Dan Savage & Esther Perel: “Love, Marriage & Monogamy” | Talks at Google

Dan Savage & Esther Perel: “Love, Marriage & Monogamy” | Talks at Google

LOGAN URY: Thank you
all so much for coming. My name is Logan Ury. I am based in the
Mountain View office, and I’m very excited
to be here in New York for this special edition
of our Modern Romance series. So this is a series I started
in Mountain View last year, and this is our fifth event. And we’re so lucky to have
Esther Perel and Dan Savage here with us. They are excellent
experts on modern romance. So you probably know a
little bit about them, but I’ll give you some more
information about our guests. Esther is a practicing
psychotherapist, and she’s also a
celebrated speaker. She’s widely celebrated
as one of the most insightful and
provocative voices on personal and
professional relationships and the complex science
behind human interaction. She’s also the
bestselling author of “Mating in Captivity
Unlocking Erotic Intelligence.” She’s a Belgian native, and
she’s fluent in nine languages. Her Ted Talks have also been
viewed over 10 million times. Welcome, Esther. [APPLAUSE] And of course, we also
have Dan Savage with us. Dan is a writer,
a TV personality, and an activist best known
for his political and social commentary, as well as his
honest approach to sex, love, and relationships. He’s the author of the
widely syndicated sex advice column “Savage Love,” and the
host of one of my favorite podcasts, “The
Savage Love Cast.” He’s also written several
best-selling books, including “American Savage.” Along with his
husband, Terry Miller, he’s the co-founder
of the It Gets Better project, and their son, DJ. DAN SAVAGE: A co-founder of DJ. LOGAN URY: Yeah. I thought you would like that. [APPLAUSE] Welcome, Dan. So we’re going to
chat for a while, and then we’ll leave 20 minutes
at the end for questions. And we’re also selling books,
so don’t miss out on that. So I want to start off with
talking about infidelity. You’ve both written
extensively– DAN SAVAGE: You didn’t see
that one coming, did you? ESTHER PEREL: No. LOGAN URY: Who
would have guessed? I just want you all to know
what you’re in for today. So you’ve both written
extensively on this topic, and because there is
no universally agreed upon definition of
infidelity, researchers estimate that anywhere
between 26% to 75% of people cheat during relationships. Let’s start by talking about
why you think people cheat, and what you think
couples should do when there’s been a betrayal. Feel free to jump
in, either of you. ESTHER PEREL: You first. DAN SAVAGE: Me first? ESTHER PEREL: Yes. DAN SAVAGE: People cheat
because it’s a trap. People cheat because we’ve
expanded the definition of what is cheating to such
a ridiculous extent that everyone’s
essentially a cheater. People cheat because monogamous
commitments are a fucking trap. I don’t know. I’m not to be very articulate. This is literally the first
time I’ve spoken aloud today. LOGAN URY: [LAUGHTER] DAN SAVAGE: People cheat
because they’re bored. People cheat because
they’re unsatisfied. People cheat because
there’s an opportunity. People cheat, as Esther points
in “Mating in Captivity,” to feel alive. People cheat for all sorts
of reasons, not all of them– and I usually, when I
start talking about this these days, because I’m
such a fan of Esther, start citing Esther
extensively– so you’re going to have to
sit here while I do this. People cheat because–
it’s not always because they’re not in
love with their partner, that you can cheat on
someone and still very much be in love with them. There are other reasons
why people cheat. It seems to me,
and the conclusion that I’ve reached after 25
years of writing “Savage Love” and being buried under
emails– that it’s not that we are failing monogamy. It’s that monogamy has failed
us, and we need to rethink it. That doesn’t mean
that I’m opposed to all monogamous
commitments, or I think everyone who makes
a monogamous commitment or wants a monogamous
commitment is a fool or fooling themselves. But the way we talk
about monogamy sets up all monogamous
relationships for failure because what we tell people
is that sexual exclusivity is the most important marker
of love and commitment, and a failure at that means
the relationship entirely is a failure. And we tell people that
if you are in love, you will not want to
fuck other people, when we all know in our
guts, and in our junk, that you can be in love,
and you’re still going to want to fuck other people. And the people that that
lie damages the most are the people who
really believe it because they are in love. They make a
monogamous commitment. Suddenly, someone comes
across their radar, or walks in front
of them in the gym, or they have a crush
on someone at work. They suddenly want to
fuck somebody else. And if they believe
because they’ve been told that love and desire
is a zero-sum game, where if you want to
fuck somebody else you must not be in love
with your partner anymore, they will then act on that. That undermines a
monogamous commitment. It destroys relationships. And finally, the last
thing I’m going to say is we have to stop telling
people that monogamy is the only thing that you
have to execute perfectly 100% of the time to be
regarded as good at it, that you can fall off a bicycle
and still win the goddamn Tour de France. And you can fall
snowboarding and still be an excellent snowboarder. We need to tell
people that if you’re with somebody for– really, now,
because of expanding lifespans, 50, 60 years, if you
make a commitment in your early and mid-20s,
or late 20s or 30s– if you’re with somebody
for 50 or 60 years and they only cheated on
you a handful of times, and you only cheated on
them a handful of times, you were both pretty good
at monogamy, not bad at it. [LAUGHTER] That’s my thing, which
is 30% your thing now. I keep reading you. LOGAN URY: Did he get it right? ESTHER PEREL: Lots. Yes, yes, absolutely. But it’s very
interesting because I think that one thing we
have to be careful about is that in some way, the
conversation about infidelity is not the same as the
conversation about monogamy because infidelity occurs in
consensual, non-monogamous couples too. So the first thing I would
say is look what word we’re using, “cheating.” And when it’s not cheating, it’s
betraying, and violating trust, and being unfaithful,
and being adulterous. There is no morally
neutral language to talk about
this, first of all. So we are trapped in the
words themselves that we use. Most of history, monogamy
was one person for life. And at this moment, monogamy
is one person at a time. And so many of us
go around saying “I am monogamous in
all my relationships,” and that seems totally natural. For most of history,
faithfulness, fidelity, had nothing to do with love. It basically was an
imposition on women by men in order to
know who gets the cows and whose children are mine. And it was about
patrimony and lineage, and it was only a
double standard. It was apply to women,
and rarely to men, actually, even if in
the text it’s written. But when I think
about infidelity, the first thing I often
think is, you know, it’s the only commandment that
is repeated twice in the Bible, once for doing it, and once
just for thinking about it. So somebody understood that
the human inclination is not necessarily so singular
and monogamous. But why we go outside–
I would say like this. But I am a therapist,
and in that sense, I still very much work with
couples all over the world, and there are a few things
that are very clear to me– is that the vast majority of
people who cheat in my practice are actually not your
chronic philanderers. They are not the ones that
are continuously cheating. They are often people who have
been faithful for decades. And then one day, they cross
a line, a line which often, indeed, they never
thought they would cross because they are often
monogamous in their values but plural in their behavior. And they experience a
conflict between their values and their behavior. And these people
are sometimes going to risk everything
they’ve built for years. And then, you say, for what? And then, the word
you picked up, which when I wrote
it in “Mating” it was quite a few years ago. Now I’ve gone around the
globe with this, this one word that people will tell me
when they have an affair. I’m not talking just
about fucking and sex. I’m talking about something
actually probably a little more involved, and
sometimes a love story. It’s that they feel alive. And that word, “alive,”
actually goes beyond just sex. It’s about trespassing one’s
own limitations, the boundaries of the life that one has
lived, the constraints of the marriage that
one is in, the mortality that is hitting at the door. The essence of infidelity
is transgression. It’s actually about
breaking rules, including one’s own rules,
internal and external. And that transgressive
power actually makes people feel alive,
free, bold, autonomous. When you have an
affair, when you cheat, as in when you do something
that is just for you, then you know that you
are not taking care of anybody else, not
being good citizen, not being so responsible. And we’ve always had two sides
to us, the sides of us that wants to be good, and
compliant, and obedient, and proper, and the side of us
who thrives on breaking rules. Just watch kids play. LOGAN URY: So
that’s [INAUDIBLE]. DAN SAVAGE: I would add one
thing to all of that, is that monogamy was for millennia
imposed on women. There were huge
double standards. And about 100
years ago, we began to make marriage fairer
and more egalitarian. ESTHER PEREL: But instead
of giving women more rights, we took the rights
away from the men. DAN SAVAGE: Instead of extending
to women the same license that men had always
enjoyed and abused, we imposed on men the
limitations that we had always imposed on women. And it’s been a disaster
because men are as bad at it as women are. ESTHER PEREL: Or reverse. Women are as roaming as men. Give the woman a car, and then
we look at her true nature. DAN SAVAGE: There’s
all this talk about– [LAUGHTER] ESTHER PEREL: Just let
her leave the house. DAN SAVAGE: There’s all this
talk about sex– about women with low desire, and this
is being medicalized, and there are pills coming
out to treat low desire, and there’s all these therapists
and sex researchers working on the problem of low desire. And one thing that
keeps coming up is that they’ll work
with this person, and the low desire–
no sex in the marriage is destroying the marriage. And the woman– it’s
often the woman, but not always– has no desire,
no desire, can’t get it back. The marriage is in peril– is
working so hard to get it back. Nothing works. There’s a divorce. Suddenly, she’s fucking
horny again because she has this opportunity
now to be free again, and she didn’t have
that opportunity to be free in her marriage. And we have to find
a way to give people freedom in their marriages
and that autonomy within their marriages so
that that desire for freedom or autonomy is not eating
away at and corroding their marriages. ESTHER PEREL: May
I add something? LOGAN URY: Yes. ESTHER PEREL:
[CLEARING THROAT] Sorry. I think I am totally–
the problem is we don’t disagree that much. But if you listen carefully,
there are places– DAN SAVAGE: We’re in
violent agreement over here. ESTHER PEREL: No, it’s not
just actually if she divorces. I think that there are
two things I would– the first one is something
that you said earlier, which I do want to emphasize. The romantic ideal that we
are very much participants at– that is about
150 years– is that I’m going to be the
chosen one and I am it, and I’m irreplaceable,
and I’m indispensable. And I’m the one, and
when I’m the one, it means that you
don’t think, or want, or look at anyone else again. Hence, if you have
everything you need with me, there’s no need to
go looking elsewhere. Hence, if you go
looking elsewhere, it means that there is either
something wrong with me, wrong with you,
or wrong with us. And this is the current
model of infidelity, is that it’s a deficiency model. It only happens because
there’s something missing, and it’s general– But I always
say that you can’t– millions of people can’t all be
pathological, after all. So turn it into a
disease or a disorder when it is a phenomenon. And that, combined with this
secret truth that is only beginning to come
out, which is that in committed relationships,
actually, women get bored with monogamy
much sooner than men. Males’ desire goes
down very gradually. Women’s desire often plummets. And it’s not the
fault of the partner, and it’s not the
fault of marriage. It’s that the
institutionalization of the relationship, the
familiarity with the partner, and particularly, the
desexualization of the roles. There is not much sexy
to wife and to mother. And so whenever she has an
opportunity to change the plot, her hormones change too. And it’s that
piece that actually has been mistranslated. It’s been decided that
because she loses interest, her sex drive is less strong. First of all, we can question
the concept of drive. But it’s not that her
drive is less strong. It’s that in order
to want sex, it needs to be six that
is worth wanting, and it’s just not interesting
enough in her role– not with the partner,
but in her role. DAN SAVAGE: Can I add
something to that? LOGAN URY: Yes! Let’s chat. ESTHER PEREL: We
idea that someone has to be all things– you
used the phrase “the one,” and that’s a phrase
that drives me crazy. And I’m always yelling at people
but there is no “the one.” And you know that’s
a lie about you. Why aren’t I all things to you? Because you’re looking
at someone that you know isn’t all things to
you and can’t be. And the best any
of us can hope for is a 0.64 that we round
the fuck up to the one. And that’s an act of
will, and an act of love, and regard, and care for
someone to treat them as if they are this thing
that does not actually exist in the world, which
is your perfect match, or someone who can
be all things to you or that you can
be all things to. And if we can walk away from
these myths and these lies, it doesn’t destabilize
our relationships. It doesn’t make
them less valuable. It actually makes them stronger. It’s really hard to look
at somebody every day and live a lie. It’s easier to look
at somebody every day and say you aren’t the one. There is no one, but I treat
you like one and the one. And in my treating you
that way and you treating me that way in return, we
are being so good, and kind, and loving to each other,
and there’s value to that, and a greater value to that than
there is some one out there. And so if people just knew–
of course he looked elsewhere, or she looked elsewhere, or
they want to fuck other people, or you want to
fuck other people. Or sometimes you go to friends
for emotional fulfillment that you can’t get from
your partner, and that’s OK. Two people can’t be all
things to each other. ESTHER PEREL: We should
let Logan [INAUDIBLE]. DAN SAVAGE: I know. Sorry. LOGAN URY: I’m
enjoying it, yeah. So I think that you’re
both in violent agreement that monogamy maybe
isn’t the right answer, and I know, Dan, you are–
OK, I’ll let you answer that. But I think you’re
famous for your idea of monogamish relationships,
which you can discuss. But if you could redesign
marriage from scratch with any different
kind of contracts– maybe you rethink it
every five years– how would you redesign marriage? DAN SAVAGE: You go
first this time. ESTHER PEREL: Well,
redesigning marriage depends first and
foremost on power. After all, marriage
is an institution that stabilizes power,
basically, and obligations– little freedoms, but
mostly– so I would not have the same answer when I am
asked this question in North America, and if I’m asked
this question in Turkey. So this is a very
global question with a localized answer, OK? In our context, I don’t know
that we actually need marriage. Marriage used to be an
economic enterprise. And by the way, infidelity
was an economic threat. Now marriage or
committed relationships are a romantic arrangement,
and so infidelity is a romantic threat. That’s really what shifted. So in this romantic
arrangement, we have replaced– it’s like
in the larger economy. It used to be marriage was a
part of the production economy, and you made children, and you
created assets and all of that. Now marriage is part
of the service economy. Like the general economy,
the service economy is intimacy, trust,
affection, sex. That’s service in the best
sense of the word, right? Hence, trust has become
so central as well. I don’t know that
we need marriage. I think that–
but of course, you need a state that then
takes care of things. That’s where the Europeans marry
way less than the Americans. Americans love to
marry, by the way. They love to marry, and they
can marry multiple times. And you can sit in
an audience and say you’re divorced three times,
and nobody blinks an eye. But if I was to ask
you here, “Has anybody here been unfaithful or been
cheated on?” not many of you would answer publicly because
the stigma has shifted. It used to be divorce. Now it’s infidelity. So I would redesign marriage. First of all, there
needs to be equal power. There needs to be a system in
which maternity leave is not a disability leave. There needs to be a system where
there is affordable child care and where there is family
leave that is for both people. Then we can start to
talk about relationships that are not going to
crumble under pressure or where the supposed equality
suddenly topples completely the moment you have
children, which is, after all, the primary
thing for marriage. It needs to be a system
that is fluid and flexible, like any other organism. It doesn’t survive if
it doesn’t straddle well stability and change,
homeostasis and novelty. But if it does too much
novelty and it’s too unstable, it will be chaotic. And if it is too much stable
and too much not changing, it will be fossilized. There is very little
fluidity in marriage. Most people are creative,
and imaginative, and pursuing, and active, and
all of that before they marry. And then once they’re
married, many, many times they will
settle into a state of complacency, in which
you do the least amount. People treat their
friends much better. They behave much better at work. They dress up much nicer
when they go out with others. Literally, the
partner is often– the home is often
the place where many people bring
leftovers, actually, not the best of themselves. So it needs to be reevaluated
every few years, this idea that we live twice as long
but we’re going to stay with something’s that undoable. And most people
these days are going to marry two or three times in
the West anyway, and some of us are going to do it
with the same person. DAN SAVAGE: I would say that
marriage has been redefined, and it would be
wonderful if everyone was up to speed on how
thoroughly it’s been redefined. During the marriage equality
debate in this country, we, the homos, were
accused of wanting to radically redefine marriage. And the truth was that
straight people had already radically redefined
marriage to an extent that no logical,
secular case could be made for excluding same-sex
couples from the institution as straight people redefined
it, lived it, and practiced it. It is now, after millennia
of being something very different– in the
West, in this country– the legal union of two
autonomous and equal individuals. Period. The end. And the marriage is
only as patriarchal as those two people in
it choose to make it. A marriage can be
monogamous or not. It can be for life or
not, children or not. It can have a religious
component or not. It’s up to that couple. Every marriage is
its own universe, and gay people–
same-sex couples, not all gay– said
we want that too. And it’s no longer a
gendered institution. There don’t have to be children. Children aren’t required. Otherwise, Pat
Buchanan’s not really married to his [INAUDIBLE] wife. And if I were going
to change anything about the definition
of marriage, it’s not so much of a
change that definition. I’m very comfortable with
that definition of marriage. I would change
people’s expectations around what marriage
means over the long haul. As someone who is– as a
gay dude– has been open about the fact that my husband
and I are not monogamous, much to the consternation of
some gay rights groups that were fighting for marriage
equality and gay parenting organizations, because
we’re also parents, I’m often really
offended by what you talk about, people who’ve
been married two or three times, people who are monogamous
in all of their relationships– those people will
look at me and say I am not seriously in love with
or committed to my partner because we are not monogamous. And then, the next
thing out of their mouth is, “I’ve been monogamous
in every relationship I’ve ever been in. All of my marriages, plural,
have been monogamous. That’s how committed I
am, not to my partner, but to monogamy.” And I find that idiotic. And if there’s anything I
would like to redefine or get into people’s heads
is that marriage, particularly if it’s for the
long haul and the long term, it’s going to evolve. There are going to be stages. It’s going to change. What’s very, very
important a year in may not be so
important 20 years in. You can reassess. You can reevaluate. That idea of having to opt back
in after a few years– that shouldn’t just be opt
back in for that partner, but opt back in for everything
that you guys talked about being important to your
marriage or definitional, or what you wanted
from your marriage. That stuff changes over time,
and we have to roll with, if indeed we’re going to be
more committed to commitment than we are to never touching
anyone else with our genitals ever again, which to me seems
like a ridiculous and very limiting definition of
marriage or commitment. But for many people,
that’s it, that loyalty is something we only
show with our genitals. Any other form of loyalty, any
other way of expressing it, has less value than
have you touched anyone else with your dick
ever again if you’re a guy. And I find that
I’m often accused of putting too much
importance on sex, too much emphasis on sex. I think that puts too
much emphasis on sex, when you say that’s the most
important way of expressing love, commitment, loyalty
is with your genitalia. So if I was going to redefine
it, I would yank that out. But it’s not in the definition. That’s just an attitude
that people have. LOGAN URY: Definitely. ESTHER PEREL: One
of the [INAUDIBLE] that took place is that you used
to marry ’til death do us part, and now you marry
’til love dies. That is a fundamental shift, and
divorce laws have fundamentally changed as well. You need to be able
to leave in order to be able to choose to
stay, and that is not always the case. I think that on many levels,
there are certain freedoms that you– like the
redefinition of monogamy as a primary emotional
commitment that may or may not be including sexual
exclusiveness is one of the most
important things that straight couples can
learn from gay couples because in the straight
discourse, that is always considered impossible. And it’s not impossible
intrinsically. It’s not biologically
impossible. It’s culturally become
impossible over millennia, and there is tremendous
freedom that can come from– DAN SAVAGE: Well,
if there’s anything that straight couples can
borrow from gay couples– ESTHER PEREL: Lots. DAN SAVAGE: –it’s that
monogamy for gay male couples has always been an
opt-in conversation. And so you don’t get gay
couples realizing 5 or 10 years into the relationship
that they’re on very different
pages about this. But for straight
couples, because monogamy is this default setting
and it’s assumed, you get people who’ve two years
in, five years in, realize that they’ve either made
a commitment that they’re incapable of honoring because
they just were dragged along by the cultural
undertow, or they’ve committed to someone who
was incapable of honoring that commitment because
they couldn’t have a conversation about whether
that was a commitment that they wanted to make, or that
monogamy was something that they were going to do. And in almost all gay
male relationships that I’ve been witness to, and
all the studies bear this out, monogamy is not important enough
to destroy a relationship over and everything else
in that relationship. ESTHER PEREL: Sexual
exclusiveness. DAN SAVAGE: Sexual exclusivity. LOGAN URY: Do you think that
the legalization of gay marriage is going to change that? DAN SAVAGE: No. LOGAN URY: OK. Do you want to talk
more about that? DAN SAVAGE: I get
asked that a lot. Now that we can
get married, are we gonna all march off into
the suburbs and die? And I don’t think you
see that borne out. I haven’t witnessed it
in the last six months since [INAUDIBLE], but
we’ll see in 10 years. I don’t think that gay people
being open about who we are and being accepted is
changing gay people. I think our acceptance
and the truth we’re telling about our
lives and our experience are changing straight people. You do see a lot already
in straight culture that has basically been
ripped off, borrowed, renamed from gay culture. We had tricks. You guys hook up. We had fuck buddies. You have friends with benefits. It’s always so much more
polite went straight people try [INAUDIBLE]. The way that most
straight people live now into their late 20s, early
30s, is the gay lifestyle as sort of condemned
and sex-panicked about by social conservatives
30 years ago– moving to urban areas, having
many multiple sex partners, having many relationships, not
settling down, not becoming an economic unit
and cranking out the next wave of
human consumers. That delaying of
marriage and parenthood, as people are doing
who are straight now, is– basically what you
see is straight people all over the country living
the gay lifestyle until they’re about 33 and then going off
and living the “straight life.” So what we know now is
there was nothing gay about the gay lifestyle,
nothing straight about the straight lifestyle. It was just which boxes
people were herded into. ESTHER PEREL: But you
know, family life has changed enormously, and
the configuration of family from single-parent family,
blended family, the gay family, commuter family. We have really
developed a multiplicity of models for
family, but we remain very monolithic for couple. I actually wouldn’t
say marriage, per se. I would even say couple. And even though marriage
as an institution has always been in
transition, but coupledom– once romanticism enters we
became really doggedly devoted to it. It is one of the most tenacious,
mystifying stories that has sat over Western culture. DAN SAVAGE: Stephanie Kuntz’s
book, “Marriage– A History, the Triumph of Love over
Marriage” is a great read, and it’s sometimes
shocking for me to learn that social
conservatives oppose vigorously marrying for love, that
that was undermining what marriage was actually
about 250, 300 years ago. You married for property. You married for status. You married for
legitimate offspring. You didn’t marry for anything
as fleeting as lust, or desire, or sexual passion, or even love. You had a spouse that
was recognized in law, and you had loves. ESTHER PEREL:
Actually, what she says is that adultery was
the space for love. Marriage was too
mercantile an institution to go seek love in it, and so
you went outside to find love. But now that we’ve brought
love into marriage, adultery destroys it. That’s a major shift. LOGAN URY: That was great. Thank you. I want to shift
gears a little bit. Dan, one of the
topics that you’re very passionate about
is sex ed, and how you find abstinence-only
education very dangerous. So if you could design a
class, either in high schools or online, that every person
would be required to take before entering into
adult relationships– ESTHER PEREL: Can we
start at age four, please? LOGAN URY: Yes. At age four, preschool, what– ESTHER PEREL: Like
it should be done? Not high school. LOGAN URY: OK, yeah. Let’s hear. What would you want to
teach people about– DAN SAVAGE: There are people
in high school with four year olds. It’s too late in high school. LOGAN URY: OK. Preschool, day one. What should people be
learning about healthy adult relationships? DAN SAVAGE: Oh, my God. I’m a terrible person. A sex ed course needs
to be comprehensive. It needs to be– it needs
to start very young, and it needs to be
age appropriate, but that terminology
is so subjective. Who’s going to define
what age appropriate is? There are people out
there– many of them– who believe that a kid
who’s 18 is not yet ready for comprehensive sex
ed because then that kid is going to want to have sex. If I were going to
design the program, it would be ongoing,
lifelong, comprehensive. It would be queer-inclusive. It would address kink. It would address the
99.99% of the sex that people are having over the
course of their lives, which is not procreation. It’s recreational sex. Even what a lot of us liberals
and– as I sweepingly gesture to the room, assuming we’re
all liberals and progressives– even often what we hold up as
an example of really good sex ed– when you look at
it and you dig into it, it’s just reproductive
biology, and you can cover that in about 11 minutes. Any idiot can make a baby. Bristol Palin made two. What trips people up is not
fallopian tubes, and zygotes, and spermatozoa. What trips people up is
consent, desire, what it means, and the 99.99% of the sex
people are having, which is sex for pleasure. And we need to educate young
people about the options that most adults who have
worked past the vaginal or anal intercourse
obsession know, which is that it’s not all
vaginal or anal intercourse. There’s a lot that young
people can do sexually that creates those feelings
of intimacy, and release, and that bond that don’t involve
the high bar, high stakes, high risk that comes
with penetrative sex. But imagine a sex ed course. It’s [INAUDIBLE] 15 year olds,
14 year olds, and 13 year olds. First boyfriend,
first girlfriend, first non-binary friend–
maybe you masturbate together, roll round have oral sex. You don’t have to worry
about birth control if you’re not having
vaginal intercourse yet, and there’s plenty
of time for that. Learn each other’s bodies,
and learn your own body, and enjoy them. And you can wait on that. Good sex ed empowers people
not to necessarily have sex, but to make their own
choices, their own decisions about when and how. I always compare the
sex ed that we get– and speaking of
abstinence, I was so thrilled in 2008 during Barack
Obama’s first inaugural address when he said we’re
going to return science to its proper place. I thought that meant no more
money for abstinence education because the science has shown
that not only doesn’t it work, it backfires because kids
who’ve had abstinence-only sex education may delay sexual
activity by about six months, but much less likely to use
protection, so much likelier, once six months later than
their peers they’re having sex, to have an unplanned
pregnancy, to contract a sexually-transmitted
infection. I thought it would
be the end of it. But Republicans bundled
up quarter-billion dollars worth of funding for abstinence
education with Obamacare and put Obama in
the position then of having to veto Obamacare to
stop funding absence education. And so it’s still out
there, and in many places it’s the only sex ed kids get. And it’s destructive,
and it destroys the lives not just of straight kids,
but also of queer kids. And it’s got to stop. Particularly the
reproductive biology. I always compare it
a driver’s ed class, where they teach you how
the internal combustion engine works, but not how
to steer, not how to break, and not what the red hexagon
at the end of the street means. And so you give somebody keys
to the car after that sex ed– or after that driver’s
ed, and they’re going to run over someone. And yet that’s our sex ed. Here’s how your internal
reproductive combustion engine works. Here’s the keys to your pants. Now go. LOGAN URY: Esther,
what do you think? You have a very global
perspective on what people– ESTHER PEREL: I’m even
more extreme than this. Look, I’m married 30 years. I have two boys, and I
was going to make them not become casualties of
the American system. We have comprehensive
sex education. It starts at age four. It doesn’t talk
about private parts. It’s not a plumbing class. It looks at– it is
somewhat more procreative, but it connects– it
talks about pleasure. It talks about love. It talks about relationship. This is the book you read
for the four year olds. It talks about how it compares
with other living creatures. It is– the one that I’m
thinking of is definitely a heterosexual story, but it
plants the seeds very clearly of this is part
of how we relate. This is part of how
we express our love, our connection, our fondness. This is pleasurable,
et cetera, et cetera. And it establishes from the
start freedom, autonomy, respect, pleasure,
connection, that. I had one kid in public
school in Manhattan. He had two hours
of sex education. It went like this. Two people came in. One said, “When you
have sex you get AIDS. The other one said, “I had sex. Therefore, I have AIDS.” That was the end of
his sex education. Very respectable public school
in Manhattan– the other one was really, really lucky. He had actually a
very good program that I could look through it. But still, it was about disease. It was about the dangers. It was about dysfunction. Here’s what’s wrong
in the United States. This is the only
country that doesn’t have a public health policy
on adolescent sexuality in the West. Therefore, as a result of
the abstinence campaigns, activity starts two years before
the liberal Dutch, eight times more teen pregnancy
than all of EU and 35 other countries combined,
and a proliferation of STDs. There is on the one
hand a complete madness around the politics of safety
and the precautionary principal and all the assault stuff
that you have on campus, and then you just
swipe and you go and you fuck the next stranger. Here you can’t talk to anybody. And here, there is this– and
these two extremes are typical. It’s always a combination
of repressive tactics and complete, massive
excess, with nothing that is just simply
an integrated topic because in the US, sex
is the risk factor. In Europe, being irresponsible
is the risk factor. Sex is a natural part of life. As a result, you have
posters all over the place about the fact that 14
year olds, 15 year olds will have sex and should
use protection in order to be able to enjoy the sex, not
in order to avoid getting sick. It’s actually a very
different conception. I can’t even tell you
where to begin with this. It’s wrong from the start. It’s wrong from the moment
you have pink and blue. There’s still the distinction. It starts from the fact that
everything– that masculinity here is– if you don’t have
sports, for God’s sakes, most men would never be touched. At this point, most– [LAUGHTER] This is all for me sexuality. Sexuality is not about
doing the act, sex. It’s about being sexual people. It’s about a way that
you– it’s the distinction between violence
and everything else. It starts with the fact
that– ugh, I can’t go. I can go on and on. It’s really so bad. The majority of boys
at this point in the US get their sex education starting
around age 11 from one source only, and that is porn only. Porn is perfectly fun, but
it is terrible sex education. It’s really lousy sex ed. And if you leave a
vacuum, you always get the people that
come in that will take advantage of the vacuum. And then, when you get a
good English teacher here that starts to teach sex
education to the class, you get people coming in saying
you shouldn’t be doing this. It’s a public health issue. It’s not even– it
touches at every level because sexuality
in every society is the place where you’re
going to find the most archaic, the most entrenched,
the most rooted values of a society, and
it’s also the place where you’re going
to find the most radical, progressive changes. It’s really a lens into
a society, and especially around violence. And so the fact that you don’t
have real, comprehensive sex education– and
it’s at age four. Why four? Because at four,
you begin to know, where does grandma
go when she dies? And so you have a
conception of death. And once you know
where we go, you also need to know where we
come from, most of us. That’s the first place,
why it is so young. But this is also a country
who thinks that you only should start learning foreign
languages in high school. [LAUGHTER] LOGAN URY: Whew! [APPLAUSE] Dan, it sounds like– DAN SAVAGE: I think
the problem goes back to that Australia
got the convicts, Canada got the French,
and we got the Puritans, that it was a shitty deal. LOGAN URY: So Esther, you
mentioned masculinity, and there was
something that I heard you say in a podcast that really
fascinated me around women and perfectionism, how women
really need to feel sexy in order to have sex, and
a lot of desire and passion is around the
woman feeling sexy, and that’s at odds
with perfectionism because the woman has
a voice in her head that’s always
critical of herself. And I think this is a
high-performing audience, and a lot of women
here are trying to be the perfect employee,
the perfect mother, the perfect spouse. Can you speak a little
bit about femininity, and desire, and perfectionism? ESTHER PEREL: Whoa. [CHUCKLING] But I’m going to
rephrase this a little. I’m going to say that
being self-critical is one of the most effective
tools of a consumer society, and it’s not just a
privilege of women, actually. I think men have their own
list of things about which they can feel not good enough, or
insufficient, or inadequate. So in that sense, I would
say something different. And I think that
that’s probably– you need to tell me what you
think about this because we’ve actually not talked
about this one. If you think about
sexuality– I’m going to take a tiny detail. If you think about sexuality and
the experience of letting go, right? Letting go in order
to be able to enjoy, in order to be able
to experience pleasure and all of that– you
would think, then, what is it that are the blocks
that prevent letting go? In a straight narrative,
you will often hear a man say nothing
turns me on more than for her to be turned on. Yes? Because if she’s turned on, then
he knows he’s not hurting her. She’s into it. He can bypass the
mainframe obstacle for men, which is
the predatory fear. If she’s into it,
if she likes it, then he doesn’t have to worry. This is actually what
he gets on screen. The woman on screen always
likes it, never has a headache, always says me too, always
says more, more, more, and he doesn’t have to
feel neither inadequate, nor afraid of rejection, nor
worried if she likes it, which are the three most important
internal experiences for men, psychologically, sexually. What is it for her? Why do I say the predatory fear? Because I think that the
obstacle in sexuality is the opposite of
the social role. If you are raised to be a
protector, than the obstacle has to be that you need to free
yourself from the role of being a protector in order to
be able to enjoy, to play, and to have fun. For her, it’s the
parallel, same one. It’s the taking care. She doesn’t say nothing
turns me on more than to see him turned on, or her
turned on, for that matter. It doesn’t make a difference. If she’s not into it,
he can stand there with the biggest hard
on, makes no dent. Shop is closed. Nothing’s going to happen. What turns her on is
to be the turn on, and that’s the big secret
of female sexuality is that it is
massively narcissistic. It’s the opposite of
the caring for others, of feeling responsible
for others. If she can think about herself,
then she can be into it. And in order to
think about herself, she then needs to like herself. Hence, she can’t be
in a critical voice. That’s the perfection piece. If she starts to think about
everything about her that is not good enough,
that she doesn’t like, she will shut herself off. Before you ask a woman if
she will make love to a man or to another woman,
ask a woman if she would make love to herself. If she doesn’t want to
make love to herself, she won’t let anybody
else do it either, and that’s where the
perfection piece comes in. That voice is harder
for her to extinguish because it is more
self-reflexive than it is for him. And I think that
between two guys, the predatory fear is not
present in that same way, that you have a level of
freedom because of that. You’re not busy making sure,
“Is the other person OK?” You know it when they
are and when they’re not, not because they’re excited just
physiologically, not because of dick. You have the communication
because she also– she’s spent so many thousands
of years making sure that she doesn’t let it
be known that she likes it because if she likes it,
she’s going to be slut-shamed, whatever the language
was for that before. So she has to wrap it in
five layers of relatedness to make it clear
that she likes it, so she doesn’t know
what she likes. So all she ends up saying
is what she doesn’t like. That, she knows very well. [LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE] You get it? Am I– I don’t see you. Is this– am I speaking–
this is– yeah, somewhat? DAN SAVAGE: I agree. LOGAN URY: One thing I did
want to talk about was– ESTHER PEREL: Do you
agree on two men, that it takes– that the
predatory fear is less present? DAN SAVAGE: Not
always because there can be differences around–
sometimes when people say two men together,
they picture two men of sort of equal
physical stature, age, social power, everything else. There can be a radical power
imbalance where then you begin to feel bad. Are you OK? Are you OK? Are you OK? Some of those dynamics can
be replicated, I think, in same-sex relationships. LOGAN URY: So this
is somewhat related to the sex ed question– DAN SAVAGE: [INAUDIBLE]. LOGAN URY: So we’re at
Google, and google.com has the homepage. I’m sure you’ve been
there many times. And billions of searches
happen on that page every day, and sometimes there’s
a line of text under it promoting a new
product or a new service. If you could take over the
google.com homepage for a day and leave one message for
people around the world, potentially about
sex and relationships or not, what message would
you want to get out there? DAN SAVAGE: If I could
take it over for a day, I would just shut it down
because Google really fucked up my sex advice column. LOGAN URY: Go on. DAN SAVAGE: Because
25 years ago, half the questions I would
get were “what’s a butt plug?” and “fisting– how
do you do that?” and those things
have wiki pages now, and those were really
easy columns to write. A butt plug– it looks
like a lava lamp. It goes in your butt. And so all the mail
I get– and people would write me like,
“Where is the swingers club in my neighborhood?” and
that was kind of specialized knowledge 25 years ago. You’d have to have
these magazines, these swingers magazines, with
PO boxes listed in the back, and you would then
give those to people. And that was half the mail then. Those were easy
columns to write. All the mail now is
situational ethics. I did this. They did that. This terrible thing happened. Who’s right. Who’s wrong. Please cut this baby in half. And those columns are
much harder to write, so Google made my job
much more difficult. And if I just had
it for a day, I would shut it all down so I
could get some of those “what’s a butt plug” questions back. LOGAN URY: I think Google
also made somebody else’s job a little more difficult. DAN SAVAGE: Whose? LOGAN URY: Rick Santorum. [LAUGHTER] DAN SAVAGE: Yes, it did. But Google investigated actually
and declared that it wasn’t a gaming of the algorithm. It wasn’t any sort
of Google bomb. It was just the legitimate
first return for about 12 years. LOGAN URY: I think
it’s a good lesson. Don’t piss off
Dan Savage’s fans. DAN SAVAGE: Readers. LOGAN URY: Readers. DAN SAVAGE: People
always credit me for the Santorum Google
bomb, but a reader suggested the contest. A reader came up with
the new definition, and readers picked
that definition from a field of 10
other definitions. So I was just getting out of
the way of my genius readers. LOGAN URY: So no one’s
taken out their phone yet, but if you’re not
familiar with this, I recommend googling
it after this talk. DAN SAVAGE: Who isn’t
familiar with Google Santorum? All right then. Good. LOGAN URY: Great. Esther, what about you,
if you could take it over? ESTHER PEREL: I would
probably shut it down too, but for a different reason. DAN SAVAGE: We are never
getting invited back. ESTHER PEREL: Just
to [INAUDIBLE]. I think at this point,
I would probably close up a lot of
things for a while to give us the space to reclaim
back our own imagination. I think that we are being
robbed of our imagination because everything is
served up so immediately and we don’t even know. We don’t even know. Once people had
much richer fantasy lives than they have today. I’m not just talking about
sexual fantasy lives, but erotic fantasy
lives, yes, and that’s why I would close it, to
reclaim the power of the erotic in our own imaginative space. LOGAN URY: OK, so the headline
is “Esther Perel and Dan Savage Say Shut Down Google.” ESTHER PEREL: That’s right. LOGAN URY: Great. Got it. DAN SAVAGE: Google’s done. LOGAN URY: On that note,
we’ll open up the questions from googlers, see how
they feel about this. So if you have a question,
just line up at the two mics right here. ESTHER PEREL: [INAUDIBLE] LOGAN URY: Yeah, let’s do that. DAN SAVAGE: I guess I
should be totally honest. I would shut Google down
for everyone else but me because I use it every day. LOGAN URY: Yeah. That’s true. We haven’t thought this through. Any questions? I have more I can ask. AUDIENCE: Howdy. I’m curious what maybe the
98th percentile of monogamous, exclusive relationships look
like, the best case scenario. Does anyone actually
pull it off? ESTHER PEREL: Yes. OK, so I– yes, of course. And I think that monogamy
is a continuum, right? I say it a little
bit differently than when Dan says
you’ve been good at it. I think that today– we
used to marry and have sex for the first time. Now we marry and we stop
having sex with others. So when you arrive to
committed relationships, you have not been monogamous. So in some strange way,
monogamy only exists in reality. It doesn’t exist
in your fantasies, and it doesn’t
exist in your past. A relationship that
opts for the choice, that chooses to practice
monogamy– and it may change. It may be 10, 15
years of something and then another 15
years of something else; it’s really not static– is a
relationship in which people understand the erotic
freedom of the other person and decides together what
will be a line that we will create about that freedom? That means that
you have memories. That means that you may
have your own fantasies. That means that sometimes
you may flirt with people. That means that you may
not flirt with people. That means that you may have
friendships with the people from the other sex. You’re asking about
straight couples here, or all couples that
are monogamous. AUDIENCE: I only care about
the straight couples, but yeah. [LAUGHTER] ESTHER PEREL: Because the
friendship with the other sex is different in the
same-sex couples. That’s why I’m going to
make the distinction. But basically , the first thing
I would say is that hetero couples who have good monogamous
relationships are couples who have talked about it. They didn’t just assume it. They’ve negotiated it,
and their negotiation was a little more than just “I
catch you, and you’re dead,” which is the
majority conversation in most straight couples. The only time straight
couples talk about this stuff is after the shit hits
the fan, when there’s a crisis, when I suddenly
discover I have herpes that I wasn’t meant to have,
when I suddenly discover a slew of texts in your
phone that [INAUDIBLE], et cetera, et cetera. So the first thing is,
it’s a conversation. It’s a conversation
when things aren’t good. It’s a conversation that doesn’t
invite the other person to lie. And that tells you
that– because we can complain about the
other person being a liar, but we sometimes need
to check to what degree am I a lying invitee, right? I set it up in such a
way that you’re never going to tell me the truth. Third, I respect that your
entire sexuality– that doesn’t mean the act of sex, but
your entire erotic world– doesn’t belong to me
because we are married. You are still a sovereign,
autonomous person. Fourth, there is
permission– very much what Dan said– to
recognize that you may have desires, attractions,
crushes for other people, and it isn’t instantly
translated as “I’m not enough.” And it is revisited over
time, and it’s that. And it’s couples who maintain
a good erotic connection with each other,
which has nothing to do with how often they
have sex, how many orgasms they have, how hard, how long. It’s really a way of
being with each other that makes them remain adult,
sexualized people, which is different from family. You can become
monogamous in the family, and often that also
becomes a kiss of death because really, if
your head is screwed up when on your shoulders, you
do not want sex in the family. Your partner is not your mama,
your daddy, your best friend. Your partner is your
partner, and that ability to see them as other is
essential to the maintaining of an erotic connection in
a monogamous relationship. Yeah? DAN SAVAGE: Yeah. ESTHER PEREL: Good start? DAN SAVAGE: That’s
a great start. Usually, people would define the
98th percentile, the best case scenario, as two people
made a monogamous commitment and honored it. They never fucked
anybody else, ever, and they got to be together 50
years and dropped dead one day. And that’s the marriage
victory finish line. Somebody dies. ESTHER PEREL: But Dan,
sex doesn’t start just when you fuck. DAN SAVAGE: No, I agree. I completely agree. I’m just being
intentionally reductive. I’m being a jerk on purpose. But that– you can say– if I
told you there was this couple and one cheated on the other,
the other cheated on the other, and they were together
35 years, and there was a handful of
infidelities, and there’s this couple together 50 years,
and neither ever cheated on each other, which is the
successful– going off that, which is the
successful relationship and the successful marriage? And everyone’s going
to say, without asking for any additional information,
the 50-year, perfectly executed monogamy. That’s the loving, committed,
successful relationship. OK, alcoholism, physical
violence, child abuse, and on, and on, and on
in this relationship, not in that relationship. Now which one’s the
more successful? I just think that it’s
reductive to hold up monogamy as the most important measure
of love, commitment, or success. But to answer your question,
what would it look like? It would look like
two people who made a monogamous
commitment and didn’t cheat. And a lot of people think
they’re in that relationship and are not. ESTHER PEREL: No, no. I’m sorry. For me, monogamous
doesn’t just mean– the idea is not just how
not to break the rules and not how now to
violate the trust. It is also how to be
together as an erotic couple. It’s not enough not just– DAN SAVAGE: And doing
everything that you talked about makes successfully executing a
monogamous commitment likelier, by giving each other
permission to desire others but not act on that
desire, not policing each other’s sexuality
or erotic life entirely, not regarding pornography when
discovered as an infidelity or as evidence of an
impending infidelity, or defining it as cheating,
or getting on a cam show once or twice, or whatever
else technology’s made possible for us. The more strict and insane your
definitions of cheating are, the likelier you are
to be cheated on. You want the lowest
bar definition of cheating if you want
to be less likely to cheat or be cheated on, of course. [INAUDIBLE] Sorry. LOGAN URY: I think you
were waiting for a while. AUDIENCE: Yes, I am. So I guess I had one
question regarding the discussion on sex ed. So I guess in a way, it almost
comes as a surprise to me that we need sex ed now
with the internet in place. Empirically, obviously,
there’s a terrible case for that because for example,
as Dan brought up earlier, there’s this result that says if
people get abstinence-only sex education, then it does
measurably take them longer to start having sex. So basically, clearly we do
have some degree of influence. But I guess– I don’t know. In my own personal case, when I
was 12, I found “Savage Love,” and that was a big part of
how this development happened. So what would you say
about– essentially, should we expect that people
will– because of tools like the internet, start
to develop this stuff more independently? DAN SAVAGE: You would
think that the availability of so much really good sex
ed online– not just “Savage Love,” but all these other
sites– Planned Parenthood sites, Scarlet Teen. There’s a lot of great sex
ed information out there. But we also have kids growing
up in a really sex-negative culture that puts
it in their heads that if they go looking
for that information that they’re dirty sex
monsters and there’s something wrong with them, and
there’s virtue in ignorance, and there’s virtue in
sex happening naturally and impulsively. If you lose control, that
means there’s so much love, passion there,
and it sort of exonerates you for the dirty
thing of having the sex. So the intentionality,
the planning of it, the thinking about it
in advance for a lot of kids is the barrier to accessing
the information that seems so easily accessible. ESTHER PEREL: This
is so important. Really, listen to this. DAN SAVAGE: I have a
17-year-old son, right? And we were hyper
about sex ed with him. And particularly, a
young teenage man, a boy, in this country, also
particularly very hyper about consent and what it
meant and what it looked like, and that’s something
they do not teach in sex ed because that’s basically
teaching young people how to talk people into fucking you. How do you get to yes? What does a yes look like? What does a no look like? And what does an
implied no look like? Very important. And all of my
conversations with my son, he did not want to have. I know that. We don’t have to
talk about that. But I couldn’t know that he
knew that because I knew that he would tell me he knew it because
he wanted me to stop talking to him about sex, so I had
to have those conversations with him whether he
wanted to have them or not, and whether he needed
me to have them with him or not because I couldn’t know for sure
that he didn’t actually know. So I made an outline,
and I was like, “Here are the things
we’re going to talk about. The more you fight
this conversation, the longer it takes.” And so we had those talks. But kids are really
inhibited about seeking. You would think– particularly,
people in this room probably are seekers of
information and ran out there and accessed it even
as young people. And a lot of young people–
particularly young women and girls– that they will–
they slut shame themselves in advance of seeking the
information they may need. LOGAN URY: I think you two
should pair up and teach a sex ed class online. That’d make a lot of people– DAN SAVAGE: But then we
have to compel people. That’s why we need the national
standard in actual sex ed curriculum, and we can’t even
have a national curriculum about geography
without the right wing shitting its pants every day. ESTHER PEREL: Here’s
two things that you don’t get when you go
online, and it’s also a problem with the sex
education, that is. Sex education as I
know it, everybody’s in the class at the same time. It’s not the boys
get their education, the girls get their education. That’s number one. Second of all, you
learn to relate. You learn to listen
to the nuances. The problem of the whole
debate about consent is that it’s become– it’s
part of a culture that has lost the ability
to read nuances and to travel ambiguities. Relationships are ambiguous. They’re not fuck/no,
in/out, yes/no. Life is not like that in the
extremes in the relationship, and that you do not
get from a screen. LOGAN URY: So we have time– DAN SAVAGE: And
the other thing– a quick point about sex ed being
mandatory and across the board is that we can be really
proactive about educating our kids about sex, but our kids
aren’t going to sleep only with other people’s– the kids
of other parents who are hyperactive about
educating their kids. It’s the stirring into
the general population of kids who know
nothing about sex that imperils all of our
kids, whether they have good or decent some
sex education or not. LOGAN URY: So we have time
for one more question, and then I don’t want to
miss out on book signing in the back, so go for it. AUDIENCE: So when
you think about it and rationalize the idea of no
more monogamy, it makes sense. However, the
feelings and emotions do not follow, with being
wired by the society to feel bad about
it over decades. So how do you cut
the wire and make emotions match the thoughts,
and how was the process for you? DAN SAVAGE: You’re referring
to jealousy, particularly? AUDIENCE: Yeah, and other
feelings [INAUDIBLE]. DAN SAVAGE: People often
say, we get conversations about non-monogamy
or monogamish-amy or whatever, they bring up
jealousy as a disqualifier somehow, that these
feelings of jealousy mean that we shouldn’t have
this kind of relationship, or I’m incapable of having
this kind of relationship, or that because there’s
jealousy within our relationship that we as a couple obviously
can’t be non-monogamous. I don’t think every
couple needs to be, or should be, or would be
happier being non-monogamous. I’m not prescriptive about it. But it has been my experience
that processing that jealousy and talking it out
and working through it is how we demonstrated
to each other that this was the
right model for us, that we were capable
of doing this. So it was in the handling of
this thing that a lot of people think is some sort of
disqualifying kryptonite that we developed the
emotional tools, and really the connection,
to do this thing. So I don’t think
jealousy as an emotion and as an experience means
you can’t or shouldn’t do it. It’s how you process
that and how you handle It. And it’s case specific. For some people, jealousy is
too powerful, and too strong, and too destabilizing,
and too risky, and so maybe a
non-monogamous thing isn’t the best idea for you– not
the best idea for you now. The first four years of my
relationship with Terry, we were strictly
monogamous because he was very, very jealous
and a little insecure about everything and about it. But who he is now is
very different from who he was 21 years ago. The relationship
is now old enough to drink in all 50 states. ESTHER PEREL: But
differently, maybe, for me– if I have a position, it’s
that we need multiple models. We need something that
breathes, and that’s alive, and that changes and thrives. And if for you you say
“I like one person,” if there’s no passion,
generally it’s monogamous. Passion doesn’t share well. It’s after. When you’re passionate,
you love single-mined. You’re very, very
focused on one person. And when you have had lots
of insecurity in your life and massive trauma in
your life, sometimes it makes you want to
just have somebody that is there for you that’s
reliable, stable, secure, and you do not want
to have to deal with the unknown of multiples. We have lots of
different pieces of us that come to this
question, and the goal is not for you to try to see
how can I be non-monogamous. If your nature, if
your sensibility is one that is more single,
stay like this if you like it, if it works for you. If one day you change, then
go accordingly to that. Don’t align yourself
with an ideology. The problem of the conversation
of open/close monogamy is that it becomes very quickly
ideological and fractured and polarized. I don’t think that’s right. I think we need a conversation. Monogamy has evolved all along. I think that premarital sex was
an inconceivably thing not too long ago, and today having
sex inside the relationship with others is to some
people inconceivable, but it is the same line. It all happened because somebody
democratized contraception, by the way. Without that, we wouldn’t
be having this conversation. So you stay true to your
sensibility and to your– DAN SAVAGE: While recognizing
your sensibility may change, and what’s working for
you now may be something you need to revisit
later, and you have that ability and that
power to revisit later. This gets me into trouble with
the non-monogamy proselytizers when I say this. But in my– all anecdotal
but tons of mail and tons of eyewitness
stuff– in my experience, the relationships that were
non-monogamous out of the gate usually don’t “succeed.” And we can argue what’s
the definition of success in a relationship. Together until you’re both
dead or ’til one of you is dead is the idea. If you’re together for three
months, six months, two years, 10 years, 20 years, and
you part and you both learned, your both grew,
there’s still affection there, it was a low-conflict
relationship, and you both survived it, I
think those relationships also have to be regarded as
successful relationships. But if what you want is
a long-term commitment, someone by your side long
haul– in my experience, and borne out by the
mail and borne out by what I’ve seen
in my communities, is the ones that are
non-monogamous that first week aren’t long-haul relationships–
not necessarily unsuccessful, but not long-haul. LOGAN URY: That’s
all we have time for, but thank you so much. This was a fascinating
conversation. [APPLAUSE]

100 thoughts on “Dan Savage & Esther Perel: “Love, Marriage & Monogamy” | Talks at Google

  1. camshows; another patriarchal way of exploring the boundaries of monogamy. i would NEVER want to be with someone who thought those were a turn-on. smutty as hell.

  2. What I wonder is why is it that we need marriage? Let me clarify what I mean. What is it that we specifically need to keep about marriage? If you think about that for a little while, what is marriage really. It is a celebrational ceremony tradition to a varied degree, it is a public and formal declaration of would-be commitment, it is the presumption that the two now married people will have family usually.

    But what do we need marriage for?

    For one a celebrational tradition is really an excuse to throw a lavish party with your loved ones, family, friends and relatives. What makes it different from a birthday party other than the theme, connotation and emotional attachment? Nothing. I mean it certainly does nothing for the relationship so it is clearly not about that. It is fun and who doesn't love a party, but why then and not a week later? What is stopping you?

    What about the formality? Will a formal piece of paper change your relationship? In some countries you get tax benefits which is preferable treatment and that may be compelling, but I doubt that is why people marry per say. And even more than that though this formality or these preferable treatment policies do nothing to maintain the relationship.

    Commitment? Well wouldn't you already say that you were pretty committed to your partner and your relationship a day before the marriage ceremony. Certainly marriage is a formality of what your relationship already is. It won't make it better, it won't make it worse, everything coming with or without was always already there; maybe just not actively present. But whatever wonderful and terrible things you discover in your partner was always already there, marriage didn't do that, our lives circumstances did.

    So what do you need marriage for?

  3. Very interesting conversation. One thing that I felt was an elephant in the room that they were both passing over was in saying that hetero couples could take a page from homosexual couples and be more open to non-monogamy. Its a very different conversation among the two groups because pregnancy is a non-issue for homosexual couples. Birth control and condoms don't always work and abortion goes against the values of some heterosexual couples, therefore it's a much more complex issue.

  4. Wtf..if u want to sleep with other people why even date or marry one person.. Seriously this is Shit. When I am single, yes sex becomes a desire, a test, a play an adventures. But when I'm in love and in a healthy relationship I want only one person. Sex becomes more of a communication than just a desire. It becomes a language, where u express your love to ur partner. Yes u can get tired over time, but why would I want to fuck someone else? When there's only one that I love..what's the point. I want to be loyal and evolve myself with my partner.

  5. I find so much value in this content. The premise that we are setting people up for failure in how we educate people on monogamist relationships.

  6. I find very interesting the shier AMOUNT of hate Dan Savage gets for his stance on monogamy and his stance on sex-ed. And how many people say "But Esther Perel isn't like that". Also how americans drag politics and stamp the label of political view on everyone's core self. "Dan Savage is a left-wing communist that is why he has these views."

    But Esther Perel has mostly the same views. Very few differences and where differences appear they are in fact things of nuance rather than principle. Esther just has a different way of presenting her views, a more elegant approach. But I guess it just goes to show you that humans are in no way rational, analytical individuals.

  7. They do agree on some fundamentals, but I think they diverge when it comes to monogamy.  Dan made it clear right away that he does not believe in monogamy, that monogamy has failed us. He didn’t specify, but it sounds like he differentiates between romantic monogamy and sexual monogamy.  In that area, from everything I have read and heard from Esther Perel, she disagrees to some extent.  She tries to help couples quell those curiosities and to revamp their desires within their monogamous relationships.

  8. Why this presumption toward longer relationships? Maybe the most common response to a changing society will be shorter relationships? Aren't they both defensively presuming that what should survive is marriage-like relationships even if monogamy must be sacrificed for that goal?? Isn't the reality that more and shorter relationships will better meet people's needs?

  9. Love the expression of the Google Bot's face at the 45:00 mark when the speakers ask Google to shut down for an instant. Her face says, "This is not on brand – what do I do?!"

  10. I submit very humbly the following: We are on a subject which, is one of the most beautiful and greatest blessings to us from the Almighty. I feel there is much much more in it than what s being said, discussed or debated. We seem to have over-looked individual sensitivity to the aspect of relationships between human beings – the single word 'relationship' produces volumes and volumes of material. Every individual is Gods most unique creation – each child and individual must be allowed her/his space to experience and act in harmony with Her/His design. Aurobindo Mukerji.

  11. i don't care much for Dan referring to all conservatives as stiffs, as if he knows us all on a personal basis. smh
    im probably more open and kinkier with my girl then most ''liberals'' today.

  12. More liberal ''know it all'' bullshit. fuck everyone, it's fine, the jealousy of having your husband or wife being railed into the fabric of some strangers bed won't bother you at all, it's good for the relationship. :))))))))) lmfao liberals are deluded.
    You know what would really spice up your sex life, an audio of your wife moaning while some guy is ramming his cock in her ass!
    Have fun! Or your husband getting blown by some girl at work!

  13. This Dan guy is the closest thing to human excretion, a sewer rat…who is this piece of work and who actually listens to his crap..man this world is getting worse by the minute.

  14. "in the US sex is the risk factor. In Europe, irresponsibility is the risk factor" – Esther Perel. She's an amazingly knowledgeable speaker! She shares so many facts and statistics and shares such interesting observations.

  15. Ester Peril is light years ahead of 99 percent of us. Her views are progressive and REAL. This guy is gay,, he is all about that– Bad pairing here.

  16. Esther Perel is a brilliant and amazing human. Her perspectives and insights are relevant in a way that embraces the dilemmas of our evolving sexuality. She understands the beauty of love and its ideals and the continued striving to achieve it. I adore her and she inspires me to be a better version of myself. I am in love with her body of work. She is a woman I embrace as part of my tribe!!

  17. It’s so weird that people are arguing in the comments about the two speakers, because after watching this in full, i clearly see that the two speakers are saying the same thing. This isn’t a debate, it’s a “talk.” A bunch of you in the comment section are jaded off the minor differences or off the personal bias you hold on the topic, but it’s pretty clear that for the most part these two speakers are saying the exact same thing. Their perspectives are about as different as I’d expect them to be given that they come from different backgrounds, countries, as well as having sexual preferences.

    TL;DR: monogamy, in relation to its contemporary definition, is trash, but if two people want to commit to obeying traditional practices, that’s their choice.

    STL;SDR: Open your mind, think for yourself.

  18. These comments tell a lot about the commenters and often less about the speakers. you can hear fear, outrage, judgment and limiting thoughts throughout. Very interesting. I love Esther. Her wisdom is exquisite.

  19. I really appreciate this conversation but please Dan Savage stop acting juvenile with the *unk word…. I would listen to more of what he puts out if he completely didn't over use the usage of that F… word. Maybe he needs to give this a thought…. Ordered both of Esther Perel's audio books. I actually ended watching this 1 /3 through as I can't listen to Dan any more.

  20. I disagree with the 'bringing home leftovers' comment. To my experience, it's more about not having to wear the masks society demands of us, when we're at home with our partner. I also disagree with the 'dressing up' part. Sure it's nice to dress-up once in a while and go out on a date, but I find my partner much more attractive in pj's and fuzzy slippers than I do in sparkly evening wear lol. Another thing I want to comment on would be the different 'faces' that we all have and the people we show them to. I am aware that my partner acts differently around different people and gets some emotional fulfillment this way. I enjoy watching these interactions when I can, because it's another aspect of my partner's personality to explore and one of the reasons I fell in love with them. You shouldn't be in a relationship if you aren't happy with your partner when they're in home-body mode and ideally, by the time you've entered into a relationship that involves any level of commitment, you will have already seen most of your partners different faces and be comfortable with them. All in all, it was a great presentation and I do think that monogamy is unrealistic for most people, so don't make that promise if you can't keep it. Talk honestly about sex and infidelity with your potential partner before starting a 'serious' relationship. Understand what each of you need and expect and decide then whether to keep going. Even if you've been in a relationship for a while and then start to feel the need for some change, discuss it with your partner and work something out, or leave. Don't start cheating. One of the worst the worst things you can do in life is live a lie.

  21. Guys make my sick. Guys have worked hard for thousands of years terrorizing, killing beating, raping women and demonizing them and their sexuality and THEN they want to play dumb and pretend to not know why women are hesitant about sex.

    Guys complain about women being mommy all the time, but refuse to pick up the slack with the kids.

    Guys have all the power they need to get the sex they supposedly want. But really, they are scared shitless of having a society full of sexually liberated women. I don't feel bad for any of them with regard to any sexual dissatisfaction they claim to have or do have.

  22. What a foul-mouthed wretch that man is! His life is obviously centered around his genitals. What an embarrassment. And, how disrespectful to Esther Perel! She must have been disgusted, as I was, listening to him. Being betrayed by the one who is supposed to love, respect and protect you from harm is absolute anguish, and leaves permanent psychological damage. It is never justified. If you find that you are about to betray the person who loves and trusts you, have respect enough for them, and you, to get out of the relationship first. Then, do as your gonads wish.

  23. He talks just about to be flexible and fuck more people, She try to make people understand that adventure can be even within long term relationship/monogamy.

  24. Dan Savage basically advocates his point of view on every subject–his way is the correct way and everyone else is wrong. I also totally disagree with him on his views on sex education for children. While I do think it should be taught in schools, I think that Dan's preferred curriculum of teaching kids the options of masturbating together (if they're younger), all the options open to them, such as anal sex, fellatio, etc. is really crossing the line and not at all appropriate.

  25. This guy is a total loser he's sitting up there onstage only trying to defend and brainwash his opinions on this topic to make himself feel better about being a big fat cheater

  26. Two people get married, they are led to believe in a house, children, a host of gadgets and labour saving devices, holidays etc etc. then there is the woman's idea of what she wants for the children toys, horses and pets.
    Now imagine you are the male, houses are going up jobs are getting hard to find. You want to tell your wife what we hoped for is not going to be possible but you keep trying, borrow money and eventually you are over burdened and oppressed by debt. How can a marriage survive that.

  27. Divorce rates are so high I am avoiding marriage and in many cases relationships. Only ones I'll hold up are of family and friends at this rate.

  28. Love to listening to Esther, so graceful and great in explaining female mind, psychology. Could listen to her for hours.

  29. Dan you have a good message, but some of the word choice limits what many will hear. Public forms of communication and speech should be considerate to all potential populations. It’s kinda like you lost me at the first hello, if you know what I mean. Just a suggestion so all of your audience might benefit from your message.

  30. They make some good points, like a decreasingly degenerative society over the last few decades/century, like serial-monogamy Western world, and a decline in everything that once had meaning while being substituted for anything that provides pleasure, which paves the way for more negative trends in the future–and if you cant beat em, join em they suggest.

    Also, like any other commentator, they simply define how they think the world accommodate this trend, but not in any objective way, but rather via their own worldview (if I cheat, or know lots of people that do, then everyone else should), oftentimes resorting to using hyper-liberal/degraded Europe as the role-model, simply citing stats to support their viewpoints.
    Doesn't hurt that shes an eloquent, deep-thinking, likable, wealthy, Torrey criticizing America. Where are the videos from couples that have been married 80 years that show couples can last happily for lifetimes without all the modern garbage?

    The worst part is that by making a comment, I am causing this video to appear higher/more often in youtube search results–so thereby, controversial ideas, which are generally either very lib or conserv, are going to get more exposure; but esp so on the lib or "trendy" side. This way we can guarantee that even youtube will always push the envelope, as any PR, is good PR.

    I could create a completely opposite viewpoint to their video myself. Give me the most votes on this and I will create it myself (maybe just audio?).

    Was also disappointing to see yet another repeated bashing of opposing viewpoints. Anyone surprised that america is heading towards Civil War #2? Pew and newspapers agree.



  31. What a shame, how can she chose Dan as a partner? As much as I love to listen to Esther, I hope Dan could shut his mouth! He is drag down Esther there. She can do better without him!

  32. I really like esther's sensible and physchology explanations… she seems to put pieces together to create a big picture of where we are at today and how we have evolved.. I wonder if she is an INFJ… I also do appreciate Dan's take and perspective.. I may not agree 100% on everything he says.. I do however feel he is a well spoken on this matter and has a interesting perspective and can understand where he is coming from and find plenty to learn from him as well.

  33. I agree about .64 concept, but I value monogamy. I want that in my life, but not just for monogamy's sake. I value my partner and only want that person sexually, and only trust her sexually, and I don't think I'd feel excited or fulfilled by someone else if I were to go there.

  34. this is mind shifting! thought provoking. I love when she said that the mother vs the sexy woman shifts the hormones accordingly.. so true.

  35. Hmmm … who wants to have to use condoms with his long time partner and be afraid of kisses because of possible infections? Anyway, i think there are some good reasons for committed monogamy. And if that's not possible, please be fair, honest and tell your partner immediately.

  36. I am sure this must have been covered but is there a reason why this host and his guests have to wear huge headsets and microphone stalks as if they have just jumped out of helicopter. It does not seem to result in good sound quality in the guest and potentially distracts . Anything wrong with a discreet top quality lapel mic? Oh and by the way, not complaining keep up with the great show and guests. Respect

  37. The producers chose two people already in "violent agreement", where Esther represents the academic side, and Dan the real-world experience with the extremely important cultural impact. I have a hard time finding where they disagree. And yet so many are pointing out that Esther is "classy" and "a brilliant researcher", while Dan is "vulgar" and a "nobody". Instead of actually taking a dig at what he is saying, people are taking a dig at his lack of MDs, DPhils, Psy.Ds. I call it BS, and an ad-hominem attack. It's because what they are BOTH saying is controversial (don't choose monogamy by default, but consciously, if you do choose it), that people are comparing the speakers not on content, but on style. Vulgar Dan, has the temerity to utter the f-word, in front of poor Esther! People don't even actively agree with Esther – merely call her "classy" and "eloquent"! Seriously this glorification of a research degree, and utter willingness to dismiss a talker based on how he says something, and his background, rather than what he says, bothers me.

  38. The summary of his speech is that those who still are in monogamous relationships are missing out. He's "not prescriptive" but even if you're monogamous now " it's okay if you change your mind one day". Shows no respect for the fact that some people still hold those outdated values…we should all have gay style sex. disgusting speech

  39. when i get an email in a certain colour with a certain topic. i listen to the introductory line which means you didnt get my concentration-i dismiss thats why UNISA worked correspondence. on topics of love,lust,or just maybe avoidance of the topic "'gay"". many countries regard it as a sin some have punitive systems. then their is aids. i do not respond well with this number 666 or Pres Mandela prison number 46664 as i regard it as a big question mark.this xfactor or aids cell i saw today again. some intellectual left me with a question. no its not an ape,or a black.it also not punishment on gays. this reasoning is found in the immune system. it was always said the strongest immune systems are from black people. i was asked what i remembered after brain frying it was a french doctor not from africa. then there is the movie the musician pianist thats black was asked if he wants the budai -pointing to a longdrop. so hell to whom.on love i choose kahlil gibran and his beliefs,it touched my heart when was young.so where its 8min,80,800 ect i dont go along with that. a man who walked slowly years ago with some application knows. i am human and not immune.

  40. I love both of these speakers! They both make very valid points and I have become a better communicator because of them! Thank you so much guys! 🤗😘😇🐙

  41. How come we can never get the opinions of hetersexual people about heterosexual sex? 2 boys. CHILD ABUSE

    No feminism on 4 yr olds

  42. We Can Still Be Monogamous

    Just because we are predisposed to non-monogamy doesn't mean we can't uphold it! What it really comes down to is letting go of trying to have our cake and eat it too – something will always be sacrificed. I'm all for whatever line a couple agrees to draw together as long as they acknowledge that all three of the below factors must be addressed if we are to move from Y.E.S. to NO on cheating.

    That is:
    1. Yearning (Desire) 
    Basically people that are feeling like they're not getting enough of something and being ignored.

    2. Entitlement (Permission)
    Like telling yourself that it's okay giving yourself permission. Even somebody thinking that they have every right to do it even though their partner disagrees.

    3. Supply (Availability)
    Would be all this new technology linking all of us together making it much easier to communicate. that can even be someone that's good looking and it's just easy for them.

  43. I love you Esther, however, I am possibly an anomaly in that I am very much into seeing my partner, especially a man turned on, and letting go. I believe it comes from the fact that in many ways, men in our society have not had the tools to be emotional and vulnerable. It is this state of being i love to see in my partner. I want to be a conduit to his pleasure. I am not referring to long-term lovers only.

  44. He is easyer to understand cuz he hasent learned the "phd-language" that she lernd. On the level of knowleg they are equal. Often I find ppl with higher education to be not more or less then someone with a standard education, but they have learnd to speak in the language of the universitys. And i think that that is dangerus cuz it creats sepreation insted of growing together…

  45. Why don't they say its wrong and people cheat because they are weak and programmed to cheat by media, the desire are always there but humans need to fights for eachother love and commitment. The statistic is only done in Western cultures. What about Islamic and other cultures that turns away from this Hollywood fantasy porn fake love and affair programming. What we watch is what we can become. Stay away from lustful movies and lustful media concepts, and you will not fall into infidelity. Why? because you will fight infidelity with your honor and love for one another. Be ready always and alert for the sake of your wife or husband. Don't follow the stupid media and stop watching these psychologist who really don't want to challenge every one to stop what they are doing and practice self control. Stop watching, listening and concentrate on your partner needs. Very simple but we make it so hard.

  46. Sound like these two are making infidelity a normal thing to do. They are desensitizing people to believe that cheating is bad but ok.
    When people cheat they don't feel alive they feel guilty. Reprogramming the mind will not do. Humans need to stay in a monogamy relationship and use self control. Look at the history of mandkind. People raped and took woman whomever they pleased in the beginning. There was violence, death over the lustful temptations, marriage was then made so that people would not spread jealousy confusion and disease to another person and would not be taking care of another mans child. People need to stop and focus on self control instead of feeling free and alive, because that feeling of being alive will cause seperation death confusion and disease and un- wanted pregnancy, which is happening more and more in our society. Tell people is wrong and straight to the point. Tell people that they can control their minds and focus on the partners they feel in love with years ago. They feel alive then, they can still feel alive now. I have been married for 12 years and my focus has always been towards my wife, and I will always traine my mind to enjoy her and her only. If I can do it and I am horny as hell, then others can. No excuse for cheating period!

  47. So the solution to cheating is to make cheating ok?

    I think there has to be a better way because this is a recipe for disaster.

    The results of such "modern" thinking have been eroding or society.

    And Islam is coming.

  48. In Perel's country of origin, almost half of all births are out of wedlock. She's a total hypocrite to lecture us about sex Ed. In Denmark where it's even more liberal the majority of births are out of wedlock.

  49. 39:54 – "What turns her on is to be the turn on." — Esther Perel

    39:54 – "What turns her on is to be the turn on, and that's the big secret of female sexuality is that it is massively narcissistic. It's the opposite of the caring for others, of feeling responsible for others. If she can think about herself, then she can be into it. And in order to think about herself, she then needs to like herself. Hence, she can't be in a critical voice. That's the perfection piece. If she starts to think about everything about her that is not good enough, that she doesn't like, she will shut herself off. Before you ask a woman if she will make love to a man or to another woman, ask a woman if she would make love to herself. If she doesn't want to make love to herself, she won't let anybody else do it either, and that's where the perfection piece comes in. That voice is harder for her to extinguish because it is more self-reflexive than it is for him." — Esther Perel


    #Netfriending Show Topic:

  50. maybe i just haven't fucked enough, but saying no was never an issue if i was in a relationship. i agree with 95% of what Dan says about everything, but that one thing i just can't get over in my gut. it's not hard to not fuck other people when you are with someone.

  51. People cheat on themselves by demeaning , and devaluing their "spoken Love" for a partner they want to use sexually. they are liars .. they have zero integrity .and are fools not worth listening to. A fool in his own mind is wiser than a hundred others who have wisdom. They lose on life and harm everyone except those who have no integrity , no personal respect or value of life . ..no respect for their thoughts or actions . Period.

  52. 23 minutes in and little to no emphasis on the consequences of successful sex being life perpetuated. This fundamental element of our existence is taken for granted. Fleeting pleasure should not be more important than the great potential for life being created and subsequently neglected. This is paramount regarding our development and value perception. Such a selfish culture.

  53. Adultery perhaps allows ego to be transcended. The betrayal of expectations if dealt with maturely will result in growing naturally.

  54. Our sense of security often tethers on this prophecy of self being fulfilled. True liberty is not needing security in the physical realm.

  55. The real trouble is so many are all about themselves while loathing themselves and this is projected from stagnated individuals. Rebuke, be compassionate, honest, and accountable. Without taking the position of a victim there's no assailant.

  56. I would really like to hear her elaborate on a lie invite. That's the problem when you pass the buck. That's a double standard. We should all be held to the same standard ultimately. I don't take responsibility personally for another's conclusion of a weaker stance. Get off your mother's tit is what I say to that.

  57. I might add that the focus on Sex has a big part to do with the desire. Sex is a constant influence in our life and not easy to resist.
    Where the focus is on sports, business or other interests women seem more frequently able to lose desire for sexual contentment in exchange for activities and events that may not include a spouse. To the degree that appreciation for sex is no longer a common interest in the marriage.

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