​Columnist Dan Savage on Valentine's Day, sex and monogamy


He's the heir to Ann Landers - a straight-talking gay man and activist whose relationship advice is eagerly sought by millions.

CBS News

"Dear Dan" is how one might address a question to one of America's cutting-edge advice columnists. In his own way, he sees himself as the successor to one of the most famous dispensers of guidance of all. Erin Moriarty of "48 Hours" makes the connection:

For nearly fifty years, Ann Landers was the grande dame of advice columnists.

"Sex is suppose to have a purpose," she said. "It is suppose to say something. It's suppose to say, 'I love you.'"

But times change. Today, the lost and the lovelorn are turning for advice to this straight-talking gay man.

His name is Dan Savage, and at his office in Seattle he gets inspiration from Ann Landers' desk. He bought it at auction just months after her death in 2002.

"This is my prized possession," he said.

Moriarty asked, "Do you think when you are responding to some of these questions, Ann Landers is probably turning over in her grave?"

"No, I don't, 'cause I think we're very similar in our approaches," Savage said. "You know, she was a kinky, Midwestern gal, and I'm a kinky Midwestern gal, too!"

There are podcasts, and live shows:

"Next question: 'I am a 25 year old female. I started feeling attracted to girls in college. One year ago I felt attracted to men again and lost interest in women. What is going on?' I think the operative word there was 'college'!"

... As well as the weekly newspaper column he's been writing for almost 25 years, Savage Love. It's syndicated in more than 40 papers.

And in 2010 he helped launch the It Gets Better Project to help prevent suicides among gay youth.

Thousands seek his advice, and one of his busiest days is not Valentine's, but TODAY!

"It was the letters on February 15th that drove me crazy," he said, "because people would write me and say, 'You know, we went out to dinner. We did this, we did that. We came home and he fell right asleep,' or 'We fell right asleep and we didn't make love, therefore obviously there's a real problem in our relationship.'"

Which led him to one piece of advice: "Don't go out to dinner and then go home to have sex. Have sex, then go out to dinner. And you're much less likely to be writing me a tear-stained email (not that that's possible) on February 15th."

Savage grew up in Chicago, the third of four children in a strict Catholic family, and was inspired by his own mother.

"I was the gay-mama's-boy-at-home kid," he said. "And I would be there within earshot while the ladies were all pouring out their marital problems and my mother was giving them advice."

Savage isn't afraid to court controversy. He's enraged many conservatives with his public disdain of the Bible's treatment of homosexuality. And he inflames others with his views on cheating.

Moriarty asked, "You think adultery is OK?"

"No; I think there are times and circumstances under which adultery is okay," Savage said. "And cheating may be the more loving to do."