Sex columnist Dan Savage has apparently decided that it has been too long since his political opinions mattered. Having already destroyed Rick Santorum‘s internet reputation, Savage is now taking aim at Herman Cain for repeatedly declaring that he believes sexual orientation to be a choice. If it is a choice, Savage demands, Cain should prove it by performing sex acts on Savage. Yes, it has come to this.
Cain admits to being a social conservative in the way he conducts his life, and in his moral beliefs. He has said that the Bible tells him homosexuality is a sin, and he believes that. He also believes it is a “choice” and has said so repeatedly. But he has, for the most part, refrained from making any comments on how his opinions would translate into law. He has stated he has no problem appointing competent LGBT people to his cabinet. As far as the conservative gay community goes, GOProud head Chris Barron stood up for Cain after his initial homosexuality comments, arguing precisely that his policies would help LGBT people, and his personal views appeared to have no bearing on how he would govern.
Given Cain’s relationship with social libertarians (and gay conservatives), this may have been a bit of an overreaction:
If being gay is a choice, show us the proof. Choose it. Choose to be gay yourself. Show America how that’s done, Herman, show us how a man can choose to be gay. Suck my dick, Herman. Name the time and the place and I’ll bring my dick and a camera crew and you can suck me off and win the argument.
Very sincerely yours,
There is a good bit to parse here, so may as well start with the obvious: it is at best megalomaniacal for Savage to assume that being sexually attracted to men necessarily implies being sexually attracted to Dan Savage. Then there is the larger portrayal of gay men– and straight women, to a certain extent– as being so disconnected from their bodily integrity that it is entirely appropriate to demand sexual favors of them. Savage may claim he is attempting to promote the dignity of people born with sexual orientations other than “straight”– or people born attracted to men, whichever the case may be– but how little must he think of the LGBT community to assume that “being gay” consists of fellating complete strangers on demand? It’s like he is seeing the gay community through the prism of a bad George Michael joke. At the very least, he’s not helping any bigots not see the world through the prism of a bad George Michael joke with this letter.
And here is the saddest part of Savage’s faux pas: he followed up his crass letter with a strong, valid point about sexual orientation that will now unfortunately mostly be ignored by the media, because he prefaced his legitimate and relatable argument with “suck my dick,” like a fourth grader. Independent of their source, his words merit reflection:
And then I’ll say this: when someone argues that being gay is a choice, he’s not just insulting gay people. (And ignoring the science of sexual orientation.) He’s insulting straight people. If homosexuality is a choice, then so is heterosexuality. Last night on CNN Herman Cain said that being straight is something that a straight person can take or leave. Herman Cain believes that heterosexuality is something a heterosexual can decide to walk away from, like a underwater house or a lousy meal. Straight people should get angry when they hear a straight person making this argument.
It would have been such a powerful statement.
There is only one headline to cull from this demeaning letter (demeaning to Savage as much as it is to Cain), and it is that Savage is a one-hit wonder and acutely aware of it. The Rick Santorum “Google problem” stunt was funny because it was nearly entirely unprecedented and “Santorum” is an innately funny word, but it would not have worked had the victim of the prank not been so, to use Herman Cain’s word, “stressed.” Rick Santorum’s defining character trait is that he cannot take a joke, and so it follows that a particularly bad joke that hangs over his head like the cloud over the sad ball in Zoloft commercials is comedy gold. Rick Santorum made the Rick Santorum Google saga funny, not Dan Savage. Santorum is also a signficantly less sympathetic character because his campaign’s core consists of policies that discriminate against people based on the sexual preferences with which they are born. With Cain, this is not the case.
Even with the godsend that is Santorum’s inability to laugh at himself, Savage’s second attempt at terrorizing Santorum fell flat, and he rightfully fell out of favor with many after an appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher where he copped to a crush on Santorum in the most vulgar way imaginable (and wishing a bunch of Republicans dead). Here Savage has, likely by virtue of his own rampant political ignorance, targeted a character whose defining trait is his good humor. In fact, deprived of his humor– of the Pokemon references and mysterious Sim City tax proposals, the gospel albums and Pizza ballads— Cain starts to look a little like he’s all toppings and no cheese, if you know what I mean. It is difficult to imagine Cain would deign the letter with a response, but if he does, chances are it won’t look like anything from Rick Santorum.
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