Flying to LA Today: Let's Talk Airport Checks and an Intimate Invasion of Privacy




While I wanted to post about all of the TSA scanning issues during the holidays, which greatly impacted my decision to get to the airport way to early anticipating crazy security lines and protests over full body actuality, my experience was pretty calm. With an early morning flight to LA today I'm reminded of all the discussion that came out during that time, and centered on my interest in the body. With full body scanners, displaying every facet of the body and intimate pat downs, it makes for a tense case between the balancing of personal boundaries and security, even bringing into question the possibility of Fourth Amendment Rights violation.For some going through airport security is not only a complete invasion of privacy, with feelings of being touched inappropriately, unprofessional commentary, feelings of humiliation, it can also be traumatic for those that have experienced sexual assault, possibly causing flashbacks of the event. Some passengers have also felt signaled out and sexualized, as in the case of Eliana Sutherland, who was isolated for further airport screening because of the size of her breasts.

While scans and pat downs are upsetting and humiliating for some, others have used these events for comedy. A Bloomberg journalist, Caroline Baum, wrote with mock envy about not being chosen for screening based on her breast size. "As a woman, I was offended, outraged, disgusted -- not to mention jealous. What does Eliana have that I don’t have? No TSA agent has ever singled me out because of the size and shape of my breasts or any other body part," wrote Baum. The TSA scans and pat downs even became a featured spoof on Saturday Night Live, which compared the experiences to those with a sex worker, as featured above. Some even used the new scanners as an impetus for new products, including underwear designed for men that would prevent a public visualization of their penis. Rocky Flats Gear and Fourth Amendment Underwear have both specialized in this space. While I feel uncomfortable with some of the verbiage toward sex workers in the above graph, I think it provides a nice visual colloquialization of the feeling of intimacy.

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