Online dating for political junkies

As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another’s treasure.

Kyle is 27, and has fair hair and blue eyes. He thinks that pornography leads to sexual deviance and that homosexuality is an abomination. He opposes sex outside marriage and proclaims his abstinence. He rarely attends church, drinks occasionally, likes shooting, sailing and swimming and lists “debating liberals” among his favorite pastimes.

Sound appealing? If so, he is just a click away.

courtesy of Women Against Bush
Women Against Bush Founder Caryn Schenewerk

Kyle is among the thousands of young single people swept up in the most intimate of campaign-season activities: Internet dating for the politically active. He posts his profile on Conservativematch.com, a dating site that launched in April, and, like many others, he protects his online anonymity by declining to give his last name.

He says Teresa Heinz Kerry is a turnoff with her “shove it” remark. Laura Bush is closer to what he’s searching for, although he admits the first lady is not his type.

For people made queasy by Kyle’s views, there are other political fish in the sea (so to speak) and dating websites for all points of view. Act for Love, which launched two years ago but picked up after it’s creator, John Hlinko, left Wesley Clark’s presidential campaign, caters to liberal Democrats, as does Demsdate. Another option for conservatives is SingleRepublicans.com.

For those who prefer to meet offline, there are plenty of opportunities to meet other politically active mates. Women Against Bush and Redefeat Bush, for example, host such events as bikini-wax spa outings, yoga classes, singles happy hours and debate-watch parties.

Caryn Schenewerk, a 27-year-old international-trade lawyer, has been called everything from a “feminazi” to a “ditzy, materialistic, cocktail-sipping” woman.

She came up with Women Against Bush during a “Sex and the City”-type of outing with a couple female friends at the D.C. Wine and Food Festival. They agreed that Sen. John Kerry’s campaign needed “shaking up” and needed to appeal to young single women like themselves.

Over mimosas in Shirlington, they brainstormed bumper stickers, T-shirts and panties — all of which would bear anti-Bush slogans. The panties bluntly say “Bush free zone,” or “Kiss Bush Goodbye”; the boxer shorts say “Rise up Against Bush.”

The group launched in April at a U Street bar called Local 16 and has 2,000 members and chapters nationwide fighting against the Bush campaign. So far, Women Against Bush has had one “Singles Against Bush” mixer.

“I’ve heard rumors that people met at the mixer,” Schenewerk said. “I have met lots of nice Democratic boys at these events.”

She has also encountered plenty of non-Democratic boys, too, not at the mixer but in the mail, which has included “everything from rational disagreement to things I would consider more amusing, but abusive personal attacks, saying we’re a bunch of sluts who drink all day long.”

The $30,000-$40,000 the group has raised has been donated to get-out-the-vote initiatives and to female candidates running for Congress.

Back online, life is hopping, as a 32-year-old human rights advocate profiled in Act for Love explains why women should want to date him: He is a Buddhist and a Capricorn, with dark hair and blue eyes. He claims to look like John Travolta, Brad Pitt and the guy from “Ed.” In his bedroom, he says, you’ll find: “Heaven.”

(More reasons to want him: He turned down Harvard to hitchhike around the world at 18 and spent months in a silent Buddhist meditation retreat. According to him, he’s “very smart, very good-looking, FUN.” Humble, too, apparently.)

Actually, with his small, silver glasses, the Buddhist looks like a typical Washington intellectual, and nothing like the aforementioned Hollywood stars. His voice has a bit of a whine. He says he’s taking a break from online dating because he and his girlfriend are trying to figure out whether they are going to break up or not. He’ll resume online encounters if the relationship falls apart.

Joining these sites is inexpensive. Signing up for Act for Love — its motto is “Take Action to Get Action” — is free. The cost comes only when you want to start flirting, “wink” at someone (as the lingo goes) or e-mail them. At that point, you expend a credit and pay a dollar. Credits are purchased in packs of 24.

Conservativematch.com costs nothing; Republicans simply sign up to belong to the community.

Kyle hasn’t yet found his match but says he has met some interesting women. “I'd like to meet a real lady,” he said. She would not be vulgar or indifferent to other people's sensitivities.

“She would be moral, and value behaving only a little more than having fun so she didn't end up on an episode of ‘Girls Gone Wild.’ She wouldn't drink too heavily, and would have figured out in college that drugs are not a desirable lifestyle.”

David, an Act for Love member, has been using the liberal-minded site for six months. A project manager for Nextel who calls himself “Fighter of Foo” online after a band he likes, he has gone out with a slew of women, some of whom resembled their photographs and some of whom didn’t.

He dated an Act for Love woman four times in a two-month span before realizing she wasn’t the love of his life. The 36-year-old tries to remain hopeful and cites a friend who got married two weeks ago to a woman he had met online. But all in all, David has found online dating a downer — “too time-consuming, somewhat frustrating,” he says.

He’s going to try old-fashioned dating for a while — you know, the kind where you try to meet someone by actually meeting them — “which is also frustrating,” he says.

“I’ve been historically unsuccessful” at meeting women in bars, he says, laughing.

He doesn’t have a problem with Republican women “per se,” but concedes, “If there was someone who didn’t see things the way I saw them, I think I would have a serious problem with that.”

He admits he probably spends too much time thinking and reading about politics, but he tries not to talk about it on dates, at least not straight away.

Peter, another Act for Love member, who works at the World Bank, is low-key. The 36-year-old international administrator has not met anyone on Act for Love, having used the site for only a month.

He has received an e-mail, and an electronic smile. “I don’t want someone who necessarily has the same opinions as me,” he says, “just someone who has a broadly liberal outlook. I just don’t think I would be able to get along with an atheist. I just don’t think I would be able to help them grow. And that person wouldn’t be able to help me grow.”