"An Actual Lesbian Girlfriend," Or, Why You Should Never Listen to Dan Savage About Bisexuality

This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.

Usually, when I write about a Dan Savage “Savage Love” sex advice column, it’s with respect and admiration. It’s usually with a strong desire to share his ideas more widely, and to expand on those ideas with my own.

Not this time.

This time, I am smacking Mr. Savage across the head, and telling to stop acting like a twit.

In a recent column (well, recent when I originally wrote this piece), Savage compiled a sampler of questions from students on his recent tour of universities. And among them was this question:

“I’m a lesbian, and my girlfriend is bisexual and wants to have a three-way with a man. This makes me nervous. What should I do?”

Savage’s advice?

“Get yourself a refillable Xanax prescription, or get yourself an actual lesbian girlfriend.”


This advice is so irresponsible it made my jaw drop. But because the advice is so terse — and because the snark- to- content ratio is so disproportionately high — it’s a little hard to tease out its actual content, and the actual intent behind it. Near as I can tell, though, it seems to be one of the following three things. All of which suck.

Lesbians should beware of relationships with bisexual women, since bi women will leave lesbians for men. In a relationship between a lesbian and a bi woman, this will always be a irreparable source of anxiety. Lesbians are better off with other lesbians — they’re more reliable.

Right. And no lesbian in the history of Lesbonia has ever left her lover for another woman.

I have never been able to figure this one out. Why is it so intolerable for a lesbian to be left for a man, or for a gay man to be left for a woman? Why is this so radically different from being left for another woman, or another man? Dumpage is dumpage. Why should the genitals of the person you’re being dumped for make any difference?

Maybe Savage has fallen prey to the myth that bisexuals can’t be monogamous or satisfied in a relationship, because they’ll always be yearning for the gender they don’t have. If so… does he have any evidence for that? Is there any reason to think that being hot for both women and men makes you restless and cheaty, any more than being hot for both blonds and brunettes does?

And is there any evidence for the idea — one that Savage has asserted before, with no apparent basis in actual research — that bisexuals are more likely to wind up in opposite- sex relationships than same- sex ones?

The snark here is especially puzzling because, in this very column, Savage answers a more general question about three-ways with a thoughtful and fair reply. Question:

Carnival of love
“We are a couple in a long-term committed relationship and have casually considered the possibility of a three-way. It would have to be with someone neither of us knew (or saw) to reduce any chance of an emotional attachment. Good idea?”

Savage’s advice:

“Three-ways with complete strangers are kind of difficult to arrange — unless you’re willing to go the rent-a-third route. But if you want to have a three-way with someone trustworthy and safe, you’re better off doing it with an acquaintance or an ex.”

A reasonable answer. A bit broad, could have used some clarification; but fine for a column of quickies. And his quickie response shows a basic respect for both the questioner and their partner, and for both of their sexual desires. Why doesn’t the bisexual girlfriend get the same respect?

So. That’s Option 1. Option 2:

Lesbians should beware of relationships with bisexual women, since the bi women will try to get them to do sexual things — like FFM three-ways — that the lesbians don’t want to do.

Right. And no lesbian in the history of lesbianicity has ever pressured her lover to do sexual things she doesn’t want.

If your bisexual girlfriend wants to have a three- way with a man, and it’s not your thing, then say, “No.” Or, if you’re non-monogamous, say, “No, I don’t want to, but you go knock yourself out with some other partner.” Or, if the idea doesn’t completely gross you out and you like to be good, giving, and game, say, “Yeah, sure, I’ll give that a try.”

Just like you would if your lesbian girlfriend wanted to fuck you in the ass, or wanted you to dress her up like a pony, or wanted to role-play at being Ann Coulter and Martha Stewart — or wanted to do a three-way with another woman — and it’s not your thing.

What does that have to do with bisexual versus lesbian?

If Mr. Savage wouldn’t advise anyone else to break up with their partner solely because of their unshared interest in ass play or pony play or Coulter play… why is he advising this woman to break up with her bisexual girlfriend, solely because of her unshared interest in MFF three-way play?

Finally, Option 3:

None of the above — at least, not clearly or explicitly. Dan Savage just has a bug up his butt about bisexuals, and he enjoys yanking our chain and watching us jump.

If that’s it, then good job. Well done. Here I am, Mr. Savage, along with probably lots of other bisexuals, jumping at the yank of your chain. If you wanted to make Serak the Bisexual cry, mission accomplished.

But is that really a mission you want to accomplish?

Do you really want to convey misinformation about bisexuals — especially to college students, many of whom are only beginning to figure out sex and their own sexual identity — just so you can have fun watching us get ticked off?

Let me ask you this, Mr. Savage. If you read a sex advice columnist who deliberately spread harmful sexual myths about gay men, just because he had a grudge against them and took pleasure in provoking them… how would you react? Would you think, “Oh, that cut-up, he has such a wacky sense of humor”? Or would you think he was acting like a bigoted, irresponsible, manipulative twit?

See, the other bug that Savage seems to have up his butt about bisexuals is that we take ourselves too seriously, and don’t have a sense of humor about being goaded. Unlike everybody else on the planet — and definitely unlike every other marginalized group — we get annoyed when people deliberately poke at our sore spots with a stick. How unreasonable of us.

This bed we made
The bisexuals I know have a great sense of humor — about bisexuality among other things. But yes, freakishly enough, when you prick us, we bleed. When you poison our reputation, we suffer. And when you wrong us, we may not revenge, but we fucking well are going to squawk about it.

It’s the phrase “actual lesbian girlfriend” that really frosts my cookies. I have been an actual girlfriend to my sweetheart — also female, also bisexual — for over eleven years. Technically, I suppose I’m not her “actual girlfriend” anymore, since we’ve gotten married — three times, in fact — and I’m now her “actual wife.” But the fact that I am an actual bisexual wife instead of an actual lesbian wife has exactly zero impact on my love, my loyalty, my passionate devotion to her, and my commitment to our relationship.

And I have more than paid my dues for the LGBT community. I’ve worked for shitty pay for LGBT community businesses; I’ve donated money to LGBT organizations; I’ve written at length, over the entire course of my career, about LGBT issues. I am not Them. I am Us. And I am tired of gays and lesbians treating me like a Them simply because I have crushes on both Rachel Maddow and Alan Rickman.

Homos dont cry
I don’t know what your issues are with bisexuals, Mr. Savage. I don’t know whether you got dumped for a woman by a bi guy and got your heart stomped, or what. And I don’t care. You’re acting like a twit. You’ve acted like a twit about this issue for as long as I’ve been reading you. Get over it.

You’re a sex advisor. As such, you have a responsibility to base your advice on reality — not on your personal biases or vendettas. Try this for a quickie answer to the question: “Relax. If you don’t want a MFF three-way, say ‘No.’ Just like you would with any other sexual request you’re not interested in.” Or, if you want to be more nuanced, try this: “What exactly are you nervous about? Are you afraid she’ll leave you if you say ‘No’? Or if you say ‘Yes’? Figure out what you’re nervous about. Tell your girlfriend. Find out where she’s coming from with this and how important it is to her. And work it out.”

See? Was that so hard?

You’re a sex advisor. You’re usually a good one. Act like one. Don’t give advice that misinforms people — especially young people — about bisexuals, just because you have some weird bug up your ass about us. Get over it already.

"An Actual Lesbian Girlfriend," Or, Why You Should Never Listen to Dan Savage About Bisexuality

11 thoughts on “"An Actual Lesbian Girlfriend," Or, Why You Should Never Listen to Dan Savage About Bisexuality

  1. 4

    I’ve never known just what to make of Dan Savage. I find that about half his columns are good, thoughtful advice, and the other half seem to consist mainly of snarking at and mocking the people who write in, even when they’re legitimate correspondents with genuine problems.
    If Savage Love were just an advice column, or if it were just for entertainment, either would be fine with me. But it gives me whiplash to try to switch back and forth between the two so often.

  2. 7

    I read this a while ago, and was right there with you, Greta. But I just re-read it, and realized something.
    “I’m a lesbian, and my girlfriend is bisexual and wants to have a three-way with a man. This makes me nervous. What should I do?”
    Savage’s advice?
    “Get yourself a refillable Xanax prescription, or get yourself an actual lesbian girlfriend.”

    Dan isn’t saying there is anything wrong with the girlfriend for wanting a 3-way, he’s telling the letter writer that if she can’t handle a bi girlfriend, then she shouldn’t have one. This would be consistent with his policy that it’s not the fault of one person or the other for having different kinks, it’s both their faults for not finding a partner that shares them. You bring up many valid points, but I don’t think Savage is the right target.
    (disclaimer: i am a straight man who once broke up with a bi girl because she wanted to have a three-way with her ex-girlfriend … i’ve had and enjoyed multi-way sex, but i don’t think i could handle it involving a partner i had more than lust for)

  3. 8

    Savage is too old, experienced and intelligent to continually make such mean-spirited, bi-phobic remarks. He acknowledges in an up coming New York Times Magazine article that some people need to have sex with both men and women. His longstanding attitude about us is more likely to be based on something . . . possibly something more political and power oriented – like fear. What would the culture be like if bisexuals were center stage as in BLTGQQA? We fear that he is less a twit, and more of a lobbyist.

  4. 9

    Has anyone asked Dan Savage about this? I wouldn’t be surprised if he published the snarky part of a longer response to the bi-threesome question. On his podcasts he asks follow-up questions whenever he can, so I’d imagine he’d do so in person too. What he published sounds like an excerpt of a longer conversation.
    Also I think it’s unfair to compare his response to the straight-threesome question, since the straight people were both in agreement that they wanted a threesome, while the lesbian clearly didn’t want a threesome at all. And if her bi girlfriend knew this but continued to pressure her, I’d agree that the lesbian should dump the bi girl.
    I’m bi myself and I’d start arguments with a lot of people before I’d target someone who’s been a very vocal LGBT activist.

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