City Desk

How Accurate Is Dan Savage’s Definition of Saddlebacking?

The Stranger's Dan Savage didn't like that Barack Obama asked Rick Warren to speak at his Inauguration, so, in the same subversive tradition that gave us Santorum, Savage commissioned readers of his column in Washington City Paper and other outlets to assign "Saddlebacking" (coined after Warren's Saddleback Church) to a sex act. Here's what Savage's readers came up with to describe Saddlebacking: "the phenomenon of Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex in order to preserve their virginities."

While I agree that the "phenomenon" of abstinent teens finding ways to get each other off without sticking the P in the V deserves a name, I'd like to point out that oral not (anal) sex is the go-to act for nice, Protestant youthgroupers.

I only wish that I could have had Dan Savage with me during winter break 2003, when I and hundreds of other pubescent Jesus Freaks met at Grace Episcopal Church in Ocala, Fla., to listen to our ministers explain why pre-marital oral sex, pre-marital hand jobs, and pre-marital heavy petting were all just as bad as pre-marital "real" sex. Savage might have found it interesting that our pastors never said anything about pre-marital anal sex until a curious camper raised his hand and asked if that meant anal sex was ok. The answer was "No." Turns out it's never ok for Christians to do anything with their asses besides shit and sit. Not even when they're married. Because "sodomy is always a sin."

Using anal sex to get off without compromising a woman's virginity is contrary to what the average evangelical or fundamentalist Protestant, looking to skirt rules about sex, would do. In or outside of marriage, anal sex (especially in the eyes of Warren and his contemporaries) is far worse than any other objectionable sex act. And that means teenage congregants are more likely to see oral sex and hand jobs, (not anal sex) as the less sinful alternatives to vaginal intercourse.

I've heard that Catholic teens are big on the anal alternative, but when have Catholic teenagers–the A.D. equivalent to secular Jews–ever come under the categorical umbrella of "Christian teenagers"? Saddlebacking, insofar as it describes anal sex and the type of teens in Warren's sphere of theological influence, describes a phenomenon that doesn't exist.

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  • just sayin

    Clearly this calls for further research.

  • TomHandy

    I think this was because more recently they've been finding that more teens are responding that they see anal sex as not being "real sex", and it's becoming an increasingly popular option.

  • Mike Riggs

    @TomHandy: Theologically, though, oral/hand is still more acceptable than anal. I'm just wondering if Savage's definition makes sense with regards to conservative Protestants, of which Warren is one.

  • Charlie

    This was chosen by a vote among various alternative definitions. I was disappointed by this definition in that I wanted to be able to saddleback. Being neither a Christian nor a teenager, I cannot do so. Now santorum, there was a term I could use.

  • Sam

    Please go to Wikipedia and speak up in favor of keeping "Saddlebacking" as a separate entry, though one could certainly debate how widespread this practice is.

    And yes, Mike, it is rather significant that no one said a word about anal until that camper raised his hand and asked. If you follow Savage's argument, part of why the kids are doing it is that no one is talking about it.

  • Mike Riggs

    @Sam: I didn't mean to give the impression that no one talked about anal sex, but that our pastors had seen in their own youth groups, and heard from other pastors, that oral sex was a popular way for teens to get off while still self-identifying as abstinent. In the context of that particular group of Protestants, it wasn't that pastors ignored anal sex, but rather, anal sex was so abhorred that the idea of someone asking came as a shock. (In defense of the anecdote, I think the kid who raised his hand got off on asking.)

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  • Hire Teen

    This is really interesting. Thanks for the sharing.

  • Joe

    In my freshman year of college I dated two girls who insisted on saddle-backing so they could tell their future husbands they were still virgins. I thought it was gross at first, but when I realized I was gay a year later and now saddle-back on a daily basis, I don't think it is so bad.

  • Mal

    What you were doing with those 2 girls was saddlebacking, but not what you're doing now.

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  • Teenager Jobs

    Finally, the perfect definition has been published. Thanks!

  • Erich V

    So you're saying Catholics aren't Christian? And also: oral and hand-jobs also fit the Biblical version of sodomy -- sex without reproductive purpose.

  • Yingtai

    It exists. Trust me.