[Trigger warning for sexual violence and victim-blaming.]
I'm asking this not to be snarky, but because I truly want to know: What qualifies Dan Savage to hand out advice in a nationally syndicated column on sex and sexuality?
Because after reading today's column, he seems woefully, and dangerously, deficient in that capacity.
The long and the short of it is this: A woman in an open marriage wrote in saying how, since a former partner sexually assaulted her five months ago, she's been unable to be intimate with her husband, but has no problem being intimate with her boyfriend. Specifically, when her husband "tries to initiate sexual contact [her] skin crawls," but sex with her boyfriend "is amazing and leaves me feeling loved and whole and wonderful." This has left her husband feeling "incredibly jealous," "depressed," "angry," accusatory that she no longer loves him, and demanding that she "stop sleeping with [her] boyfriend until [their] marriage is back to normal."
She wants to know what to do. She signs her letter "Potentially Traumatized Sexual Deviant," the acronym of which is PTSD, also the acronym for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Dan Savage tells her: "You're being a total shit."
That is not a paraphrase. That is a direct quote.
He lectures her that she should be reporting the crime, tells her he hopes she knows "that being the victim of sexual assault is not a Get Out of Being a Human Being Free card," accuses her of "emotionally assaulting" her husband, and tells her, as I mentioned above, that she's "being a total shit."
I don't have PTSD (although I am close to someone who does), but I do understand that, especially when one is first learning to live with it, it can be hard to know exactly what will and does trigger it, including what could be causing an aversion to sex. It's entirely possible her husband (her currently jealous, depressed, angry, accusatory, demanding husband, mind you) may be unintentionally doing something as part of their sex routine that's triggering her, and the only language she has for it right now, even in her own mind, is "I don't want to have sex with him."
That's a possibility that anyone who professes to be a sex expert should recognize, if they're going to respond to survivors' sex questions.
It's unconscionable that Savage would advise this woman, a sexual assault survivor, to, essentially, get over it, and fuck someone she doesn't want to.
Oh, not that he says that directly, of course. She should just stop being "cruel and selfish," and get her "ass into therapy," if she "truly" loves her husband and values her marriage. Savage isn't telling her to fuck someone she doesn't want to; he's just telling her to figure out a way to fuck someone she doesn't want to. Or end the marriage.
Because it's cruel and selfish, it's downright "emotional assault," to not have sex with her husband while she's having sex with the boyfriend her husband was totes okay with her having, as long as she was fucking him, too.
As Liss said in an email exchange about this: "Yes, it's difficult to understand why, after being sexually assaulted, she doesn't want to have sex with someone who considers her autonomy a negotiable item, contingent upon whether she's sexually servicing him."
How "cruel and selfish" she is. What a "total shit."
Savage's response is incomprehensibly callous. And if it weren't bad enough on its own, it's accompanied by this positively adorable cartoon of a man trying to woo a woman who's crying.
[H/T to Shaker Jill.]