It wouldn’t be getting so much attention if “touch my junk” weren’t so inherently funny. That, and the timing of the TSA fiasco is maybe a little too prompt, considering we’re on the verge of the busiest travel season in Uh-merica. Career burlesquers who have to fly often will certainly be noticing the new-fangled equipment: if explaining your costumes and props weren’t enough, now you get X-rays: hello, piercings. What I find hilarious about this week’s fracas is that fewer people care about the health ramifications of the TSA’s largely untested new “Backscatter” X-ray machine than they do about being seen naked or receiving an “improper touch.” Welcome to Uh-merica, where the Puritans are stil in charge.
What’s wrong with a little nudity?
Well, plenty, obviously. Burlesque encourages nudity, of a very public nature, for adults, by adults, and more importantly, by people who want to be naked. The flip side is a little too French—or worse. Molly Crabapple’s recent tweet, “TSA: ‘Would you prefer your 5 year old photographed naked, or just molested?’” was downright eerie.
A friend voiced that she’d rather be felt up than photographed, because of the fear of photographs being passed around on the immortal internet. The TSA claims this isn’t possible, buuuut, their last technology’s pix have already been widely distributed.
But if you’re traveling this Thanksgiving, I personally suggest you go for the manhandling—or womanhandling—for a better reason than nekkid internet pix: Ever notice how even a routine X-ray at the dentist comes with a lead vest? Peter Rez, a professional who might not know what he’s talking about but certainly has a better-informed opinion than blabbermouths like me, says, “The odds of contracting fatal skin cancer from just one trip through a backscatter machine, Rez said, are one in 30 million. The chances of dying in a terrorist attack, Rez said, are also one in 30 million.” If I had to choose death by skin cancer or death by terrorists, I’d go for the terrorists. Call me a drama queen, but people might remember me, and maybe someone would actually go find Osama bin Laden—remember that guy? Skin cancer? “Remember that J.D. Oxblood?” “Yeah… pity he didn’t use SPF 30.” Yawn.
The point is, the TSA is operated by a bunch of fucking idiots. Literally. I won’t go into my litany of personal experiences, but I will say that I have an extensive list of ways to bring down an airplane that I keep in a bottom drawer in my mind, not because I’m a terrorist, but because I’m a writer and a pessimist and I travel a lot, and every time I get on a plane and get harassed by some police academy washout making 12 bucks an hour I think about the guy behind me NOT getting hassled, and how he could ruin everyone’s day. They made everyone take their shoes off only AFTER some passengers stopped a terrorist from trying to light his shoes on fire. They made everyone stop bringing bottled water onto flights only AFTER some guys made a bomb out of Gatorade bottles. They came up with a fresh and more highly-invasive body search only AFTER—a fucking YEAR after—a guy built an underwear bomb. And yet they still let me walk through security with a Bic pen in my pocket, which any Navy Seal will tell you is a great instrument to tracheotomize your flight attendant, and I can still sneak matches in my back pocket and buy a bottle of duty-free Bacardi 151 on the other side of security. TSA: please Google “Molotov Cocktail.”
If you’re upset about the search techniques, you should be upset that they’re not invasive enough. Strip searches? If you really cared about terrorism, you’d be conducting a body cavity search on everyone who flies. If underwear bomber had just put it in his ass…. And anyone who actually read the Patriot Act should be underwhelmed by the prospect of being searched at the airport—they only search you if you actually go to the airport. All you have to do to avoid the humiliation is STAY HOME. They’ll still record your phone calls, but whatevs.
A close friend recently went to Israel, and told me about how frighteningly EFFECTUAL the security is on El Al. They have their own people, and you get questioned. Even if you’re a cute Jewish-American girl, you get questioned. Where are you going? Who are you going to see? You get the fucking treatment. By a trained professional. Who required years of experience to get this job. Experience in reading people, sizing them up, remembering what they said, noticing whether or not they were nervous. They even do stuff that’s considered unconstitutional in this country—PROFILING. As in, that 5-year old boy is probably not a terrorist; that shifty looking guy plucking at his underwear, maybe.
Generally in the U.S., buying one-way plane tickets with cash won’t arouse suspicion. And why should it? TSA employees couldn’t get a job as cops; they certainly didn’t serve in the military and receive specific psychological training. They barely make more than baggage handlers—and if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. So why should they even care?
I don’t much like being felt up either, unless I ask for it. But people are asking the wrong questions. It’s not about how the TSA searches you, it’s about the fact that they’re morons with no training. Dogs who are trained to smell weed go crazy when they smell it. Dogs with no training don’t have the sense to leave the room and get stoned. People are no different. Hire intelligent people, train the shit out of them, and they’ll sniff out the sketchy people, take them to the back room, search them, and more importantly, question the ever-loving fuck out of them. Yes, now and then, innocent people will be reduced to tears under the hot lights. But we might actually catch some psychopaths. Meanwhile, Joe commuter can leave his shoes on, grandma doesn’t have to show her hip replacement scar, little Johnny can keep his wee-wee to himself, AND underpaid TSA drones won’t have to touch penises all day.
Meanwhile, I like the idea of men wearing kilts and going commando. I really like the idea of demanding to be searched by a woman, saying, “I’m a homosexual, and if I’m searched by a man I will become aroused.” And if I am searched by a man, proving it. It might not work, but at least I’ll make that twelve-dollar-an-hour mouthbreather as uncomfortable as I am while he feels me up in public.