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Crossing the Party Line

Can a Bush voter and a Kerry voter find happiness together? Maybe for a little while.

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In a highly polarized election year, it may come as a surprise that Democrats and Republicans are still finding a way to sleep with each other. The personal may be political, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a turn-on to sleep with the enemy. For some, it’s a way of tasting forbidden fruit—a lark, a kink. For others, the arguing itself is a form of foreplay. But those on both sides agree that in the current environment, the least sexy mate is someone without any political opinions at all.

For the past two years, Anna, 25, a Democrat and public-interest lawyer, has been dating a Republican named Mark, also 25, who works in conservative media. They met in law school, where she was known as a feminist activist and he was known for making inflammatory comments. One day, they started talking. “We had a really good time arguing with each other,” she says, “and ended up dating that way, which was unexpected.”

She has been campaigning for Kerry, while Mark plans to vote for Bush because he wants conservative Supreme Court justices. “I’m pro-choice, he’s pro-life. I’m anti–death penalty, he’s pro–death penalty.” She asked him what he would think if she got pregnant and wanted an abortion, and he said he’d accept her decision but would be deeply upset.

When he represents everything she stands against, how can she go to bed with him, much less feel love? “He’s not an ignorant redneck Republican,” she says. “He has a sophisticated political framework that guides his voting. We’re able to respect each other enough that we’re willing to be vulnerable and tell each other the weaknesses in our own positions. And we’d rather be with each other than with someone apathetic and uninformed.”

There’s another plus, too. While she says conservative guys in general are reluctant to give oral sex, Mark was so inexperienced he was open-minded. “He had no habits,” she said, “so I was able to train him.”

Susannah, a 26-year-old activist, recently had her own guilty one-night stand with a Republican. They met at a loft party, sparks flew, and he mentioned that he had run for office. Since he is African-American, she assumed he was a Democrat. When he said, “Think again,” she wrested herself away—but gave him her e-mail.

A few nights later, after watching the vice-presidential debate separately (him alone, she with like-minded liberals), they went to the Gramercy Park Hotel roof. “We had a really stimulating conversation about politics,” she recalls. “He seemed very reasonable, not a wacko.” More than that, he was chivalrous. “Most of the guys I date are unemployed skaters. He bought all the drinks.”

They went back to his pad and went right to bed. Instead of putting on Prince in the background, he put on Fox News. She says the sex was great, in part because of the forbidden aspect. “I was intrigued with the idea of sleeping with a Republican,” she says. “It had the appeal of the exotic.”

When she told her friends what she had done, one of them remarked, “How could you? In these times?” Now she has mixed feelings. “I don’t think I’m going to go out and sleep with any more Republicans. I started thinking, I don’t want a man like that in the White House. How could I want him in my bed?

While I have an easy time understanding how someone could sleep with the enemy, I have a much harder time comprehending how someone could live with the enemy. These days the political is more than personal: What you think about the war in Iraq, health care, American jobs, abortion, and the tax code isn’t just a mere matter of preference. It comes down to basic ideas of right and wrong. People will always chase forbidden fruit, but only lunatics marry the apple.

Recognizing that sex and politics can go hand in hand, a new group, Votergasm.org, invites visitors to pledge to withhold sex from nonvoters for a week to four years after the election. So far 32,000 have pledged. The site was founded by a group of recent college grads who are reluctant to discuss their own politics. According to co-founder Peter Koechley, “Our goal is to get as many young people to vote, and have sex, as possible. We only succeed if we succeed at both.”

Users can host their own Votergasm election-night parties and list them on the site. The early postings are mixed: “Bush Victory Bang” and “Kegstands for Kerry,” to name a couple. Votergasm is hosting its own party on Tuesday at PM Lounge in the meatpacking district. There will be go-go dancers with check-mark body paint, and drinking games. Says co-founder Liz Gately, “We’re hoping to make it raunchy. Every time the crowd roars, you’ll wonder, Was that a state’s results coming in, or just somebody getting on a table and dancing?


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