For over 20 years, Dan Savage has been dishing out sex and relationship advice to anyone that cares to listen. So when MTV asked him to hit the road and take his hard-hitting advice to college campuses across the U.S., it seemed like a natural fit for the outspoken columnist.
From learning how to build a committed relationship to safely navigating online dating and one night stands, to kinks and fetishes, no topic was off-limits for Savage during the filming of "Savage U." However, that doesn't mean he wasn't shocked by some of the questions he received. University of California, Irvine was especially memorable for the It Gets Better co-creator.
"The questions there blew my mind -- not because they were so crazy or dirty, but because they were so innocent," Savage told HuffPost TV via phone. "It was like getting questions for Archie and Jughead."
On Tuesday night's "Savage U" season finale, Savage is headed to Texas Tech, and the residents of Lubbock may be in for quite a shock when they hear what sexual euphemism the sex columnist bestowed upon their quaint Texas town.
HuffPost TV spoke to Savage about the show's season finale, what he hopes to achieve in Season 2 and his "rivalry" with sex therapist Dr. Ruth.
When I watch the show, I'm always so amazed by these kids who are willing to share these really private, sexual details about themselves with entire the world. Were you surprised?
No! Well, yes and no. My job is basically to sit in front of my computer all day and answer questions from young people, and they're a lot more public and open. They have different ideas about a public and private sphere, and there's more overlap between those two worlds than there used to be, thanks to social media and Facebook and YouTube. It's a weird balance, and for those of us that are a little older, I think it can be disconcerting. But for young people, it's the water that they swim in.
Well, you share a lot online too.
[Laughs.] I know what I'm not sharing, so I can hold a lot back. I talk about the fact that I'm gay, and I talk about the fact that I have a husband, but I don't talk about what we do or who we do or where we go or what we enjoy. I get asked that stuff a lot because I spend so much time talking to people about their kinks, so they naturally want to know what mine are. But I don't write or talk about those things out of respect for my husband and his privacy.
And one day your son is going to look all of this up on the internet.
There's that, too! My husband has a right to his privacy, and my son has the right to not spend the rest of his adult life throwing up.
Obviously, these college kids are learning a lot from you, but what have you learned from them?
Oh my god. What have I learned from young people? To pay attention! Sex is always changing, kinks are always changing, social norms and sexual norms are always changing. Young people aren't always right. [Laughs.] I've learned how to pull people's heads out of their asses with one solid tug. You know, I'm a late adopter. I didn't get a cell phone until five years ago, I didn't get on Twitter until this year, I didn't have email for the longest time, and so, what I think I've learned from young, tech-savvy people is just to be more open to things. I'm one of those people who at 13, was an old man in a 13-year-old body. I was listening to Vikki Carr and Frank Sinatra musicals and reading books. I actually feel younger now, in my mid-40s, than I did when I was a teenager. In part, thanks to my job.
I love that each campus had a very distinct vibe. Was there one that stood out for you?
There were a couple. Cornell, the Ivy school, had varsity level sex questions, including brainteasers like, "Is it okay to masturbate about somebody without their consent?" I loved UCI because everyone was so innocent and sheltered. The questions there blew my mind, not because they were so crazy or dirty, but because they were so innocent. It was the only college where people asked, "How do I talk to someone I'm attracted to?" and "How do I ask a girl out on a date?" It was like getting questions for Archie and Jughead.
You seem like you always have an answer, but have you ever been stumped?
Absolutely! Every day. When you write a sex column, you appear to know it all because you don't print the questions you don't have answers for. So it looks like I have all the answers. Just last week on the podcast, I get this question from a woman who was suffering from severe vaginal pain, and I'm not doctor. So rather than being ignorant, I called up a guest expert, Debbie Herbenick, and she came on the podcast and gave a lot of great advice. I think one of ways that you prove that you're a good advice giver is when you step aside and hand your platform over to someone who is more informed and has better advice than you might.
Or you have Dr. Ruth on speed dial.
I don't actually have Dr. Ruth on speed dial. I have Debbie; she's my vaginal consultant.
So you're telling me that you don't have dinner with Dr. Ruth on a weekly basis?
No, we're like vampires. People who write advice columns don't generally get along with one another. We're all rivals. Back in the day, I would have loved to have met Ann Landers because she was my inspiration. I joke sometimes about there being conventions for sex columnists. I've never met Prudence, whose column I really love and read every week, religiously. And Amy Dickinson from The Chicago Tribune. I love her column. We should have some big Advice Con, like Comic Con. Though, I'd be the only one there with a dick. That's fine with me!
If "Savage U" does get picked up for Season 2, where would you like to go?
If we do a second season, and that's an open question at this point, we are going to broaden our scope. What I'd love to do, and what we can't do, of course, is go to Brigham Young or Liberty University or Regent. I'd love to go to one of the big, crazy conservative Christian fundamentalist schools, but I don't think I could get into one of those schools with a crowbar.
There would be picketers for miles.
Which would be awesome. How much fun would that be?
In the season finale, you're headed to Texas Tech. What stood out to you on campus?
We felt that Lubbock, Texas should be a euphemism for something because it sounds like buttock, and it sounds like balls, and Lubb sounds like love, so in episode, we try to come up with what Lubbock should mean if it was a sexual term.
I have a friend from Lubbock who just made it sound like the worst place in the world, so I went in with really low expectations. I thought it was going to be really intolerant, but then we were on campus, and the first two or three guys we talked to all happened to be gay. I was like, "Isn't this a horrible place to be gay?" and they were like, "No. Everyone is really friendly and tolerant. It isn't what you've been told." So that was really heartening.
Is there one person or one story from this season that you found to be especially important for young people?
I think it would be the girl from University of Illinois at Chicago, who talked about contracting herpes. What do you do now? It's so important to inform your partners, and it shouldn't be a burden. It's a benefit in many ways. I think that when you tell someone something like that, the way that they react tells you everything you need to know about them. I think that's an important message to get across to people who have sexually transmitted infections, like HIV and herpes. We have a problem with sexually transmitted infections in this country, and if we can change people's perspectives on disclosure and how it can benefit you -- the person who might have HIV or herpes -- we will help to bring down the STI rate.
The season finale of "Savage U" airs Wednesday, June 20 at 12 a.m. ET. Watch an exclusive clip of Dan's best advice from the first season of "Savage U" below.
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