Ethics Quote of the Month: Dan Savage

“If being gay is a choice, prove it. Choose it. Choose to be gay yourself. Show America how that’s done, Ben, show us how a man can choose to be gay. Suck my dick. Name the time and the place and I’ll bring my dick and a camera crew and you can suck me off and win the argument.”

—Columnist and gay rights advocate Dan Savage, responding to Dr. Ben Carson’s assertion on CNN that being gay is a choice, and that men choose to become gay as a result of prison experiences.

"Hmmm...I'm straight, but that Dan Savage looks mighty good. Maybe I should choose to gay...."

“Hmmm…I’m straight, but that Dan Savage looks mighty good. Maybe I should choose to be gay….”

Some observations:

1. Savage works in shock rhetoric the way Rodin worked in marble. Yes, the response to Carson is uncivil and vulgar. As such, it is as good an example as one could find of the importance of not banning words, even the obscene, ugly and hurtful ones. They are certainly subject to abuse, like all words. Still, they have legitimate and valuable uses.

2. Unfortunately, because Savage’s own conduct in the gay rights wars has been unyieldingly abusive, contemptuous and hateful, he only amuses his own constituency, and persuades no one who needs persuading. Yet his comment deftly unmasks the absurdity and ignorance of Carson’s. If it had come from a critic who was regarded as objective and not habitually offensive for the sake of being so, Savage’s attack would have impact beyond those who already have made up their minds about Ben Carson.

3. Thus the lesson of Savage’s assault is that incivility’s effectiveness, like its justifiability, is inversely related to its rarity.

4. Carson, who in addition to his wretched apology for his statement, falsely claimed on Fox News that CNN had taken his quote out of context, deserves such a challenge. Not as tit for tat, but because he invited it. The shortest way to a target is a straight line, and Savage found and took it.

5. Mediaite inaccurately described Savage’s challenge as “Dan Savage Invites Ben Carson to ‘Suck My Dick’ and See If He Turns Gay.” That’s not what he wrote. But he should have: Mediaite’s version is better. Unfortunately, its ethical duty is to report what Savage said, not improve on it.


Sources: Mediaite

27 thoughts on “Ethics Quote of the Month: Dan Savage

  1. I thought about Dan’s challenge, but I couldn’t be persuaded to try being gay. Or a foot fetishist, that has zero appeal. Or a furry. Not my thing. Or an agalmataphiliac. Come to think of it, I don’t really care for blondes much. Wait, was there a point in there?

    • Thank you for introducing to me a new word.
      I figured(pun intended) what it had to mean from the Greek.

      Don’t blink.

  2. Agalmatophilia is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from an attraction to (usually nude) statues, dolls, and mannequins.

    I had to look it up. Well, to bed: GI Joe’s looking foxy tonight!

    • Dan Savage (the poor bastard) needs to learn – according to his own “gay” ways, except with more universally applicable and unpleasant consequences – that being an asshole gets oneself fucked.

    • It depends what you’re going for. I don’t think any amount of logic or reason will convince some people…. They’re either religiously committed or have spent a life in such a way that certain beliefs are entrenched. And so, like Jack said, he isn’t talking to Ben Carson, he’s talking to his audience and scoring outrage points.

  3. Dan Savage is one of the prime reasons I am very unsymapthetic to LGBT arguments.

    In the past, he has conducted cyberbullying campaigns that targeted,among others, Rick Santorum and Rick Warren. There was also some very disgusting conduct towards Gary Bauer’s 2000 presidential campaign.

    That said, his challenge is vulgar, but I don’t need to fellate Dan Savage to prove him wrong. Why not introduce him to the people portrayed on TLC’s “My Husband’s Not Gay” instead?

    I knew one of the couples on that show (Jeff and Tanya). In my mind, Jeff and Tanya (not to mention the other couples on that show) have already proven Dan Savage wrong.

    • I should be very dubious of arguments based on the premises of reality shows. Many, many gays do and have feigned “heterosexual lifestyles’ for various reasons, or proclaimed that they were “cured” for similar reasons. This is a symptom of the social and professional problems gays face, not proof of Carson’s myth.

        • What’s he going to do if the upcoming SCOTUS decision goes his way? He will really not have much to rant about anymore. Whatever the rightness or wrongness of his views, he has still raised being an asshole to a professional discipline, and I would not be sorry if someone pissed off by one of his hatefests put a bullet in his head.

          • Well, states are still trying to do end-runs around the Supreme Court’s rulings that overturned gun control legislation. What reason is there to believe that states and Congress will not try to do end runs around a SCOTUS decision that goes Dan Savage’s way?

      • If it’s really possible to feign being one orientation if you are really another, PROVE ME WRONG. Fake being homosexual right now!

      • But she did say it. And it was kind of like a tree falling in the forest. What would Ben Savage say about a straight politician saying he wanted his son to be straight. Answer: He’d go fucking berserk.

        • Yup. Sometimes I wonder if the cursing, etc was just a schtick to please his fan base, but I think Dan is someone who simply is incapable of being satisfied and has only two emotions: angry and angrier. If an acquaintance or coworker was like that you’d find every reason to avoid him.

  4. The problem with Savage’s “challenge” is that Carson may only believe that choosing to be “gay” means choosing to perform “gay” sex acts. Under such conditions, Carson need only reply, “I choose not to be gay”, and the challenge is won.

    Savage’s comments merely pander to his audience and invite confirmation bias from Carson. The comments are merely a crude publicity stunt that advances no better understanding of homosexuality.

    • Carson can’t take Savage up on his challenge unless he (Carson) has been to prison first.

      Also, I’m assuming that Carson believes people come out of prison gay due to close quarters of one sex? I wonder if he believes the same about the military? I can just see it now…the ridiculous hysteria.

      We sent our boys to war and they came home gay!

    • But this is the central foolishness of Carson’s argument. He claims to understand what makes people gay while not understanding anything about what being gay is. Performing gay sex does not make one gay, any more than a gay man performing heterosexual sex suddenly becomes “straight.” If he is that clueless, it is unethical for him to hold any opinion on the subject at all, and certainly unethical, as a public figure, to express it.

  5. This is the problem with being complacent in one’s cleverness. Savage thinks he has a shocking point that will get anti-gay bigots to recant immediately, but it’s not actually that good a point. For example, it is not unheard of for sexuality to have a continuum of gray areas that can be flexible under different cultural norms or circumstances like prolonged abstinence. As has been pointed out, people can perform sexual acts with people they are may not be attracted to. Furthermore, in Ancient Greece, it was encouraged for men and boys to have homosexual relationships with each other. Unless there were an improbable number of bisexuals born in Ancient Greece, social pressure had some influence on who people “wanted” to have sex with. In other words, sexuality can at least be influenced by one’s environment.

    That said, I am distinctly aware that I did not choose to be heterosexual, and given the choice I don’t think I would have chosen it, because it’s rather inconvenient for me. There are a few people I would seriously consider marrying except they are male. I think sexuality has a few relatively fixed aspects for each person, and the rest is slightly flexible given what they are raised to view as attractive. It’s different for everyone, but there are a few common patterns people generally fit themselves into.

    I just don’t see why sexuality is such a big deal. Why can’t we just allow people do what they feel like as far as consensual sex is concerned? Does it actually cause any problems? I’ve never gotten anything remotely resembling a decent answer to this question, and every time I raise it, someone vanishes without so much as an “I’ll think about that and get back to you” or a “You win this round, but I’ll get you next time, ExCeph!” Then he pops up later with the same claims as if I never raised the question. I can only assume he wracks his brain for a few hours and bangs his head against the wall in frustration until he forgets the conversation ever happened.

      • There is a rational answer: we can and we should. The question that draws irrational answers is “Why won’t we?”

    • “Savage thinks he has a shocking point that will get anti-gay bigots to recant immediately, but it’s not actually that good a point.”

      You don’t get it…. Or maybe I’m over thinking this. But if I were Savage, and I’ve played him before, my goal isn’t to convince Carson, my goal is to play to my audience. Carson isn’t a participant in the conversation, he’s a prop. The point is some dark humor laced with shock value, and an evisceration of the argument that ‘gay’ is a choice, (at least, in the mind of his audience.). I mean… Really. Anyone willing or able to think on the subject would realize in very short order that if ‘gay’ was a choice, they could also make that choice, and that because they can’t make that choice, it isn’t really a choice. Because really, who would choose to be part of a minority group that is fairly routinely discriminated against?

      “In other words, sexuality can at least be influenced by one’s environment. ”

      This is the being/acting argument. I personally doubt very much that the occurrence of same sex attraction has gone up or down between ancient Greece, 50 years ago, and now. What’s changed is the level of societal acceptance. If someone is going to fire you from your job for being who you are, you hide. And unlike your skin color or gender, being gay is relatively easy to hide. (Although it bears mention, that in some cases people have tried to hide their skin color or gender.)

      “I just don’t see why sexuality is such a big deal. ”


      • Actually I saw am article recently that listed 10 things you don’t tell your boss unless you need to, and orientation is one of them. The thought is that although there are anti discrimination laws on the books, it’s easier to keep quiet and keep your job than speak up, lose it, and have to go to court to win it back 2 years later. I think the thought is also that you’re at work to work, not push an agenda, although that might be covered by neutral “no advocacy” workplace rules that say no one can push any agenda in the workplace.

        Nobody is over thinking this. Savage is being Savage here. He is an ass, he has always been an ass, and he will always be an ass. It’s profitable for him to keep playing that role. However, as things progress his ranting will become less and less relevant. The best or most vicious warriors frequently don’t know what to do when the fight is over.

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