Dan Savage vs. Rick Santorum

One of the most entertaining and unlikely political feuds since Larry Flynt vs. Jerry Falwell is reaching a fever pitch, and it involves a Republican presidential candidate and a gay sex columnist.

In 2003, one of the most conservative ideologues in the history of the republic, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), who tries mightily to cultivate the persona of world's most virtuous choirboy, said he didn't believe in a right to privacy regarding sexual acts between adults. "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything."

When the Associated Press asked, "So if somebody is homosexual, you would argue that they should not have sex?" Santorum replied, "In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be."

So Santorum denounced homosexuality by comparing it to bestiality, then said that he doesn't mean to pick on gay people. He just doesn't believe they deserve any rights. It's classic talking out of both sides of one's mouth, a technique brought to its zenith by Mitt Romney, who said, "We shouldn't discriminate against people based upon their sexual preference or orientation. At the same time, I believe that marriage should be reserved for a relationship between one man and one woman." That's like me saying, "I don't approve of slavery, but Odetta is just like a member of the family."

Santorum also blamed the epidemic of Catholic priests' molesting children on "political and cultural liberalism" and denounces gay people every chance he gets -- but he really loves them, get it?

Sex advice columnist, author and activist Dan Savage wasn't having any of it and, ever the practical joker, decided to have some fun with Santorum, asking his readers to come up with a definition of the Senator's name. The hilarious yet disgusting end result was "Santorum: The frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex." To this day, to Santorum's inconvenience, that definition is the top entry when one Googles "Santorum."

Santorum, naturally, was not pleased and accused Savage of trying to destroy him. Savage responded:

And you have to love how Santorum is out there mewling about being the victim here and about civility-- this from the man who compared people in stable, loving same-sex relationships to dog fuckers and kiddie rapists, this from a man who would make gay and straight sodomy illegal, ban gay marriage and any other protections for same-sex couples, and prevent loving same-sex couples from adopting children who need homes. This from a man who would literally destroy my family if it were within in his power to do so. And the "Savage Love" gang? All we did was make a dirty joke at his expense. There has been no effort to strip Rick Santorum of his civil rights, no moves to nullify his marriage, no one has suggested that his children be taken out of his home, no one is trying to prevent him from having more children. No one has compared Rick Santorum to a dog fucker or a pedophile. Compared to Rick Santorum, my readers and I have been models of decorum and restraint.

And don't think you're fooling us, Rick. Now that you're running for president -- eight years after we redefined 'santorum' -- you're whining to attract a little attention to your campaign and because your advisors think that maybe you'll get a little traction playing the pansy-assed victim card, à la Sarah Palin, and rake in a few bucks. Oh, look at that mean gay dude -- one of the guys I want to oppress -- he's picking on meeeeeeeeee.

On last week's Real Time With Bill Maher, Savage joked about a desire to sexually violate Santorum. Audience erupted in laughter, conservative outrage followed. Santorum appeared on right-wing radio host Steve Malzberg's show to denounce Savage:

It's just that. It's filth. It's, you know, this man has, has gone out there and tried to destroy my integrity. I mean, you've heard the whole issue of the Google issue. That's Dan Savage. You know, it's, it's the lowest, you know, debasement of public discourse. It's, it's offensive beyond, you know, anything that any public figure or anybody in America should tolerate, and the mainstream media laughs about it. They, they, they kid about it. They write about it. They say, 'Oh, Santorum's got a Google problem.'

Then Santorum again plays the victim card about how this kind of speech would never be tolerated if a conservative had said it against a liberal (conveniently ignoring the well documented hate speech of Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck and so on). However, Savage has just made snarky jokes at Santorum's expense. Santorum, unable to take said jokes, has turned it into a battle for the soul of America. You don't hear Barack Obama whining every time someone calls him a vile name, which they do.

Yes, what Savage says about Santorum is tacky and pushes the bounds of good taste. Yes, it's probably not advisable to make jokes about violent hate sex with someone. Yes, Savage is probably trying to destroy Santorum's integrity. But Santorum and his ilk are indeed trying to destroy Savage's family, as well as the families of gay people everywhere. If it were up to Santorum, gays could not only not legalize their unions or adopt, they would be arrested and jailed should they have sex with who they wanted.

And Savage's accomplishments can go up against Santorum's any day. Savage created the hugely successful It Gets Better viral video campaign aimed at stopping gay teens from killing themselves, since it seemed like no one else was doing anything about it. It may have actually saved lives that might have been ended had they taken to the heart the rhetoric of someone like Santorum. If Santorum has actually saved any lives, I'm not aware of it.

What Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and others in the religious right just can't seem to get is that an increasingly larger portion of the populace -- ordinary tax paying Americans -- do not share their precious "values," yet remain decent, hard-working and yes, God-fearing folks. In a way that should make the Tea Party proud, they are not waiting for the government or the church to redefine family. They have already redefined it, and they want and deserve equality. And when Santorum and Bachmann and others try dredging up the tired old antigay propaganda to rally their divisive conservative base and yet say they can represent all Americans, they shouldn't be surprised when someone calls them on the carpet.

And nothing is more entertaining that a battle between a moral prude and someone who isn't afraid to tell a good dirty joke.