Farewell, Ann Landers

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Q: So, Dan, where were you when you heard that Ann Landers was dead? —Morbid Curiosity

A: I was afraid someone would ask me that. Intending no disrespect, I share the following information with my readers only because it’s God’s own truth: I was sitting on the toilet reading David Brock’s Blinded By the Right and listening to the radio. It’s fitting that I was — I’m avoiding the obvious rhyme out of respect — crapping when I heard the news. I’ve been getting letters from people for years who wanted me to shit all over Ann Landers. It seems that a lot of people who read my column didn’t like Ann or her sister Abigail Van Buren (“Dear Abby”) much, and people would write me and ask me to rip into them. Here’s a letter sent in 2000: “Why do you spend so much time bashing Ralph Nader? Why don’t you stick to your field and bash Ann Landers, that conservative, tight-assed, reactionary bitch?” Some people may not know that I dedicated my first book, a collection of Savage Love columns, to Landers (as well as to Abigail and Xaviera Hollander). Landers invented the modern advice column, and while we third-generation advice columnists may use language she wouldn’t approve of, all of our columns are modeled after hers. The conversational tone, the guest experts, debates with readers who disagree with you — that’s Ann Landers. While Landers never could wrap her perm around the fact that most cross-dressers are straight men, she was more progressive than some of my readers were willing to give her credit for. She didn’t pressure women to stay in bad marriages, her position on homosexuality changed with the times and she backed gun control. Two years ago, Landers came out in favor of legalizing prostitution! Her column ran in 1,200 papers; in some of those papers, her voice was the only progressive voice her readers ever heard. Landers may not have entertained questions about shooting beer up your butt or fucking your sister, but she didn’t have to. She made it possible for a freak like me to answer those questions.

Q: I visited my second cousin last weekend. We would spend two weeks a year together every year when we were kids; some of my happiest memories are of those days. During my last visit to her home, we admitted that we had childhood crushes on each other. By the end of the night we were making love — and it was both emotionally and physically fulfilling. Things were fine between us the next day, but she said that what we had done must remain a secret. She doesn’t think she can handle telling our family that we are in love (although I could live with whatever judgment was passed on us). I want to convince her that we should be together. —Almost Incestuous Canadian Heartbreak

A: Read the friggin’ newspapers, AICH. The New York Times recently signed off on first cousins getting married and having babies. “Contrary to widely held beliefs and longstanding taboos in America,” Denise Grady wrote in the Page One story, “first cousins can have children together without a great risk of birth defects or genetic disease.” Grady cites a report in The Journal of Genetic Counseling by Dr. Arno Motulsky of the University of Washington. After studying thousands of births to first cousins, Motulsky and his pals at National Society of Genetic Counselors concluded that there was little harm in first cousins getting married and having babies. I checked out a Web site that Grady mentioned — www.cousincouples.com — and learned that, “first cousin marriages are legal in every country in Western Civilization, including Australia, Europe and South America and Canada.” Since you and your childhood crush/adult lover are second cousins, I don’t see what the angst and secrecy are all about. And you’re not going to get any sympathy from this cocksucker on the she-can’t-handle-telling-our-family-because-they-might-pass-judgment score. Boo fucking hoo! If that worries her, then your second cousin/future wife should thank God she didn’t fall in love with a female cousin.

Q: I’m a 19-year-old gay male. I sometimes have sex with my straight male cousin, who is a year younger than I am. It started through childhood sex play, but then we got older. (My first orgasm prompted a conversation that began, “It was really salty that time.”) Now we get together under the pretense of drinking and looking at porn, but I wind up with my mouth around his dick. I am torn. On one hand, it’s wrong to have sex with your cousin. On the other hand, I like sucking dick, and he likes having his dick sucked.
—Sticky Oral Situation

A: If it’s OK for straight cousins to marry and make babies, it’s certainly OK for gay cousins to offer their not-getting-any straight cousins a little head now and then.

Q: I was abused as a child and therefore sexualized at an early age. When I was about 11 or 12 and my brother was about 8 or 9, I encouraged him to do sexual things with me, such as kissing, exploring our bodies and simulating sex. I “forgot” about these encounters until I took a human sexuality class in college. The professor said that sex play between siblings is a normal part of childhood, but that people often feel very guilty about this because they see it as incest. This brought back the memories of what I encouraged my brother to do. Now I can’t shake this feeling of guilt. My brother and I are close, but I don’t think this is something I could bring up. Strangely, my brother and cousin recently joked about how they used to play doctor. They feel no guilt or shame, yet I do. Is it truly normal for siblings to have such encounters? —Twisted Sister

A: What you did wasn’t a big deal. Sex play between siblings is a normal part of childhood — although not all siblings engage in sex play, and there’s nothing abnormal about people who didn’t engage in childhood sex play with their siblings. But rest assured that what you did with your brother was no biggie. Why you did it — or why you think you did it — is the biggie. You say that you were abused as a child, “sexualized at an early age,” and you believe that’s the reason you initiated sex play with your brother. Perhaps it is, but plenty of people who weren’t abused as children engaged in sex play with their siblings. Still, you view your sexual abuse as the reason you initiated sex play with your brother. Since you view that sex play as an extension of your abuse, you regard yourself as the “aggressor” and your brother as the “victim.” But if your brother wasn’t traumatized by the sex play, then you have nothing to feel guilty about. You won’t feel better about what happened until you hear that from your brother. That means, of course, that you’re just going to have to get drunk and ask him if he remembers those times you messed around as kids.

Contact Dan Savage at [email protected]

About The Author

Dan Savage

Dan Savage is a sex-advice columnist, podcaster, and author, and has appeared on numerous television shows. His sex advice column “Savage Love” first appeared in The Stranger, Seattle’s alternative weekly, in 1991. The column is now syndicated across the United States and Canada. He has published six books...
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