poop as “a fetish too far,” and I’ve told people with AFTF’s that they should seek out like-minded fetishists online and refrain from springing their AFTF’s on unsuspecting vanilla-to-GGG types. (Thank God for the internet, which has removed poop fetishists from the general dating pool! Thank you, Al Gore!)

And Debra, Debra, Debra. Your column today at Salon implies that my sympathies always lie with the kinkster. Not true! I’m harsh on kinky folks who take their indulgent partners for granted, kinksters who fail to recognize how good they’ve got it when they find someone that, unlike me and Debra, will “go there” on an issue like diapers. And you have to know that’s my position, Debra, as it’s in my response to the woman with the diaper-lovin’ husband, a response that hardly reads like an endorsement of diaper fetishism—a response you don’t quote in your piece! Your piece on Salon reads like I suggested that diaper fetishism is wholesome and sweet and somehow browbeat the woman who wrote in about her husband’s kink. The diaper community—that’s right, the diaper community—didn’t see it that way. I got so much waa-waa-waa from adult babies for that column that I can’t walk down the Depends aisle at Walgreens without shuddering. Here’s my response, Debra:

Does your “baby girl” realize what he’s got in you? The world is crawling—literally crawling—with adult babies who are alone and single and miserable and always will be. While the internet has made it possible for adult babies to find each other, a shared interest in nappies and nurseries doesn’t guarantee compatibility. Plus, female adult babies are scarcer than folks who can read “my husband whines and cries and pretends to be a baby during sex” without hurling. Your husband should be doing everything in his power to keep you happy.

My advice: Take that break. Cut the brat off—no more baby games until he can successfully wrap his bonnet around this: Your pleasure matters as much as his does. He may not be interested in regular sex, but he better learn to fake it convincingly. And finally, BA, tell him that his continued failure to meet your vanilla needs is gonna get his diapered ass divorced, leaving him single and shit out of luck, sex-partner wise, for the rest of his adult infancy.

“Dump the honest foot fetishist,” I warned a woman a few weeks ago, “and I guarantee that you will marry the dishonest necrophiliac.” That’s the Karmic Rule of Kink. But vanilla partners are not the only ones subject to KROK. For kinksters lucky enough to be with generous vanilla partners, your somewhat-less-pithy version of KROK goes like this: “Drive off an understanding, adventurous partner by failing to joyfully accommodate his or her desires for vanilla sex and you will NEVER get your kinky rocks off again without having to pay a pro $500 an hour to put up with your bullshit.”

Frankly, Debra, I don’t see how you get from that response to this strange epiphany:

Now, instead of regretting what I missed out on sexually, I’m terrified of what I might learn if I give the least hint of a sexual openness. Now it’s me who’s on the down low, repressing my sexual fantasies for fear of what his might be. I’m the hall monitor geek in the coming-of-age movie who cuts physics for an orgy only to wake up with a persistent itch, a stalker and a big, fat secret to keep buried deep inside. I simply do not want to know what bland Dave in accounting keeps in his spare room.

It took a gay activist to convert me to don’t ask, don’t tell, and regretfully, I’m going to have to DTMFA. Hard as I tried, it turns out that I’m not so good, not very giving and definitely gone. I’m not dumping the column—can’t live without it. But I’ll be reading as a peeping Tom, not an acolyte.

And reading this in your column made me feel like all my efforts at Savage Love have been wasted:

Now, instead of regretting what I missed out on sexually, I’m terrified of what I might learn if I give the least hint of a sexual openness.

Sexual openness does not create kinks, Debra, nor can sexual closedness protect you from them. Oh, you can run from kinks but you can’t hide. Unless you intend to settle down with a Hitachi Magic Wand, odds are good that you will have to come to terms with a kink or two. You have a kinky appointment in Samara, Debra. Because people are kinky, and men are particularly kinky. Women, in my experience (all book learnin’, but lots of it), tend to get kinkier as they get older. Something about sexual peaks, which men hit earlier than women, makes people freaky. Our sexual energy—whether we’re male or female, gay, straight, or bi—has never fit inside the “normal” box into which we stupidly insist on stuffing it. Human sexuality bursts boxes—and, yes, sometimes diapers.

When you fall in love, Debra, please know that I’m still here for you. Hopefully it won’t be diapers or poop or beating off parakeets, but it’ll be something. And I’m confident that the lessons you learned reading about more extreme kinks in my column—lessons about kindness, compassion, mutual respect, a sense of fun, and being open to possibility—will apply.

So there’s still hope for you, Debra. You may be a wild child yet. I’ll see you in Samara.



RSS icon Comments


Forget her Dan! I will always have a secret (oops! I told!) crush on you.

So screw Debra! She isn't good enough to have a crush on you. And if for any reason I turn into a gay man, and Terry turns into a woman.... maybe I have a chance? Hahahaha. Riiight. =D

Posted by Monique | April 2, 2007 10:09 AM

Dan, I find it incredibly endearing that you care about the reaction you invoke from your readers.

For every Debra out there there's at least one Carollani who keeps reading, and telling other people to read, your column. Keep up the great work and never get so jaded that you stop caring!

Posted by Carollani | April 2, 2007 10:10 AM

Good job, Dan. Makes you wonder if Debra did read all of your columns; her sign-off indicates that not being a diaper fetishist apparently means you're "repressed."

Posted by Gloria | April 2, 2007 10:20 AM

I don't understand this letter at all.

Diapers are the final straw? Really, because there have been plenty of freakier things in your column than that.

And when have you ever asked or expected your readers to indulge the fetishes of complete strangers? Never, that's when.

Oh well, this is Debra's and her lover's loss, not yours.

Posted by Sean | April 2, 2007 10:22 AM

Hah! Probably a convoluted sort of payback over the Garrison Keillor imbroglio. Tough break, Dan; you can kiss goodbye that delightful Salon tote bag, complimentary subscription to Mother Jones and that free copy of Joe Conason's book.

Posted by Gully Foyle | April 2, 2007 10:29 AM

My best friend recently called you "our generation's voice of truth". She also said "What he has to say often isn't pretty, and sometimes he messes up, but he also says clearly the things everyone else pussyfoots around."

My personal "awww" story: about two years ago, I started dating my longtime friend, who I knew was a virgin. Early in our relationship, I stumbled across a substantial collection of pornography he'd collected during his long years of self-stimulus. If I hadn't been a devotee of your column, I might have been totally freaked out by the existence of the porn itself, and I *certainly* would have been spooked by the contents, which were many and varied and included some curveballs ("there are chicks with dicks here! surely he's gay!").

But because I've read your column so faithfully, I know that all men use porn, that at least a passing interest in chicks-with-dicks is pretty common in straight men, and that because his porn collection was mostly vanilla, he was probably not a fetishist but just a man with catholic tastes. So I didn't freak out and end the relationship early.

And surprise surprise, after a couple initially awkward encounters, his attentiveness and eagerness to learn quickly made him the best lay I'd ever had--completely attuned to what *I* like, no "bad habits" left over from former lovers. We're married now (and we did tithe to after the wedding just like you've suggested). Our sex life is probably 95 percent vanilla, but when he wants to wear my underwear or when I want to be tied up, neither of us bats an eye. This is a gift *you* have given us. So thanks, Dan. Don't let the Debras get you down.

Posted by Shannon | April 2, 2007 10:41 AM

dan, did you also publish this response in salon so that the readers there didn't get the wrong impression of your advice?

Posted by ellarosa | April 2, 2007 10:46 AM

You are far more tolerant than I, Dan. Because I think DD deliberately left out your reply so she could misrepresent the nature of your column.

The subtext of her essay is pretty evident - she's got hangups about sex and is trying to blame you for feeling uncomfortable about being judgemental and reactionary. She enjoys your column in a vouyeristic way, but is upset by how you present deviance from the norm without universal condemnation as something to be hidden in shame. Because deep down, she favors shame and repression.

It also doesn't take much analysis to see who she thinks should be shamed and repressed specifically. Let's behonest, DD is a bit of a phobe. She's hinted at this in a previous essay, and the way she flings around the terms here is, to me, a giveway.

Posted by softdog | April 2, 2007 10:53 AM

Debra Dickerson is absolutely the worst writer Salon has ever deigned to employ, so don't feel too bad.

Posted by laterite | April 2, 2007 10:53 AM

Well, aside from the fact that her inherently terrible writing misrepresented your own, don't feel too bad.

Posted by laterite | April 2, 2007 10:56 AM

Dan, you rock. End of story.

Posted by Suz | April 2, 2007 10:57 AM

Following Shannon #6's lead:

My wife and I were having the old "incompatible libidos" argument, and the ensuing standoff was threatening to last for days, maybe even weeks.

Then, your "Chocolate City" column showed up. We both read it, smiled, and within hours were back in bed.

Thanks, bro!

Posted by Sean | April 2, 2007 11:03 AM

I've read your column for years and about 99.9% of the time agreed with your advice.

But what really made me love you was the recent advice you gave to a girl...she was young and in love with someone who was perfect in every way, except for the raging jealously when another man said hello to her, followed by not speaking to her. Your advice was to DTMFA, because he would surely end up hitting her one day, as his behavior was classic controlling behavior. Once again, you don't bullshit, and gave advice that may be hard to hear but was true. None of the "seek counselling" crap.

You rock.

Posted by Dianna | April 2, 2007 11:22 AM

Her argument is so lame, I don't really believe she has a huge problem with you or your advice. More like she had a huge problem with a looming deadline. She even admits she'll continue to read your column, so what gives? She's hoping to stir up some attention, that's all. Boring.

Posted by Kristi | April 2, 2007 11:46 AM

Dan, please go back to blow job advice for bush bunnies. When you try and get all philosophical on us, its boring. You are best when talking dicks, other than that, your puddle is too shallow and inbred to support any life form.

Posted by rufus | April 2, 2007 12:21 PM

Rufus, if all you want is blow job advice ad infinitum, go read Cosmo. And then hurl, if you have any self-respect at all.

Posted by Megan | April 2, 2007 12:51 PM

Dan, I've been off and on the Salon responses to DD's article today, and they're linking to your response, reading and responding to it. I applaud what you said - it's kind, human and funny - and I'm glad Debra's article made me more aware of what you're doing. I'll be checking back in for sure.

Posted by wyndy | April 2, 2007 1:17 PM

Man, I thought her article was insipid (and somewhat dishonest), but the poor woman! She is getting seriously spanked in the comments at Salon.

Posted by sniggles | April 2, 2007 1:56 PM

Sniggles, she certainly deserves it. She absolutely is the worst writer in the history of Salon--David Horowitz excepted, perhaps--and deserves every bit of derision that gets heaped upon her.

More to the point: I wonder how Dan Savage reacts to being called a "faggot" by DD? I don't care how hip you are to gay people, or Dan Savage in particular--let's leave reclaiming that word to the intended targets, huh?

Posted by THobbes | April 2, 2007 4:23 PM

I've been reading your column for more years than I can count (my best friend was even nice enough to mail them to me while I was in the army.) Beyond opening my eyes to what kinks/ fetishes exist, you also taught me how to say "no" if it was over my line (read: I actually ran into a poop fetishist).

Your column also made me realise that I wasn't a freak because I had no idea if I was gay, straight, or bi. I had no one I could talk to about that while I was in the army (thanks to don't ask, don't tell), so your column was the only avenue I had to explore those feelings.

I really don't understand how Debra could misinterpret your column like she did. You are doing the public a service. Don't ever stop, don't ever change.

Posted by Shea | April 2, 2007 4:27 PM


You do realize/remember that Dan's column used to begin with "Hey, faggot!," right?

Posted by keshmeshi | April 2, 2007 4:59 PM

Could of used a "Read the rest after the Jump" about halfway through that one, Dan.

Posted by treacle | April 2, 2007 4:59 PM

Why the hell did Salon think "One Woman Gets Scared" was worth printing?

And, forgive me for treading on your territory, but it kinda sounds like talking about diapers touched something that Debra can't admit to herself..

Posted by Noink | April 2, 2007 6:12 PM

There is only one explanation for DD's article. She is a repressed Baby Girl. And that´s what makes her a diaperphobe. Let's hope she will come out someday...

Posted by Vladimir | April 2, 2007 6:44 PM

That's weird. Most people stopped reading the Savage Love column because they found it boring.

Posted by Muther Fluffer | April 2, 2007 6:53 PM

Does actually READ Savage Love? I think a lot of people actually never read Savage Love, they simply arouse their sense. It's porn you can read in public. (Ouw, kinky)

Posted by Mokawi | April 3, 2007 2:58 PM

Let's see, if I understand the Karmic Rule of Kink correctly, this woman will sooner or later have a partner say, "You want me to what? No way, that's disgusting!"

Posted by Kuzibah | April 4, 2007 7:09 AM

Dan. Honey. Sweetie.

Ok. I'm still in love with you. Who'm I kidding: you're irrestible. So---forgive a sister?

You're right that I didn't quote your excellent response but only because I thought it clear that I was satirizing and criticizing us vanilla sex types who need training wheels to talk a walk on the wild side. I was going for over the top, Communist reeducation camp-style self-criticism for yuks. Of course, you of all people realize that that pose was necessary to hide behind so I could talk about s-e-x, 'good girl' that I am.

As all writers do,I blame my (wonderful) editor (who made the piece much, much better) for getting me to hit my word count by leaving out "of course, you had her back, Dan". Unfortunately, that deletion linked to your response. But, since we linked to the column, your answer was automatically included; I thought I was covered. But I certainly should have, in hindsight, made sure to point out that you charged to her defense and offered to help her throw the bum out. Not 'cause of his fetish but 'cause of his selfishness. I thought it would be quite clear that you didn't condone the guy's behavior. I should have been more precise.

But I come to praise Caesar, not to bury him.
As I said: It's not you, it's me. I done wrong. Now, I'm the chick who bad-mouths her blameless ex all over creation. Poor me. I mean, poor you.

That column was (or so I thought) a send up of my own fears now that I'm 47, a bitter divorce, single mom of two with lots o' post partum weight three years on facing the scary, scary world of dating and (egads!) sex again. I've started my on-line profile (which you gave me the courage to do) 'leventy leven times and chickened out 'leventy leven times. Your column emboldened me to be GGG (of course, within my own comfort zone), then that particular column scared the bejeezus out of me. I could be that damned GGG and STILL end up with a loser? Or maybe I was just looking for an excuse to stay on the bench. You're the expert, Dan: which is my real fear? No, don't answer that. I can admit now that I don't really wanna know. See? You helped me find my comfort zone.

Anyway, Dan. I had my turn and mucked it up so I'll stop here. I must say, I'm shocked to have gotten such a lengthy and gentlemanly response. I figured on a toss-away line in today's column. I'm all giddy. Maybe spanking ARE fun. Hmmmm.

Flowers? Candy? A threesome? What'll it take to be forgiven?

Still your biggest fan (but don't tell my Mom)
Debra Dickerson

Posted by Debra Dickerson | April 4, 2007 7:51 AM

Dan, I do understand what Debra's saying. Your column is educational, witty and entertaining -- I especially love the political commentary; keep it coming -- but as I've gotten older and had kids, I'm wondering more and more about your letter writers, as in: Are these people really walking among us? Where do they get the time for all this nonsense? Where do they get the energy? I mean, at this point in my life, my main bedroom fantasy -- maybe my only bedroom fantasy -- involves a full night's uninterrupted sleep. Maybe even on clean sheets. Now, THAT's some sexy talk, as far as I'm concerned!
p.s. - my guess is that for every person who writes to you about some odd fetish, there are 100, maybe 1,000, maybe 10,000 like me who are just too tired and run-ragged and distracted to even think about sex.

Posted by oldfart | April 4, 2007 11:13 AM

Wow, this was fun reading Debra's response. I loved yours to her and hadn't read her original colum. And I really enjoyed your original post about diaper guy so I was surprised that she took your response that way. This reminds me of a friend's blog who wrote some stuff that just left me scratching my head. When I approached her with my confusion she explained that she was being over the top, mocking, tongue in cheek, what have you. I had totally missed it.

Posted by Adrienne | April 4, 2007 11:29 AM

Oh my god, that really WAS Debra Dickerson writing to you? It wasn't a spoof?

Posted by Hart | April 4, 2007 11:52 AM

Good lord. That Debra person likes to spank. I just wish she'd spank sex partners, not the English language (and everyone who reads anything she pens.)

Posted by Lori | April 9, 2007 4:41 PM

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