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Terror Sex

Love (or at least lust) in the ruins.

Coined in a Salon article published ten days after the attack, “terror sex” was a kind of urgent, unguarded, end-of-the-world coitus inspired by that day’s sudden jolt of uncertainty and fear. Former just-friends found themselves making out while watching the still-burning skyline from a rooftop; a couple described a shift in their lovemaking, a feeling “like he was going off to war and this could be the last time.” The L.A. Times quoted this New Yorker: “What’s sick is that on the day that it happened, I watched the towers crumble, and then I’m walking north, really freaked out, but I was noticing more women than I ever do … People are vulnerable and that can be really attractive … It’s biology at work—gotta procreate if the world is coming to an end.” Nine months later, some New York hospitals were reported to have seen a 20 percent increase in births, but a review of citywide statistics does not back up that anecdotal evidence, nor, for that matter, did it hold up nationally. This romantic yearning to connect—the sex shop Toys in Babeland reported a 33 percent increase in sales that fall—was also tinged with bleakness. As John Cameron Mitchell put it in his erotic agitprop film Shortbus, a call for sexual liberation set in the city after 9/11, “It’s just like the sixties, only with less hope.”


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