What Do Women Want? by Daniel Bergner to American Savage (2013) by Dan Savage. I took it as a sign that Savage's recommended reading in his introduction included What Do Women Want? I felt very prepared.
Dan Savage is someone that I've heard of but didn't really know much about. My friend had told me about his sex podcast, and I'd heard about his books. I'd definitely heard of the "It Gets Better" program, too, but I can't say for sure whether I even knew that Dan Savage had started it before I began this book.
Anyway, I assumed that Dan Savage would have a lot to say and that I would probably agree with most of it. And I turned out to be mostly right. Savage discusses sex, cheating, gay marriage and equal rights, Obamacare, sex education, and other pertinent issues. He's funny, engaging, and his book is thoughtful, entertaining, practical, and easy to read. I didn't agree with him on everything--more on that later--and at times it could feel a little self-important--that Savage was using his book as a platform to redress every slight done unto him by his critics. However, I enjoyed reading it and I'm probably going to be looking for more of his books soon.
I could go on and on about all the smart, good stuff Savage says in this book. His views on what sex education should be and his coherent and emotional arguments for gay marriage and equal rights were very moving and persuasive. He had me in tears when he described the jubilant couples and cheering that surrounded the first, official gay marriages in Seattle at City Hall. It's good stuff. I think I most enjoyed the more personal stories about his life, and I'm very interested in reading the book about when he and his husband adopted their kid.
However--and again, I find myself a surprised defender of monogamy--but I did not agree with Savage when he says that cheating is okay. I don't mind what he seems to have with his husband, an agreed-upon "monogamish" relationship. They sound like they're happy and comfortable with their sex lives. But I can't condone cheating when it involves keeping secrets from your spouse. Sure, he only advocates this for some more extreme examples where one partner is simply not interested in sex anymore. I see where he's coming from, but I think honesty is always more important than sex. Also, personally speaking, I know I'm not the most knowledgeable on this subject since my long-term relationships tend to be on the short side, but I've never been truly tempted to sleep with anyone else while I've been in a relationship. And I can't share. I don't want my partner sleeping with other people. Even the idea of it makes me very uncomfortable.
Finally, I have some nitpicking issues with some of Savage's arguments. I agreed with his conclusions, but I noticed a number of times when Savage compared statistics from a northern and southern state. For instance, Savage compared the teen birth rates of Connecticut and Mississippi (I could be misremembering exactly which states he used, but you get the idea). Connecticut teaches birth control and Mississippi teaches abstinence only. Not surprisingly Mississippi has a higher teen birth rate. However, this is a correlative connection and not causal. Also, there are a million differences between Mississippi and Connecticut that might also be affecting teen birth rates. Savage seemed to use these studies to show a causal connection, which doesn't fit with the evidence he presented. Again, although I agreed with is conclusions, I hate sloppy statistics.
P.S. Savage mentioned in his book that his husband looks "very good" in leather. I happened upon some pics of his husband in a photo shoot for some slinky swimsuits when I googled Savage for this review. I concur. I imagine that Savage's husband looks good in anything.