Americans have been left to carry on in the face of terror since Sept. 11. Some turned to their family, some turned to their faith, and some turned to sex.
Dubbed “terror sex” or “end-of-the-world sex,” it offers a way for some people to feel comforted physically and emotionally, according to one neurology professor at USF.
Sex as a response to tragedy is nothing new in America. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of births in the United States jumped almost 12 percent in 1942, the year following the attacks on Pearl Harbor. In 1946, one year after World War II ended, the number of births shot up more than 20 percent, leading to the baby boom generation.
Experts now expect a small, “baby boomlet” this summer as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Lynn Wecker, a neurology professor at USF, said people have a “real need to be close” right now.
“Depression is up,” she said. “People are scared.”
Students are also feeling closer to their partners. Israel Istre, a junior majoring in psychology, and his girlfriend of three years, freshman Jessica Hooten, said they relied on each other to get through the tragedies.
“I lost a cousin and his 9-month-old baby in the Pentagon attack,” Istre said. “I was just crushed.”
Though the couple abstains from sex, they said they feel intimacy in other ways.
“He has been closer to me, more affectionate,” Hooten said. “We were close before this all happened, but there has been an effect.”
Speaking from his background as a psychology major, Istre said he could understand why some people might feel the need to have sex following the events in New York and Washington, D.C.
“We are driven by the basics of shelter, food and sex,” he said.
This more primal reaction has been reported by those who experienced the attacks firsthand. An Oct. 1 L.A. Times report quotes a Manhattan man who said he noticed women more keenly than ever on Sept. 11 as he was walking north, away from the burning towers. The report also cited several New Yorkers who said they sought sex partners directly after the attacks.
While Wecker said this was not the most appropriate response to the situation, she said it may have a neurological basis, stimulating an increased sex drive.
“The sympathetic nervous system would kick in if you were there,” said Wecker.
Students reacted differently to the idea that sex would be the first thing on a person’s mind after the attacks.
Freshman Stephanie Milne likened the response to “funeral sex” where a person has sex immediately after the funeral of a loved one.
“I wouldn’t want to have sex after a funeral, but I can see how other people might use it as a way to cope,” she said.Sophomore Scott Miller had a different perspective.
“It (Sept. 11) hasn’t changed my sex drive at all,” he said. “I liked sex before, and I still like it. The only reason I can see someone’s sex drive increasing is if they think the world is going to end, and they just want to get laid.”
Freshman Sarah Farrar was more skeptical.
“I have a hard time thinking that they would want to have sex with someone they hardly know,” she said. “I don’t buy that it’s survival of the species.”
She added that, for couples at least, sex might help in the healing process.
“I could see how Sept. 11 could make you think more seriously about having a family,” Farrar said.
Hooten and Istre said their plans haven’t changed since the tragedies. Hooten said though sex isn’t a part of their relationship, she understood how some couples might use it “as a sense of closeness.”
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