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Feathered Friends (With Benefits)

Joe Newton

Dear Readers: I’m traveling today. Please enjoy this infamous column from the first decade of Savage Love. — Dan

As an avid reader of your column, I thought of you and only you for help with this problem. My grandmother, 78 and widowed, is a kind, generous woman who has seen her share of difficult times. She is a bit offbeat, but extremely conservative and religious. After my grandfather passed on, she purchased a lively little parakeet and named him Pretty Baby.

Pretty Baby has provided wonderful companionship and entertainment for my grandmother, even learning to speak to her. Pretty is an amazing mimic, repeating phrases she has taught him: “I love you,” “lock the door,” “give me kisses,” etc. The problem is the kissing… or what I recently witnessed the kissing leads to. One evening Pretty began to squawk “give me kisses, give me kisses” and my grandmother walked over to the cage and slipped one finger between the bars. Pretty Baby proceeded to “kiss” her fingernail and flutter about. Then my grandmother — my grandmother — purred, “Give Grandma lovin’, Pretty Baby, give Grandma lovin’.” She then turned to me and said, “Pretty Baby wants to give me lovin’ and he won’t quiet down until he does.”

Pretty Baby proceeded to screech more and more loudly, as he humped my grandmother’s finger. She also moved it back and forth for him. I was stunned and unsure of what was happening, so I sat quietly in my chair looking in the opposite direction, hoping I wasn’t really witnessing what I thought I was. My grandmother cleared things up quickly, saying, “He’ll calm down after he climaxes,” smiling away and continuing to repeat, “Give me your lovin’, Pretty Baby, give me your lovin’.” When Pretty Baby was finished, she looked back at me and said, “I better wash my hands!” I left minutes later, unable to process what had just happened. Grandmother, however, never flinched, acting like it was an everyday occurrence.

I’m still horrified. Should I be concerned, Dan? About my grandmother? About Pretty Baby? Help!

Polly Wanna Wanker

I’ve been doing this job for a while now, PWW, and rarely do I get a question about a subject, sex act, position, kink, or bodily fluid that I’ve never had the pleasure of addressing before. But your question, PWW, is a first. And a treat! A grandmother whacking off her pet parakeet? That’s the kind of question I live for! I almost hate to admit it — I don’t want you to think I’m as sick a fuck as your grandmother is — but I was thrilled to receive your letter. Thrilled!

I was also suspicious. Could PWW be making this up? Did this grandma exist? Can you actually beat off a parakeet? Before I sought out some guest experts to address the whole beating-off-a-parakeet issue, I wrote back to PWW personally and demanded more background info. After speaking with PWW I can confidently assure my other readers that, yes, PWW exists, her grandmother exists, her grandmother owns a parakeet, and her grandmother is one sick fuck.

“Birds often begin to exhibit mating behavior when they reach sexual maturity,” said Pierre Brooks, who owns 33rd & Bird, a bird shop in New York City, and agreed to discuss this delicate issue with me. “For a singly kept pet bird this can include attempts at mating with one of their toys or perches.” How about the little old lady that owns ’em? “We have not come across an owner who becomes the bird’s surrogate mate, but it is not unrealistic.”

But is it healthy? Is it good for the bird? Is it good for Grandma?

“If this were one of our customers, we would advise the customer that the bird may be lonely and suggest introducing another parakeet for companionship,” said Brooks. “However, this may not solve the problem. Birds are similar to humans: They are selective about their mates. Simply putting a male and female bird together does not guarantee that they will like one another, let alone breed.”

And as much as you may want to tell your grandmother she’s a sick fuck and she’s got to stop beating off the bird, that might not be in the bird’s best interest. “A bird [can] feel lonely and sexually frustrated if its mate is taken away,” Brooks added.

And like it or not, PWW, your grandmother is Pretty Baby’s mate now.

Seeking a second opinion, I spoke with Jesse B., who owns Ford’s Feathers in Torrance, California.

“When it comes to a bird, they can be stimulated by any object,” said Jesse B. “A toy, a perch. I haven’t heard of anyone masturbating their parakeet before.”

Did he think it was wrong?

“If she’s doing it because the bird wants it and she wants to make the bird feel better, that might be okay,” said Jesse B. “But if she’s doing it for self-pleasure or because it excites her? Then she’s got a problem.”

When it came to any long-term harm, Jesse B. agreed with Pierre that it’s not going to hurt the bird — or your grandmother.

“It’s good that the bird is male, though,” Jesse B. added. “You can induce the production of eggs in a female by stimulating her, and if they start releasing eggs, there’s always the risk of the bird becoming egg-bound, basically an egg stuck in the bird’s stomach, and that can kill the bird. But this is a male parakeet, so it’s not a problem.”

Not a problem unless, of course, you’re the poor grandchild who has to watch her widowed, generous, kind, conservative, religious grandmother finger-bang her parakeet. That can’t be easy. But while I sympathize with your plight, PWW, I would urge you not to confront your dear ol’ gran. Even if she is “doing it for self-pleasure,” as Jesse B. and everyone else reading this hopes she’s not, your grandmother probably isn’t long for this world. Besides visits from her grandchildren, she probably doesn’t have much in her life to distract her from impending death… so let’s not take this small pleasure, however sick and twisted it might be, away from this sad old lady. Your grandma isn’t hurting the bird and she’s not hurting herself, and it’s not like she’s going to turn into a bird molester and start jumping on pigeons in parks. Why say anything that might make the old broad feel self-conscious about what she’s been up to with Pretty Baby?

So, keep your mouth shut, PWW, and just pray grandma doesn’t leave you that bird in her will.


I just had to write in after reading about the two gay penguins who adopted a chick. Loved that story! I had two pet female ducks who fell in love and used to try to mate all the time. They’d perform all the ritual courtship head-bobbing, and then one would lower herself to the ground and the other would climb on top. The behavior was exactly the same as the mating behavior between male and female ducks. So anyone who says animals don’t engage in homosexuality is just plain ignorant. It’s been documented time and time again.

Lesbian Duck Mom

Thanks for sharing, LDM, and for sending in a note that works so well with the “feathered friend” theme of this week’s column — it’s also nice that it’s a story about birds mating with birds, as God intended.

Oh, and speaking of those gay penguins: I made a mistake in the column where I mentioned Roy and Silo, the gay penguins who were given an egg to hatch and raised the chick together. The couple doesn’t reside in the Bronx Zoo, as I wrote in Savage Love a few weeks back. What self-respecting gay penguins would live in the Bronx, for crying out loud? Roy and Silo and their adopted child, Tango, all live at the Central Park Zoo, in Manhattan, with the rest of New York City’s trendy gay parents.

Originally published March 18, 2004.

Dear Readers: I got an update from the Polly Wanna Wanker a few years ago. Still an avid reader of Savage Love, she wanted to let me know she took my advice: She never said anything to her grandmother, who passed away a few years after her letter appeared in my column. I don’t recall what became of the bird. (If you’re still out there reading, PWW, please jump into the comments thread!) Roy and Silo, the gay Central Park Zoo penguins, have also passed away, but a children’s picture book written about them — And Tango Makes Three — is one of the most frequently banned books in the United States because of course it is. Back next week! — Dan


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