Passenger To TSA: “Don’t Touch My Junk”

You may or may not have seen this story about John Tyner, a man who opted out of the new full body scanner.  He was instead told that he would have to undergo an enhanced body pat down. This new pat down, done by a TSA agent of the same gender, includes a front-of-the-hand touching of the genitals and breasts. After the process was explained to him, he told the TSA agent “If you touch my junk I’ll have you arrested”. The TSA agent explained that because of his statement, a supervisor would be called. When Tyner refused to comply even after the supervisor explained the procedure again,  he decided to leave. However, on the way out the TSA supervisor told him he needed to finish the screening process. Because he didn’t, he may face an $11,000 fine.

There have been reported abuses by TSA agents during these pat downs including a report from Penn Jillette. For survivors of sexual assault, these invasive pat downs are traumatizing. They can trigger flashbacks, physical reactions, anxiety attacks and more issues related to sexual assault.

So why not just go through the full body scanner? People fear that if the images, that are not automatically deleted, they can be inverted and there will be instant images available of them naked. See here for more information and an example of before and after inversion. Aside from privacy, here are also health concerns. These enhanced scanners are not as simple as an X-ray. According to sources, one full body scan is the equivalent of two minutes exposure to radiation. It is also possible that exposure to these scanners could exacerbate certain types of cancers.

So what are our options? If you are a cancer survivor, you can chose to be sexually molested in order to fly. If you have been sexually assaulted you can choose to expose yourself to extra radiation. Or you can choose to not fly at all. For some people that simply is not an option.

As a two time rape survivor, I feel like I am being forced to use the body scanners in airports where they are already installed. Fortunately there are still plenty of smaller and secondary airports that still do not have these new scanners. Here is a list of airports that have the full body scanners installed.

If you are the type who would like to protest these scanners, on Wednesday, November 24th, if you are flying, you can choose to Opt-Out of the “naked body scanners” by telling the TSA “I opt out” when you are asked to go through the scanners. See the link for more details.

After 9/11 my husband and I used to joke that before long they were going to have us all strip down and go through security naked or in little paper smocks like at the doctor’s office. I think I would have preferred the little paper smock. I personally do not mind the body scanner. After what I went through with the major complications from my breast augmentation, lift, and subsequent reconstruction (see for more) my boobs are all over the internet anyway. It’s the pat down from hell that already has me traumatized. As I mentioned previously, I’m a two time rape survivor. I have enough issues without some stranger groping me. All afternoon yesterday I was dealing with borderline anxiety attacks and fighting back tears. I actually had a couple beers starting at noon to take the edge off. The Newsweek article I referenced above shows that I am not the only one who feels this way.

So where do we stand? What are our options? How can we travel safely without such hideous violations of people’s privacy?

As this post goes live,  I am getting on a plane at our local airport to fly to Springfield, MO for SkeptiCon. There are no scanners in either place. I will report later on the experience.


1 Comment

  1. sgerbic said,

    November 18, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Maria here is my response to your well thought out blog today.

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