Journalist Ian Brill is offering us a weekly review from the world of podcasting — “Podthoughts.” This week, he examines The Savage Love Podcast, from the Seattle alternative newspaper The Stranger. The program’s host, Dan Savage, was once a guest on The Sound of Young America: here’s the MP3.
Dan Savage can’t seem to go twenty seconds into his podcast without dropping a few expletives. It’s a bit jarring, but there’s no point in getting offended. In a typical episode, Savage answers four or five pre-recorded calls that seek his opinions on strap-on dildos, rape fantasies, vagina destined Splenda and any other number of matters far more extreme than the simple utterance of expletives. If you’re offended by that sort of content, you probably won’t get anything out of Savage Love. That’s a shame, because there’s a lot of get out of it.
Savage is clearly committed to educating the world on a subject we all deal but rarely talk about directly: S-E-X. The lack of communication about sex between so many people leads to a lot of dysfunctions. Savage brings it all out in the open so people can start living happier lives.
Occasionally Savage will call someone back to get a better handle on the subject. Those times Savage proves himself as being the empathic soul his listeners needs. Even though it’s the stranger fetishes that get the most attention (Splenda? In the vagina?) most of the problems Savage is given concern arguments between lovers and misinformation on certain medical issues.
Not that Savage always plays the Dr. Ruth-like gentle sage when he’s helping out his callers. He’s not afraid to call one an asshole if it’s warranted, and in some cases it certainly is. Thankfully, though, most of the time Savage needs only to be thoughtful and informative to fix the problems he’s given.
Savage has a similarly low tolerance for BS. Many times the calls he gets are from people who have more worries than they have actual problems. In the June 12th edition, a very sexually open mother is concerned her daughters’ sex lives may be too “vanilla.” Savage phrases his advice simply: “back the fuck off.” I really appreciated this. Savage could be like so many other advice columnists and just create a culture distress and confessions that are blown way out of proportion. Instead he’s able to put these people’s situations into perspective and tell them what’s really going on.
People still come to Savage for advice, perhaps because they know he’s going to be straight with them. He’s also one of the few people in the public sphere whose counsel comes from a sex-positive point-of-view. Savage’s personality, a beautifully paradoxical mix of wise and exasperated, is always entertaining. It’s the reason why I’ve found Savage Love one of the most addictive podcasts around.