DAN SAVAGE: Over the past several years, I have both admired and disagreed with your challenges to the queer groups in Seattle, but your use of my personal life in a recent article ["Butt Out," Dec 16] is repugnant and libelous. You made things up, Dan. I now have a lot of explaining to do to friends, lovers, colleagues, and family because you manipulated the very few quotes of mine in The Seattle Times to make me into something I am not.
You write that in "The Seattle Times... Eric Hildebrandt admitted he doesn't always use condoms in bathhouses." I did not say that, and was never quoted as saying that. What the Times article did say was that whenever any gay man, including myself, is in a potential sexual situation, part of our thoughts about sex with that guy switch[es] "into a mental risk-benefit analysis." This does not mean that the analysis always yields the decision to have unprotected sex.
Although I am quoted in Warren King's article as acknowledging that I "sometimes [defy] that message" of safe sex, he failed to mention in what circumstances I have chosen to go condomless. He, and you, failed to discuss the vital distinction between unsafe, anonymous sex and unprotected sex between primary partners. How do you know with whom, and in what situations, I have unprotected sex? King's article made no mention of it. And I never got one single phone call from you to find out. Had you bothered to reach me, you could have gotten your own quotes for the story, instead of relying on someone else's work.
One last thing: You mention that I love "to go to a bathhouse and have [my] ass filled with a complete stranger's semen." This is a lie. Not only has this never happened, I have no "desire" for it. Until the day you watch me being fucked at Club Seattle, please keep your fantasies to yourself. I don't want your shoddy journalism to ruin my well-earned reputation in this town of being exclusively a top.
Eric Hildebrandt, Seattle
DAN SAVAGE RESPONDS: Hildebrandt was held up as an example of someone who doesn't always use condoms when he has anal sex in Warren King's story in The Seattle Times, and it was heavily implied that Hildebrandt engages in unprotected anal sex with guys he meets in, well, just about any place, including bathhouses. (See for yourself: King's original piece can be read on the Times website: www.seattletimes.com.) King leads his story by saying that Hildebrandt goes into a "risk-benefit analysis" mode when he meets guys in bathhouses, bars, and at parties, before making a decision about whether or not to have unprotected sex. There was no mention, even in passing, of Hildebrandt only engaging in unsafe sex with his "primary partner," as Hildebrandt implies he does in his letter (although he doesn't clearly state that that's the case).
As for "lies" about Hildebrandt's desires, I drew reasonable conclusions in my analysis based on an accurate reading of the Times piece, and wrote my commentary accordingly. It was reasonable to conclude that anyone "indulging in unprotected sex" (King's words) in a bathhouse (the unmistakable implication of King's piece) is having unprotected anal sex, and it is also reasonable to conclude that the person is as likely to be a bottom as a top.
Ultimately, the piece I wrote had little to do with Eric Hildebrandt. It was about public health dollars subsidizing gay men's social lives, and the subsequent public scrutiny this funding scheme invites. Hildebrandt found public scrutiny of his private life offensive, a sentiment I share. If in the future Hildebrandt wants to avoid having his private life scrutinized in detail, then he should refrain from discussing it with reporters.
EDITORS: I found Dan Savage's "Butt Out" article quite interesting. Savage blasts Gay City for accepting public health money to combat HIV, yet fails to recognize that tobacco use kills more gay men than HIV, homicide, suicide, guns, car accidents, alcohol, and other drugs combined. In the December 1999 American Journal of Public Health, researchers found that gay and bisexual men have prevalence rates of smoking of 40 percent. That's nearly double that of the straight population! What is even more interesting is that Savage's article was surrounded by full-page tobacco ads! Talk about "calling the kettle black"! Gay City is attempting to improve the health of gay men; however, The Stranger seems to have the desire to kill them by accepting thousands of dollars of tobacco money.
Elise Lindborg, West Seattle
EDITOR: Dan Savage argues that by accepting public health money, gay organizations invite public scrutiny of gay men's private lives. Back in August, 1994, I wrote an article in The Quill, a gay Libertarian publication, making exactly the point that Savage now makes. It is nice to see that the keepers of the gay orthodoxy are finally getting it.
David J. Edmondson, Alexandria, Virginia
MR. SAVAGE: I am a gay man in Seattle, and I just read your article entitled "Butt Out." I applaud your honesty. Terrific writing; I loved it. It's about damn time somebody said something about it. Keep up the good work!
Craig Church, via voice mail
DEAR EDITOR, I'm writing concerning Alexandra Holly-Gottlieb's article ["High School Relationships," In Other News, Dec 16]. I wish to clarify some of the information. We did not write about "teachers sexually harassing kids," but how sometimes close, [friendly relationships] can go too far. The teacher the article referred to is now on administrative leave, causing another upheaval in our already-chaotic school. While Holly-Gottlieb's article is mostly correct, it paints a poor picture of what The Messenger is trying to do. Our paper does indeed "tackle big issues," but your article implies that our advisor [David Ehrich] is being a power-hungry prick. In actuality, he is protecting himself and our paper's ethical standards. It's not the job of any paper to report on rumors -- we must keep an objective [point of] view. (Hint, hint.)
Jenni Conrad, News Editor, The Messenger, Garfield High School student
KATHLEEN WILSON: After reading [your] last two articles ["See Something Different!" and "You Don't Own Me," Excellent, Dec 9], I've realized you're pissed off in general -- which is great. I don't always agree with your views, but appreciate the honesty. It's about time someone who writes for a paper that people actually read speaks up about the whack Seattle music scene. There is a pretty solid punk scene still here that NEVER gets any props. Clubs like Zak's and Gibson's have some of the best shows in the city, from the Vaccines to Hog Molly (Tad's band). I loved the "See Something Different!" article, but you may want to go somewhere different, too. You should check us out sometime -- our band is called Fumundah; we play at all the unreputable clubs in Seattle, [and we've] been at it for 10 years.
Fumundah, via e-mail
DEAR STRANGER: Oh, for Christ's sake. Beck's a racist? [CD Review Revue, Dec 16.] Try class clown! The humorless Erin Franzman has, like Everett True before her, managed to turn a simple album review into a cranky personal axe-grinder. Midnite Vultures doesn't degrade or mock African Americans. It mocks STUPID Americans. Americans who buy into a FUBU-wearin', McDonald's-mackin', forever booty-chasin', corporate-sponsored universe promoted by MTV and inhabited by whites, Asians, and Hispanics AS WELL as blacks. That Ms. Franzman ascribes this kind of junk culture to black people only betrays a kind of racism on her part. From the hilarious funk send-up of "Hollywood Freaks" to the blatant horndog insincerity of "Debra," Beck brilliantly skewers a shallow, silly culture both black folks and white folks would arguably be better off without.
As for Beck's choice of musical stylings, it's true that he's raided various funk and soul resources to create possibly his best record yet. So what? Over the course of his career he's also raided the country, bossa nova, and blues vaults to great effect. And if you're gonna crucify him for crossing race lines, you're gonna have to go after Elvis, Led Zeppelin, the Beastie Boys, and Moby as well, just for starters.
Steven D'Amico, via e-mail
EDITORS: Wow. Erin Franzman really called a spade a spade in her recent review of Beck's new album. I hate Beck, and thank GOD someone articulated exactly why he is not a revolutionary musician. If that's postmodernity, I'll take an Oreo.
THE LAST GASP