Dan Savage on Polyamory, Chosen Family and Better Sex
Even if you don’t recognize the advice columnist Dan Savage by name, it’s possible that his ideas have influenced how you think about sex and relationships. For decades now, Savage has been arguing that our expectations for long-term partnerships are way too high; that healthy relationships are about acknowledging our vast spectrum of desires, not repressing them; and that monogamy is not the ideal setup for every partnership. Through over 30 years of writing “Savage Love,” one of the most widely read sex advice columns in the country, and more than 17 years of hosting the podcast “Savage Lovecast,” he has been one of America’s most subtly influential public intellectuals on the topic of how humans conduct our most intimate — and important — relationships.
In the past half-century or so, America’s culture around sex, dating and relationships has undergone a profound transformation. Women are no longer confined to roles as wives and mothers, same-sex marriage is legal, hookup culture has changed the way young people enter the dating world, and there has been a growing interest in less traditional approaches to relationships, like polyamory and ethical nonmonogamy. These transformations have ushered in a lot of new freedoms but also a lot of new anxieties and frustrations. So I wanted to bring Savage on the show to talk through how we navigate this complicated, messy moment in our relational and sexual lives.
We discuss how America’s relationship culture has changed in the past 30 years, why the myth of finding “the one” can be so damaging, what dating apps are (and aren’t) good for, how to give more grace to our partners when they do not meet our expectations, why so many feminist writers are re-evaluating the legacy of the sexual revolution, how gay sexual cultures have influenced straight dating life, why we’ve had a “sexual revolution” but not a concomitant “relationship revolution,” what Savage makes of the statistic that 18 percent of people have had sexual experiences outside their primary relationships without their partners’ consent, the advantages and risks of experimenting with nonmonogamy, what better sex education for young people should look like, why marriages between two men seem to end less frequently than heterosexual marriages do and more.
This episode contains strong language.
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“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Emefa Agawu, Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld, Rogé Karma and Kristin Lin. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris, Mary Marge Locker and Kate Sinclair. Original music by Isaac Jones. Mixing by Jeff Geld and Sonia Herrero. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. Special thanks to Pat McCusker.