TSA demands testicular fondling as an alternative to naked scanners

The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg has been experimenting with declining the whole-body TSA scanners at US airports -- and now things have gotten more intimate. The TSA has initiated a new, more humiliating pat-down procedure for people who refuse to show screeners their genitals on the naked scanners -- one that involves testicular cupping:
At BWI, I told the officer who directed me to the back-scatter that I preferred a pat-down. I did this in order to see how effective the manual search would be. When I made this request, a number of TSA officers, to my surprise, began laughing. I asked why. One of them -- the one who would eventually conduct my pat-down -- said that the rules were changing shortly, and that I would soon understand why the back-scatter was preferable to the manual search. I asked him if the new guidelines included a cavity search. "No way. You think Congress would allow that?"

I answered, "If you're a terrorist, you're going to hide your weapons in your anus or your vagina." He blushed when I said "vagina."

"Yes, but starting tomorrow, we're going to start searching your crotchal area" -- this is the word he used, "crotchal" -- and you're not going to like it."

"What am I not going to like?" I asked.

"We have to search up your thighs and between your legs until we meet resistance," he explained.

"Resistance?" I asked.

"Your testicles," he explained.

'That's funny," I said, "because 'The Resistance' is the actual name I've given to my testicles..."

The pat-down at BWI was fairly vigorous, by the usual tame standards of the TSA, but it was nothing like the one I received the next day at T.F. Green in Providence. Apparently, I was the very first passenger to ask to opt-out of back-scatter imaging. Several TSA officers heard me choose the pat-down, and they reacted in a way meant to make the ordinary passenger feel very badly about his decision. One officer said to a colleague who was obviously going to be assigned to me, "Get new gloves, man, you're going to need them where you're going."

For the First Time, the TSA Meets Resistance (via Kottke)

(Image: In Your Face, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from nyc_xmas's photostream)


  1. I’ve been getting “cupped” for the past few years because of the metal in my right leg. I guess they now have a official permission for grabbing your junk. I feel so much safer.

  2. No way. You think Congress would allow that?

    Yes, next time that they find a suiting “fright-du-jour”.

  3. This is ripe for anti-fake-security: clearly the thing to do is go on about how ‘ghey’ the goon is, and how much you’re enjoying it.

    It’s easier to hide things in a hairdo.

    Far as I know, stomachs full of condoms are quite popular.

  4. I swear, no matter the gender of the person doing the pat down, I’m going to bat my green eyes and ask “say, what’s your phone number?”

  5. If plane tickets weren’t so expensive, this could be and would be a legal and convenient alternative to prostitution.

    What will they do it they encounter too much resistance? If the pole gets in the way of seeing what else is in the tent, so to speak?

  6. Just moan loudly when they touch you, and say “a little to the left, thaaaat’s right, oooooh”

  7. My plan is to work myself up a bit before going through security. And then just wink and do a Groucho Marx style “double eyebrow lift”.

    At the end of the day, if they’re going to have a 3D model of my junk, I’m going to force them to gather that data manually, and I’m going to strive to make them every bit as uncomfortable about it as they make me.

  8. If they really want the TSA to save lives, they should train them to screen for testicular cancer while they’re at it.

  9. It’s stupid, paranoid and silly all together. Let’s face it, we’re letting the terrorists win by doing this. Terrorists don’t act the way they do because they want to kill us, they do it to install fear in us which by this action shows we are allowing them to do.

  10. I read my husband this great story as the prelude to yet another discussion of how these measures do nothing to keep us safe. I was segueing into this week’s story of explosive parcels being sent from Yemen to the U.S., and how terror plots are planned, and stopped, in ways that have nothing to do with TSA airport searches.

    But I was wrong!

    Went to the news story, and there’s the headline, clear as day: “Terror investigators examine more packages.”

    See, don’t you feel better? ;)

  11. Has anyone tracked the money trail? I bet the backscatter companies paid handsomely to have the rules changed like this to increase their govt sales.

    I’m going to let out a pleasurable “moan” on each pat. They want discomfort? Imagine if everyone acted like they were getting off on the invasive patdowns.

  12. Hmm… I feel a challenge coming up! How to make this as uncomfortable as possible for the screeners. Maybe a flash-mob of badly dressed cross-dressers, who insist on a pat-down by someone of the opposite gender? Maybe wearing adult diapers? Oh, the possibilities…

  13. But don’t worry, if you ‘measure up’, you’ll find a slip of paper with a phone number on it in your pocket afterwards.

  14. Classy, TSA, real classy. Why don’t you just bully everyone into using your new backscatter machines…because that’s all this is. I’ve opted-out and it doing so causes a real stir among the federalized rent-a-cops. I’ll opt-out next time too. If they wanna raise the stakes, i’m willing.

    Last time, i was polite. Next time i plan on letting my humor shine.

    Even if i’m not gay, there’s no reason i can’t lead the TSA guy giving me the pat down to believe that i am. There are laws against joking about bombs and terrorism, but none prohibit giving a false impression of homosexuality.

    (before the next step) TSA: “I’m going to pat down your groin area now. Do you have a problem with that? Would you like a private screening?”

    Me: “No, no, i like that idea, and i don’t want a private screening…just let me collect myself for a second. This is maybe a little more exciting than i expected.”

    TSA: “Sir?”

    Me: “I don’t know, i didn’t think i was gay at all. Now i’m not so sure. Besides, ever since Sen. Craig revealed the world of anonymous sex in airport bathrooms i do feel oddly aroused at travel time…. But don’t worry, i don’t find you particularly attractive and i already used the bathroom.”

  15. Or, an extra large jock strap with two baseballs in it. Give them a cheap thrill. Ladies, go for it too!

  16. In a perfect universe I would hire a person to stand in front of every security line in every airport in america and hand out free viagra, and I would fund this by having donation boxes with a sign saying “doesn’t airport security suck? give us your change and we’ll tell them how much they suck for you!” at every airport (both in the terminals and in the check-in areas so that both flyers and the people who have wisely decided to avoid flying could donate as generously as they like. even self-aware security personnel, if they exist, might consider giving some doughnut money.

  17. I tried to opt out of this, and the TSA said that they would search me and my luggage. This of course irritated me to no end. It’s completely not a relevant “trade.”

  18. So the choice is let them see me naked or let them sexually assault me? Someone needs to get a lawyer involved in this.

  19. So what is left for people without the standard-issue parts?

    Scanner images have been spread around. And when some people discover that other people are trans, they sometimes go out of their way to create trouble for them, or worse. http://transgenderlawcenter.org/cms/blogs/1-2

    Airport security creates all kinds of opportunities to hassle or even blacklist someone.

  20. Oh well then we should all just opt out and act very excited about the prospect, insisting that they do a very thorough job. “Oooooh oficer are you sure you checked well enough? What no body cavity search? But I was soooooo looking forward to it.” Trust me, if everyone does this they won’t be doing this much longer.

  21. Confronted with this option I would seriously reconsider the merits of flying, and so should we all.
    If enough people opt out of flying the air carrier lobby groups will fight this security theater on our behalf.

    1. Confronted with this option I would seriously reconsider the merits of flying, and so should we all. If enough people opt out of flying the air carrier lobby groups will fight this security theater on our behalf.

      Easier said than done, Zergonapal. I’m planning to travel from FL to NJ in a few weeks. What alternative do you suggest? Eighteen hours on a train? Twenty hours of highway driving? How about business travelers? Are they going to take 4-5 days to go from one coast to the other?

      What this needs is massive political action to shut these bastards down.

      1. How about business travelers? Are they going to take 4-5 days to go from one coast to the other?

        I think if one or two of them manage a successful “hostile work environment” lawsuit against their employers for being forced to choose between “seen naked by a stranger” or “be groped by a stranger”, then that’s exactly what you’ll start to see. Well, that an the teleconference industry will have the boom it’s been waiting for.

        I know we use our TC suite for most of our internal international meetings now. If flying became something an employer could be sued over and lose a crapton of cash, lots of companies would start building those things themselves, and/or companies would crop up to rent out TC suites by the hour to smaller firms so they could hold meetings with other companies.

  22. I just encountered this new pat down at BWI last night after opting out of the AIT at Terminal B (Southwest). It was certainly more …..hmm shall we say, personal. The frisk up your leg until the ‘encounter resistance’ which effectively means until the encounter your genitalia. They will also put 4 finger inside your waist and and run it around the entire waist.

    My impression is that this new technique is (like so many other TSA procedures) meant to catch the last threat as they TSO would definitely know if someone was wearing an adult diaper with this technique.

    Also of note from my experience is that when I opted out the TSO was loader than they needed to be in announcing ‘need a pat down for a refusal’. Making it very obvious that you refused and are being punished with a pat down.

    The funny thing is that even though I initially walked through the metal detector and alarmed and was re-directed to the AIT they never resolved or determined why I alarmed the metal detector (i have metal implanted in my body).

  23. Of course gets even better–i flew out of logan this week, and if you get a distorted image/fail the x ray (say by moving at all, or possibly just for being a woman–the guys seemed to pass no problem), you still get the special full body massage. I’m not sure why I couldn’t have just gone through the regular detector when I failed the fancy one. My favorite weird machine though is still the sniffer they had last time I flew out of dc.

  24. I assume they get a kickback from the backscatter equipment makers based on volume.

    I had cancer and radiation therapy, and I’m simply going to say, “I’ve already have 4,000 rems in my life, I don’t need any more. You want to give me more cancer?” “Sir, it won’t cause cancer.” “You’re going to guarantee that? I’d like you to sign a piece of paper that guarantees I won’t get cancer.” “Sir, I can’t do that.” “Then you agree with me. You don’t want me to get cancer again, do you?”

    1. You should definitely avoid going into the machine if you have a highly elevated cancer risk, and by the machine I mean the goddamn plane. In terms of rem count, you’re taking a much bigger dosage by flying, since there’s less atmosphere to block solar radiation, than you are by going into the backscatter machine. This is a privacy and civil liberties issue, not a health one. If every rem really does count, sitting on a train for five days is well worth it. Go easy on the bananas, too.

  25. The thing about this is that there is no end in sight. They keep adding more and more invasive scanning and searching, until eventually, getting on a plane will be indistinguishable from incarceration.

    I haven’t flown in years, and I don’t plan to any time soon.

    1. It’s getting to the point where “living in the US” is largely indistinguishable from incarceration. I just wish it was easier to get a job in a foreign country as an expat….

  26. “‘We have to search up your thighs and between your legs until we meet resistance,’ he explained.”

    Well, I’m not a violent man by nature, and I don’t think it’ll be particularly conducive to a good working environment for the poor TSA screeners, but if they’re saying that they simply have to keep searching your groin until you punch them in the face or something (“until we meet resistance”), then I guess we, as patriotic Americans, need to swallow our natural reluctance and punch a screener in the face every time we fly. After all, if it helps those screeners do their jobs, it’s really the least we can do.


  27. Hmmm. I think the TSA is about to earn a reputation as a “go to organization” for humiliating BD/SM slaves.

  28. Oof. Well, we were really looking forward to coming back to the US for a visit once we got an American passport for my son, but, er… WTF? Seriously? Your only choice when refusing to have a bunch of people who aren’t your doctor see an image of your tuckus is having those same people feel you up?

    I think I’ll be flying in to Montreal and renting a car for our next trip, thanks. I’ll take three hours of driving to potential humiliation any day.

    1. Your son? He’d have go through the backscatter (creating transient child pornography), or be felt up (molestation). I’d be curious to see what the “no backscatter option” is for minors, to be quite frank, because if there isn’t one, absent some “reasonable cause” for being groped and prodded, I’m pretty sure there’s no legal way in the TSA arsenal now to deal with a minor.

  29. If you have to fly on business and you don’t enjoy strangers looking at or touching your tackle, you are now subjected to a hostile work environment. Refusing a backscatter gets you felt up, but you don’t get a choice not to fly, you have to be at that destination at the appointed time or your livelihood is in question. As far as I know, forcing an employee into a sexually uncomfortable situation is prohibited by federal law.

    1. Oh, see now THIS argument, the hostile-work-environment, this I like. Unfortunately, the “employer” has no say in the matter, and it’s not terribly fair to punish Widgets, Inc., because of something the gov’t does and which Widgets, Inc. has no control over.

      Now, if you’re a government employee? That’s the best-case-scenario… a gov’t employee who sues his employer for creating a hostile work environment by forcing him/her to subject him/herself to TSA scans or groping. THAT is a court case I will sell tickets and popcorn to…

      1. Widgets Inc can hire their own jet, can’t they?

        My wives absolutely wants to go to the US again, but I feel less and less inclined to pay a tourist tax upon entry *and* get felt up by sexually repressed Americans.

        1. Yeah, they can hire their own jet, but that’s just not really practical, and I’m not (yet) willing to hold my employer to that standard.

          But if I was a gov’t employee? I’d do it in a heartbeat.

  30. Wow I get to be felt up and don’t even have to pay for it? I can’t wait until I get the option to refuse a full body scanner. I plan on saying loudly:

    “Oh yeah, grab my @$$ baby.

    Oh yeah rub it.

    Don’t stop, oh YEAH baby. That’s my bag.

    Oh, oh, oh, yes.”

    And when they’re done I’ll say loudly… “Oh thank you baby. I can’t wait til I get you back to my place so I can do the same for you.” Nothing says I can’t enjoy being violated is there?

  31. What would be funny is to get some ‘replacement balls’ in the large size for pets that got neutered. (they are called neuticles), then wear them in your underpants for the TSA to squeeze — they can squeeze all they want and not bother you in the slightest.

    I read that they like to ‘squeeze’ harder to hopefully discourage you from ‘opting out’ next time, this way you can give them something extra to fondle.

  32. The next time I fly, I think I will practice on working up a large erection just before electing the pat down.

    1. Man, you read my mind. I’m going in there with detailed fantasies of Kate Beckinsale in my head and a raging, diamond-cutter woody in my pants. They’ll “meet resistance” alright…and maybe a wet spot.

  33. Making moaning sounds and suggestive remarks is a quick way to be further punished by the TSA. Seriously, do you want to annoy someone who can (1) make you late for your flight, (2) put you on a no-fly list, (3) send you to jail and (4) is literally holding your balls?

    Instead, I propose that everyone insist on a manual screening and then make a formal complaint if the TSA agent is either too rough, too intimate or makes inappropriate remarks.

    Civil disobedience, yo.

  34. Before 9/11 I was searched nearly every time I traveled by air. No idea why, but it was a streak at least 50 long at one point. I was a connoisseur of all the search methods. Details search of carry-ons, wiped for explosives, and of course every kind of of pat down. I knew it all. Even began noticing subtle difference between countries.

    The crotch pat down was pretty common. I knew it was coming when they’d call for someone of the same gender. Searching inside the waistband happened several times. In my opinion, they rank 1 and 2 on effectiveness of pat downs.

    Despite what you’d think, both were more common outside the US and most frequent in Europe. Other US searches almost seemed cursory by comparison.

    Since 9/11, I’ve only been patted down in China (because EVERYONE gets patted down). The first time I wasn’t patted down, I had a moment of fear. If I walked away without being searched, I expected to be chased, tackled, and hauled away.

    Just my 2 cents

  35. I would like for my two toddler -age daughters to not go through the backscatter, but yeah, how do they, uh, handle giving kids a patdown? I just flew out of Logan this week and saw the backscatter but we just went thru the regular metal detector.

    So my choice is to let my kids be touched or photographed in inappropriate manners? Seriously, I want to know what to do.

  36. How many of you wanting to opt-out and then moan, etc. actually are going to do it? As Anon #61 stated, these TSA screeners *literally* have you by the nutsack.

    IANAL, but are you? What can you tell us about sexual assault laws? Does opt-out count as consent to the sexual contact? And consent is revocable as a matter of law — but at a certain point in the security theater procedure, if you try to leave, you’ll be arrested. How does this work?

    And what about recording audio of the crotchal grope? Especially if the screener says something creepy.

    1. Well, I’m statistically more likely to “act out” on my RETURN flights than on my outbounds (since on my outbound, I’m trying to “get somewhere” on a certain schedule, and usually “getting home by a certain time” is less important.

      For myself, though, I’m flying next week out of T5 @ JFK (which as of a couple weeks ago didn’t have backscatter enabled), and coming back out of SJC (which according to reports, DOES have backscatter). So, yeah, I suspect my plan to make the Chief Groper uncomfortable will take place on my return flight in two weeks. :-)

  37. If they decide to do this then they’re going to have to allow smoking again in airports because I’m going to need a cigarette afterward.

  38. “Is that a salami in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

    Having certain medical conditions will make the scanner or the crotch grab & fondle just as embarrassing so I’m pretty screwed either way. I’ll be sure to leave my explosive vest at home that’s for sure.

    All this is is about controlling the herd. It doesn’t make us one bit safer. Once they have us all passive enough they can do anything they want to us and we’ll just nod our heads and accept it.

    If I had just parachuted in from let’s say 1999 I wouldn’t recognize what America has become. At least it’s not boring, but pretty damn pathetic.

  39. Next time they say they are going to sample your wares say “Sure, the doctor says I’m no longer infectious.”

    All kidding aside, I’d love to visit the US but stuff like this and the fingerprinting etc is keeping me away.

  40. I’m a woman who has an incredible fear of authority figures: panic attacks, the works. I was physically abused practically every day of my childhood and it presented me with some hurdles to overcome. I’m mostly over it.

    But when I used to fly a lot on business, I got patted down frequently. I’ve been told that my scorn for goons and mindless lickspittles shines through even when I’m trying to maintain a neutral face. Judging from the way that cops and authority figures react to me, I would have to agree.

    I’m bi, look like a cute tomboy and I would always draw the Hefty Helgas with halitosis. I could never manage to call them on the fact that they were groping my breasts. And goddamn it if it didn’t happen every time I got called out of line.

    For all the guys saying they’ll chat up their frotters, more power to ya. I bet most of you will do just that. But wait until your up close and personal with some of these people. Damn, I love the idea of working up a stiffy before going through the pat-down, but I wonder if you’ll be able to keep it up. I wish you the best though.

    And I’m going to be doing my damnedest to make the Helgas feel uncomfortable. I think they’ll just slip me their numbers though. In my underpants. Ugh.

    However, this thread has also inspired me to get up my courage and wear a strap-on next time I fly. I’ll be happy to take it out and off in front of the entire line. (I’ve worked through my shyness issues too! Hooray!)

  41. I have an idea for a line of T-shirts.

    The front would say: I went through the TSA backscatter and all I got was this T-shirt

    The back would say: 6″

  42. You can experience this at any airport in the US, even if they don’t have back scatter to opt out of. Turns out that (at least for the moment) you can opt out of the metal detector as well. “You may request a pat-down inspection in lieu of going through the metal detector or being handwanded. You do not need to disclose why you would like this option.” from the TSA themselves: http://bit.ly/15h3Y2

    My tips for a smoother process:

    1) Make sure that web page is still in place. :)
    2) Keep a printout of that web page with you and refer to it politely when they argue.
    3) Don’t ask for your private screening until after you are through the security ‘gate’.
    4) Be polite and courteous.

  43. What I found interesting about the article is that I flew out of O’hare last week and the TSA was acting the same way. They asked if I was refusing the backscatter and I respondeded, “I would prefer not to.” “You’re not going to like it” was repeated over and over before the pat-down began. He hinted at crotchal inspection. I thrust my groin forward. He declined to make due on his promise. My gf was there and rolled her eyes at me for ditching the scanner but the way I figure it, and my figuring is sometimes convoluted, is that I really don’t care who touches my junk if it’s for inspection reasons. I get frisked going into concerts and such and have to ask, “Was it good for you?” This is nothing and nothing more. Seems preferable to getting scanned by means that I don’t understand yet and the results are hidden away to be inspected by some gremlin in a room.

  44. I don’t know what is worse, having your testicals touched, or being the TSA guy or girl (its been said you have a choice) that actually has to do the touching. If i’m flying alone, I’ll go to the bathroom first, get myself excited, then get in line and ask for the rub down. Let’s see how they like it. I assume Happy endings aren’t allowed?

  45. My suggestion is to get petitions going all over this country and as soon as the new Congress is seated you present your signed petitions to him/her. If Congress is swamped with petitions from all over the country AND if people stop flying in the meantime, they will get the message loud and clear.

  46. You know we as citizens could really bring a halt to airport travel. Just offer to pay (or some other means) a mass of people to op-out and then back up of pat downs will bring the airport to a halt. Or perhaps someone needs to hire a mole to obtain all the TSA training and provide all of their body scanner secrets for real to the public much like wiki-leaks.

    Just a thought

  47. Not gonna touch mah balls, not gonna touch mah balls
    No, TSA, no friggin way, you’re not gonna touch mah balls today.

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