American Savage: Discussion Questions

1). In “American Savage” there is a telling passage on monogamy. Dan Savage, who has written the sex advice column “Savage Love” for more than 20 years, states, “My husband Terry and I are mostly monogamous. . . . There are times — certain set and limited circumstances — when it is permissible for us to have sex with others.” That’s representative of Savage’s frankness — startling, disarming, suicidal or courageous, depending on your perspective.

Savage’s chapter on cheating and the general concrete thinking most have on the topic (e.g., cheating is always bad) is intriguing and controversial. Did Savage sway your thinking on this topic?

2.) The opening chapter, “At a Loss,” is about leaving and then returning — in a sense — to the Catholic Church. An interesting piece on the power of being raised in a religion and the pull that has, even when that church has virtually abandoned a person. Did you agree with Savage’s insights into the failings of the Catholic church on topics involving human sexuality? Is it problematic to have elderly celibates with little insight into adult sex life determining church policy on sexual issues?

3.) The chapter “My Son Comes Out” is overtly about how questionable it is to think that homosexuality is a “lifestyle” instead of a sexual orientation people are born with, like their handedness. Is sexuality a choice? It seems incredible that anyone in touch with their own sexuality would believe this, but there are those who believe homosexuality voluntary. Did you find the parallel to religious preference, which is a choice, convincing? Why would anyone choose to be homosexual given the extreme prejudice that used to exist and still exists in some quarters today?

4.) What about Savage’s advocacy of The GGG Spot” (“good, giving and game” in bed)? It seems obvious that one must make sacrifices in a relationship. Are people more reluctant to make sacrifices in the sexual arena?

5). Savage takes on Maggie Gallagher, a leader in the fight against marriage equality. Gallagher claims Savage is attacking conventional structures such as monogamy and marriage, but Savage fires back: “Gallagher isn’t serious about strengthening the institution of marriage.” Rather than shaming people and encouraging them to bury their desires, Savage recommends openness and accommodation — for the sake of stable families.

Which side’s position is more conducive to strengthening the institution of marriage and family values?

6.) On the first page, Savage dedicates the book: “For my father, who lives in a red state, watches Fox News, and votes Republican — but loves me and mine just the same.” Beneath its often caustic wit, is “American Savage” really on a mission advocating unification and healing?

7). “Extended Stay,” arguably the most powerful chapter, features this quote:

“The widow who planned to vote [for Washington State’s] Death with Dignity Act was given the last word: “You don’t know how you’re going to feel at the end of your life,” she said. “I want to have choices available to me.”


American Savage, 176 (2013).

Is the right to death, much as the right to life, a core basic human right?

8). Finally, what comes to mind when you think about former Senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum?

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