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Sex in the age of bin Laden
May 5th, 2011
07:21 AM ET

Sex in the age of bin Laden

Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs about sex on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him at his website, GoodInBed.

I started a family in the Age of Terror. My wife Lisa and I were married on December 1, 2001, and we chose a simple trip to the Caribbean for our honeymoon over the dream of Bali.

Some of our friends thought we were crazy to let the fear of terrorism affect our plans, but when a nightclub in Bali’s tourist district was bombed months later, we felt justified in having allowed our world to become that much smaller.

Lisa and I were eager to start a family, but in the wake of 9/11 I personally didn’t even believe that morning would necessarily follow night. Urban legend tells us that there was a baby boom after 9/11 and that hospitals were overrun with births in the summer of 2002. And while that’s an optimistic way of thinking about human perseverance in the face of tragedy, in retrospect we know that such a boom didn’t materialize.

If anything, my guess would be that condom sales went up - because there was indeed a lot of sex happening, maybe just not the procreative kind. What I did observe in the wake of 2001 was a re-prioritization of sex for many couples, which was part of a broader re-prioritization of connecting with loved ones and living a more meaningful life.

September 11, 2001 was a wake-up call for Americans to seize the moment in and out of the bedroom: From squabbling couples putting their differences aside to make love not war, to acts of infidelity and divorce that reconfirmed that you only live once, to casual sex and one-night stands that just seemed to channel the excitement and uncertainty, sex was in the air.

My first son was conceived on September 11, 2002, and born almost 9 months later to the day in 2003. In the year following 9/11, the world began to feel a bit more stable, morning did indeed follow night, and I have to admit that part of me wanted to create an American baby and “stick it to the terrorists” that sought to eradicate us.

As I carried my newborn son in a Bjorn up and down the streets of New York, the ground beneath my feet felt solid and familiar again. Stroller wheels soon turned into scooter wheels, and now my son is already past the point of wanting to hold my hand on the way to school as he runs ahead. In my professional life as a sex therapist and founder of Good in Bed, familiar problems have returned as well. Gone are the days of re-prioritizing sex and love; if anything they’ve fallen to the bottom of the to-do list as most Americans are consumed with work and just getting by. Couples are being battle-tested: not by terrorists, but by their own financial stresses and anxieties.

With bin Laden gone, I am reminded of Milan Kundera’s novel "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," the title of which comes from a meditation on the philosophy of Nietzsche, who said that we should live every moment of our lives as if we were sentenced to repeat it over and over, forever and ever for all eternity.

Easier said than done. We can’t live every moment as if it were eternally indelible; it’s simply too hard and would make life much too heavy. So instead we attempt to escape and live with a sense of lightness. We postpone our goals, we get into ruts, we distract ourselves with trivialities, but deep down we know that we could be living life more fully.

In the novel itself, this paradox is explored through the erotic relationship of a young couple who flit in and out of each other’s arms over the years against the background of Soviet oppression. For the most part they are out of balance with each other, but there are moments when political reality punctures the bubble of their everyday “lightness” and compels them to tap into the gravity and heaviness of their love for each other.

For many of us, 9/11 was a call to action, or at least a call to “re-prioritization.” The death of bin Laden is certainly cause for celebration - but it won’t send us running into the arms of our spouses. For that, we’ll have to look inwards and find our own call to action.


soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. SuperCharlie

    FIRST!

    May 5, 2011 at 08:09 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      I am sure you feel important!!

      May 5, 2011 at 08:45 | Report abuse |
    • JimS.

      first and biggest– loser, that is

      May 5, 2011 at 18:36 | Report abuse |
  2. palintwit

    It would appear that this article has nothing to do with Sarah Palin.

    May 5, 2011 at 08:52 | Report abuse |
  3. Hmmm

    It appears that this guy was turned on by 9/11 and is projecting this on others.

    May 5, 2011 at 08:56 | Report abuse |
  4. Conrad Shull

    What a load of hooie!

    May 5, 2011 at 08:59 | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      That people like him get careers based on this nonsense is depressing.

      May 5, 2011 at 19:06 | Report abuse |
  5. Cindy

    I think Ian Kerner conceived his next child the night bin Laden was killed, even though bin Laden always maintained adamantly that he was innocent of the 9/11 attacks. Please don't fetishize 9/11 and then try to say everyone else is doing the same thing.

    May 5, 2011 at 09:01 | Report abuse |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      Bin Laden took credit for the attacks over and over. If he was so innocent, he could have just surrendered instead of sending out videos saying "Death to America."

      May 5, 2011 at 15:52 | Report abuse |
  6. Conrad Shull

    It begs asking: is there any other human being on the planet who upon hearing of Bin Laden's death, immediately thought of the book "Unbearable Lightness of Being"? I know I didn't.

    May 5, 2011 at 09:05 | Report abuse |
  7. Wolfmoon

    Sociopath

    May 5, 2011 at 09:08 | Report abuse |
  8. Wolfmoon

    It is not natural to become s3xually aroused because of terror attacks.

    May 5, 2011 at 09:09 | Report abuse |
  9. __ME__

    Now, that was a waste of time....

    May 5, 2011 at 09:24 | Report abuse |
  10. cpg35223

    Quite possibly the most vapid thing I've ever read that didn't have a mention of Lindsay Lohan or Brittney Spears.

    May 5, 2011 at 09:35 | Report abuse |
    • palintwit

      Don't forget Bristol ( aka the dancing porker ) Palin.

      May 5, 2011 at 09:47 | Report abuse |
    • john

      Very poorly done college essay.

      May 5, 2011 at 10:16 | Report abuse |
    • Karen Neff

      If you want vapid try READING the Unbearable Lightness of Being. That book is wretched!

      May 5, 2011 at 11:59 | Report abuse |
  11. laidon911

    Yes, I got laid on Sept 11....and 12....and 13....

    May 5, 2011 at 09:38 | Report abuse |
  12. Question

    To the author: At the time of writing this article, were you...

    a) drunk
    b) intoxicated
    c) brain-dead
    d) an idiot
    e) all of the above?

    May 5, 2011 at 09:58 | Report abuse |
    • cs

      all to the above.

      May 5, 2011 at 15:37 | Report abuse |
    • Maria

      All of the above.

      May 5, 2011 at 16:33 | Report abuse |
  13. Jeanne Salmon

    Huh?

    May 5, 2011 at 10:01 | Report abuse |
  14. ethan

    wow the article didn't mention iPad 2 either!

    May 5, 2011 at 10:02 | Report abuse |
  15. palintwit

    Teabaggers become $exually aroused when Sarah Palin winks at them.

    May 5, 2011 at 10:06 | Report abuse |
    • Alexis

      I always knew the tea baggers were into beastiality! She is a frickin woodland creature. Never thought she was attractive ever...i guess thatis because she opens her mouth and proves what an ugly human being and what a terrible American she is.

      May 5, 2011 at 11:05 | Report abuse |
  16. nick

    Do we really need to tie every topic to OBL this week. This is a rediculous topic. I am sorry I wasted 3 minutes of my life reading it + 2 minutes commenting on it.

    May 5, 2011 at 10:40 | Report abuse |
  17. Chuck

    What was this all about?

    May 5, 2011 at 11:04 | Report abuse |
  18. Alexis

    This is the dumbest artucle I have ever read. Witht he same reasoning people should have been hesitant to procreate duyring the civil war, ww 1, ww2, korea, vietnam, Iraq. Not everything needs to be tied to the age of terror unless youhave the emotional IQ of a 3 year old.

    May 5, 2011 at 11:04 | Report abuse |
  19. aubrie

    Huh???? Did I miss something???

    May 5, 2011 at 11:39 | Report abuse |
  20. Brad

    This has to be the worst article I have ever seen.

    May 5, 2011 at 11:53 | Report abuse |
  21. sbp

    "Blah, blah, blah, and my book......"

    Every article is basically an advertisement for this guy's book. Does he pay CNN to put this tripe up, or vice versa?

    May 5, 2011 at 12:30 | Report abuse |
  22. Heann

    I had $ex in an age of terror but then my girlfriend finally had her period

    May 5, 2011 at 12:37 | Report abuse |
  23. That Guy

    I can't believe people making a living writing such nonsense. What a absolutely absurd connection. CNN, I'm not sure how much more time I can give you to become a real news organization.

    May 5, 2011 at 12:54 | Report abuse |
  24. Hrumph.

    wow – you really knocked yourself out there by not going to Bali, instead slumming it in the Caribbean. How did the Bush White House miss out on that marketing opportunity – "If we can't enjoy a honeymoon in Bali, then the terrorists have won..."

    May 5, 2011 at 12:55 | Report abuse |
  25. jonny

    Man, it really is a shame the author never made it to Bali.

    May 5, 2011 at 13:21 | Report abuse |
  26. Sugartaste81

    What's so disturbing or inappropriate about this article? It's just pointing out that in the face of tragedy, it's important to remember that LOVE is what keeps us alive. And yes, making love is part of that love. What do you think caused the baby boom 65 years ago?

    May 5, 2011 at 13:40 | Report abuse |
  27. Raul Gonzalez

    An idiotic article at best! I read it during my lunch break and got a laugh out of it! Actually, what was really funny as that CNN actually puts out this crap!

    May 5, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
  28. MrsFizzy

    So...where's my post? Are you honestly telling me that I can't spell out S E X in an article about S E X???

    May 5, 2011 at 15:02 | Report abuse |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      It's CLBUTTIC.

      May 5, 2011 at 15:54 | Report abuse |
  29. MrsFizzy

    People have faced adversity throughout history and someone life & s-e-x have always gone on... nothing to see here, folks. Really everything does not have to have an OBL tie-in, people.

    May 5, 2011 at 15:04 | Report abuse |
  30. average joes

    to the author – you SIR are an a waste of space and your wife is even worse

    May 5, 2011 at 15:17 | Report abuse |
  31. Buster Bloodvessel

    S ex and bin Laden? How would that even work? "What do you use for contraception?" 'Osama bin Laden.'

    May 5, 2011 at 15:55 | Report abuse |
  32. Jules Jones

    Someone help me. Was anything actually said in this article? What was the point? That life is finite and fleeting? Do we need to be at war to know that? Confusion.

    May 5, 2011 at 16:00 | Report abuse |
  33. Fuyuko

    So, anything to capitalize on the 'bin laden' death. Lame CNN.

    May 5, 2011 at 16:12 | Report abuse |
  34. Lana G

    can't post my comment? what's wrong with you?

    May 5, 2011 at 16:43 | Report abuse |
  35. Lana G

    A fuzzy blanket ! Now that's a "comfort"

    May 5, 2011 at 16:58 | Report abuse |
  36. Lana G

    Oh, yeah, and drink water, plenty of water so you don't end up crazy like the people in the tv !

    May 5, 2011 at 17:02 | Report abuse |
  37. frank

    Dr. ReallyScrapingTheBarrelForTopicIdeas to a white courtesy phone, please...

    May 5, 2011 at 17:29 | Report abuse |
  38. Beary

    This piece is narrow and shallow. Kerner unaware of his own privilege and has an over-large sense of himself. Go visit downtown Los Angeles and force yourself to stay a while. CNN online is vapid. How can we bring sense of humility back into the culture.?

    May 5, 2011 at 17:32 | Report abuse |
  39. frank

    Next time, you can skip typing anything up, just post the link to your book and tell us to buy it, it would be less insulting.

    May 5, 2011 at 18:05 | Report abuse |
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.