Dan Savage and I have something in common


Savage is the new Humanist of the Year! I think that means we have to give each other a hug if ever we meet.

2013humanists

He’s going to be at the American Humanist Association Annual Conference in San Diego on 30 May-3 June, along with those and many other interesting people. I wish I could be there—I’ll be landing back in the US around then, after a long week in Romania, but I think I’ll need time to recover and get back to work.

But to all of you who’ve been exasperated with the refractoriness of certain elements of the atheist movement…check out the humanists. That stuff so many fight against bitterly is simply taken for granted in the humanist community.

Comments

  1. viajera says

    Are you freakin kidding me?!? Dan Savage as Humanist of the Year? Sure, so long as you’re not fat, or lesbian, or any of the other groups he regularly insults and further marginalizes. See, e.g., this page (chosen at random from many such posts outlining Dan Savage’s “issues”).

    Sure, I like some of his advice. I’m glad he started the “It Gets Better” campaign, and I’m someone’s out there helping to normalize kink. But Humanist of the Year? Nuh-uh.

  2. alexanderz says

    viajera
    I have no idea how Dan Savage insulted lesbians (I don’t read him that much), but his supposedly “anti-fat” columns are quite clear: Both partners have an obligation to maintain their sexual appeal to each other, considering reasonable age-related deterioration.
    That’s it. There is nothing wrong (ethically speaking, obviously there’s plenty wrong health-wise) in being fat, as long as you enter the relationship fat. If enter the relationship fit and healthy and then after a couple of years double your weight, you’re not being considerate of your partner. You cannot expect your partner to have the same relationship with someone whose body they find repulsive. Drastically changing your appearance is a breach of trust – just like going into a relationship when you have regular sex and after a year deciding that you will only have sex once a year.
    As a fat person (great wobbly fat person) I never considered Savage’s position “anti-fat”. On the contrary, I thought it was very good of him to recognize that physical appearances are a fundamental part of the relationship, on par with compatible sexual desires and personal hygiene.

  3. =8)-DX says

    @viajera – I was waiting for a comment like this.
    Fat – alexanderz treats that aspect perfectly well.
    Lesbian – Dan Savage has been about as supportive of lesbians as it is possible to be. His been woman-positive and female-positive. He maintains a good gender balance in the calls on his podcast as well as treating all manner of lesbian issues in depth. Saying Dan has anything against lesbians is just total blindness and ignorance. The only thing you can throw at him is that he 1) is a bit squeemish of vaginas and sex with females himself 2) he sometimes deals with some lesbian issues in broadly stereotypical ways (butch vs. fem), but then that’s mostly because these are the most common lesbian issues he comes across in the mail and calls he gets.
    Others – he used to use the word tranny. He thinks quite a few homosexual men falsely present as bi when coming out. He thinks female sexuality tends to be more fluid than male.

  4. Beatrice says

    Both partners have an obligation to maintain their sexual appeal to each other, considering reasonable age-related deterioration.

    If enter the relationship fit and healthy and then after a couple of years double your weight, you’re not being considerate of your partner.

    What the fuck?
    This is wildly off topic, but what the hell is this?!

  5. Portia, who will be okay. says

    His [sic] been woman-positive and female-positive.

    is inconsistent with:

    he 1) is a bit squeemish of vaginas and sex with females himself 2) he sometimes deals with some lesbian issues in broadly stereotypical ways (butch vs. fem)….

    Then you go on to list his use of transphobic slurs?
    That was a really poor defense. Absent your evidence-free assertions about his “woman-positive” stances, your post stands as an opposition to his qualification as humanist of the year.

    Both partners have an obligation to maintain their sexual appeal to each other, considering reasonable age-related deterioration.

    Body-shaming the person who you’re supposedly in love with is pretty inconsiderate.

  6. rq says

    alexanderz
    Wow… So, after several years of marriage and three children, I have breached trust with Husband because (a) my figure is no longer what it was 6 years ago and (b) we no longer have sex as often as we used to? Because… relationships are static things where nothing ever changes, including appearance, and partners cannot make allowances for each other, and… what, Husband is free to leave me because things about me have changed?
    You know, sometimes those changes (in either direction) are welcomed, accepted, and loved because they’re a part of a whole person, with whom one has a relationship (as opposed to the merely repulsive bits).

    That being said, Dan Savage is a decent choice. Much better than Seth McFarlane.

  7. Vicki says

    There is nothing wrong (ethically speaking, obviously there’s plenty wrong health-wise) in being fat, as long as you enter the relationship fat. If enter the relationship fit and healthy and then after a couple of years double your weight, you’re not being considerate of your partner. You cannot expect your partner to have the same relationship with someone whose body they find repulsive.

    So, if you enter a relationship fat, can your partner reasonably say “don’t you dare lose weight or I’ll break up with you?” After all, they were attracted to your fat self; maybe they’d find a much thinner you “repulsive.”

    More to the point, since people have the right to leave any relationship they’re not happy in, it is bigoted to defend that particular kind of appearance-policing while saying it’s okay for people to get thinner, to lose their hair, to change their appearance in all sorts of other ways.

  8. says

    Beatrice @8

    Proof that the bad advice that Dan Savage has been giving on certain topics (largely due to him internalizing a lot of unchecked nasty messages and treating them as universal truths) has real consequences in audience assumptions about sex and dating that critics are right to condemn.

    =8)-DX @7

    When he’s good, he’s… okay. When he’s bad, he’s abysmal and dangerous (he’s, on more than one occasion, encouraged a listener to pressure themselves into ignoring consent because “sex is owed” and has on more than one occasion given this advice to a caller describing an asexual sexual orientation and that’s on top of the many other recorded instances of giving straight up bad and harmful advice).

    I think it’s often worse when he’s bad because there are so few sources in our society for good, frank, and accurate information about sex, sexuality, and sexual relationships, so people who encounter his bad advice are much less likely to be able to parse out why its bad when it is and are more likely to defend him when he shouldn’t be because they don’t want to lose a flawed, but overall source of information.

    I just wish he cared more about improving himself rather than getting sucked into his own ego and pretending like he knows more than he does and the way his advice is fetishized when it is usually much less accurate than other sources (Midwest Teen Sex Show, Scarlet Teen, Planned Parenthood, Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy, Tristan Taormino, etc…).

    OP @top

    But all those criticisms aside, he did good with the “It Gets Better” project. Legitimate good that deserves awards like these. I’d love for him to no longer be treated as the de facto spokesperson of ALL QUEERDOM or ALL SEX ADVICE, but if he can sometimes use his powers for good like the IGBP then I’m all down for supporting him on that. He did good there.

  9. Portia, who will be okay. says

    Husband is free to leave me because things about me have changed?

    I think this is actually true. That doesn’t make it any less jerky to say that one partner has an obligation to never gain an observable ounce! Especially because such pressure to conform is largely on women.

    Cerberus
    I agree with your assessment of Dan Savage.

    I don’t think he embodies Humanist values to an acceptable extent. If it were one or two missteps, that’d be one thing. But he has such a pattern of punching down. I know nobody really has any obligation to care what I think of him, but I don’t endorse his selection.

  10. says

    That doesn’t make it any less jerky to say that one partner has an obligation to never gain an observable ounce!

    Which is, of course, something Savage never said. Nothing remotely like it.

    I started reading Savage Love when I was in college, in 1997. I defy anyone to write an advice column regularly for that long, on such insanely sensitive topics, without getting something wrong occasionally, even grievously wrong.

  11. dianne says

    Dan Savage was raised Catholic and in one of his books says that he is happy that he is gay partly because if he weren’t he’d be a judgmental conservative Catholic creep. I think he fights with that part of himself-and sometimes loses.

  12. The Mellow Monkey says

    Gretchen

    I defy anyone to write an advice column regularly for that long, on such insanely sensitive topics, without getting something wrong occasionally, even grievously wrong.

    And if he was willing to admit when he’s wrong and make efforts to avoid it in the future, I’d give him much more slack. He still seeks out opportunities to complain about being criticized over transphobic slurs and he happily re-posts old letters in which he gave demonstrably dangerous advice.

    There is a lot I like about Dan Savage. The IGBP is great. I can acknowledge the good things he does while also keeping my eyes wide open to the bad. He has a really unfortunate history of not learning from his mistakes. At best, he may avoid making them in public again without actually internalizing the lesson.

  13. rq says

    Portia
    Generally true, yes – but the implication from #6 being that It’s my fault. (That’s what I got, anyway – and oddly enough, I don’t get the sense that someone overweight becoming fit and trim is included in the drastically altered appearance as repulsive category. But I could be wrong.)

    Cerberus
    Well-said.

  14. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Odious bullshit?

    Yup. We’ve got “FATTIES R UNHEALTHIES!!!” and “YOU OWE IT TO ME TO BE FUCKABLE IN THE WAY I DECIDE IS FUCKABLE”

    If that’s the best defense of Dan Savage, I must not be missing out on much not reading him.

    That said, I totally second the “better than MacFarlane” thing. A pile of rank dogshit would have been a better choice than that douchebomb.

  15. glodson says

    I am torn on this. Savage should get praise for the It Gets Better project, but now I’m seeing some major faults, as I never really followed the guy. I’ve just seen him blast a few bigots, and the aforementioned project.

    However, he’s got some serious problems with the things he’s said. Some of his comments are bad, but that’s only part of the problem. It is that he has a role of giving advice. Some of that advice is hurtful, and downright bad. I think he means well, but who cares.

    As for him being better than MacFarlene as a choice for humanitarian of the year… that’s really not saying much at all.

  16. vaiyt says

    That said, I totally second the “better than MacFarlane” thing. A pile of rank dogshit would have been a better choice than that douchebomb.

    That said, I would say that, if all it takes to be Humanist of The Year is to be better than Seth McFarlane, I guess Humanism has problems.

  17. throwaway, promised freezed peach, all we got was the pit says

    If all it takes to be better than McFarlane is to breathe, oxygen is FAAART!

    It’s pretty hard to condense every Family Dad Show into one short phrase, but you’ve managed to do so! ;)

  18. UnknownEric is just a spudboy, looking for a quantum tomato. says

    It’s pretty hard to condense every Family Dad Show into one short phrase, but you’ve managed to do so! ;)

    I dunno, I think it needed an unnecessary M.C. Hammer reference. Proper.

  19. great1american1satan says

    Just adding to the anti-Dan Savage voices here. I might have been inclined to look at some of the issues over which he’s been criticized with a more forgiving stance, but not having faced oppression over my weight or gender means that’s probably just privilege fucking with me.

    Fuck that shit, and fuck Dan Savage.

  20. alexanderz says

    rq

    There is nothing in what I said to imply that you’re in fault for losing your figure. I mentioned that reasonable changes (I said “deterioration” which was wrong, narrow-minded and I’m sorry) are totally expected. If someone leaves you because you’re no longer the same you were six years and three kids ago than he’s a jerk. I, and Dan Savage, were talking about large and sudden shifts. Those aren’t necessary one-sided – people who like large bodies wouldn’t appreciate if their partner suddenly decided to lose a lot of weight.

    Yes, tastes change and relationships evolve. But they don’t always do so at the same pace as other, physical, changes. Sometimes a partner will say that s/he loves/doesn’t mind the new look, even though it’s actually bothers them. Obviously this kind of lack of communication can ruin a relationship and the only way to allow better communication is to insure that certain concerns (like a partner’s body) are indeed legitimate.

    Portia, who will be okay. is right to say that this falls mostly on women. I don’t have a good answer to that. However, I don’t think the answer is to pretend that bodily changes have no real effect on a relationship.

    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle
    Since you’re obviously psychic and know better than me what I’m thinking, I’ll leave you divine my answer to you.

  21. Brandon says

    “YOU OWE IT TO ME TO BE FUCKABLE IN THE WAY I DECIDE IS FUCKABLE”

    In the context of my relationship, I absolutely feel that I owe it to my partner to be fuckable in the way she decides is fuckable. While I wouldn’t say she owes me the same, I’d like it and appreciate it for her to feel the same way; I think she more or less does.

    Of course, not all relationships have the same basic rules of operation, but I really don’t see what’s wrong with appearance being one of the relevant parts of an ongoing relationship. I’m not attracted to fat people; no fat person is under any obligation at all to give one single shit about my lack of attraction for them, but someone that entered into a relationship with me knowing what I like probably should care at least a bit how I feel.

  22. Beatrice says

    Selfish narcissists,

    If you are so very disgusted by fat people that your attraction to a person would fade when they gained some weight, then you can leave them. I would probably judge you for it and consider you an asshole, but you are welcome to be as shallow as you want. But don’t fucking pretend the other person was the one not showing consideration.

  23. Portia, snowbound says

    Which is, of course, something Savage never said. Nothing remotely like it.

    Nothing remotely like it?

    Those aren’t necessary one-sided – people who like large bodies wouldn’t appreciate if their partner suddenly decided to lose a lot of weight.

    I really doubt this is a realistic assertion based on what we know about Dan Savage’s comments about fat people. Or that it’s a realistic example given the fat-hating culture we live in.

    However, I don’t think the answer is to pretend that bodily changes have no real effect on a relationship.

    I proposed nothing of the kind. What I propose is that we don’t give carte blanche to demanding assholes in an already-pressurized environment for women and their bodies and body image.

  24. Portia, snowbound says

    But don’t fucking pretend the other person was the one not showing consideration.

    QFT
    Preach.

  25. vaiyt says

    @Brandon:
    If you know not all relationships operate on your rules, why are you trying to defend Dan Savage’s generalist statement?

  26. says

    Ms Daisy Cutter @25

    And pulling out the red pen and striking through the Janet Hardy half of that line…

    Without distracting too much from the actual topic on hand, I’m not feeling super happy with how the kink community in general has been handling its important duty of standing up for the necessity of explicit careful consent. There’s been a lot of internal shaming of kinksters who have spoken out about abusive or rapist partners (because kinky people are magically better and admitting that that’s not always true somehow harms everyone more than protecting rapists and abusers), outright silencing by groups like Fetlife of groups who try and provide that service internally, and a lot of creepy stuff going on with “Dom Rights” right now where a particular minority is trying to push for a model where subs move more and more out of their consent and comfort zones so the jollies of a particularly rapey set of doms can be set as primary (and of course, a good sub wouldn’t complain about consent being violated or call them out on it, because “good doms” (i.e. ones with reputation) can always find other play partners).

    In short, it’s not going in a good direction right at the time it’s becoming super popular and will be getting more and more influx from vanilla culture and all the rape culture baggage that brings.

    Brandon @28

    Not to be that annoying poly person, but frankly this ownership model and primacy of one person’s sexual attractions and a model of non-communication just sounds like idiotic whining.

    Oh, you’re not sexually attracted to someone. Or they aren’t to you? Well, I guess you’re not fucking them then since no one is entitled to someone else’s body (either to fuck or to shape). And if you have actually talked about opening up your relationship and sexual needs as a couple of sexuals, you can work out something where you can try to find someone that you are sexually attracted to (if it’s really a “I can’t do this” rather than a whiny “oh no, my partner no longer can spend 3 hours putting on complex makeup and fashion to look good for me what with their busy job and our 3 kids”). And this won’t come as some sort of slow shock if the couple just communicated with each other the entire time about the way NRE fades and sexual appetites and desires can shift and change over the course of a relationship and what needs and expectations both parties have of a relationship, so they can both see if one just can’t be fulfilled with the parties together or in the arrangement they have now.

    And also if the partners are honest, they can also look at why that attraction is fading and even keep track about whether its because of something real or just a bunch of sexist entitlement guys have to expect that their wives (or husbands) will pour a metric butt-ton of effort remaining “bangable” while they themselves let themselves go or fail to be honest about how they are not nearly as sexy as when they first got together either.

    But no matter the model (poly/mono, patriarchal/egalitarian, kinky/vanilla, etc…), the point is with communication nothing is a surprise and without the entitlement that states that certain people are the ownership of their partners expectations and must force themselves to be something they aren’t in order to be “worthy”, we can actually address the underlying issues and have long-standing egalitarian and successful relationships without casting certain subsets to deny their own consent, intense body shame, or unrealistic self-destructive expectations that would cripple even a healthy relationship.

    Also, seriously, heterosexual vanilla people, grow an imagination. There are a heck of a lot of ways to bring back what actually sexually attracted you to someone without the tired fiction of “make them hot again”.

  27. mythbri says

    @alexanderz

    There is nothing wrong (ethically speaking, obviously there’s plenty wrong health-wise) in being fat

    That’s not necessarily true, and it’s definitely not easy to control.

    Some people are overweight because of genetics, upbringing, habit or disease/disorder/disability – the reasons are varied and society’s current version of a “healthy” body image makes me extremely skeptical about basing ideas of health on visual appearance, even loosely.

    I’ve heard plenty of people who have been shamed for something that is not within their power to control. Some people don’t have the resources or time to focus on losing massive amounts of weight, and they just do the best they can. And if they ever have to go to the doctor for a medical problem, they’re likely to have that problem blamed on their weight alone without having their concerns treated seriously.

    Saying that fat or overweight people are automatically unhealthy is a pretty blanket statement, and assuming that gaining weight automatically makes someone unattractive is not only a blanket statement, but is just plain mean.

  28. Brandon says

    vaiyt:

    If you know not all relationships operate on your rules, why are you trying to defend Dan Savage’s generalist statement?

    It seems to me that his advice was being given to someone that holds basically the same sort of standard that I do rather than to someone that doesn’t expect a thin, fit partner.

    That said, I don’t really support the specific advice he gave, I was replying to a comment that someone made here, not constructing a defense of Savage’s advice. I think the person asking him advice had a whole ball of issues that needed unpacking that aren’t suited to Savage’s format. Using sex as blackmail to fat-shame a partner is a bad, bad, bad idea that I wouldn’t defend at all.

    Cerberus:

    Not to be that annoying poly person, but frankly this ownership model and primacy of one person’s sexual attractions and a model of non-communication just sounds like idiotic whining.

    I don’t really follow the ownership line of thinking here. I don’t feel that I own anyone. I want to please my partner as much as possible, and I’m pretty sure she feels the same. Again, I’m not projecting my desires and specific relationship onto others, I don’t think it’s the way to be. I do know, however, that we’re a couple that cares a lot about fitness, stays active and fit together, and that’s part of what we find attractive about each other. Could that wax or wane with time? I suppose so, but I don’t see any real reason to expect it to.

    I basically agree with your overall sentiments though. People (including myself) would do better to maintain more mental flexibility. I particularly agree about the importance of communication.

  29. says

    Brandon @35

    I’m pleased to hear that. And right there you found the nub of what you wanted to which physical attractiveness was only a symptom. You and your partner connect with fitness, being active, and exercising together. It is the interest you both share and the connection you get there is what helps maintain that relationship. You or your partner suddenly losing interest with that would mean a lot more there and the loss of a lot more than just the physical changes. Additionally, the physical changes matter less than the bonding activity (or even the passion about the activity and that history (I doubt either of you would dump the other if they had a physical impairment or illness that prevented the other from heading out to the track every week)). Additionally, you’d have more in common with a heavier set person into the same fitness culture than a skinny “conventionally attractive” person who prefers a more sedentary lifestyle.

    And I’m happy you are aware of that and have a partner who shares that same passion for a subject you are passionate about and wish you many years of connections.

  30. says

    Cerberus:

    I’m not feeling super happy with how the kink community in general has been handling its important duty of standing up for the necessity of explicit careful consent.

    I was only ever on the edges of the local kink community, but I wasn’t impressed, either, and especially not with FetLife in that regard.

    “Dom Rights” sounds no different from “Men’s Rights” as a movement and in fact makes me wonder how much the latter informs and drives the former.

    because kinky people are magically better and admitting that that’s not always true somehow harms everyone more than protecting rapists and abusers

    Same damn problem with the atheist community, with the geek community, with the poly community, with the pagan community… the subculture comes before the welfare of its most vulnerable members. Just like the mainstream culture! Funny, that.

  31. great1american1satan says

    Like I said, I could see a more nuanced take on Savage’s views, but the way he expresses them is full of shaming and hate-tinged language. I could ignore that before I personally knew more gender nonconformists and fat people (not sure a good phrase for that). I have seen so much bullshit associated with how those groups are treated that I can’t have a sense of humor about any of it now.

    I could perhaps see someone breaking up with or cheating on someone they aren’t attracted to as being the most humane thing they could do, but they can’t expect the partner or anyone that cares about them to just say “Hey, thanks for being honest! Have a nice life!” When your wife gets cancer and you get caught getting your mistress pregnant, I think you owe the world the right to say “Fuck you, asshole,” and accept it with grace. For example.

  32. Ichthyic says

    I wonder how much tribalism results simply from defining the subculture to begin with.

    example at base… what defines a kink, even?

    there is a HUGE list of paraphilias on wiki, but where do we draw the line between kink and paraphilia and “normal”?

    Why, even, is there always the strong desire even TO draw a line, if not to exercise some basic authoritarian instinct?

    meh, questions probably best left to the lounge or thunderdome.

  33. georgebean says

    It gave me a start to see the name “Carl Coon” there because I immediately thought of Carleton Coon–and google leads me to assume Carl is Carleton’s son? Verrrry interesting, but …

    I

  34. says

    Both partners have an obligation to maintain their sexual appeal to each other

    fuck no.

    anyway, I’m just gonna second everything Cerberus said

  35. alexanderz says

    Portia, snowbound

    I really doubt this is a realistic assertion based on what we know about Dan Savage’s comments about fat people. Or that it’s a realistic example given the fat-hating culture we live in.

    You’d be surprised how many men like big women. They are often ashamed to admit that in public because of Western culture standards, but they are quite a lot of them. For instance, just a generation ago Ukrainian women were expected to be large and very round to be considered pretty.
    Dan Savage considers liking big women a kink, and knowing how supportive he is of kinks I think he would be as demanding of a large person suddenly losing weight as he’s of people gaining it.

    What I propose is that we don’t give carte blanche to demanding assholes in an already-pressurized environment for women and their bodies and body image.

    I agree with you. I just think that trying to maintain a certain physical appearance (again, taking into account the passing years, health, available time etc.) should be part of a relationship on par with personal hygiene and clean clothes. I know that the former is much harder to maintain than the latter two, which is why physical requirements should be minimal.
    I just have problems with people like Beatrice. Apparently, in her pixie world only selfish assholes experience physical attraction. She believes anyone can turn into a werewolf and expect to have the same relationship as before.

    Cerberus from Time Forgot

    …whether its because of something real or just a bunch of sexist entitlement guys have to expect that their wives (or husbands) will pour a metric butt-ton of effort remaining “bangable” while they themselves let themselves go…

    Couldn’t agree more. Everyone has obligations within a relationship.

    …the point is with communication nothing is a surprise…

    That’s exactly Dan Savage’s position. He’s always for communication and negotiation as part of the relationship. His position on weight is merely a continuation of that – nothing (within reason) should be left off the table, including appearance.

    mythbri

    That’s not necessarily true, and it’s definitely not easy to control.

    Usually being overweight is bad to your health. Obviously there are different degrees of that, and the current ultra-slim standard is often even worse. Nevertheless, those extra kilograms aren’t doing your spine any favors. Also, attractiveness is in the eye of the beholder. Some people are attracted to slim people, some to large people, some don’t care either way. You can’t change who people find attractive.

    Regardless, I’m well aware that it’s hard to control weight. Like I said – I’m fat, and even though I put a lot of time and effort to reduce my weight I still remain (somewhat less) fat. That’s nobody is allowed to have unreasonable expectations:
    If you begin a relationship with an obese person you cannot demand that they change into someone else. This is who they are. The same if your partner is aging and losing their youthful figure – you can’t demand to stop time. However, if some is simply neglecting themselves – not because of an illness, or age or anything else, but simply because they start to take your relationship for granted – then you can ask them to get their act together.

  36. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    Alex do everyone including yourself a favor and shut up

  37. says

    alexanderz @42

    That’s not my point at all. My point is that whatever your partner thinks they are owed in your behavior they are not. If your partner is attracted to bigger people and you’re skinny or kinky people and you’re vanilla, you do not owe them “meeting them halfway”. If what you are is not what they want or what they can handle, then they can leave or they can talk about it. And there might be hurt feelings, but no partner should ever feel they owe their partner being ggg (yeah, I used to read him back before I couldn’t take how bad his bad advice was anymore) or a specific beauty standard or into a specific sex act or any of the myriad of other privileged entitled shit that no partner has a right demanding of another partner.

    And that Dan Savage never really maintains a strong enough distance between pressuring your partner to be conventionally attractive or sexually adventurous against their will and honestly trying something new or finding a new connection because it sounds like fun and why not is one of my biggest issues with him.

    But since that’s a lot of words and I can see you are a more terse man, let me state my case clearly.

    Everyone has obligations within a relationship.

    No. No they don’t. Period.

  38. says

    Addendum to alexanderz @42

    About this:

    I just have problems with people like Beatrice. Apparently, in her pixie world only selfish assholes experience physical attraction. She believes anyone can turn into a werewolf and expect to have the same relationship as before.

    First, fuck you.

    Second, yeah, if your sole reason for being in a long-term monogamous style romantic relationship is an expectation that your partner is going to look like a young 20 something conventionally attractive person their entire life and you’re shocked that that sexual interest is going to fluctuate and change as you move through NRE, aging bodies, shifting comfort levels, etc… then yeah, you probably should bail out when that turns out to be a hollow lie.

    Because yeah, that’s not how it works. Fuck, I know that’s not how it works and I’m a dyed-in-the-wool asexual. Yeah, it might be how it works for you, but that’s not on anyone but yourself and if you’re just looking for a sexual relationship based on shallow physical appearances (as if that was the most consistently exciting aspect of sexual chemistry), then a long-term monogamous romantic relationship just isn’t going to be the right fit for you and you’re better off knowing that now.

    But yeah, if you want romantic connections, complex chemistries, etc… you’ll find that they have little to do with the dominant depiction of it in our culture.

    The most passionate, horny, chemistry exploding all over the floor couple you will see in any dungeon is often the old couple, full of wrinkles and flab who have to help each other gingerly onto the equipment. Because as you get older, you notice that the fictions society sells us aren’t the whole story of either love, relationship models, sex, or sexual attraction.

    And if your first reaction upon being told that is to pretend like the person telling you that is some Twilight-obsessed closet-kinkster (and how would that make someone instantly dismissible, by the way?) and therefore beneath you, then you frankly don’t have enough life experience to understand why you’re acting like a prat.

    And that’s always something it’s possible to change at any point you choose to.

  39. Ichthyic says

    Everyone has obligations within a relationship.

    No. No they don’t. Period.

    yes, yes they do.

    we in fact ALL have obligations in our relationships to all of the people around us.

    If that were not the case, utter anarchy would result.

    but even in romantic relationships, we have specific obligations WE AGREE TO with each other. We agree not to take advantage of the other person, for example. We agree that we each care about what happens to the other person, and we agree we should support each other. when agreements and boundaries break, the relationship breaks.

    sorry, but to say something like “there are no obligations in a relationship”, simply because you want to express the idea, a correct one for my personal opinion, that it is an unfair imposition on one person to maintain their physical appearance is a gross mischaracterization of what a relationship is to begin with.

    don’t go there.

  40. Ichthyic says

    Second, yeah, if your sole reason for being in a long-term monogamous style romantic relationship is an expectation that your partner is going to look like a young 20 something conventionally attractive person their entire life

    stop it.

    you KNOW that’s a straw man of what alexander said.

  41. says

    However, if some is simply neglecting themselves – not because of an illness, or age or anything else, but simply because they start to take your relationship for granted – then you can ask them to get their act together.

    oh, you can certainly ask them. but they don’t actually have any obligation to completely change themselves to suit you.

    And I’m not touching the weight gain = “you’re neglecting yourself” BS. That’s some serious fatphobia there.

  42. says

    sorry, but to say something like “there are no obligations in a relationship”, simply because you want to express the idea, a correct one for my personal opinion, that it is an unfair imposition on one person to maintain their physical appearance is a gross mischaracterization of what a relationship is to begin with.

    better phrasing is “there are no default obligations in a relationship”. the obligations are, like you said, only those things that are mutually agreed upon as such.

  43. says

    Ichhthyic @46

    (raise eyebrow)

    All right, let me rephrase. Obligations, in the sense of the word that alexanderz, Dan Savage, and many other relationship advice programs, and sadly a lot of culture surrounding relationships, use it and intend it is not something we owe the relationship as a penalty for belonging to it.

    A relationship is a collaboration, two people finding the model and the agreements that ensures neither is pressured into one particular model of behavior because they or their partner(s) believe they should be that way. Ideally it is a mutual dance, each supporting the other within their ability to do so without compromising or bending to the other’s will (unless that is the lifeplay dynamic setup and one regularly checked in about) rather than a prison where one ends up being pushed on little social pressures that don’t address the underlying desires of both parties.

    Ichthyic @47

    I’m addressing his specific jumping down the throat of Beatrice. Assuming that it wasn’t just a slightly sexist reaction to being contradicted by her in the first place, I was trying to assess what about her rather short comment so incensed him and was being referred to in the paragraph I directly quoted.

    In short, I was trying to be charitable.

    I understand that alexanderz and Dan Savage both recognize that not everyone is attracted to the same thing. My larger meta-point is that if appearance (either traditional or non-traditional) is the be-all/end-all point of a relationship, then the standard monogamous romantic relationship model is not right for you and you will be in for a shock both sexually and romantically as it progresses because of that. Largely because the moment NRE fades is going to be a nasty nasty shock.

    The advice that a partner has to keep up a certain style of appearance for their partner as their obligation is toxic not only because it reduces consent, but because it misses the point of what often drives sexual chemistry, romantic attraction, and long-term relationship models.

    And frankly, if what you want is just appearance-based NRE sexy times, then by all means you should not be wasting prime years chasing a “standard” relationship model that will not adequately meet those needs and definitely not be trying to mold your partner to try and put together the missing pieces that model simply will not and cannot provide.

    Is that… more to your standards?

  44. Mak, acolyte to Farore says

    and has on more than one occasion given this advice to a caller describing an asexual sexual orientation

    That’s because he thinks asexuals are just a bunch of fakey fakes. He said some pretty nasty shit while being interviewed for ‘(A) Sexual’.

    Others – he used to use the word tranny.

    He also insulted a cis man by calling him FTM. Yanno. As a “joke”. Because trans people are soooo funny.

    Good ally he certainly is not. And I’m not the least bit surprised he made Humanist of the Year. Shit like that tends to get overlooked.

  45. Beatrice says

    A quick one:

    Why is leaving someone for not feeling sexually attracted to them because they got cancer and lost hair & weakened different from leaving someone for not feeling sexually attracted to them because the gained weight, at least to some, and why the first is seen as problematic and the second as perfectly fine….

    Of course, the difference between consequences of cancer and its treatment and getting fat is choice, or at least that’s probably what fat shamers would claim, not that gaining weight is always something a person can avoid and not a side effect of an illness.

    But look at what their explanation of not wanting to stay in a relationship with a fat person is : lack of sexual attraction (and really, is sexual attraction related only to physical attraction? + all the things other people wrote about people changing in time, both in their appearance and desires)
    If you stop being sexually attracted than that’s it, those in favor of leaving fat partners say. So are you leaving them for not being attracted to them any more or for feeling betrayed because they didn’t strive to please you with their appearance? Which smacks of entitlement on itself, and since that attitude largely affects women it’s also problematic from the feminist perspective. US culture is very fat shaming (with Europe trying not to stay behind),and we can’t disregard that in the discussion either. And I believe that shines through Brandon and alexanderz’s attitudes too. Just look at the comparison to turning into a werewolf! Just imagine how horrible terrible having a fat partner is, it deserves a comparison to your partner turning into a raving beast on the full moon (which doesn’t mean they aren’t perfectly nice the rest of the time, you know).

    Ok, not much time to elaborate on this right now, but I hope I at least put an idea in people’s minds.

  46. Beatrice says

    Short:

    Take care with the “but I’m simply not attracted to how they look any more” argument, it sounds like something that should apply to all kinds of physical changes, no matter the reason for them.

  47. =8)-DX says

    Reading through these, I’ve seen many more misrepresentations of Dan Savage. People will talk about (and link to) the same few old columns, the same few previous opinions of Dan, disregarding the fact that he has changed his opinions over the years. As I mentioned, he used to use words like ‘tranny’, ‘cunt’ and pussy (for weak) on the general principle that “racy” language would make his column more interesting, but has since moved and changed to more sensitive language, and has actually discussed why each of his previous positions was false or insensitive or harmful, had people of all the given groups (large-bodied, bis, transpeople, lesbians, kinksters, etc) on the show to present things from their own perspective. Dan’s treatment of pretty much all the other issues he’s being criticised over here is similar. I can’t think of any of these issues that haven’t been followed up on a later podcast after criticisms, and often redacted or apologised for. But then I’ve listened to every single one of his podcasts and couldn’t care much for the column itself.
    If the idea running around here is really that if you said one thing bad or held one wrong opinion ten years ago, you’re still a (whatever)-ophobe or (whatever)-hater, then that’s bullshit.

    Yeah, he often gives not so wonderful advice, but in an opinion column or podcast, with a couple of minutes for each call (all with limited information about the person wanting advice), you’d expect to get a few things wrong (misunderstanding an asexual vs. a person wanting to reignite their sex life, how to give advice to someone who isn’t sure of their sexuality themselves) but about 90% of his advice is spot on (as well as informative and entertaining).

    The point is, that Savage is worthy of the Humanist of the Year award here and now.

  48. great1american1satan says

    Has Savage ever apologized for his shit in an earnest way, then went on to prove it was earnest by not dropping the same old crap or snarky paraphrases in his column? Because if he did, it’s pretty out of character with the way he was acting last I looked, and I didn’t happen to get that memo.

    Not one of the fat people I’ve known came even close to eating as much food as I do. I’m not one of those “eats all they want but still skinny” people. I’ve got a bit of a belly. But all the “obese” people I’ve known eat less than me and have never eaten even the actual RDA of calories per day for their height. The most overweight person in my life currently (by government standards for height) eats the least, probably half the RDA of calories for her height.

    It’s anecdotal evidence, but from my point of view, the idea that fat people A) Did it to themselves, and B) Can do any fucking thing at all to lose a significant amount of weight, seems like fatphobic “common wisdom” – cultural baggage we have to lose in order to save human lives. Right now.

    **Sorry for the thunderfoolesque format stuff. I was feelin’ passionate.

  49. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    alexanderz , diddums, who the fuck are you and why in the world should I care what you think?

  50. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    It’s anecdotal evidence, but from my point of view, the idea that fat people A) Did it to themselves, and B) Can do any fucking thing at all to lose a significant amount of weight, seems like fatphobic “common wisdom” – cultural baggage we have to lose in order to save human lives. Right now.

    It’s not really anecdotal. And, you’re right. I’m someone who went to EXTREME lengths to lose a huge amout of weight and I’m the very first to admit I was lucky and privileged to a) be able to do so and b) to succeed.

    I’m not any healthier than I was at my heaviest, just because I’ve lost the weight. And I eat clean and work out 5-6 times a week now. There are people far heavier than I am who RAN passed me at the marathon last year and finished hours before me.

    It helps the diet industry to pretend that fat = automatically, unequivocally unhealthy, and no one else.

  51. ChasCPeterson says

    The relative unhealthiness of obesity is not debatable; it’s a fact. But this is a statement about relative risk for certain pathological conditions. Risk is an epidemiological property of populations, and so a statement about relative risk cannot be refuted with anecdotes. It’s not clear to me why legitimate issues of public health ought or need to be denied to avoid shaming.

  52. Beatrice says

    ChasCPeterson,

    It’s not clear to me why legitimate issues of public health ought or need to be denied to avoid shaming.

    I don’t think people are doing that, but putting the emphasis on the erroneous view that being fat (not even obese, just some random individually defined “fat”) necessarily means unhealthy, as well as connected problems such as doctors “solving” all kinds of health problems with “it must be because of your weight”, without even properly looking into the problem (I think we’ve had people in the Lounge recount their experiences like that).

    But maybe I’m misunderstanding people. At least that’s how I’m seeing this.

  53. hypocee says

    45 Cerberus:
    “Dyed-in-the-wool asexual” proceeds to drop a wall of science on living in a sexual relationship. Alrighty then!

  54. ChasCPeterson says

    Beatrice, carlie: fair enough; thanks for clarifying.
    I’m certainly not a supporter of shaming, nor of lazy diagnosticians.

  55. carlie says

    Thanks, Chas. That’s one thing that is a factor, and I honestly don’t think anyone knows how big of one it is – that there are problems of fat people that are caused by bad treatment of fat people, not the fat itself. For instance, certain cancer death rates are higher in the obese, but then when you dig deeper, they tend to not be diagnosed until the cancer is further in progression than in non-obese people. So it’s not a straight causal “fat makes you get cancer and die”, it’s that doctors either overlook it in fat people, or screening procedures aren’t optimized to find it in fat people, or the medical establishment is so fat-shaming that large people avoid going to the doctor until the problem is so bad they absolutely can’t stand it any more, etc. And right now there’s little research on how much of a confounding factor each of those things may be.

  56. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Beatrice is correct. Apologies if I made it sound like I was saying obesity is NEVER a health risk factor. I meant it isn’t 100% of the time automatically such. People can be healthy at any size, but not ALL people. that’s what I was trying to say.

    And carlie nails it in # 66.

  57. says

    Here’s the thing: I don’t think the endorsement of Savage by the American Humanists is a declaration that he’s a saint (if it is, I’m going to wave my Humanist of the Year award around much more often). There are legitimate concerns about the views of every single human being on the planet, with some more clearly odious than others.

    Savage, I think, leans towards the better side of humanity. Leans towards, not occupies in total perfect bliss. It is fair to recognize his strengths, and it’s also fair, as people are doing here, to recognize his weaknesses. And if he’s a really good human being, he’ll listen and learn.

  58. says

    Dan Savage does have a problem with privilege. That much is obvious every time he complains about getting piled on by some bisexual and transsexual activists. However…

    Beyond pointing out his issues with privilege, it seems that almost every other criticism of him is, in fact, dogpiling, people looking for excuses to discredit him because of a couple of well-documented blind spots. This is a major, major problem on the left that we have of ganging up on allies who aren’t sufficiently perfect, and it is *exactly* what happened to Laci Green last year, for almost exactly the same reasons. Granted, Savage and Green reacted somewhat differently to the criticism, but still, on balance, both do a lot more good than bad.

    What I find particularly offensive is the number of times Savage’s comments are taken out of the overall context of his philosophy and writing style. The matter of perceived fat-shaming has been dealt with above, but it does fit into the overall context that since what Savage deals with is sex, a lot of his advice deals with issues of sexual attraction and compatibility. I think a *lot* of the criticism against him bumps up against that, and a general perception that relationship advice should ignore sexual issues in favor of repairing everything else and letting sexual incompatibilities slide. In other words, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the accusations against Savage (apart from the really obvious ones about privilege) are little more than post-hoc rationalizations of the fact that Savage, being an offerer of sex advice, comes at every relationship issue from a sexual context. If this is true, those who find themselves guilty of such thinking should dope slap themselves.

  59. Krasnaya Koshka says

    I haven’t read Dan Savage in years because the first dozen columns I read completely grossed me out. He was so disgusting about lesbians, and vaginas. It echoed the sentiment I’d heard from all my gay boyfriends at the time. I have no desire to see how he’s progressing when he bolstered such bullshit toward me in my past.

    You’ve never grossed me out, Professor Myers, so you’re above Dan Savage in my estimation.

  60. says

    PZ Myers @68

    I would largely agree. Overall, I think his It Get Better Project is an amazing good thing on its own and well worthy on its own to an award of this stature and am rather pleased with the American Humanists in general and their overall picks this go in specific.

    He just ends up being someone it’s very easy to have complicated feelings about because he’s given such bad or abusive advice to various minorities over the years and because he is bizarrely treated by the media as the One True Icon of all Queerdom and all Sex Advice. More so because he tends to universalize from personal experience without checking his baggage.

    Though, I’ll admit to being horrified by some of the works on here. When I stopped paying attention to him regularly, he was only a little acephobic. He apparently got WAY worse and that’s before his apparent rant about AVEN’s inclusion in SF Pride.

    hypocee @63

    I know, right? I was just walking around, researching things, paying attention to friends, listening to people share their experiences, acting as confidant, learning the various ins and outs to provide a better sexual relationship for my partner (now partners) and suddenly one day it turned out… I, like, knew shit. Baffles the hell out of me probably more than it probably does you.

    Dunno, one of the various oddities and uncommonalities of my life, I guess.

    Chas @58

    Mostly it’d be nice if trivially true things (like the correlation of higher body weights with slight increases in risk factors) weren’t mixed up with our fat-shaming culture to confuse “unhealthiness” with “fatness”.

    Many doctors still use BMI, even though the BMI is thoroughly inaccurate and is especially bad with regards to women because of a failure to consider that boobs are not detachable parasitic creatures but part of a woman’s body. Additionally, it fails to shift the categories for race even though the categories of “reduced risk” are completely different e.g. for african american women, it’s healthier to be “heavier” than average.

    Worse yet, many of them treat body weight as a stand-in for lifestyle, contributing to the trivial correlation by privileging fad diets and other unhealthy lifestyle choices rather than encouraging healthy eating and remaining active at any weight (i.e. the thing that’s actually going to reduce risk factors).

    And it’s especially bad when that advice starts seeing skinny as healthy, no matter what. The risk factors for being underweight are WAY worse than being anything less than the absolute top of the scale in the other direction. And the lifestyles encouraged to keep someone there are exceedingly punitive to the body. Worse yet, people who are naturally skinny, have little incentive to take care of their body by eating healthily and remaining active and so find themselves prone to all the risk factors while much of society reacts in surprise because of the assumption that “skinny=healthy”.

    Overall, instead of shaming and using trivial correlations, we should just say, hey, whatever your size, try to eat healthier if it’s financially viable and try to remain active even if it’s something small. And find an exercise community that’s not going to judge you for not being fit from the get-go. It’ll have better medical results in reducing risk factors.

    But we won’t do that, because we as a society enjoy looking down on “fatties” too much. It’s one of the big reasons that the actual villains of the “obesity crisis” (under-regulated food, HFCS, and over-salted processed food) gets very little airplay compared to shaming tactics.

  61. says

    Also,

    BrianX@69 and =8)-DX @54

    Yeah, it’s bad when his advice misses the mark on minority group members. And that has real consequences. Seen here in this very post. Dan Savage is a very popular sex advice columnist and podcaster. And since that is a small field where he is treated as the prime expert, that means his bad advice isn’t easily countered. When he says something inaccurate about body weight or sexual attraction or transsexuality or asexuality, there are a wealth of people who are now less informed about that topic than they were before. In fact, are more willing to discount other people’s experiences because “Dan Savage is an expert and knows better than this random nut”.

    When he says somehing bigoted, that creates real damage. When he says that asexuality is not a real orientation or that “tranny” is no big deal because porn stars working in an infamously transphobic industry use it or that bisexuals are liars, it increases the amount of oppression in the world, makes it harder for those communities to be heard and innoculates his audience against growing and improving themselves as easily. This affects the support that person gets when they are young and trying to figure themselves out. It affects the self-esteem of those group members. It affects how people treat them. This is something especially problematic, because this culture of bigotry and bad messaging is exactly why Dan Savage decided to create the wonderful It Gets Better Project.

    But those are all on one hand and something I can largely just sigh sadly about and not really get too angry.

    What I have a harder time forgiving and the thing that made me stop paying attention to him is his complete FAIL in terms of advice about consent. Over and over again, and I’ve seen no evidence that he’s even remotely stopped, he encourages people to discount, massage, or feel guilty about consent.

    And that’s the thing I never see Dan Savage apologists really addressing.

    I’m not saying that Dan Savage is a rapist, but he just doesn’t seem to get why consent is so critical and really can’t be massaged just because “one partner is feeling frisky”. The way his GGG designation is never treated as a trait, but rather a forced ideal, one each partner should be molding themselves towards. The way he encourages models of consent wherein the partners are to be shamed as “repressed” if they balk at any sexual action requested by one party.

    And worst, the way he has consistently acted when the “conflict” is a difference in sexual levels. Every damn time, he is telling the lower sex drived party that it is their duty to either perform more sexual activities (in accordance with social messaging the person is already giving them telling them the same) or that the party with the lower sex drive needs to be thrown out of the relationship and possibly into tiny or punitive dating pools.

    Every damn time, its a bunch of “you should engineer your own rape by ignoring your consent” style hideous skin-crawling advice because Dan Savage personally has a very high sex drive. That and because he comes out of a childhood culture which was very repressed and very down on the notion of consent.

    This advice is unforgivable, dangerous, and directly supports and fortifies the rape culture.

    And coming from an asexual community where this forum regularly has at least one post on the front page at all times of a person describing how they ignored their consent and forced themselves to have sex with a partner (or are heavily considering it) because “that’s just what you owe a romantic partner, right?” Where these self-created low-consent socially-pressured rapes continually happen.

    And where, moving beyond that, obscene percentages of women have experienced at least one rape in their lives and many more have felt their consent pushed against and bent.

    And where his defenders rarely seem to comment on this tendency or the real damage it does.

    I hope you can see why I’m uncharitable with regards to his advice show and conflicted about the man personally.

    He’s done real harm and the harm he’s doing is to a lot of communities I belong to. But he’s also done amazing good with the It Gets Better Project. More good, I personally feel (though others may not feel the same), to make him a worthy recipient.

    I know you want to think highly of him, to justify your support, and frankly I’m not here to take that away from you. But the critiques laid against him are not “minor things” “by people looking to be offended”. They are people directly harmed. They are people horrified in context by things that keep happening. They are people who are simply disappointed, because they want Dan Savage to be better, to be a worthy spokesperson when the TV cameras circle him and ask him about X minority group.

    In short, we hope that Dan Savage Gets Better, just like the society he’s working to improve.

  62. ChasCPeterson says

    trivially true things (like the correlation of higher body weights with slight increases in risk factors)

    trivial? slight? This is rhetorical spin, pure and simple. You’re substituting asserted opinion for data.

    BMI is thoroughly inaccurate

    Oh, it is not. It’s flawed, it can be misleading if taken in isolation, there are group differences, etc. But it’s much, much, much easier and cheaper to measure than any other index of body composition, and it’s highly correlated with them. Therefore it’s a useful tool. Fortunately, nobodsy makes diagnoses or recommendations based on BMI alone.

    a failure to consider that boobs are not detachable

    gosh, them stoopid doctors! How come they never thought of that?
    Oh, wait they did. Your unsupported assertions about ‘many doctors this’ and ‘some doctors that’ are statements about bad doctors, not about the healthiness or not of obesity.

    for african american women, it’s healthier to be “heavier” than average.

    citation plz?

    healthy eating and remaining active at any weight (i.e. the thing that’s actually going to reduce risk factors).

    This is simplistic to the point of wrongness. There are well-known risks directly and causally associated with obesity per se, not diet or activity. Type II diabetes and hypertension (w/ consequent heart disease), for example.

    The risk factors for being underweight are WAY worse than being anything less than the absolute top of the scale in the other direction.

    I doubt it. Can you support this assertion?

    instead of shaming and using trivial correlations, we should just say, hey, whatever your size, try to eat healthier if it’s financially viable and try to remain active even if it’s something small.

    Nothing wrong with that advice as far as it goes. But again with the ‘trivial’. This is classic begging-the-question. Correlations between size-relative weight and risks of specific morbidities are indicative in many cases of causation and etiology; they are hardly trivial.
    If somebody’s dangerously hypertensive, and a physician knows damn well that BP comes down with weight loss, then it would be irresponsible of the physician not to point this out. Even if it hurts the patient’s feelings.

    I’m not talking about media-driven public shaming and the cultural fetishization of slenderness, etc. I’m talking about clinical, science-based medicine based on physiological and epidemiological data. Not-fat is, factually speaking, healthier than fat, all else equal. It really is.

  63. says

    Cerberus:

    I have been listening to his podcast for years and reading him for a lot longer than that, and nowhere do I get the idea that he has the cavalier attitude about consent that you accuse him of. Nowhere. You are seriously and thoroughly (and possibly maliciously) misunderstanding the entire concept of GGG — it’s a guideline, not an ironclad rule. He’s pretty clear that if you can’t come to terms on things involving preference and consent, you walk away, you don’t just submit to save the relationship, you walk away from the relationship, and run if necessary. If anything, it’s taken for granted and not restated in every response; GGG is for when things are mostly working, not for when they’re being pushed to or past the breaking point.

    I’ve already (indirectly) mentioned the “tranny” issue and I’m not going to defend him on that. But you’re coming very close to outright lying about his attitude towards consent.

  64. says

    Savage has also addressed the sex drive matter as well, on numerous occasions. His advice is that people with badly mismatched sex drives generally should not be together because most of them will wind up frustrated with each other. That this is interpreted as being anti-asexual is one of the reasons that I think a lot of people resent Savage for focusing on sexual issues, because such a statement is mostly just being brutally pragmatic. Yes, it does leave out other matters in the relationship, but people go to Savage with sex questions specifically, not general relationship issues, so that’s how he answers.

  65. says

    Chas @73

    Sorry to be the bearer of unfortunate reality:

    Studies Show Black Women are Healthier at Higher Weight than White Women

    Excess Deaths Higher for Underweight category than Overweight or Obese category

    Critique by mathematician on how the BMI fails to separate fat from muscle and in fact over-privileges not being muscular

    A number of reasons that the BMI is useless.

    And even defenders of the index note that its ability to assess risk level for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and ischaemic heart disease is actually far surpassed by other tests or indexes. Even in your final example (lowering blood pressure), the stated usefulness of long-term and unhealthy attempts to lower obesity can be just as easily and more successfully dealt with by a change in diet or medication.

    I’m not saying that being fat and sedentary is healthier than being fit or average, but it certainly is a lot healthier than being too skinny and it’s WAY healthier than the sort of behaviors fat people are encouraged to socially engage in as the “solution” to being fat.

    By placing the issue on “fatness” rather than fitness culturally, we reduce our impact to actually address the underlying issues and encourage unhealthy behaviors in the target population.

    It may come as a surprise to you, but fat people know they are fat. They know they are fat before their doctor opens their mouth, before a “good samaritan” gives them “some well-meaning advice”, before any of that. It is impossible in this society to be unaware, as a fat person, of the knowledge that you are fat. And again, it’s pretty impossible as a fat person to be unaware of public perception of the health risks of being fat (largely exceeding the reality, but that’s anti-fat culture, for you).

    So the question becomes, how do we as a society respond to that. Are we targeting the set of chemicals and industry practices solely responsible for the “obesity epidemic” in America? Are we encouraging sustainable and healthy methods of reducing excess adipose tissue or encouraging lifestyles conducive with reducing risk factors for diseases? Are we even bothering to criticize and remove ourselves from our obsessions with unhealthy fad diet schemes and dangerous methods of “slimming that waist” by any means necessary?

    Or are we just ranting at the fatties that they are fat?

    I know you want to remove the culture out of it, but you really can’t. Not only is this dead mathematician’s thought experiment a bad measure for determining public health policy in the cold mechanical scientific world, it is also a terrible tool when mixed together with our fat-shaming culture and diverts public health resources that could go towards positive lifestyle initiatives designed for globally reducing risk factors and need for medical interventions into promoting unhealthy lifestyle choices designed to reduce the social burden of having to see a bunch of fatties in our streets (though not really, because we still aren’t addressing the main sources of childhood and adult obesity).

    And it’s worth pointing out that shaming fat people sociologically makes them more likely to be depressed, sedentary, and listless, thus reducing their motivation for positive long-term lifestyle modification, but increasing their likelihood of engaging in unhealthy methods of fat reduction (gastric bypass, fad diets, starvation, fad exercising, cigarette smoking, etc…).

  66. says

    BrianX @74

    I’m not misrepresenting or misunderstanding the definition of GGG, I’m stating my issues with how it was delivered. Often he would chide a questioner for not being GGG enough for their partner or stating it like some universal ideal without awareness of the cultural context.

    And the cultural context is one in which women and asexual or demisexual people of all genders are routinely encouraged to perform sexual “favors” for the good of the relationship as part of the price of a “normal” “healthy” relationship.

    As I said, I stopped listening to him a long long time ago, so maybe he’s magically better, though the occasional snippets that filter down through my communities would seem to suggest otherwise, but it was what personally turned me off and definitely upset many other consent-focused feminists of the time.

    But it’s also one that I imagine a lot of people not connected to those issues can fail to notice consciously.

    BrianX @75

    It tickles me pink that a man who has spent so much of his life in polyamorous arrangements (open marriage, specifically) nonetheless is hyper-mono-centric in his advice.

    Many asexuals have wonderful long-term relationships with other orientationed partners and the big secret is usually:

    A) Poly
    B) Dating partners who do not consider them entitled to their partner’s sexual appetites
    C) Dating partners who realize that there are emotional needs met by romantic relationships beyond the sexual and that adaptations to the “standard model” can address that single need rather well if it is an issue.

  67. says

    Another “win” from Savage: He told a pro-choice woman with an anti-choice boyfriend to lie to him that she’s pregnant, just to see how he’d react. Because so many conservatives change their minds when It Happens To Them.

    At least he admits he fucked up, but… goddamn.

    BrianX: I agree with Cerberus w/r/t GGG. Seriously, I’ve seen the guy distort the idea of Partner A not owing Partner B sex any way Partner B wants it as a spoiled brat stomping their foot and yelling, “I don’t owe you anything!” Which is, bluntly, pro-rape culture.

    Cerberus, I’m open to being convinced w/r/t It Gets Better, but the project always struck a wrong note with me. I’m aware that we can’t change the culture of bullying in schools overnight and that maybe the videos have helped some kids hang in there… but we wouldn’t tell adults in abusive relationships, “Just stick with your partner for another three years — it’ll get better after that!”

    Also, it seems that the people for whom it got better were people with a great deal of relative privilege.

    As for the discussion of weight, here’s a datum: A study finds that fat acceptance blogs can improve people’s health by helping them shed negative feelings.

  68. says

    Cerberus:

    Then your sampling may be a bit biased.

    Ms. Daisy Cutter:

    As far as the pro/anti-choice thing, it looks like he handled being called out fairly well. I’m not sure what else you can expect in that situation unless you’re assuming that someone in his position has to be perfect every time — it’s impossible to be right every time, but hard for someone to admit they’re wrong and try to make it right.

    Regarding your point about GGG, I still maintain that it has to be taken in the overall context of his positions on consent. Keep in mind he’s also got a regular guest on the podcast in the form of Mistress Matisse to deal with BDSM questions — if that doesn’t count as an overarching endorsement of “safe, sane, and consensual” in spite of any other specific situations, I don’t know what does.

  69. says

    BrianX @79

    Cerberus:

    Then your sampling may be a bit biased.

    Ha.

    As far as the pro/anti-choice thing, it looks like he handled being called out fairly well. I’m not sure what else you can expect in that situation unless you’re assuming that someone in his position has to be perfect every time — it’s impossible to be right every time, but hard for someone to admit they’re wrong and try to make it right.

    I think most people just wish he was right more often and improved more often. The thing about Dan Savage is he is a very narcissistic man (most of his advice centers around making life easier for people exactly like him (hell, his current Savage Love article (randomly chosen for a glance because, hey, you’re right I haven’t checked him out in a while) is him assuming that the letter writer’s friend just wants to fuck Dan Savage in drag rather than the more likely attraction to masculine women (either trans or cis))) and he is a very slow man to educate (his improvements are often the very definition of one step forward, two steps back, maybe two steps forward in the future). I do not blame a lot of people for giving the whole thing a miss and wishing that the most prominent sex advice columnist was someone who needs less “coaching” in order to not suck.

    Its not so much wanting him to be perfect as a general sigh to the universe that the people often seen by the media as spokespeople tend to be so damn imperfect.

    Though I will say this, as a spokesperson for queer people, he’s a fuckton better than RuPaul.

    Keep in mind he’s also got a regular guest on the podcast in the form of Mistress Matisse to deal with BDSM questions — if that doesn’t count as an overarching endorsement of “safe, sane, and consensual” in spite of any other specific situations, I don’t know what does.

    As noted above, the BDSM community in general has been having difficulty living up to its ideals of consent. And IIRC Mistress Matisse was uniquely terrible on consent among kink minded advice givers even of the time I still listened to the show.

    The current solidest group at the moment is probably the Yes Means Yes crowd.

    Honestly though, we’re not here to shatter your love of the program or take away what you get from it. He’s a fuckup, like a lot of people. Some people feel he fucks up an adequate number of times. Others feel he fucked up enough that they stopped paying attention to him. Some people feel he fucked up so many times and so egregiously that they can’t bring themselves to support him anymore.

    It’s all in how the fuck ups relate to you and what your threshold is.

  70. says

    Cerberus:

    While I don’t see any particular narcissism in the post you refer to, I think we’ve found a reasonable resolution here.

  71. alexanderz says

    Cerberus from Time Forgot
    I mostly agree with what you’re saying. The reason I support Savage’s positions is because I know very well how much I have to give to be part of a relationship, therefore I think relationships do have a price tag. It would be wonderful to find people that accept me exactly as I am, but it’s not very likely.
    You seem to have a good relationship(s) that bypasses the sexual problems in a monogamous relationship. However, your solution is simply impossible in my community – I don’t any couple that has an open relationship, any person I heard of that says he’s pro poly is a male sexist jerk, and if any couple were to confess of a poly relationship they are very likely to lose their jobs and their children.

    I’m addressing his specific jumping down the throat of Beatrice. Assuming that it wasn’t just a slightly sexist reaction to being contradicted by her in the first place, I was trying to assess what about her rather short comment so incensed him and was being referred to in the paragraph I directly quoted.

    She called me a selfish asshole and I’m the one jumping down her throat?! When she took the time to explain her position I understood where she’s coming from, but her initial response (the one longer than 14 words) was a strawman of what I said.
    Regardless, you have a point about sexism. When I look at this thread I see that almost anyone who disagrees with me is a woman and those that agree with Savage are men, so there probably is a problem.

    Beatrice

    Why is leaving someone for not feeling sexually attracted to them because they got cancer and lost hair & weakened different from leaving someone for not feeling sexually attracted to them because the gained weight, at least to some, and why the first is seen as problematic and the second as perfectly fine….

    OK, here’s a different example: Would you consider it fine to leave a partner who suddenly changed their worldview to something you find very unpleasant, and refuses to try to understand your distaste, as fine? Would you answer the same if the change was caused by brain damage from a car accident?
    Sexual appearance is by far NOT the most important thing in a relationship, but in a monogamous relationship partners need to take into account each others sexual desires at least in some degree. This is why I like Savage’s idea of meeting half-way.
    Maybe I just suck at relationships. I don’t know. That’s why I rely on sex advice from people like Savage, and Savage is by far the best person in that group.

  72. says

    alexanderz @82

    I’d like to say that what you said in this comment to me really touched me and I really appreciate it. I wish that things could be better poly-wise in your community and I believe that someday you will and should find a relationship that accepts you exactly as you are.

    Good luck and thanks for explaining your position and being willing to hear people out on their detraction.

  73. says

    No one is obligated to stay in a relationship with someone they’re not attracted to. If you’re not finding yourself attracted to your partner, you’re an asshole if you drop them without trying to fix the problem, but if you do try to fix the problem and it doesn’t work or your partner isn’t willing to try, then your options are to leave them, to cheat on them, or to find an accommodation that you can live with (nonmonogamy or something).

    If a person is working hard to maintain their body in a particular form to ‘catch a partner’ and then when they are married, drops the habit and lets their health deteriorate, there is a certain amount of deception in that I think, in that a person who goes to the gym 4 times a week and eats a healthy diet is presenting themselves as a person who values exercise, values healthy food, values their body. If after marriage that person no longer pretends to value those things and instead relies on their partner’s reluctance to get a divorce, this is not fair to the person who married someone they believed to value things that were not actually valued. Now, this is far from the only reason a person might gain weight later in life, certainly. A person may gain weight even while continuing to work out and eat heathily, and I think someone who carps about their partner’s weight gain in such a situation is engaging in fat-shaming.

    Telling a fat person “You are unhealthy” if you know nothing about them other than their weight, or have information that refutes that statement, is fat-shaming. Telling a person who is unhealthy and fat “You are unhealthy” is not fat-shaming (although saying the only way to improve that health is to lose weight would be).

  74. punchdrunk says

    ‘I won’t love you if you get fat.’ That’s not any version of loyalty, commitment or compassion that I recognize.

    And fat seems to only matter to people with no healthy habits (‘healthy habits’ defined here as not smoking, not drinking to excess, eating vegetables, and going for regular walks):
    http://www.jabfm.org/content/25/1/9.abstract?etoc
    Commentary (and a handy chart):
    http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/12/31/evidence-that-fat-people-can-be-as-healthy-as-thin-people/

  75. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    I’m not saying that being fat and sedentary is healthier than being fit or average, but it certainly is a lot healthier than being too skinny – Cerberus

    Surely that depends on how fat, and how skinny.

  76. thumper1990 says

    @AndrewGlasgow #85

    Telling a person who is unhealthy and fat “You are unhealthy” is not fat-shaming (although saying the only way to improve that health is to lose weight would be).

    That’s a bit of an oversimplification; what if their weight is the cause of their ill health? Obesity has many well-documented negative effects on health. Simply assuming that their weight is the cause would be fat shaming.

  77. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Further to #87, a couple of quotes from Cerberus’s second link:

    Estimates based on relative risks from each of the 3 surveys showed a similar pattern, with excess deaths greater than zero for the underweight category, less than zero for the overweight category, and increasing at higher BMI levels. Although the prevalence of BMI 35 or greater* is low (Table 3), that category accounted for the largest absolute number of estimated excess deaths in 2000, regardless of which survey served as the source of relative risks.

    So as I suggested, the effect very much depends on how fat you are (the “skinny” category is not broken down as the “fat” one is).

    In many studies, a plot of the relative risk of mortality against BMI follows a U-shaped curve, with the minimum mortality close to a BMI of 25; mortality increases both as BMI increases above 25 and as BMI decreases below 25, which may explain why risks in the overweight category are not much different from those in the normal weight category.

    So the current BMI system underestimates the “optimal” BMI, but if the authors are right, there still is an optimal BMI. (And I’m feeling rather smug, as my BMI is currently 24.4.)

    * This is “grade 2″ and “grade 3″ obesity.

  78. ChasCPeterson says

    Sorry to be the bearer of unfortunate reality

    Why would you put it like that? I’m all about reality. You could have just said ‘here are the citations you requested’, in whaich case I could have replied ‘thank you very much’. But I’m tone-trolling, I suppose. Thank you for posting the support I requested.
    As I have unpleasant work to procrastinate, I read your links with interest.

    Studies Show Black Women are Healthier at Higher Weight than White Women

    This one looks pretty good. That there are “physiological differences due to ethnicity and race” (the only one speculated about is spatial fat distribution) that affect the correlations between BMI and specific health outcomes is very interesting. Sex differences were also mentioned.
    But I already acknowledged the probabilityof group differences. BMI alone is a too-blunt tool for individual diagnoses; the authors, you, me, and the CDC all agree on that.

    Excess Deaths Higher for Underweight category than Overweight or Obese category

    True, for that particular dataset (deaths in calendar year 2000), for overweight but not for obese (though the data are much more complicated than that; e.g., when they break it down by age it’s all because of higher risks for underweight elderly people)(the trends quoted by Nick above are not statistically supported; the error bars in the data link are 95% CIs). So, interesting age differences and trends of change over decades as well. (This sort of solid large-scale epidemiology is exactly what BMI is useful for btw.)
    One more point, applicable to some of the other stuff you and others have posted: mortality is very different from healthiness.

    Critique by mathematician on how the BMI fails to separate fat from muscle and in fact over-privileges not being muscular

    I’d probably forego ‘critique’ for something like ‘ranty flogging of hobbyhorse’, but OK. I started listing all the guy’s kvetches but it’s just not worth it. So no (much-deserved, imo) snark but just a couple of substantive responses:

    [BMI] ignores waistline, rump-size, and the different densities of fat, muscle, and bone.

    yes. It is imprecise and imperfect as a single tool for individual diagnosis. It’s also not a precise measure of adipocity. Got it.

    Why does it mysteriously square the height? What possible scientific reason could there be to square someone’s height for heaven’s sake?…Beats me.

    Well, I’m happy to be able to educate the mathematician and lurkers on this question.
    BMI is used because you obviously can’t just compare people’s weights directly; it’s confounded by body size: taller people tend to weigh more than shorter ones. So the object is to remove the confounder by calculating an index of size-independent weight. According to the Ironclad and Immutable Laws of Geometry, as the size of an object changes (keeping shape and proportions constant) the volume increases cubicly with the increase of any linear measurement (height x depth x width). So if people all had the same shape and proportions, the right way to calculate a size-independent weight would be to divide weight by hight cubed, not squared. And this turns out to be true for growing children; weight scales with the cube of height or pretty close (actually a bit higher b/c of proprtion changes). But comparing among adults is different; proportions change with height differently, and so the actual empirical scaling is typically lower than 3 (in all kinds of animals as well as humans, btw).
    Here’s a relatively recent study* that actually concludes that weight (and, importantly, fat-free mass) scales to height raised to the power of 2 “as the nearest whole integer” (this implies that BMI is actually better than I thought; I guessed 2.6 or .7).
    Bottom line: your mathematician is ignorant and so much of the rest of his rhetoric (“numerological junk” with “absolutely no medical or scientific basis” etc.) turns out to be bullshit. Fairies and unicorns? The guy’s kind of a buffoon-on-the-internet tbh. (btw, if you buy that Tom Cruise weighs 200 pounds, I’ve got some Florida real estate to tell you about.)

    However, I do agree with him that:

    It would at least be more honest to give the ranges like this:
    below 19 you are likely to be underweight
    between 19 and 25 is the range generally viewed as ideal
    between 25 and 30 suggests you may be overweight
    if you are above 30 you are likely to be obese

    A number of reasons that the BMI is useless.

    Nah. A number of things to keep in mind when designing epidemiological studies of the health effects of overweight and obesity, and when evaluating studies that use BMI as an independent variable. It is actually very useful, as illustrated by many of the studies you yourself cite. It’s just not simple or perfect. Doctors who treat it as such are bad doctors (or, as the mathematician guy suggests, mere pawns of the innumerate System). It’s much more useful for some purposes thatn others. It’s better at predicting risks for some specific conditions than others. And risks translate to probabilities when applied to individuals. Any decent physician is going to try to take into account all kinds of information when advising a patient, not just a single number.

    So. Anyway. Thanks for the links; it was interesting.

    The rest of your comment, pretty much arguments I’m not having or don’t want to have.

    *(There’s lots of good clickable references and historical review at that link. It may surprise you to learn that serious, smart people have actually thought about this kind of stuff for decades. And that’s discounting the parallel and nearly independent literatures of body-condition indices in the fields of Zoology**, Wildlife Ecology, and Animal Science.)
    **to which, full disclosure, I have contributed.