I’m pretty sure I was one of the first travelers to receive the Friendly Fondle from TSA agents. I was flying alone with my two children on Oct. 31, 2010 when I was given the free genital touch before a flight to Denver. The practice officially started on Nov. 1, 2010. I was shocked and immediately called my husband to tell him that in some cultures, I’d be married to my TSA agent now. It was not a good experience.
I recently flew back from Israel and got the full Ben Gurion Security Special — nearly 3 hours of luggage excavation and questions. It wasn’t ideal but considering that I am a reporter and had spent some time in disputed territories, it wasn’t exactly a surprise. But what was an unwelcome surprise was when I returned to the states and went through customs in Philadelphia. I was tired, smelly and not in the mood to get pulled out of line for another Freedom Grope. There is no question that having my lady parts touched felt like much more of a violation than Israeli airport security asking me what, exactly, this was.
The Philadelphia experience, which left me in tears, actually, made me wonder about two things. One is how women recovering from rape might feel to be touched in such an unwelcome manner by a federal agent. The other is what I would do if a TSA agent attempted to do one of these genitalia touches on my children.
I hate that we live in a country where such a question would even be asked. And I pray that I’ll never encounter the situation. But as the picture here shows, agents at a Kansas City airport patting down a baby. It would be one thing, I guess, if we were seeing actual security work instead of security theater. But as bad as nudie scans and genital touches are for adults, we’re at least quasi-consenting adults. But babies? Really?
(Photo via Jacob Jester/Twitter)