By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Before the sun rose on the morning of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse’s convention in Las Vegas last week, Jesus sat three booths before me at the Victorville McDonald’s (Roy Rogers Drive at La Paz), drinking coffee, reading the Bible, lips moving. His long, thick, Santa Claus silver-white beard was trimmed like a show dog, perfectly coordinated with the ornate silver JESUS type on the front of his black baseball cap. Yep — that’s Him. Should I try to talk with Him? At least move closer, to listen?
No time. Anyway, there’d be plenty of Jesus in the car. Whenever you hit open desert roads pointed at the Heartland — especially at dawn — bad ClearChannel music disappears as all channels, clear and otherwise, turn to discussions of Jesus and Danny Bonaduce.
When I got to my room on the ninth floor of the Gold Coast Hotel on Flamingo Road (“The Place Las Vegans Call Home”), I found I had a pristine view to the west of the criminally coherent blandness that is residential Las Vegas. Downstairs, the casino smelled just like the bowling alley on the other side of the building: a potent, concentrated mix of our own Mar Vista Bowl, Urbana’s Thunderbird Lanes and unbathed English Leather. It was a scent evolved from not less than 600 million cigarettes, 40 million shrimp cocktails, 60,000 puddles of vomit, hundreds of unreported rapes and a handful of murders. Infections and maladies of the lowest order hovered just below eye level, no matter where one placed one’s eyes.
Ten miles northwest of here, at the J.W. Marriott Resort Spa & Golf, “Abstinence Goes to Vegas” was in full swing, with its conventioneers singing the National Anthem at the Viva Las Vegas luncheon, its postluncheon Elvis-related entertainment and something called “breakout sessions” — some kind of a convention term, isn’t it? But here at the Gold Coast, somewhere between the elevator and the casino floor, an inebriated, three-way shrimping argument was underway. The gist of it was that the young woman didn’t drive all the way out here to suck on the two men’s toes, and that they were to drive her back to Apple Valley at once. One man walked off in embarrassment, the other remained. The woman called this man a piece of shit, then she, too, walked off. The remaining man bore the look and scent of every rural roadside mechanic who’s ever knifed a senior citizen’s hose to sell a radiator. Shrugged at me with one of those “Women — can’t live with ’em, can’t pay ’em to suck toes” looks in his eyes, even with the mirrored glasses.
I don’t drink much. Doesn’t mix well with some of the other drugs. Certainly not in the morning. But that wasn’t important anymore: I needed a two-dollar beer.
“Abstinence Clearinghouse is a non–faith–based organization,” said Kristin Scuderi, the National Abstinence Clearinghouse Media Director, who was More Than Happy to answer my questions about religion and masturbation. “However, most of our members do have faith.”
“Any particular kind of faith?”
“No. It doesn’t matter if you’re . . . [reading my name tag] . . . Jewish, or Christian, or Muslim, or whatever — anything at all. Our mission is to promote the practice of sexual abstinence until marriage.”
“So this is specifically about intercourse? Do you take issue with other forms of sex? Masturbation?”
“We basically don’t talk about masturbation. We don’t say anything against it, or for it. We just don’t talk about it.”
I’d rehearsed a handful of tasteful queries into anal sex, toys, pornography, gaiety, trisexuality and the like, but I sensed that these, too, were things that Scuderi didn’t talk about. She was kind and polite, personable, perhaps even reasonable. Who was I to make trouble?
So instead I sat quietly at the media-relations table in the media-relations room, drinking fine coffee as Scuderi ran down the score. I’d missed a panel discussion called Faces of Abstinence, which is a terrible name for a panel discussion, regardless of its degree of precision. One of the featured Faces of Abstinence speakers, Scuderi explained, was one Jackie Brewton, an accomplished 42-year-old virgin. “Forty-two,” Scuderi repeated, pointing out Brewton’s photograph and bio on page 12 of the conference guidebook. “I just think that’s so commendable.”
Members also included people Scuderi called “secondary virgins” — postadolescents, I gathered, former fuckers who’d experienced a kind of spiritual . . . something, and were now virgins again. But the Clearinghouse’s focus was clearly on devising ways — by whatever means necessary — to prevent teenagers from fucking until after a ritual in which rings of precious metal have been harpooned by their fingers, where God can see. “We have studies that prove that in parts of the country with monitored rates of teen abstinence, there are much lower incidences of STDs and teen pregnancy.”
I thanked Scuderi and hit the Exhibitor Showcase in the adjacent Marquis Ballroom, where, by my estimation, women outnumbered men by at least 3 to 1, though this does not take into account the likelihood of a well-funded cross-dressing coalition.
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