Does the TSA have a little penis problem?

Does the TSA have a little penis problem?

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.

No, seriously.

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.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Sommer Gentry

    There can be no justification, ever, for forcing unwelcome sexual contact on an innocent person who is not a suspect in a crime.  Forcing someone to endure unwelcome sexual touching, through either coercion and manipulation or physical threat, is called sexual assault.   What the TSA does when it fondles the sex organs of men, women, and children is systematic, ritualized sexual assault.   It’s sick.  What sickens me most is to see people defend such unprovoked assaults as “just an inconvenience”.   Really?  No. Waiting in lines is an inconvenience.  Strangers forcing themselves on your wife or your teenage daughter, rubbing her labia and clitoris through her clothing is a sick sexual assault. 

    There’s a bright line here.  People against whom the police can articulate particularized suspicion may be frisked for weapons, others may not be frisked.  That is the law of the United States of America, everywhere except in the forty-foot-wide internal border checkpoints at airports.  (Nightclubs, et cetera, that perform patdowns are acting of their own volition as private businesses, not as U.S. Government authorities interfering with a private business transaction.)  We need to put an end to this “special case” and demand that innocent people be treated as innocent people everywhere that they choose to go.  Innocent people should never be subjected to sexualized intrusions absent any suspicion of wrongdoing. 

  • Raven_Altosk

    I still hope you are able to contact the two political camps about the TSA and traveler’s rights. I hate both parties equally at this point so whomever has an intelligent solution to these issues will get my vote.

    And yes, the TSA has all kinds of problems, so penis envy is nothing new. *snerk*

  • Nikki

    Well, to answer the question in the headline, I think TSA has a problem with everything. (Leave it to Raven to bring on the snark.  lmao)

    As for the guy that was relentlessly teased about the size of his pickle… well, at least he wasn’t approached with two popsicle sticks and duct tape.  Now that probably would have warranted a beat down. 

  • mbods

    It’s more than “some” of us refusing to fly anymore and that number is growing everyday.  We just vacation close to home now, good for our local economy too!

  • Pat

    I fly through Dubai all the time…every person is screend this way. Women are pulled into a room one at a time and “felt-up” – by a woman. So, I’m pretty used to it, sad to say. They also hand search all carry on luggage. Glad I don’t carry sex toys around! So far, the plane hasn’t blown up. But there must be a better way.

  • Daizymae

    Absolutely, both parties are equally to blame for this atrocity. They both have their hands in the till making big money from these scanners and other security devices. And both parties are enjoying and making use of the
    police state government control they are creating. They are never going to back down from this.

    I have always considered myself a flag waving patriotic American who gets misty eyed when she hears the national anthem. I’ve always voted in every election, very proud of my right to vote.

    Now, voting has become a farce…a distraction to keep the public occupied and keep their attention off of our true masters, corporate interests. Corporate interests own both parties, so all this brouhaha over Rep v Dem is nothing but a farce. Regardless of who wins the coming election, it will be business as usual in the Corporate Police State of America.

    Last night, I attended a concert. Near the end, America the Beautiful was performed. One by one, the audience began to stand. For the first time in my life, I did not want to stand. When the entire audience was on its feet, I reluctantly stood. I did not want to attract unpleasant attention to myself. I did not, however, join in the enthusiastic applause at the end of the song.

    This represents a complete reversal of my point of view before TSA and DHS destroyed our beautiful country. I will never forget the experience of being one of over 50,000 people present at the World Series playoff games in Yankee Stadium in October of 2011, the first large public event held in New York after the attack. I’ll never forget the thrill of 50,000 plus people singing the national anthem and screaming USA! USA! USA! In defiance of a cowardly attack on our country. I was never more proud to be an American. I consider it one of the most thrilling moments of my life.

    Ten years later, I am now ashamed and disgusted when I consider how the federal government took advantage of the fear and confusion caused by this heinous attack to seize control of our country and turn it into a police state owned and operated by corporate overlords. I am ashamed and disgusted that the federal government has used the horror of 9-11 as an excuse to strip American citizens of their rights and to destroy the freedoms that Americans have defended for over two hundred years. I am ashamed and disgusted that our precious military men and women are being put in harm’s way by a federal government obsessed, not with protecting our country, but with generating profits for the defense industry and the oil companies. I am ashamed and disgusted that our precious military men and women are often abandoned and discarded by that same federal government when they return home broken in body and mind. I am ashamed and disgusted that this rapacious federal government is now preying on the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society: the elderly, the sick, the disabled, and children. I am ashamed and disgusted that the federal government now believes it owns the bodies of American citizens and allows its low level employees to use and abuse the bodies of American citizens at will.

    The coming election may be the first election in my adult lifetime in which I do not vote. Both Democrats and Rublicans are invested to the hilt in continuing this atrocity, and I will not give my stamp of approval to this unAmerican unPatriotic reign of terror.

  • Daryl Laux

    I am surprised at nothing the TSA does. Their hiring practices do not include background checks. My daughter’s friend did not graduate from High School and does not have a GED. She lied on her application yet worked at the TSA at the SeaTac airport for several years – and she knew she could be fired for it. She bragged of sex (with each other as well as hooking up with passengers) and partying on the job. Yes, AT the airport! This is the kind of person the TSA has hired to protect the flying public! 

  • Fisher1949

    In the wake of the Penn State investigation, we learned that officials, including Joe Paterno, had covered up the sexual abuse of minors for 14 years to preserve their rank and privilege rather than act responsibly and morally and stop the abuses.

    Will it take 14 years for some clear thinking administration to arrive at a similar conclusion regarding TSA? Even though thousands of egregious violations of people’s bodies have been reported and even documented on video, TSA insists they are doing nothing wrong to preserve their agency. Much like the Penn State scandal, it is only a matter of time before the abuses of TSA catch up with the agency and those responsible for them.

    When it does, they will be rightfully vilified and prosecuted for these misdeeds.

  • SoBeSparky

    If we can go to the moon, and complete the entire genome of the human being, then we should be able to detect bombs and other weapons versus penises and breasts.  

    This is a game of chicken.  Terrorists (being sexually obsessed themselves, think about the virgins) know we would rather not examine breasts and penises.  The TSA would rather we expect to have all of our body inspected, no matter its function in sexual arousal.  

    The status quo works for the TSA, but not the general public.  Maybe we should initiate “naturist flights” where everyone flies naked and the captain keeps the cabin temperature toasty.   Keep the napkin in the lap when the coffee is poured.

  • Iam Wendy

    It’s not a “little” problem…

  • Carchar

    Although it “doesn’t count,” we mail a write-in vote with our candidate of choice. 

  • Annapolis2

     I agree, Daizymae, that what the TSA has done to me, to all of us, puts the lie to the American ideals of due process and limits on government power.  When the government claims the right to sexually assault innocent children, that is no government of mine!  We have an absolute duty to withdraw our consent from such a vile and abusive government. 

    But I think you should vote.  Gary Johnson, the libertarian candidate, has called for an end to the TSA.  Jill Stein, the Green candidate, has a wider message of ending the violent police repression of protests.  I won’t be voting for a Democrat or a Republican until one or both of those parties start to defend my physical safety from TSA thugs who threaten it.  But there are others on the ballot who share your ideals, Daizymae. 

  • Annapolis2

    I hate both parties equally too, Raven_Altosk.  That’s why I won’t vote for them.  There are anti-TSA candidates on the ballot, though, starting with Gary Johnson.

  • cjr001

    The fixation just shows that TSA has the collective maturity of a 13 year old. Where, like most 13 year olds, they simply don’t have ability to deal with a situation like an adult.

    Yes, America, your safety in the sky has been entrusted to a group who’s brain still works like a kid who’s barely into puberty.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I’m planning on writing in one of my cats. His name is Yoda and he is a very opinionated 10 year old gray tiger. His roots are humble as he came from a shelter, and he doesn’t put up with any BS from his other feline roommates.

    Considering some town in Alaska has a cat for a mayor…YODA FOR PREZ!!

  • Rosered7033

    Again, for background, I am an almost-60 yo grandmother, who is decidedly not a prude. I applaud Mr. Brennan’s decision to protest the way he did, and would seriously consider that action if I felt TSA was becoming too familiar with me ( and lest you have some starry-eyed idea that you might enjoy seeing a naked woman, I would be the first to say, mine is not a sight for the faint of heart).
    Is this the price we must pay for being “secure”? That we must strip naked, either by proxy or for real, to prove we are not a threat to the flying public? A place where my 86 yo mother cringes when she has to go through airport security? There are better ways, but until the bloated, inefficient TSA is confronted and overhauled, these indignities and assaults will continue

  • scapel

    It is not wha is getting on the airplane it is WHO is getting on the airplane. TSA is concentrating more on what than on who.

  • MarkieA

    I understand your frustration, but I feel that it is more important than ever – for all the reasons you delineate – to vote. The Government, Big Business, Labor Unions – pick your Devil – have been doing these things since 1776. It’s the PEOPLE who make this country what it is. Please, don’t shut down. They – the big THEY – truly win if we just give up.

  • MarkieA

    This argument is getting old. “They do it in Europe; it’s even worse there.” “You should see the pat-downs in the Middle East.” Well, folks, the difference is, we have a Constitution in this country that – supposedly – protects us from this kind of sh*t. They don’t. Until the Fourth Amendment is suspended, what TSA is doing is un-Constitutional.

  • Nigel Appleby

    This is the least of TSA’s problems. They have lots more larger problems as has been well documented in various venues (not just here).
    The role of the terrorist is to terrorise and now they are being helped by TSA, CATSA and all the other security operations around the world. Just look at the chaos over security for the London Olympics.
    I don’t know what the answer is – I wish I did.

  • Grant Ritchie

    YODA 2012?  I’m in. As father to eight cats myself, I admire his political activism. Don’t get me wrong, I love my babies, but all they seem to want to do is lie in the sun and look beautiful. One question… where does the candidate stand on the neutering question?  (^;^)~

  • Grant Ritchie

    “I did not want to stand”, but… “When the entire audience was on its feet, I reluctantly stood”. And therein lies the problem. Far too often, people who “don’t want to stand”  (so to speak) about various matters, do so anyway in order to “fit in”.

    To hell with fitting in. Stand (or sit) for your principles! I do, and like you, I adore this country. What I treasure most, though, is my right to sit… my right to support the TSA (when sometimes it seems no one else does) or, if I choose, to trash the TSA.
    I think Lisa Simeone is a misguided pain in the ass, but I respect her more than any other poster on this site, because she has convictions… and stands up for them.

    So fight, Daizymae. If you want to sit, SIT, and if you don’t like the way TSA operates, raise hell! But not just here. A lot of people post on this blog, but how many of them ever write to their Congressmen (or women), or their Senators, or even the President, for Christ’s sake?! I do. I even carry a little Post-It note in my wallet with the names and e-mail addresses of my representatives.

    In closing, I’d like to offer this anecdote… 35 years ago, I was arrested at gunpoint for growing marijuana in the backyard of my home. I was so outraged by such a mindless waste of police resources (four cop cars, eight cops) that I wrote to my State Assemblywoman, Jean Moorhead, about it. YEARS later, I was near her district office, so I popped in to talk to her. I mentioned that I had written that letter and her secretary jumped up and went to a file cabinet… and there it was… my letter. I was shocked (and gratified), and I was told that “we assume that every letter we receive reflects the opinions of 300 to 400 people who DIDN’T write.

    Daizymae, I apologize for going on at such length, but the idea of you standing when you wanted to sit really struck a nerve with me. So please, sit… write… do whatever you have to do to speak to power. There IS strength in numbers.


    P.S. And VOTE, damnit! I’ve voted for Nader in the last four elections, but by God, I’ve voted. As Commander Jason Nesmith said in Galaxy Quest… “Never give up. Never surrender”. :-)     

  • Charlie Funk

    Something like this ever happens to me, I’m buying ad space and advertising it to the WORLD!  Same as those ED drug ads that caution to contact a medical authority if you have an erection lasting more than four hours.  I have an erection lasting more than four hours, expect to hear me on your local radio station running an ad either bragging or soliciting others to come on over while it lasts.  So much for decorum.  LOL

  • Charlie Funk

    Can I get an amen for the sistah on both parties?

  • bodega3

    This is a joke.  Mr. Long Dong has posed in the nude to show off his main attraction, so he wears clothes so others will notice.  The TSA noticed, so he won and got a prize to boot.

  • MeanMeosh

    Beat you to it.  I’m boycotting Democrats but couldn’t stomach voting for Rick Perry in 2010.  So, one of my parents’ Saint Bernards received one vote for governor in 2010 as a write-in.  I would have loved to see the look on the face of the county clerk when he logged that vote…

  • Cybrsk8r

    “Vote for me, you will”

  • Monica Lynn Kennedy

     We have discontinued flying as well. We live in DC and drive anything on this side of the Mississippi River. I won’t fly to see my dad in Colorado anymore. We now meet in the middle (Chicago), where the rest of the family lives, on holidays.

  • Daizymae

    I did not know about Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. Thank you for proposing alternatives to the Republican and Democratic machines.

    I will vote for ANYONE including Raven’s cat Yoda who will openly take a stand against TSA. I fully understand that no third party candidate will win. The big corporate machine will not allow that to happen. But at least that way I can exercise my precious right to vote without giving my approval to this immoral atrocity known as TSA.

    I will NOT vote for anyone who is unwilling to go against TSA because that will make me complicit in all their crimes. So if there is no candidate, I will leave that office blank. I will not enable child molesters, thieves, perverts, and tyrants.

  • Daizymae

    I called both my senators, my representative, and the president…for all the good that did. I cancelled my Chase Continental credit card and told them their reward miles are useless to me now since I will not be photographed naked, exposed to unnecessary radiation, or sexually molested as a condition of using their product.

    Instead, I opened a Hilton Honors card and became a gold member. Their representatives frequently call me to get me to come to their resorts in Orlando or Vegas. I tell them I would love to come, but there’s no way I can get there without being strip searched or having my genitals fondled and so I must decline their generous offer.

    So I’m doing all that I am capable of doing to protest this nightmare. My husband and I are in our sixties. He has serious disabilities from MS and I also have physical limitations. I think you can understand why we would not want to make ourselves the target of a room full of hostile people when we cannot easily leave the place.

    Now that Sommer has proposed candidates who are not part of the big government machine, I will vote for one of them. For any office that does not have a candidate willing to go against TSA, I will write in someone who does oppose TSA.

    Hmmmm…..maybe we should all write Chris in as our candidate?

  • Daizymae

    Your cat just earned my vote. YODA FOR PRESIDENT!

  • Daizymae

    You go, Charlie!

  • Joel Wechsler

    Tooo bad that more people have not come to the same realization that you have. I do wish, however, that you would reconsider not voting. That doesn’t accomplish anything, so hold your nose and pick whichever you think is the lesser of two evils.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Good girl!  And I mean no disrespect. I’m in my 60’s myself. One suggested addition to what you’re already doing… don’t let your representatives off with a single letter. Keep hammering away at them.

    I live in California, and our idiot governor is pushing an initiative on the November ballot which would raise our taxes yet again. This while he’s signing a bill to spend tens of billions on a high speed rail plan that nobody wants.

    So… about once every three months, I shoot e-mails to my State Assemblyman and Senator – no new taxes, no new taxes, no new taxes!

    If you feel so strongly about the TSA, don’t let your pols off the hook with a single letter. Keep banging away. Remember, the squeaky wheel…

    As for our presidential candidate, I can see Chris as veep, but I’m voting Yoda for the big chair. :-) 

  • Daizymae

    Thanks for the encouragement. Maybe I can develop a sort of default letter and keep sending that about every three months. Good idea.

  • SimoneNY

    I watched the video of John Brennan who refused to let the TSA “touch his junk”, and the TSA instructed him to leave the airport. After he got his tkt refunded, he was stopped from leaving the airport and was told that the TSA would bring a case against him.
    Does anyone know what happened after this? Was he arrested? Was/Is there a TSA case against him?

  • Rosered7033

    The case was dropped this week after Mr. Brennan confirmed he had shed his
    clothes in protest. Apparently if you are naked in order to protest something –
    ANYTHING – you are “covered” under Federal law.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Ah, our dear Governor Goodhair.

    I wonder if his wife is now satisfied with the rebuild of the governor’s mansion or if they are still living at our expense on a “rental” $10K a month ranch?

  • Louis O’Conner

    Here is the deal. I would prefer that ANYTHING is found at zero altitude rather than at 30,000 feet. Sure it gets boring and I have had a few times where I have thought the TSA people were jerks but think about it people!!!! One bomb, one gun, one anything that can be used to bring down your plane or the plane that your loved ones are on can not be rerun, And to publicly state who or what they will not search is absurd to the ridiculous. Not all people who wish us ill are illiterate. Publicly stating that TSA is no longer going to search old folks, children, Senators ( I am talking to you, Senator Paul, he of the pout.) does nothing but give these guys more ways to hurt us. Give these guys some credit and perhaps start treating them like professionals with professional wages etc. Right now many seem more like rent a cops on vacation from the mall. ( a special sorry to the professional TSA folks that I just dissed) And since when is going through a TSA line considered “date night”. I have travelled extensively for many years and never have I seen sweet nothing whispered, or a glass of red wine poured before a pat down. Give it a rest and get on with the reality of the 21st century.