WHAT would you do if you thought that the end of the world was nigh? Well, exactly. Fearing a biological or chemical attack after the World Trade Center atrocity New Yorkers are indulging in what commentators have dubbed “terror sex”.
The city’s residents, usually a solitary and independent breed, have turned for solace to their fellow human beings. For every traumatized New Yorker who can not sleep, it seems that there is another who is cuddling up closer to a spouse or lover or embarking wantonly on a one-night stand.
The “terror sex” phenomenon was first identified in the online journal Salon by Cole Kazdin, who reported on a fling by a woman named Sonia on the day of the attacks. Because the subway was closed and roadblocks had been set up, Sonia had to walk nearly ten miles to her home to Brooklyn. After watching the news at a bar with friends, one of them went with her on to the roof of her building to watch the smoldering Manhattan skyline.
“We had sex like it was the end of the world and if I could do it over again I still would,” she said. “I didn’t think about it at all. When you walk home from Manhattan to Brooklyn with people covered in dust and blood you don’t care.”
The feeling of impending doom and the proximity to death has sent a frisson of urgency through the city. My own unscientific survey of friends suggests a general craving for human consort. The most flagrant example of “terror sex” came from Jonathan, a denizen of the gay scene in New York’s Greenwich Village. Fearing food shortages, Jonathan, a “healer”, ventured out to the supermarket the day after the attacks to buy some bread. There he met a nice young man. “It was a very strange thing,” he said. “We just looked at each other and we immediately knew we needed to act out our horror. We went home and, after toast, we did.”
Jonathan has noticed a sexual energy in the air since the terrorist attacks. It is everywhere, from his gym to the local shops. “I think that single people need to be next to people to be reassured,” he said. “All people need to be held and hugged. It’s really weird because people are having more sex but it’s more intimate sex. It’s more about touching, holding.”
Heterosexual friends also report a sudden search for companionship.
Singles bars are buzzing and even offering free drinks. Couples who had broken up are getting back together now that they have a broader perspective on their troubles. Former lovers are calling up to check on those they once loved, particularly if they happen to be firefighters or police officers. One friend called her policeman ex-lover to find that he was sorting World Trade Center rubble at the Fresh Kills rubbish dump.
Some evacuees from around ground zero have taken refuge in the flats of former boyfriends or girlfriends, with all the possibilities that implies.
Perhaps most intriguing is the sudden acceleration in relationships. Long-time partners who have trouble with “commitment” are deciding to tie the knot. New couples find themselves thrown together by circumstance more profoundly than they could have guessed.
Jenny had been flirting with a new boyfriend, but moved in with him immediately after the attacks. In such an emergency, nobody ever gets around to wondering: “It’s been five days now. How long are you planning to stay?” “This is a time you want to have someone,” she said. “The disaster must have moved lots of relationships to the next step.”
Even New York’s dirty-raincoat brigade seems to be seeking sexual release.
Lenny Ortiz, a bouncer at the Bare Elegance topless joint in Times Square, said that the first few nights after the attacks were slow but business soon picked up. “It seems to be getting back in the groove,” he said. “People want to relieve their stress, to sit down with entertainment and watch the girls lapdance.”
Copyright 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd