NEW YORK—On Sept. 11, the world changed. The tragic events of that fateful day have had a profound impact on American society, altering—as documented in countless magazines and newspapers—everything from our our travel habits to our tastes in music to our gourmet-cheese preferences. But three months later, one vital question still remains unanswered: What is sexy in the wake of Sept. 11?
After the deaths of so many thousands of people, what turns us on?" asked Robyn Loeb, Life section editor of USA Today. "I'm hearing arched backs, lithe young bodies glistening with sweat, naked lovers embraced in long, slow, steamy kisses. Given everything that we as a nation have been through, when it comes to sex, we long for a return to the tried-and-true."
According to Vogue managing editor Carrie Bettig, beautiful women are in.
"Ever since Sept. 11, we've been seeing a lot of gorgeous women in fashion magazines," Bettig said. "A great many of the models featured in recent spreads have stunning faces and spectacular bodies—long legs, toned stomachs, and gravity-defying breasts. I believe that such images resonate because, in these times of turmoil, we take comfort in femininity. Hence, there is a focus on the female body in its most perfect form."
The change is also reflected in the celebrities we love—and lust.
"Just look at the cover of this month's Vanity Fair," said David Roell, a media-studies professor at Stanford University. "Tom Cruise is posing shirtless with a sultry, smoldering look on his face. Before Sept. 11, Cruise had never appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair without a shirt. Draw your own conclusions."
Erin Weiss, a People senior reporter, is currently working on a cover story on post-Sept. 11 sexiness. She has found that after enduring so much hardship and pain, the American people are eager to look at—and interact with—sexy people.
"Across the country, Americans are seeking out sexiness: Movies featuring sexy actors and actresses are thriving at the box office, strip clubs are packed, gyms are filled with people who either are sexy or aspire to be. Clearly, sex speaks powerfully to our collective need to move forward and enjoy life right now."
Weiss said she is confident that America will emerge from these difficult times sexier than ever.
"On Sept. 11, we lost our innocence," Weiss said. "We're now more mature, more aware. As President Bush said, 'We know what we want, and we know how to get it.' Now, that's sexy."
A few media professionals, however, are staying out of the raging sexiness debate.
"Sexiness after the terrorist attacks?" scoffed Boston Globe editor Matthew Storin. "We did that a month ago. We've also done features on how Sept. 11 has affected dating, the hotel industry, stand-up comedy, leukemia research, high-school football, antique collecting, and the parking situation in downtown Boston. I want to hear some new 9-11 ideas."
"The world is a totally different place now," Storin continued. "This year, instead of the usual Christmas-season stories about holiday displays and shopping, we're doing pieces about how stores are using patriotism in their holiday displays and how people don't feel like shopping."
Added Storin: "Will we ever write those innocent old stories again? That's the question we'll try to answer this Sunday, in a Globe feature piece addressing Sept. 11's effect on holiday-season journalism."