We could be talking about meaningful things today, like the “not guilty” verdict for TSA protester John Brennan. We could be discussing the latest screening outrage, which involves a passenger’s feeding tube. We might even debate why the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems won’t follow its laws.
But no. What you really want to ponder this week is penises.
(Before I go any further, a warning to those offended by any discussion of the male anatomy: stop reading, please. The rest of this post is about the male genitalia, and it contains language some may find objectionable. You have been warned.)
So what prompted this sudden interest in the sausage? (Are you still reading? I warned you.) Earlier this month, a passenger with the world’s largest recorded penis was frisked by a screener at San Francisco International Airport.
As Jonah Falcon passed through airport security, a younger security guard felt threatened by his “very noticeable” package — and interpreted it as a biological threat, reports my colleague Andy Campbell at the Huffington Post.
“I said, ‘It’s my dick,'” Falcon said. “He gave me a pat down but made sure to go around [my penis] with his hands. They even put some powder on my pants, probably a test for explosives. I found it amusing.”
You can read the entire pun-filled story — and view all 2,000-plus comments — right here.
Apparently, you found it amusing, too, because many of you emailed me the story, asking what I thought.
I am not amused. Many TSA agents, as I’ve already explained, have a breast fixation. They also have a a thing for sex toys. Should anyone be surprised that they’ve taken an interest in your private eye, too?
The conventional wisdom is that the TSA started groping men down under in 2010, during the scan and pat-down fiasco, when John Tyner told agents in San Diego not to touch his “junk.” (See video, above.)
But the conventional wisdom is wrong, when it comes to the TSA’s interest in your dong.
The TSA has been patting down suspect passengers since 2004, when it instructed agents to frisk travelers following a terrorist bombing in Russia. Although these exams were less aggressive than today’s “enhanced” pat-downs, they nevertheless raised some concerns among passengers that they could have their private areas touched by a TSA agent.
The first newsworthy confrontation happened in 2006, when TSA agents in Chicago discovered a passenger’s penis pump and turned it into a federal case. The man, Mardin Azad Amin, was reportedly embarrassed by an agent’s questions and called the male enhancement mechanism a bomb, which, in retrospect, was a mistake. He was accused of felony disorderly conduct, but the the charges were eventually dropped.
Tyner’s made-for-video encounter in 2010 wasn’t the only penis incident that year. Who can forget the case of Miami TSA screener Rolando Negrin who said he “lost his mind” after a co-workers repeatedly mocked the size of his package, clearly visible through one of its newfangled full-body scanners.
Negrin was reportedly arrested after beating a colleague with a baton in the airport parking lot, which seems like both an oddly appropriate, and at the same time highly inappropriate way, to show your displeasure for such verbal taunts. He agreed to attend anger management classes in a plea deal.
Connect all of the dots, and you might conclude this agency has an organizational culture where the locker-room jokes about sex are tolerated, and maybe even encouraged. Most of us wouldn’t care if they kept it in the locker room, but TSA agents believe they are empowered to perform aggressive pat downs and touch all of our private parts, and with only a few notable exceptions, our lawmakers, judges and passengers, have let them do it.
But is the solution to make our private parts off limits? Bad idea, the TSA’s apologists would argue. What about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the underwear bomber? Or the terrorists who brought down the Russian planes, and exported pat-downs to the United States?
Aren’t we just being prudent?
No, we are not. We are being foolish. Whether you are fortunate to have the world’s largest recorded penis or need to enhance your manhood with a pump, you can probably agree that the airport screening process has to respect your dignity and privacy.
Add the TSA’s problematic agency-wide attitude toward all things sexual, and it’s no wonder some American men — and women — refuse to fly.