Well, hey there! Guess what exciting new oh-Lord-not-my-vagina type issues emerged RIGHT THE HELL AFTER I took a plane out to the Ohio?
Splendid. So the news, for those of our readers who have been trapped inside of a well for the past week or so, and have only just emerged thanks to the help of their loyal border collies, is this: There are body scanners. They can see you naked. Sometimes you have to go through them, “randomly,” at the airport. We’ve been promised that the images will never be saved or leaked or used abusively, just like all those other body scanner images that have been saved, leaked, and/or used abusively. Your alternative to being Hudged by the forces of Jet Blue? Why, you can get a “patdown,” of course! Wherein TSA agents will stick their hands down the front of your pants, check both overboob and underboob, and wedge their hands right up in your crotch, for good measure, so that you will be in an extra-good mood for visiting Gramma. Basically, everyone is having some fun and/or consent issues for the holidays!
One person who has been faithfully covering these issues, of course, is Amanda Hess of TBD. And one person who faithfully reads and/or professionally GChats with Amanda Hess of TBD is me! Join us, therefore, as we pat down the many suspicious crevices of this particular issue.
SADY: Hello, lady!
AMANDA: Hello! Before we continue this discussion, would you politely allow me to peruse the definition of your genitalia?
SADY: Hmmm. Do I have a more invasive, potentially traumatic option?
AMANDA: There is a special groping option for potential terrorists, and also libertarian bloggers.
SADY: DANG! I have missed out only by the syllables “tarian!” Ah, well. At least I can be assured that this never happens to dudes. Because if it did, THEN is when we would have a problem! Honestly, I do feel bad for dudes who are facing consequences for refusing to have their junk groped. TRAUMA IS TRAUMATIC FOR MEN ALSO. However, the thing where, “if it’s women, it’s complaining, if it’s men, IT IS AN OUTRAGE” seems to be operating in full force here.
AMANDA: Right. Trauma that is traumatic for men is traumatic for freedom. I get the outrage on this. I do not want a TSA agent feeling anywhere near my genitals. And I totally understand how invasive this body scan thing could potentially be. Particularly for trans people, who could legitimately be outed by this thing.
SADY: Yeah, dear Lord. “Granted, society is always looking to monitor and punish you based on your below-stairs furniture. However, for America, it is important that we all get a look at your below-stairs furniture!”
AMANDA: But a subset of the outrage, I feel like, is of the “they can see the outline of my weiner! And while I usually enjoy this sort of attention, what if they make fun of how small it is!” variety. Which I find amusing.
SADY: Right. Like, I believe there was actually a scene in Spinal Tap about this. Maybe there is a “hyper-realistic prosthetic large weiner” industry that has just been given the kick it needs?
PICTURED, AT 1:05: THE SCENE IN SPINAL TAP THAT WAS ABOUT THIS.
AMANDA: Yes, and since those also function as drug testing fake pee dispensers, I am sensing some libertarian synergy here.
SADY: Right! I mean, I get it. It’s not just a libertarian thing. And at first, I have to admit, my impulse was, “I would be fine with going through that scanner thing! I sincerely doubt you are going to get a charge out of me!” But then I realized: I don’t get a lot of body-based flak. I’m thin, I’m white, I’m cis, I’m not disabled. I don’t love the idea of being looked at naked by that dude with the ’80s not-quite-porn-stache, but I’m comfortable with being seen that way, because everything in society tells me I have a RIGHT TO BE. Like, the problem, for a lot of people, might not just be the touching. And it might not just be the exposure. It might be body policing and shaming in general, you know?
AMANDA: Yeah. And I think a lot of the outrage comes from the exposure and the touching going further than what was promised. Hello consent issues! Like, first you weren’t supposed to be able to see genitalia on the thing. And now you pretty much can. And a lot of the people complaining about the enhanced pat-downs say they weren’t warned about what was going to happen.
SADY: Yeah, exactly. And, you know, the point being that the patdown IS invasive and unpleasant and that’s supposed to somehow “encourage” (read: “pressure”) you into getting in the scans. It’s the total lack of control that is so very anti-consent, I think. But it seems like there’s widespread pushback against it. Whatever climate of fear we used to live in that we could freely cede certain privacy rights, seems to have dissipated to the extent that people are no longer allowing people to have their junk searched for no real cause. I think it was Amanda Marcotte [ED: Nope! Melissa McEwan!] who pointed out that, if you wanted to conceal something, REALLY, you might just use a body cavity. So what’s next, a Private And Professional And Totally Random OB/GYN Exam for passengers? Jesus. I woke up on a Greyhound and realized that the seat in front of me was, in the light of morning, obviously covered in splooge, but I’d STILL rather take the damn Greyhound than this.
AMANDA: Yeah. I mean, I expect some of the push-back has to do with Obama being president? It seems like it’s really keyed into that conservative contingent that, under Bush, may have been like “well I know I have to give up some of my civil liberties to behead Osama Bin Laden, but I’m willing to do that because it’s mostly going to affect brown people.” But now they can comfortably settle into a “Democrats stealing our freedoms” argument with a “maybe just grope brown people” follow-up. I mean, the Washington Times headline was “Obama’s hand in your crotch,” which I feel like may not have been the spin under the last presidency? Maybe?
SADY: Haha, yeah. HE HAS COME FOR YOUR CONSTITUTION AND NOW HE WANTS TO TOUCH YOUR WEINER. Whereas under our last president it would have been like, “Brave heroes sacrifice all to keep America’s flights safe from weiner bombs.”
AMANDA: Haha. It’s pretty clear at this point that the new procedures are universally reviled. The funny thing, for me, is all the ways that the people who hate it are spinning it. So we’re feminist right, so we’re all “assault trauma! consent! trans rights!” etc. And homophobes are like “but what if the TSA person is gay!”
SADY: Yeah. There was a piece that was like, “maybe men should just wear kilts!” Which I believe was in The Atlantic, which we love. (Yay! Love!) But, you know, it’s a very dude way to go about it. THE LAST THING YOU WILL WANT TO ENCOUNTER IS: MY BALLS, SIR. And now the homophobes are like, “BUT WHAT IF HE DOES WISH TO ENCOUNTER YOUR BALLS?” Basically, no-one wants their junk touched. Whether they’re wearing a Purity Ring or they’re feminist or they’re ignorant as heck and scared of same-sex touching — which, I have to wonder: Would they be happier about getting their dicks measured by a lady? And if so, could THAT constitute sexual assault? — or whatever.
AMANDA: Yeah. I mean, it is sort of inspiring that we’ve been able to reach some consensus on this. Unfortunately, my greatest allegiance lies with the “DEAR GOD GET ME OUT OF THIS AIRPORT AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE” division, which forces me to look down upon those who would attempt to protest the system.
SADY: Yes. I, too, have only one desire and/or request for airports, which is: Get me through this ordeal as fast as you can, I AM WEARING A SPORTS BRA THERE SHOULD NOT BE A PROBLEM, and also DO NOT CHARGE ME NINE DOLLARS FOR YOUR SANDWICH, for I know it to be stale. Also institute the sad little smoking cages like they have at LAX. All the people with rough skin and coughs, hanging out in a little cage over the tarmac like diseased parakeets: That is what I want from my airport. I guess I have a lot of requests for airports, Amanda! I guess we are on OPPOSITE SIDES OF THIS ISSUE.