This article analyses the Savage Love advice columns that discuss the act of 'pegging', a term that US sex advice columnist Dan Savage and his readers coined in 2001 to describe a woman anally penetrating a man with a strap-on dildo. Since the term was coined, the act (and the term) has gained popularity in the United States, appearing regularly in the mass media. Using a queer theoretical approach, this article shows that while straight-identified peggers benefit from the gains that gays/lesbians/queers have made in expanding norms in sexual culture, they simultaneously engage in a form of ideological work to expand the definition of 'straightness' in order to maintain their straight identity and the accompanying social privileges.
In 2001, when syndicated sex-advice columnist Dan Savage asked his readers to submit and then vote on a term to describe 'when a woman fucks a man in the ass with a strap-on dildo', more than 12,000 readers took him up on the invitation (Savage 2001b). One female reader wrote:When you first suggested a term be coined for a sexual act that specifically applied to a woman doing something to a man, I wondered why we had to be so specific? After all, the terms fucking or fisting or kissing don't specify the gender of the actors. Then I saw the advantage. My husband (like most straight men) can't break the connection between being fucked in the ass and being gay--but a gender-specific term might help! If you're gay and another man is fucking you in the ass, he isn't 'punting' you. You have to be straight to get punted. A woman has to do the job. I vote punt!--Positively Uninhibited Newly Turned-on Effeminate Radical.
In the end, that reader's vote for the term 'punt' lost out to 'peg', but her ideas are compelling because they show a social desire--evidenced by the 12,103 readers who voted--for a word to describe anal sex during which a woman penetrates a man (Savage 2001b). As 'Positively Uninhibited Newly Turned-on Effeminate Radical' points out, part of the necessity of this word is to maintain the straightness of the man being anally penetrated, a sexual act that has been predominantly associated with gay men. In order for straight men to feel comfortable engaging in this 'gay' act (albeit between a man and a woman), new language was needed that disassociated it from gay sex and gay culture. In this article, I discuss how the discursive creation of the term 'peg', as well as the act itself, queers heterosexuality while it simultaneously upholds heterosexuality and masculinity as dominant ideologies.
According to his 'About Dan' webpage, Dan Savage first published the Savage Love sex-advice column in 1991; it is now syndicated in more than 50 newspapers, primarily in alternative weeklies in the United States and Canada (Savage Lovecast 2017). Savage maintains a popular online presence and a podcast, and in 2012 he even took his show...
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