However the election turned out, a group of new college grads figured that a lot of people were going to feel like they'd gotten screwed. So why not make the screwing hot, consensual, and civic-minded? Thus was born Votergasm.org, a Web site determined to get 100,000 first-time voters to the polls by making them pledge to have sex on election night with people who had voted.
The Web site planned to serve as a central posting site for election night parties where people could meet like-minded citizens to fulfill their sexual contract with America. Participants could choose from three levels of commitment, largely expressed by how long they should withhold sex from American nationals who didn't vote. "Citizens" and "Patriots" both agree to withhold sex from nonvoters for a week following the election. The latter group also agreed to bang a voter on election night. Self-sacrificing voters who signed up to be an "American Hero" not only agreed to have sex with a voter on election night, but to withhold sex from all nonvoters for the next four years.
Not surprisingly, California went for Votergasm in a big way; with 33 parties listed statewide, the Golden State beat out everyone else handily (interestingly, the next two states were Michigan and Pennsylvania, with sixteen parties scheduled each). Ranging from the New Agey-sounding "Wild Chico Celebration of the Final De-Bushing of America" to the straightforward "Frat Boy Fuckfest," some of the California listings looked like angry jokes ("Grab Your Ankles for Kerry"), others legit. One Republican-sponsored party insisted that an equal number of guys and girls would need to attend to make the party acceptable; apparently even votergasms are open only to straight couples.
The first of two events to be held in Berkeley looked good. It said nothing about ankle-grabbing or boy-to-girl ratios, and it was being held by the pool at the swank Claremont Resort & Spa. Equipped with an "I Voted" sticker and a friend, this American Hero headed to the Claremont to cover the "Party for Piece."
The first clue that something was awry was the lack of encouraging signage. The second was the absence of joyful noise. A complicated trek involving several wrong turns through the Claremont's twisting basement levels got us to the pool area. The dark, locked-up, and completely devoid of orgiastic voters pool area.
"I think that's a hoax," said Blythe, the young woman who came to the door to tell us the pool was closed. We weren't the first people to come by; earlier patriots had used her computer to look up the other Berkeley party after they realized they'd been had but were still determined to do the deed.
Feeling silly at having fallen for the joke, and knowing that Blythe knew we'd come looking for loose voters and hadn't found any, we meekly accepted the slip of paper she offered with the address for another Votergasm party on campus. Winding back through the hotel, we discussed our options. As a journalist, I had an obligation to track down my story. But I was also feeling the pressure of the pledge I'd made to Votergasm, and wondered if it would be possible to fulfill it at the Lair, which was sure to be full of young Cal students. Since my friend and I got George Bush the Elder the first time either of us voted in a presidential election, we expected to be twice the age of anyone else there. So we reached a muffled bipartisan compromise in the wheelchair-accessible stall of a first-floor ladies' room before heading on to the second event.
The Bear's Lair, whose five massive televisions were turned up so loud they could be heard from a block away, was host to about forty students, most of them male. Which would have worked if any of them harbored Mrs. Robinson fantasies, but nobody was wearing the special Votergasm badge you could print out from the Web site. Had this one been a hoax, too? Without a way to identify "Citizens," "Patriots," or "American Heroes" who still needed their chads punched, and with the electoral votes holding doggedly at 257 to 242, the atmosphere was more dismal than festive.
Near the fireplace, a drunk guy in a baseball cap was trying to pick a fight with a drunk guy at the bar by throwing coins at him. Disappointed by the lack of civic spirit and anyone we wanted to take home and ravish, convinced there had never been a Votergasm party here either, we prepared to leave. Standing up, I found a scrap of paper under the toe of my shiny black boot; part of a Votergasm badge. "Look," I said, holding it up. "Proof," said my friend, whose hair was still a little mussed. At least in this Diebold-dependent election, someone had left a paper trail.
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