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  • Review of Dan Savage's talk Monogamish (Melbourne)

    Dan Savage, world-renowned sex columnist and therapist from the USA, was recently in town touring – he visited Triple J’s Hack program last week and a woman caller asked him what she should do to obtain an orgasm? She’d never had one. Dan’s response was “get yourself a joint and a vibrator…”

    One of our new contributors attended his tour and this is what she had to say about Dan and his ideas he shared on monogamy.

    Terry Hecker, Margaret Cho and Dan Savage 

    Monogamish- I learnt a new word

    Genevieve Molloy 

    This Sunday was a shining example of how the universe works, well, how my beautiful universe works.

    It started when an old friend posted on Facebook she had two tickets available to see Dan Savage at the Princess Theatre. I furiously messaged “yes me please!” knowing that my dearly beloved was a fan of the controversial sex advice columnist and what little I had heard of Dan Savage’s column and book ‘Savage Love’ I found entertaining and thought provoking ish. I didn’t know Savage was touring or that his Festival of Dangerous Ideas talk had sold out. The later piece of news delighting me, as, who knew Melbourne had so many open minded forward thinking lovers of love living in its midst? The couple that had been going to attend couldn’t go any longer and didn’t want any money for the tickets. Thank you universe.

    We arrived at the princess theatre sharply at 11, feeling slightly awed at the prospect of doing something meaningful so early on a Sunday morning, and queued up with the other 100 or so skinny jean wearing, slicked back hair sporting darlings.

    Things proceeded fairly quickly and a spritely MC introduced the festival and the, first speaker of the day - Dan Savage. A roar went up from the crowd, people hooted and cheered. This was clearly the converted who had come to worship at the altar of sexual liberation and it certainly helped that the fearless provocateur was a tall glass of well-muscled water. Dan savage is a hunk!

    Savage started his session by extolling the virtues of monogamy - It will keep you free from disease (hopefully), guarantees your emotional safety (is that even possible?) and assures paternity (until an invitation to star on Jerry Springer tells you otherwise). Playing devil’s advocate, Savage then introduced a term he coined some years ago to describe his long-term relationship with husband Terry Miller – Monogamish. Savage uses Monogamish as a way of describing the potential for loving committed couples to open up the dialogue around sex, sexuality and desire for lovers outside their relationship. Savage went on to insist that he is not encouraging a ‘fuck-fest- free –for-all’ but for couples to understand that monogamy can be challenging and refusing to acknowledge this within a partnership is a recipe for disaster. I hear a collective sigh of agreement come up from the crowd. Finally we understand why ordering a coffee from the dishy barista makes us feel funny in the shorts.

    During this dialogue, as Savage explains the biological evidence supporting his claims - namely the shape of the male appendage and the purpose of the bulbous head being an evolutionary advantage in removal of semen retained after sex with a previous partner, I start pondering the number of people in my life that might benefit from exposure to this radical way of thinking. My newly married sister, my parents whose relationship ended as a result of infidelity, the friend who discarded a caring and compatible partner over an office flirtation. Savage believes that a long, mutually rewarding relationship is worth more than the accidental business trip blow job. If statistically 60% of men cheat and 40% of women - and these so called “cheaters” are not married to each other, Savage states; infidelity is inevitable and lovers need to prepare for it.

    Savage closes his tongue and cheek talk (allusions made to his and Terry’s monogamish lifestyle) with the message that, qualified honesty is the best policy. As a gay man, Savage feels that men who have sex with men are much better at communicating about sexual desire than their heterosexual counterparts. ‘What are you into?’ being the most commonly asked question between couples initiating sexy times. In this instance I couldn’t agree more.

    The session was then opened up to the floor and questions about jealousy, abandonment and risk were thrown forward. Savage’s response highlighted his belief that being monogamous doesn’t protect you against the blows that life deals out and monogamy is not an invisible force field impenetrable by fear, grief and loss. Amen brother.

    The final question, asked by a nervous sounding worshiper, focused on phobia and ‘coming out’. Savage has been involved in a number of anti-bullying campaigns and has been known to caution against full disclosure. Savage alluded to the ‘what and the who’ and that kink, specifically, is more the ‘what’ and not necessarily intrinsic to a person’s core understanding of themselves. Now having had the pleasure of meeting a number of dedicated slaves and masters I would debate that for many people kink is far more than solicitously trawling through 50 Shades of Grey but a fundamental feature of identity, community and belonging.

    Around this time of Savage's talk, I became aware that Savage had made no reference to same sex relationships between women, the transgendered community and what the impact of unrealistic expectations of monogamy might look like for these folks. These gaps in the conversation indicate a level of comfort Savage has in using his own frame of reference when speaking publically about sex, relationships and love.

    En masse the crowd excited the beautiful old theatre and headed out into Melbourne’s chilly spring day. I found Dan Savage inspiring like a double rainbow on a grey day and I was encouraged to reflect on my own gorgeous monogamish relationship. I plan for me and my dearest to get old and wrinkly together and if that means working through a few road bumps in the shape of his hot personal trainer or my delicious barista I’ll take it.

     

    Dan Savage: The Risks Of Being Monogamish from The Dish on Vimeo.

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