Beliefnet

SEATTLE (AP)--Dan Savage, gay writer of an outrageous and comically explicit sex-advice column, is waging either germ warfare or a disinformation campaign against the religious right.

He claimed recently that while posing as a volunteer for Gary Bauer's campaign in Iowa, he licked office doorknobs and coffee cups and handed the conservative Republican a slobbered-on pen to try to infect him with the flu.

Bauer's people were furious, but Savage, 35, now says the part about the germs never happened and was just a joke - a metaphoric reply to Bauer's rhetoric against homosexuals and gay marriage.

Either way, the episode was characteristic of a man who regularly pushes boundaries in his Seattle-based column ``Savage Love,'' which appears in 28 alternative newspapers around the country, including the Village Voice in New York, and is read by an estimated 4 million people a week.

``In the context of my column, people understand sometimes I'm pulling your leg, sometimes I'm not,'' Savage says. ``In this case, people lacked that context.''

Savage, who with his partner recently adopted a little boy, is the very incarnation of all that the Christian conservative movement despises.

There is no sex act too perverse, no sex subject too outlandish for him to delve blithely into - often in blush-inducing detail.

In one recent column, Savage discussed the pros and cons of genital cosmetic surgery for a transsexual. In another, he strongly lectured a 15-year-old bisexual boy about the dangers of doing heroin and failing to tell a sex partner about it. He has been known to refer to heterosexuals as ``breeders.''

Savage can also talk about family values - like the domestic bliss he has found raising a child. Much of what he says about parenting could just as well come from the mouths of straight parents, such as lack of sleep and the struggle to retain a sense of romance with his partner.

``If the religious right really wanted to stop gay sex,'' he quipped in a recent interview, ``they should get behind gay people adopting, because nothing puts a stop to gay sex faster.''

Savage has been writing ``Savage Love'' for 81/2 years. Before that he was in theater and worked in a video store in Madison, Wis.

``He's incredibly smart and incredibly funny and insightful,'' says Tim Keck, publisher of The Stranger, the alternative weekly in Seattle, where Savage is associate editor. ``You don't have to have a college degree to write a good advice column.''

Savage wrote about his Iowa experience in a recent story in Salon.com called ``Stalking Gary Bauer.'' Not all of it is fictional.

Bauer's Iowa campaign manager, Loras Schulte, the only campaign worker known to have gotten the flu after Savage's Iowa visit, confirmed that Savage was a hardworking volunteer for Bauer, who has since dropped out of the race.

Savage says he really did get Bauer's autograph with a pen he handed to him, and he did cast a vote in last month's presidential caucuses - for Alan Keyes, reasoning that Keyes would do most damage to the GOP's chances.

``I think that it's unfortunate that one bad apple came to Iowa and tried unsuccessfully to disrupt an important event in American democracy,'' says Dee Stewart, executive director of the Iowa Republican Party.

Prosecutors are deciding whether to file fraud charges against Savage for masquerading as a Republican and voting in the caucuses. Savage is quick to blame Iowa officials, who did not check his identification at the caucus site to see if he really was a registered Iowa voter.

``It was too easy to do,'' Savage says. ``I don't want to go to jail in Iowa. That's redundant.''

Savage says he was just joking about trying to give Bauer the flu. Besides, he says, his flu was way past the infectious stage and the virus was already rampant when he arrived in Iowa.

``At that stage of the campaign, Bauer had probably been exposed to everything - shaking hands with thousands of people and picking up babies,'' Savage says. ``He was probably more of a threat to me.''




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