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Savage U tackles tough topics on college campuses

Savage Love sex columnist and co-creator of the It Gets Better Project Dan Savage is bringing his trademark frank advice to college students around the country in his new MTV series, Savage U.

Though Savage has enjoyed fame with his syndicated sex and relationship column, the It Gets Better Project, a series of online videos encouraging young people in the process of coming out, further increased the profile of the media personality.

Now, Savage and his on-air partner and producer Lauren Hutchinson have completed a nationwide tour of 12 college campuses to film Savage U, which premieres tonight at 11 on MTV.

(We) really wanted to (show) all sorts of different kinds of university environments, Savage said in a conference call.

The show, which filmed at the University of Central Florida in November, follows Savage and Hutchinson as they try to answer any questions students throw their way and give advice where needed.

Hutchinson said her favorite of the 12 universities the two visited was Ohio State.

Dan learned how to throw a football there that was pretty fun to watch, she said.

I did learn how to throw a football, Savage said. I havent thrown one since. I havent adopted the football-throwing lifestyle.

Savage said the advice he and Hutchinson give on the show could help students watching at home more than they may realize.

When it comes to sex, everyone wants to pretend that they know everything and that theyre good at everything and that theyre an expert already, he said. That can translate into kind of bluffing your way through ignorance, which can then lead to really dicey situations and negative experiences because people are afraid to admit they dont know what theyre doing. They need help and they need advice.

Savage said when he was a student, people were not afraid to plead ignorance and go to friends for advice.

Wed all run our dates by each other gay and straight and people would say, good one, bad one, dont do that, hes a jerk, youre being used, or thats abusive, Savage said. And people should do that. People should use their friends to vet their romantic partners.

While filming Savage U, the questions Savage and Hutchinson elicited from students across the nation ranged from topics of monogamy to the ever-present double standard.

For me, I think a big misconception or just a big thought amongst the college population is that its not possible or not right to start a relationship or believe that you can have a relationship with someone who you just had a one-night stand with, Hutchinson said.

And thats really a huge problem, Savage said, Particularly where it intersects with that sexist double standard. You know, guys saying they would never date a girl who had done something that they themselves had done. We were constantly challenging people on that.

While sex education continues to be a controversial topic in high schools around the nation, Savage said he thinks the advice he offers is meant to reverse the damage done by conventional sex ed.

Sex ed is too often reproductive biology, Savage said. If we taught drivers ed the way we teach sex ed, nobody would survive their first trip in a car. We would be all about how the internal combustion engine works and nothing about how to drive.

Though Savage U is Savages first venture into television apart from a few guest spots on shows such as Countdown with Keith Olbermann and Anderson Cooper 360, he said he believes the cameras and Hutchinson bring a level of sincerity to the advice that is often lost on readers or podcast listeners.

For Hutchinson, her role in the show is still being discovered.

My role is to get you to do something other than just singing showtunes all the time, Hutchinson said to Savage with a laugh. Im there to make sure that we get to our interviews on time and that we stay focused and to bring a female voice to the show.

Savage said the one thing that everyone needs is advice even if doesnt come from him.