Savage Love

My friend is making me feel bad for hooking up with a guy I didn't know was off-limits.

Dan Savage

I’m an evangelical Christian in a country where that is not a political statement. My husband and I have been married five years. We have great sex several times a week despite having two kids under the age of two. We get along so well that even a couple of my atheist friends have admitted they want what we have. What most of them don’t know is that we waited until after the wedding to have sex — or even kiss.

Most secular folk would consider it reckless to tie the knot before making sure we were “sexually compatible,” whatever that means. You seem like a pretty secular guy, so let me ask you: What exactly were we supposed to watch out for?

Consider our specific situation: Two adult virgins, ready to promise to our God, friends, family, and government that we will stick together until one of us dies. Is there anything we could have learned about each other through sex that would have changed our minds?

I’m not stupid (I’m a physician), but I can’t figure this one out. Please tell me what disaster we might have brought upon ourselves by not going for a test ride first.

— Happily Married Woman

For someone who claims she isn’t stupid, HMW, you’re doing a pretty convincing job of playing dumb.

You damn well know what “sexually compatible” means, HMW, as you’re lucky enough to be married to a man with whom you’re sexually compatible. You want the same things he wants (I’m taking your word for that), you satisfy each other equally (taking your word for that), and you’re both content (taking your word for that). That’s what people mean by sexually compatible.

That you wound up married to a man with whom you’re sexually compatible despite not fucking him once or twice before marriage can be credited to one of two things: You were smart (you figured you two would be sexually compatible and those calculations proved correct) or you were lucky (you hoped you two would be sexually compatible and, as luck would have it, you were). But don’t pretend that your happiness was guaranteed by waiting or by God.

It’s understandable that you’re pleased that everything worked out for you, HMW, but your smugness and self-satisfaction seems a little un-Christian, if I may say so. Where’s the humility? Where’s some of that there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I stuff? There are plenty of people out there who made the same choices you did — they waited, they made a solemn promise before God, family, friends, etc. — and their marriages fell apart due to issues of basic sexual incompatibility.

And finally, HMW, I can think of a million examples of things you “could have learned about each other through sex” on your wedding night that might have led you to change your mind about waiting. I’m just going to toss one out there: Suppose your husband announced when you got to your honeymoon suite that he wouldn’t be able to climax unless you took a massive shit on his chest before vaginal intercourse commenced. Would that have changed your mind about the advisability of marrying him without fucking him once or twice first?


I’m a twenty-six-year-old woman who lives with two other women around the same age. My roommate G has a boyfriend. She introduced me to two of her guy friends. This past weekend, I went barhopping with the two guys. Long story short, I slept with one of the guys. After I told my roommates about that night, G revealed that she had slept with the guy before. Now G is upset with me. I would like to sleep with this guy again, and I don’t feel like G is right to make me feel like crap or make this all about her. Any thoughts?

— Had Some Fun

You know that scene at the end of Inglourious Basterds when Brad Pitt’s Nazi-killin’ character pulls out a huge knife and carves a swastika into the forehead of the one Nazi he isn’t allowed to kill, because he wants everyone to know the dude was a Nazi even after the war? Unless your friend G is willing to do something similar — carve her initials into the forehead of every random dude she fucks — she can’t complain when a friend accidentally hooks up with a guy she hooked up with two years, two months, two days, or two hours ago.

G is not right to make you feel like crap, HSF, and I recommend that you fuck the shit out of this guy at least two more times to drive that point home.


The wife and I regularly attend a straight sex club here in Texas. There’s another couple who comes to the parties. They’re very attractive. They get naked, they have sex with each other, but they don’t play with others. Basically, they hang out with swingers, but they don’t swing themselves. We think that amounts to prick- and twat-tease behavior on their parts. Do we have a legit beef?

— Husband And Wife Together

No, HAWT, you don’t.

The website for the sex club you attend emphasizes more than once that couples who attend are not obligated to swing or play with others. It would be unfair to extend an invite like that — come and enjoy the sexually charged atmosphere, play only with each other or not at all, it’s all good! — and then slap a “prick- and twat-tease” label on a couple who comes and doesn’t play with others.

And just because this couple isn’t swinging today, HAWT, doesn’t mean they won’t be swinging someday. Perhaps after they see that swingers really do respect their limits — once they’ve seen, again and again, that they’re not going to be pressured into doing anything they’re not ready to do — they’ll become comfortable enough to start playing with others. Glaring at this hot couple from across the room, HAWT, will only serve to delay the arrival of that happy day.

Speaking of sex clubs: Last week the Portland Press Herald reported about the closure of a club in Sanford, Maine, where opposite-sex-attracted adults were having opposite-sex sex in a building that was — THINK OF THE CHILDREN — kinda close to a public library that wasn’t open when opposite-sex-attracted adults were gathering to indulge their sick opposite-sex desires. But, you know, still! Adults were having sex in a place that was kinda close to a place where children who don’t have access to the internet at home sometimes go to “read”!

The owners of the club didn’t have a permit to operate an adult business in Sanford, and they’re not going to get one, because Sanford doesn’t issue permits for adult businesses, which means one more small business has been destroyed by burdensome government regulation. (Where are the teabaggers when we need ’em?)

Anyway, this quote from the police spokesperson in the Portland Press Herald’s report jumped out at me: “The officers were appalled at the number and variety of sexual acts being performed — and one of the officers has worked vice crimes — right out in the open where everybody was sitting.”

My goodness! Opposite-sex-attracted adults were having opposite-sex sex in front of, gee, other opposite-sex-attracted adults who paid to get in and wanted to watch. But at least the children of Sanford are safe from the adult sex parties that they couldn’t attend and didn’t know were going on until the details were splashed all over the front pages of a daily newspaper that’s available for their perusal in the public library where they go to look at porn on the internet.

Good work, everybody!

Find the Savage Lovecast (my weekly podcast) every Tuesday at

Commentarium (35 Comments)

Nov 09 11 - 1:14am

First one is lucky. Very lucky. There are other tests to see if you are sexually compatible though. Chemistry is one of them. You should realize that some religiongs(AKA mine) you aren't even allowed to touch until your married. So, things to watch out for- people who don't give back. Un-needed roughness. Issues with sex. Which apparently you both had since you wanted so badly to wait till marriage. Here's an issue- Religious Guilt. There are people in the world that live just fine without it. Yet, it exists. I wish it didn't. I wish that people didn't feel guilty for even thinking about sexuality. I believe its so ridiculous its not even funny.

HSF- She has a BF, you should call her out on having emotional ties to the guy you screwed. My exact words would be "why do you care, if you care about your BF?" and then moved on. Plus, she didn't tell you before hand. Guys have a rule. If you knew about history and want to pursue you ask. And if you are cleared then you are cleared. If not, then its up to you if you want to respect the guy or not. If you didn't know its not your problem. A tad late on her part. Tell her to quit being butt hurt. Or just get rid of her as a friend. Why would you want someone to make you feel like shit for having sex with someone that shes NOT with?

HAWT- Your just pissed cause you didn't get to play with them. Needy needy needy. I bet you came off as needy in the club too. Thats why you didn't get them. Sad, really. And none of your business too. Why do you go to swing clubs if you aren't having fun? Focusing on the people you wish you were having fun with instead of having fun with others is stupid. Maybe you should focus on having so much fun that they come to you instead. Thats a concept, have a good time regardless of who's around you. I thought thats what the point of a club like that is?

Dec 08 11 - 9:48am

You should have your own advice coloum too. Get a blog and go for it. I'd read it :P

Nov 09 11 - 3:16am

@HAWT, ever think the other couple are voyeurs? they have to satisfy their kink too you know.

Nov 09 11 - 4:19am

Or exhibitionists if it comes to that.

Nov 09 11 - 5:59am

They (the letter writers) sound a little naive to me. The other couple are "same roomers" -- they like to have sex in the same room with other people, whether those others may be watching or also having sex. That's not so rare at all, and it's how a lot of couples get their feet wet.

Nov 09 11 - 4:37am

First letter was a bit of self-congratulatory wank. What exactly was she expecting to hear?

How do you even know you're having 'great sex'? Took me a good many crap to mediocre lays before finding someone so sexually compatible it blows my mind, and my vagina.

Amen to that.

Nov 09 11 - 8:34am
Hu Jintao.

"How do you know you're having 'great sex'?"

exactly. I mean, don't get me wrong, her life could be great. And she has a point that you know, it's not strictly NECESSARY to have sex before marriage, it MIGHT work out without having sex, and no one say with surety that "oh you haven't slept with them yet? it won't work out." It /might/. And it looks like it worked out, if not for her, then I'm sure for plenty of Christians who, surrounded by the raised eyebrows (and plenty of shrugs) of the secular, decided to go with a route of abstinence until marriage.

People should be free to choose whatever sexual lifestyle they like with other consenting adults, no matter how crazy that lifestyle, or its reasoning seems to others. And I would hope that this woman (pious as she claims to be) would extend to me the same total generosity and open-mindedness (of other lifestyles and philosophies) that she demands of the secular community. I would hope that she would just nod and shrug about the strange things /I've/ enjoyed. But reading the self-satisfied letter, it doesn't sound like she would at all be like 'yeah, your lifestyle, Hu Jintao, your lifestyle is okay'

So with that in mind, it's my turn to be an intolerant prick: "Two adult virgins, ready to promise ourselves to god." spare me the exciting details.

Nov 09 11 - 11:11pm

I like you Hu Jintao. If only the real Uncle Hu was so cool.

Nov 09 11 - 7:23am

I want to know which country she lives in where "being an Evangelical Christian" is not a "political statement".

Nov 09 11 - 9:56am


Nov 10 11 - 2:27pm

Apparently you've never been to Canada.

Nov 09 11 - 9:59am
Saratoga Slim

If I'd never tasted anything but McDonald's burgers, I'd think that those burgers were the best food in the world because I'd have no other point of reference.

Mrs. Christian is proselytizing and being extremely dishonest about it. Yeah, sure, evangelical Christians hang out with atheists all the freakin' time. Why would she choose to write to Dan Savage - of all people - to pose her question, knowing his perspective and audience does not all all reflect her views? I think the letter is bogus (but surely from some bent-again Christian), so my message to that ilk is: Go to hell.

Nov 09 11 - 9:49pm
Minnesota Fats

I find your analogy that attempts to deny the potential for quasi-objective analysis of sexual compatibility to be rather flimsy. Even without the experience of having sex, there is enough description in the public domain of what happens during sex, what people feel, and so on that reasonably inquisitive and observant former virgins could arrive at the conclusion that they are sexually compatible after several years of marriage.

When you talk about proselytizing, you don't seem to know the meaning of the word. Webster's defines it as "inducing someone to convert to one's faith." Nowhere does LW #1 ask why Dan doesn't consider converting, or suggest that anyone else should. To answer your question about why she would write Dan, "of all people," she plainly states that he "seem[s] like a pretty secular guy." The implication that Dan -- as a well-known, knowledgeable, and well-spoken advice columnist with a documented history of confrontation with Evangelicals and opposition to Evangelical doctrine -- is perhaps the best person to ask is obvious to me.

LW#1 does seem to forget the bit of New Testament where Jesus allows for divorce in the case of infidelity (contradicting any notion that marriage must be a "promise to our God, friends, family, and government that we will stick together until one of us dies"), found in Matthew 5:31-32.

Though I would wear my fingers down to nothing if I felt I should expound upon all the wacko practices of Evangelicals in general, in this particular case, I don't see how what they're doing is so irrational or unlikely. I regret that Dan couldn't summon a better, more tactful answer, as he's usually pretty good at that. Maybe the assumed hatefulness of Evangelicals towards gays boiled his blood a little too much?

By effectively stumping Dan, LW #1 makes a convincing case for preserving virginity until marriage for those who share her "Evangelical-ish" beliefs on the matter, but in no way casts a stone at anyone else who believes otherwise. I don't share her beliefs nor have I ever given a thought to abstinence before marriage, but the manner in which you criticized LW #1 was too wrong-headed to ignore.

Nov 09 11 - 10:20am

Dab: Answer to question 1 was right-on and very funny. So, I teach college. We are reading Allison Bechdel's Fun Home. We, of course, were discussuing homophobia. So, I gave them a little background ingo, and we I then had 25 students do a simultaneous Google Search for "Santorum." The squeals of delight and repvulsion were hilaroius. A good class bonding moment courtesy of You!!!!

Nov 09 11 - 11:10am

No she wouldn't have heard that he can only climax after she defacted on his chest, because he was a virgin as well.

But overall it comes down to two egotistical people saying that their view of the world is more correct than the other's. That woudl be the letter writer and Savage himself.

If both would just say hey, what works for your works for you, and what works for me works for me. Neither can walk in the other's shoes so they shouldn't.

Seems both had their chance to have their say and neither appear to come out of this looking good.

Nov 09 11 - 4:08pm

You're totally right.

Nov 09 11 - 11:24am

I was once in a very similar situation as LW#2--I had just broken up with a long-term boyfriend and taken a liking to someone else. He seemed responsive, which was great for my crap self-esteem at the time. My roommate cornered me and asked me to not hook up with him, as she had had a crush on him for quite awhile. This would be reasonable had she not had her own long-term boyfriend--she already had one guy, what was her "claim" on this one? I think what bothered her was he had turned her down but seemed interested in me.

Anyway, we hooked up a few times, but she turned into a raging jealous psycho, made my life hell until I moved out, and turned several friends against me. So my advice to LW#2 would be to think long and hard about whether she wants to fuck up her life like that. Yeah, she's well within her rights to fuck the guy, but not everyone (like her roommate, for example) will see it that way, and no amount of explaining--by anyone, not just you--will necessarily make her see sense.

Nov 09 11 - 11:57am

Re LW1, I'd like to know how old she was when she got married (and finally had sex). If she's a physician now, I'm guessing it was her mid- or late 20's...well, that's a long time to wait for your first time (at least most evangelicals have the "sense" to get married very young, so as to release that floodgate of hormones).
Also, as a physician, she should know that you can't conduct an experiment without a control group. One fuck partner after you get married does not make a control group. Oh yeah, she's also only been married for 5 years. Check back in with us at 7, 10, 15 years. 5 years, with one partner isn't all that hard, especially if you've never had sex before.

Nov 09 11 - 6:30pm

Hmm, the first part raises an interesting point. The very nature of them both being virgins in their late 20's probably indicates that they have relatively low sex drives, which would obviously make them sexually compatible.

Nov 10 11 - 2:09am

So true. Plus it's laughable that LW1 thinks being a doctor makes her smart, so she's stumped that she couldn't figure out a non-medical question. Doctors are people too with their own personalities, biases, and personal shit coming into play. I'm sure she's the type to think that being an evangelical Christian automatically gives someone good morals too.

Nov 09 11 - 2:43pm
Slim Fast

The whole "sexual compatibility" thing is over-rated. People change. Some who are compatible now won't be in the future.

Nov 09 11 - 2:53pm

lol teabaggers in the context of that paragraphl.

Nov 09 11 - 7:19pm

It's not like sexual compatibility is pre-set. You aren't a puzzle piece that will only fit with so many other puzzle pieces. I can easily conceive of two people who are open-minded and educated enough to easy enjoy sex together after they got married. Having sex as a way to know if you want to have sex with a person is just a lazy way around good communication anyway. Not that I think pre-marital sex is wrong, but if you aren't set in your ways and completely insecure around sex, you should be able to make it work barring some out-of-the-ordinary problem.

Same with living together.

Nov 09 11 - 7:54pm

I think #1's question is legitimate, and Dan's sounds exactly like a evangelical priest answering to a young woman admitting she had sex before marriage and yet doesn't feel unhappy. Opposite values, same intolerance. That one has to have had many partners to eventually be sexually satisfied has never been scientifically proven, and polls do not tend to show that couples from liberal backgrounds are happier than others (some say it's quite the opposite). A little humility would not hurt.

Nov 09 11 - 11:23pm

Or just some objectivity.

Nov 11 11 - 3:49pm

I think that Dan does concede that LW1 could be very happy and sexually fulfilled in her relationship, and if that works for her, whoopdedoo. But to insist that her way is the best way for everyone is just completely narrow-minded and reeks of smug Christian fundie-ness.

Nov 11 11 - 4:17pm

"But to insist that her way is the best way for everyone is just completely narrow-minded and reeks of smug Christian fundie-ness."

As soon as you can point to the part of the letter, or to anyone else's comment that says this, your comment will make sense.

Except, surprise surprise, no one says this anywhere, and you've fabricated a statement out of thin air. You might want to examine your own prejudices a little now.

Nov 09 11 - 8:58pm

Love you, Dan.

Nov 10 11 - 12:22am

HMW - Lets put it this way: I ended up dating the guy I lost my virginity to for 2 years. The sex was amazing. Or so I thought. Sure, it was good. It was awesome. But then I started dating a new guy - and h-o-l-y s-h-i-t. I thought THAT sex would be the best I've ever had. Here I am, however many later, and I'm still discovering little things that I would have never thought I'd be into, and those little things are what help to keep things fresh and fun and interesting and satisfying.

My mom always told me never to marry someone if they were the only person I'd had sex with because how could I possibly know what I like otherwise?

Congrats on being married for 5 years. I'm glad its working out. But don't fool yourself - lets say you're 25 or 30 and you live until you're 85 or 90. 5 years out of 60 is just a drop in the proverbial bucket.

Nov 10 11 - 12:26am

You don't need to have sex with a bunch of people to know what you like.

Nov 10 11 - 2:35pm
In Bed With Married Women

"Suppose your husband announced when you got to your honeymoon suite that he wouldn't be able to climax unless you took a massive shit on his chest before vaginal intercourse commenced. Would that have changed your mind about the advisability of marrying him without fucking him once or twice first?"

Hahahahahahhahahahahahahha! (deep breath to recover). Oh, fuck that's funny.
I would so like for that very thing to have happened and somehow be present to bear witness to that moment in time.
I guess that's just mean. But still.

Nov 12 11 - 1:08pm

i love you so much, dan savage. always with the words of wisdom!

Nov 24 11 - 6:33am

HMW is stupid.
fuckin dan savage you make me laugh.

p.s. how do we know they have a satisfying sex life? what if what they do is dry humping and pretend orgasms that they brag about to SECULAR couples. to make them jealous like, we didn't have to do any work and god just made us that way. I guess neither of them will ever know either, because they can't fuck anyone else to find out. shitty catch 22, don't you think?

Nov 30 11 - 7:31pm
Enough B.S

I am very friggin far from Christian, but I got to say cut them some damn slack. Unwed mothers rates are going sky high, many with children by different fathers who don't pay their damn child support because they have to pay for other babies by other baby mommas, std rates are high, condoms are far from 100% effective. If people want to wait to have sexual intercourse (the kind that can get you preggers) I applaud them for helping save our resources and being responsible to wait until they are in a secure situation to raise a child knowing full well that besides tying the tubes or vasectomy, there is no 1000% effective way to prevent pregnancy. Stop bashing them for having waited, you come of as even more preachy than they do, and less tolerant given the way facts balance. Have any of you studied neurology and partnership bonding and why cult leaders and the Spartan army liked their people to sleep around? Unlike you who might have slept around a fight won't make this couple you ignorantly claim to be blindly biased, nearly as inclined to look over past relationships and wonder 'hmm maybe i should have gone with sex partner a., b.,.c, etc) because their ability to bond hasn't be trashed by making too many circuitry connections to too many partners. They will be more likely to be much more loyal to each other without having destroyed their bonding mechanism (I have seen people who had too many partners pretty much lose their ability to bond to anyone, or having a hard time bonding when they tried due to having been knocked up) hence the not having waited friends noticing something is going on. I know people who would rather not have sex with someone they think is completely disgusting, yet if they never fuck that morbidly obese person, you mean to tell me they can't tell if they have good sex in their life because they didn't try? Bull shit. How naive it is to assume these people can't possibly know if they have a good sex life due to not trying it with others. Pretty damn sure you can tell whether you're having an orgasm or multiple orgasms by a partner right?

Sorry just irritates me when people who never read anything on what biochemically happens during sex say these people are dumb for waiting, when it's been validated as relatively intelligent reproductive strategy. (One partner with no other potential half siblings running around to take up resources, thus enabling one family branch the best possible resources, with parents with enough self control to not go squander the resource pie, values compatibility, and ingrained partner loyalty.).

Dec 11 11 - 5:10pm

All's fair in love and war.
Unless they are dating how are you supposed to know who is 'off limits'? It's a stupid game to play because there can be no winners. Tell your friend to make a move cause you will if they don't.