On the show, Savage, known for his column “Savage Love” and his “It Gets Better Project,” travels to college campuses all over the country answering students’ questions about sex and romance.
Lucky us, we got Savage to answer a few of our questions. Not about sex, but about his new show and his efforts to make the world a more socially enlightened place.
PGN: Do you see any irony in “Savage U” appearing on the same network that brings the world “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom”?
DS: No, actually I don’t. I think it’s the perfect companion piece to those shows. I jokingly refer to our show as “18 and Not Pregnant.” A lot of sex researchers are crediting “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” for bringing down the teen pregnancy rate and de-glamorizing teen pregnancy. And it’s not just me saying that. I think our show glamorizes college a little bit. It’s almost inspirational. The kids who are committed to using birth control religiously, it gives them a glimpse of something that could be in their future since they’re going to have one because they are not 16 and pregnant.
PGN: We live in an age where the information is out there and easily accessible. Does it surprise you that college students can be as uninformed about sex and relationships as they ever have been?
DS: No, it doesn’t surprise me. We live in a sex-negative culture. And one of the messages young people get is ignorance is evidence of virtue. If you don’t know about sex and you don’t know your hole from an ass in the ground, you’re a better person and Jesus loves you more. There are a lot of people that might have access to good sex advice, information and education if they were so motivated as to go and get it, but a lot of them aren’t because their parents or their church have conned them into believing that sex should come naturally, and that means it should come from a place of ignorance and no information. But in the 20 years of writing the column, it has changed. I used to get a lot of questions by people seeking definitions and instructions on how to do a particular thing. Everything has a wiki page now so I don’t have to give those instructions. What I get a lot of questions about [now] is relationships, and that’s stuff you can’t read about and know how to do.
PGN: Do the questions at these events ever shock you or cause you concern?
DS: I’m constantly shocked by how ignorant young people can be by design. I’ll always be grateful because I’ll always have a job. One that I’ll always remember is somebody asking me, not if he was right or wrong, but to back him up in a dispute with his girlfriend that he could not get her pregnant if he stopped thrusting after ejaculating inside her because it was those thrusts after ejaculation that broke open the eggs. I emailed him back thinking he was pulling my leg and got into a conversation with him, and he actually believed this to be true. It blows my mind. But I’m grateful. But it’s like, I will always work.
PGN: Have you encountered any resistance from the colleges about you coming to speak to their students?
DS: There were a couple we asked and they declined because they wanted to see the show first. I think any college that was hesitant, once they see the show, will be up for it. The colleges look really good, the students are smart. Everyone seems to be having fun. I think kids should go to college. I’m a snob like Barack Obama. One of the things I think the show is going to do is introduce a lot of young people to what college can be and what it feels like. It might inspire some people to pull it together and get into college. I think some colleges didn’t want to do it because they thought I was going to show up with Johnny Knoxville and “Jackass” it up and I’m just not that, much to the disappointment of my son.
PGN: What’s next for “It Gets Better” and did it meet your expectations?
DS: It exceeded my expectations. When [my husband] Terry and I launched it, we hoped to get 100 videos. Now it’s way more than 50,000, most from average ordinary people. Everybody talks about Lady Gaga’s video and the president’s video. They’re wonderful, but the celeb videos and the politicians and the corporations are probably 500 out of the 50,000. So there are so many average LGBT people that are giving LGBT kids a picture of what their lives can be like. The goal was to save lives and we saved lives. What we’ve delivered to a lot of kids is the LGBT support group that they couldn’t find or attend or get to — there isn’t one where they live or their parents wouldn’t allow them to go to one. Going forward, it looks like the Pride House in London for the Olympics is going to be taking “It Gets Better” as its theme, which is a good media hit because it’s going to force journalists from all over the world who are gathering in London for the Olympics to address whether it is getting better for gay people in their countries where they come from. We’re pleased about that. I would be pleased if there were no need for it. But for the foreseeable future, there’s going to be this online resource that’s always going to exist where young people can find support, advice and coping mechanisms.
PGN: Considering the kind of public figures that get glitter-bombed, do you think you deserved to be the target of two glitter-bombings yourself?
DS: Nooo. What I think is going on is, this didn’t start, this attacking me, until MTV’s cameras were pointed at me. People always understood that I was a bit of a joker. I would take the piss out of people and a lot of people would take the piss out of me. I was very tough on gay men too, not just other flavors in the queer rainbow. But as soon as the cameras were pointed on me, there was some desire to leverage that attention for other issues by attacking me. There’s always been an eat-your-own streak in gay-activist circles and I certainly am not where I was on trans issues when I first started the column. We all know more about trans issues now than anybody did 20 years ago. And you can go back through the column and cherry-pick things and say that’s transphobic. And yeah, some of it was. But I don’t think attacking me is smart or fair. I don’t think that glitter-bombings are smart or fair. I don’t think it’s productive. The poor dope who did it to Romney lost his job and is going to get prosecuted. If he had only been smart enough to shoot a black teenager to death, he would have been fine. He wouldn’t have been charged because this is America. So I don’t think the attacks on me are fair or wise. It makes the gay community look crazy. It’s made me more reluctant to talk about trans issues or include letters in the column from people who are trans because I don’t want the crazies coming at me again. These attackers, most of whom are not trans — only one of the people who attacked was a trans person — are going to magnify the problem of trans invisibility because now I’m probably going to write about trans people less than I did before in the most widely syndicated sex-advice column in America, because I don’t want to have a copy editor screw up a pronoun and then have someone throw something at me the next time I’m standing at a podium.
“Savage U” airs Tuesdays at 11 p.m. on MTV. For more information, visit www.mtv.com.