When love is Savage

savageloveI will preface this post by saying that I’m a huge fan of Dan Savage. When Adam introduced me to his column Savage Love, I blew through seven years’ worth of archived columns in just over three weeks.

That said, I have a problem with his idea of GGG partners. According to Savage, all partners should be GGG, or good, giving and game in the bedroom and relationship. It’s a great idea, but it implies that men and women come into the relationship after the same cultural experience. That doesn’t happen often.

The pressure on women to be yielding and compliant starts at an early age. Textbooks are saturated with the long-ingrained ideas of “female” and “male” leadership, sexuality and communication as fundamentally, inherently different. Women are expected to act in nurturing, caring and kind, and if they react to situations strongly or take charge of their desires, labelled as bitches or whores. Indoctrination often begins with the playground roles that girls and boys play.

It’s even easier for men to play the guilt card for women with the backing of a sex and love columnist. When you’re already conditioned that the way to love, true love, is to be the beautiful damsel in distress à la Disney, it’s easy to believe that you’re not (adventurous, worthy, beautiful, knowledgeable) enough.

This entry was written after a series of conversations with a good friend on the subject. Thanks, K.

6 Comments

Filed under See Clair Write

6 responses to “When love is Savage

  1. Hm. Wonder what you thought of 50 Shades. I have serious reservations about it, but the protagonist sounds like Mr Savage’s perfect mate. Not for me; if you need to use someone, or allow yourself to be used, to enjoy a relationship you’re better off alone. There’s a difference between giving and surrender. Guys like Savage who can’t see it do no favors to independent, confident and freespeaking women. Savage guys want a pet, not a partner. Good, giving and game imdeed! Sounds like fetch to me. I prefer smart, sexy and secure.

    • I think there are two different levels to the questions you’re raising. Grey from 50 Shades is manipulative in getting his partner into S&M, and the contract she signs (to the best extent of my knowledge, as I haven’t read the books) basically says that nothing in their relationship is non-consensual. That’s not ok. That’s explicitly not ok by Savage’s standards/teachings.

      However, if someone is coming to Savage’s column as an experienced adult who is able to set her/his own healthy boundaries in sex and love, I see nothing wrong with the idea of being GGG. The problem lies where the boundary between consensual exploration and pressuring your partner to do something gets blurry.

  2. I agree that the line between exploration and exploitation can be razor thin, and in your earlier assertion that cultural differences can make one partner’s honest attempt at exploration seem like exploitation to the other. But how many partners are emotionally mature enough or secure enough in their relationship to say “I feel exploited” when asked to do something they would rather not? More often it comes down to one partner seeking their own gratification and pressuring on the other to comply. Like Christian Gray’s “contract,” the columnist presupposes “consent,” mistaking acquiescence for agreement, The fact that you read a column, or a contract, and agree with parts of it doesn’t mean you’re in a position to make an informed decision about what you are agreeing to do concerning something you’ve never tried (which has been my main gripe about the book – it makes exploitation sound okay because she ‘signed a contract’) In a perfect world we would all be equally mature (and experienced) sexually, mentally and emotionally, so that our sexual encounters would occur on a level bed. It isn’t. Relationships are messy, sex is messy, life is messy. You don’t need someone telling you to be “good, giving and game.” You need someone to tell you to find a partner you trust, who trusts you equally, a partner who is kind and listens, a partner who earns your respect and your support, returning it to you in equal measure, if not more. Exploration (not exploitation) with a loving, kind, trusted partner should be a bonding moment, uplifting and cementing the relationship. I don’t hear kindness in “good, giving and game.” I don’t hear mutual trust. I don’t hear the deep abiding love that I would have to feel before I felt “game.” What I hear is the old Alka Seltzer commercial: “try it, you’ll like it!” If you never heard it, the next line says “thought I was gonna die.” Like Gray’s contract, “good, giving and game” sounds like the three stages of a guy trying to convince his partner to participate in something that isn’t in her best interest. Where I come from, if you’re having to convince your partner, you shouldn’t be doing it, or you need a different (and more compatible) partner.

    And maybe I just completely missed your point and went off on a rant for nothing, and if so, I’m sorry. I just felt like I had to jump in on this one (don’t hate me!)

    • Part of the point of Savage’s column is that communication is the tenant on which all relationships are founded. Therefore, when something new is being introduced into the relationship, no matter what it might be, getting consent from your partner at every stage (no matter how small). Every single one.

      His advice is meant to be empowering, and much of it is. The idea of being GGG is not targeted at women, it’s targeted at all partners who would belittle their partners for asking to do something new. I have a lot of respect for his advice because it’s a reminder that we’re all human and that our quirks (and kinks) are part of that. It’s not meant to be a tool to use for manipulation, that’s just one possible outcome. However, it’s a possible outcome of most relationship communications, so I can’t fault Savage for that.

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