By Mike Brunker Projects Team editor
msnbc.com
updated 10/25/2004 9:05:47 PM ET 2004-10-26T01:05:47

The right to vote won’t be the only thing getting exercised on Nov. 2 if the creators of Votergasm.org have their way. Rather than pesky chads, the Web-based voter-enticement project is dangling the promise of sex in an effort to induce 100,000 young citizens to cast ballots for the first time.

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One of a handful of innovative and/or silly projects aimed at getting out the youth vote, Votergasm.org claims it has in recent weeks signed up 30,000 prospective voters, all of whom have pledged to cast ballots and have sex with at least one other voter on Election Day, shun those who don’t vote, or both.

President Michelle Collins, a 23-year-old aspiring comedian, said the group is still hoping to achieve its goal of 100,000 anti-chastity vows by Election Day. If it doesn’t, she conceded, it will make the stated goal of generating 250,000 orgasms by the morning after Election Day all the more challenging.

Some critics, notably conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, have charged that the drive is a thinly veiled “sex-for-votes” scheme aimed at boosting turnout for Democratic candidate John Kerry.

‘Nonpartisan but pro-partying’
But Collins said the effort is "nonpartisan but pro-partying" and does not amount to political prostitution.

“We don’t see it as selling or trading sex,” she said. “We think sex is a beautiful thing that — like voting — many young people don’t realize that they should be participating in,” she said.

The Votergasm project was dreamed up in May by Collins and a group of friends and recent graduates from Harvard and Columbia Universities and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, nearly all of whom are either working in comedy — one is a current writer for the satirical Web site The Onion — or aspire to do so.

As that would suggest, the Web site includes plenty of satire and parody along with its get-out-and-vote message.

The site offers three levels of commitment: “Citizen,” requiring a pledge to withhold sex from non-voters for a week following the election; “Patriot,” calling on the participant to have sex with a voter on Election Night and withhold sex from non-voters for a  week; and “American Hero,” who must have sex with a voter on election night and withhold sex from non-voters for the next four years.

It also states that the sex must be “consensual and safe,” then lists sexual positions that will qualify in terms of pledge fulfillment: “Missionary, doggy-style, cowgirl, reverse cowgirl, leapfrog, butterfly, humpback whale, cling wrap, squashing of the deck chair, accordion, reverse piggy-back, advanced ("twin") leapfrog.”

Private parties encouraged
Votergasm.org is hosting a handful of Election Night parties to facilitate pledge fulfillment, and is encouraging participants to organize their own events. By Monday, more than 140 bashes in 44 states were listed on Votergasm’s party page.

Some of the private parties were clearly fakes, while others appeared to be either commercial events or lonely pleadings.

“Massage therapist is offering free massage to single ladies, must be registered to vote and sexy,” reads one invitation.

In one case, frat boys apparently feeling the heat from administrators at the University of Southern California wrote that they have arranged an elaborate system in which participants must check in at a nearby apartment to receive an armband before being admitted to the party.

“You should be under 30 or really hot,” the invitation reads.

Votergasm.org might have lived and died quietly had Limbaugh not mentioned the site on his syndicated radio program on Sept. 28.

After speaking out against what he said sounded like a scheme to “sell sex for votes,” Limbaugh said, “Let's shut this Web site down, folks. Shall we?” He then told his listeners to log onto the site to take the pledge, but add the note “I knew I'd get screwed if I voted for Kerry," so that project organizers would realize where the sudden surge of support was coming from.

Creators feud with Limbaugh
The next day, Collins issued a press release accusing Limbaugh of “turning election-night sex into a partisan issue.”

“Votergasm is trying to bring people together in an orgy of civic participation — but Rush Limbaugh is splitting them apart,” Collins said.

That drew two more mentions on Limbaugh’s show — including a denial that his original comment was meant literally — both of which generated so much traffic that the Votergasm’s servers were overwhelmed. The Limbaugh mentions also generated interest among other news outlets, leading to a number of articles on Votergasm that further spread the word.

Even if the effort falls short of the goal of 100,000 pledges, it has in other ways exceeded the wildest dreams of its creators, Collins said Monday.

“When I googled my name in Lithuanian and 20 sites came up, I knew it was beyond our expectations,” she said.

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