TSA goes through woman's luggage, finds sex toy, leaves pervy note

"Just unpacked my suitcase and found this note from TSA," tweets writer and attorney Jill Filipovic of Feministe. "Guess they discovered a 'personal item' in my bag. Wow."

It was a standard-issue we got all up in your baggagebusiness Transportation Security Administration Notice of Inspection (NOI), but with these handwritten words in pen, overlaid: "GET YOUR FREAK ON GIRL."

"Total violation of privacy, wildly inappropriate and clearly not ok," Filipovic writes in a post titled Your Tax Dollars at Work, "but I also just died laughing in my hotel room."

The "personal item" in question, Ms. Filipovic tells Boing Boing, was this $15 "Silver Bullet" vibrator from Babeland. I suppose a case could be made that an airport screener would have a legitimate reason to probe more deeply see what I did there you guys if this sort-of-ammo-shaped sex toy popped up on an imaging display. But the creepy note? Yeah, that definitely didn't have to happen. And TSA agents behaving badly with female travelers' intimate stuff? Not uncommon. Nor are women the only recipients of inappropriate notes from screeners.

So was it still there when she retrieved her luggage, I asked Filipovic?

"Yes, the vibe was still there. No theft, but I'm unsure if they handled it. Given that uncertainty, it's definitely being retired."


  1. It almost looks and sounds like a woman wrote,  not a man. It seems like something you’d hear from a lady in queens.

    I’ve traveled many times with my vibrator being in the bag that got checked and no notes yet. But I do thoroughly clean it just in case someone handled it.

      1. Alternatively, if you can’t toss it, boil it.

        (Later edit: note to self, don’t make any more jokes based on British slang here)

    1. She may know how to clean it, but if a TSA worker handled *my* vibrator no cleansing solution in the world would wash away my repulsion thereafter.

      1. Exactly. It’s not the risk of real biological infection, it’s the “psychic cooties”. Even if it were a solid silicon toy (very easy to sterilize) and even IF I watched the whole process and could confirm that they had a fresh sterile pair of gloves on and did NOTHING inappropriate with it, or even didn’t touch it at all… the psychic cooties factor would get me to toss it.

        $15 buys you another bullet, but more importantly it buys you the comfort level needed to relax and enjoy it. Yeeeegh. *shudder*

      2. Lord knows most people in the world are just itching to handle something that some stranger has stuck up god knows which orifice of theirs, especially if they’re so addicted to it that they feel the need to travel with it as well…

        The agent was obviously way out of bounds, but the author seems to have taken it in stride without launching into the usual hysterical, libertarian routine of considering themselves some kind of brave martyr…..

        1. I did wonder myself how long this trip was… I mean I can’t imagine it being too common finding a blow-up sex doll or a fleshlight in luggage, what’s with women and fake cocks anyway?

          1. 1) A silver bullet is not a “fake cock.” It’s a small vibrating egg-shaped device. You are thinking of dildos. Entirely different things used in entirely different ways.
            2) For a lot of women, it’s easier to get off with a vibrator than with simple manual stimulation.
            3) What’s wrong with bringing a masturbation aid along, no matter how short the trip? People like to relieve the stress of travel by getting off. There’s a reason hotels offer pay-per-view porn, y’know.

          2. He was replying to me, and I was replying to a man/woman who specifically mentioned their “vibrator”. I don’t think anybody particularly wants to have to deal with some stranger’s sex toy, no matter which projectile in particular it resembles, Of course that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with sex toys, but personally I’d rather not have to deal with a stranger’s used one….

          3. A vibrator isn’t necessarily a “fake cock” either. And there’s no shame in women enjoying the use of sex toys. When Nathan Hornby said “What’s with women and fake cocks anyway?” it sounds to me like he thinks women are disgusting, sex-crazed freaks. I took issue with that attitude.

            As for you not wanting to deal with a stranger’s sex toys… If someone signs up to work for the TSA, they should expect to have to deal with a sex toy in someone’s luggage now and then. The passenger’s right to bring along sex toys trumps a TSA agent’s distaste for doing their job.

          4. A vibrator isn’t necessarily a “fake cock” either.

            “no matter which projectile in particular it resembles”

            And there’s no shame in women enjoying the use of sex toys.

            “Of course that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with sex toys”

            The passenger’s right to bring along sex toys trumps a TSA agent’s distaste for doing their job.

            Did somebody suggest they had no right to bring one along?  Or was it rather that, more realistically, this is probably less pleasant for the worker than it is for the passenger?  It is just hilarious to hear commenters who are so grossed out, thinking that somebody may have touched their sex toy, while  in truth most people would not want to, precisely because it is “distasteful” and “repulsive”.

          5. “A vibrator isn’t necessarily a “fake cock” either. And there’s no shame in women enjoying the use of sex toys. When Nathan Hornby said “What’s with women and fake cocks anyway?” it sounds to me like he thinks women are disgusting, sex-crazed freaks. I took issue with that attitude.”
            That’s fair enough, it was overly simplified and admittedly I didn’t put a lot of thought into the wording; but I can assure you that wasn’t the impression I meant to give, it was an actual question, as masterbation aids seem a lot more common with women; and I’m wondering, what’s that all about?  Don’t confuse curiosity with disgust.

          6.  To Nathan: A man’s masturbation aid is his hand and saliva. If men were born without hands/saliva there would be the same amount of men’s bags found to include lube/masturbatory aids. For most women, the amount of motion and length of time required to climax by her own hand is extreme and sometimes impossible. Vibrations=Climax.  Imagine being unable to climax without vibration….. As a woman, nothing feels like a real penis, except a real penis. And as great as penises are, they simply don’t provide enough stimulation to climax (usually), besides, various sex toy  textures/angles NOT found in nature are just as pleasing in different ways.

            Quite simply, it is harder for a woman to climax using only her hands, than it is for a man to climax using only his hands. Ergo, more women travel with climax aids, than men.

          7. “A man’s masturbation aid is his hand and saliva.”???? Wow, how very narrow-minded. Have ya talked to many men? Because I know of a lot that use lube even if they don’t use a sleeve and now that Fleshlight and Tenga make some pretty cool masturbation sleeves, why should a guy be limited to his left hand, with the right sometimes thrown in for variety?
            That’s just absolutely ridiculous. PEOPLE use sex toys. Not just women.

          8. [ “What’s with women and fake cocks anyway?”
            That’s fair enough, it was overly simplified and admittedly I didn’t put a lot of thought into the wording; but I can assure you that wasn’t the impression I meant to give, it was an actual question, as masterbation aids seem a lot more common with women; and I’m wondering, what’s that all about?  Don’t confuse curiosity with disgust.”]

            As a woman I’d have to say that there was nothing “curious” about your remark earlier, it came off as condescending or at least a very negative attitude on women who do admit to using intimate toys, so you can understand why you’re being called for it.  As for masturbation aids for women, well it makes sense doesn’t it? Our “happy parts”–as nature designed–aren’t easily accessible as men are, some of us have a hard time getting to it, not to mention stimulating it. It doesn’t help that -getting there- varies differently from women to women (the most -basic- is penetration vs clitoral stimulation). That’s why women’s “intimate toys” come in all shapes, sizes and colors to better cater to a woman’s -specialized- needs irregardless of her sexual orientation or biology.

            Again such things are private and very -personal-, if the TSA should have found one in luggage, they could have spared the owner a lot of grief and money if they just -didn’t- bother to mention it in the first place. I’d feel doubly bad for the poster had she mentioned that toy was a Lelo (lovely lovely brand) and she had it retired, considering those things cost a LOT.

          9. Of course, I wasn’t insinuating there was anything /wrong/ with it – and ultimately it’s her business anyway, not mine (or the TSA’s).

            I apologise for my lack of sex-toy research, I’m not sure if ‘penis replacement’ would be better suited, maybe that’s still a little tenuous.

          10. Most vibrators are for the clitoris, and not for penetration.  They aren’t “penis replacements”.  Indeed, a bullet, which was the vibrator that this woman had in her luggage, resembles a, well, bullet.  Thus, it’s name.

            A dildo is generally used for penetration, but many lesbians use them and not because they “resemble penises”, but because penetration feels good for some women.  Some are modeled after penises, but many are not.  I have several glass toys that don’t look anything like a penis, unless you have a glass, dark blue penis with bumps and ridges.Are you really that dense?  Sex toys are not that complicated.

            Is your hand a vagina replacement, or maybe it’s just your hand?

          11. “Is your hand a vagina replacement, or maybe it’s just your hand?”

            I guess it’s a vagina replacement; given the purpose of my penis and what my hand would be replicating – but I get your point.

            But I fear we’re veering off topic; although I appreciate the lesson in female sex toys I really wasn’t trying to cause any offence…

            “Are you really that dense?” Female sex-toy ignorant maybe, but no, I’m not dense. Your lesbian point makes the strongest case and of course I appreciate that especially in this circumstance there’s no penis replication going on.

      3. She may know how to clean it, but if a TSA worker handled *my* vibrator no cleansing solution in the world would wash away my repulsion thereafter.

        Yet another reason why we should replace the TSA with Marines.

    1. I hope I’m not over-assuming, but I speculate that you may not be US-ian, and so may be missing an idiom. The word “freak” is used specifically to refer to sexual activity, as in, “I’m going to go get my freak on,” or, “They’re off getting freaky!” In this context, it doesn’t carry the same connotation of deviance that the dictionary definition of “freak” does.

      Basically, the note was saying, “I am aware that you carry masturbation aids in your luggage, and I enthusiastically support your use of such aids.” Which is totally inappropriate, of course.

      1. USA, the nation with a million and one euphemisms for sex…

        How the nation can be so prudish and produce so much porn at the same time escapes me.

        1. How can a nation so prudish produce so much porn? Because it’s a natural backlash against the rule. Really I think the TSA was a backlash against civil liberties.  Human history shows all kinds of contradictions.
          1) During the period of the 18th Amendment alcohol abuse rose to its highest levels.
          2) How is it that after 1400 years of Islam people in the Middle East still know what a pig, beer, and spirits are?
          3) How is it that in Islamic nations where homosexuality is punished with torture and death, American sailors on leave cannot wander alone for fear of being kidnapped and raped.
          4) How is it that in the Bible Belt, the bastion of family values, god’s country in America, the divorce rate is as high as 70%?
          5) How is it that in Scandinavia where taxation is the highest in the world, they have the most stable middle class, and the only intact financial sector, balanced budgets, and stable economies.
          The simple answer is people’s base assumptions are almost always wrong.

          1. On 5) i fear it is only a question of time before at least Norway (hello) follows the rest of the world down the class divide rabbit hole. The difference in wealth have returned to 1930s levels (or there  about)…

            Oh and about 4), is not one of the bible belt states one of the biggest “consumer” (groan, i fail at words) of online porn?

          2. Pretty sure the correct answer is Utah, which isn’t exactly a Bible state but is full of Mormons, who are even more repressive.

          3. I’d agree up to number 5.  That’s just because they know how to run countries around that part of the world and have a pretty solid society – I wouldn’t say there’s any contradiction.

          4.  Do they really know how to run countries in that part of the world? Most of them are even more broke than us.  I’ll grant them this they built a better middle class than we did. They know how to do education better than us. But they did run themselves into a worse wall than we did.  As for Scandinavia I think a lot has to do with cultural values of how to deal with inate human greed, and the fact that when the Germans occupied Denmark and Norway, those two nations were not raped and pillaged. The cultural and mental scars from WWII really hit the war torn nations of Europe pretty hard. When every family loses someone in a national disaster, there’s no way a society comes out the other end sane.

        2. Your difficulty in understanding the American attitude toward sex stems from the faulty premise that there actually is a unified American outlook on the subject. It’s generally a mistake to refer to Americans as if they were a unified homogenous mass with the same opinions or inclinations. The truth is that there is probably not a single question on which every one of the 314 + million people living the in the US would agree. In fact, not everyone born and raised in this country would even agree that they are Americans. I’m sure if you wandered the wilderness in one or more of the western states you could find a number of compounds filled with people who have “seceded” from the union. All that being said, there is more than enough room in the US for the profoundly prudish and for pretentious pundits of porn as well. It’s only a contradiction in terms if you require uniformity of behavior. You would likely only require unifomity of behavior if you were interested in promoting stereotypes. And if you’re only intersted in promoting stereotypes, then you probably don’t really care about the truth anyway, so I’ve just wasted the last five minutes of my life trying to explain all this to you.

          1. Lunar Movements, rest assured you did not waste your time. Your
            response was so well put, so insightful, that I intend to commit it to memory.
            You nailed that one on the head.  

  2. Anyone remember Baghdad Bob?  The US has their own version courtesy of the TSA. Robert Burns runs the TSA blog and is affectionately and scornfully referred to as Blogdad Bob. His blog was noted by Time magazine as being the top “Blogs We Could Do Without”. The blog is a hoot and a half if you can keep from being frustrated or angered by the articles and comments.  http://blog.tsa.gov/

  3. And they missed the loaded gun:  http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2011/10/tsa-misses-loaded-gun-in-bag-at-lax/1?loc=interstitialskip

  4. Yeah, let’s just get used to the constant, intrusive surveillance…  Better just to have “Miss Manners” style talks about how to clean up after your personal stuff is violated and leered at by some TSA goon.  

    Boiling is gonna clean the item in question, but I’d guess that the mental stain is going to be a lot harder to scrub off. 

  5. Hey if I was checking luggage for the TSA, one bag after another after another and then another … I’d likely eye that silver bullet before a hand gun.  It’s like when you are looking for something and it’s right in front of you but you can’t see it.  Like you are trying to hard or something.

  6. Not okay and inappropriate certainly.

    It only gets creepy when there is a phone number written on that ticket…

    1. Oh good, the old “humorless feminist” stereotype strikes again. How original of you. I take it you’ve never actually *read* anything from Feministe?

  7. Heh.  And the only time they clearly searched one of my bags all I got was a broken red ink pen.

    Admittedly, when you see a number of metal tubes and a lot of gearwork on an x-ray, it is going to get your attention.  But that’s what a telescope, tripod and equatorial drive are…  Next time, if there is a next time, I’ll have to include a gun and have it hand checked at check-in.

  8. I just have to say here that i had never heard of a silver bullet before today and now today my favorite website in the world and my favorite female friend in the world decide to inform me this product exists! we laughed long and hard. Just thought i’d share :)

    I love you all!

  9.  Yet another bow to the mighty TSA. Until we start an airline boycot and drive an airline bankrupt, this will continue, and continue to get worse. After $50 billion/year and several missed attempts by the DHS we can piece together this. The DHS is trolling the blogosphere and then investigating things that they see mentioned on jihadi blogs. They focus in ‘threats’ that just so happen to lie in parallel with their agenda or the agenda of their contractors. They know you won’t make them pay, they know you won’t push to shut them down. There should be a occupy the airport movement to protest the TSA if America were really a country predicated on freedom. The reality is we are a nation living in fear.

    1. Until we start an airline boycot 

      Weird how nobody’s (in particular the right wing blogs/ think tanks that are obsessed with TSA) spearheading that, isn’t it?

  10. Fight Club:  

    [Narrator’s bags have just been confiscated]Narrator: Was it ticking?

    Airport Security Officer: Actually, throwers don’t worry about ticking ’cause modern bombs don’t tick.Narrator: Sorry, throwers?

    Airport Security Officer: Baggage handlers. But when a suitcase vibrates, then the throwers gotta call the police.

    Narrator: My suitcase was vibrating?

    Airport Security Officer: Nine times out of ten it’s an electric razor. But … every once in a while [looks around, leans in conspiratorially] … it’s a dildo. [leans back] Of course, it’s company policy never to imply ownership in the event of a dildo. We have to use the indefinite article, “a dildo”, never … your dildo.

    Narrator: I don’t own a dildo!

    I was stunned this isn’t in the comments yet!

  11. Only as inappropriate as all those bastard American cashiers that tell you to have a nice day…  “On my way to an abortion clinic!?”.

    It’s actually a mildly humoured note, innocent (kinda) and almost friendly.  I agree that professionalism should dictate that no notes should be left at all, but it’s not like they left a copy of the bible in there and took away her batteries. It’s one of those instances where the amount of offence depends completely on who received the note – as in it’s not outright offensive, like a racial slur (which could potentially be appreciated by a fellow racist, but is ultimately and objectively offensive regardless). I kind of feel that on another day, on a more light-hearted website, this would have been heralded as the birth of TSA personality and would have been followed by LOL’s and ROFL’s.

    So yes, I think that it’s wrong (I’m not arguing that it isn’t, even if it seems that I am); but not even 10% as wrong as most of what the TSA does.

    And if it makes any difference (and really it shouldn’t) I’d suspect that it was a lady TSA agent that left the note.

  12. TSA is the most unprofessional group in the security complex, by far. I have an art company and was taking a packed sculpture on a sales trip. It retails at several thousand dollars. TSA ran it through the xray and one of the men felt the need to pull it out and pretend to check it for gunpowder residue so he could take a look at it. He almost dropped it. Another time I was living overseas and bought some tools at Home Depot when I came back to the states. TSA goons pulled them all out of my bag in front of everyone and pretended to use them on each other. I read Hannah Arendt all the way back. So glad that TSA is keeping pictures of my dick on file.

  13. I know they are hardly popular but it doesn’t seems fair to rage at TSA officers. From what I understand they are mostly low paid, working stiffs  so I can understand why they might not give an individuals sex toy/work of art/whatever the levels of solemn respect it so obviously deserves.   

    1. Other people’s private property deserves respect, as do other people.
      When did we forget that exactly, Conor?

    2. It doesn’t matter how little people are paid. They ought to give  your things, whether it’s your sex toys, your sculptures or your “enhanced pat-down” genitals “the levels of solemn respect” they “so obviously deserve”.  That’s the way it is in a civilized society – we get the respect we deserve.  If we don’t get the respect we deserve, then we require changes. 

      But in the matter at hand (no pun intended) my guess is the note was from a woman trying to be funny and all-jokey-solidarity, so I can’t exactly reach incandescent rage levels. 

  14. Scary–think about it–they know her name, address, phone number, and possibly her email addy….real scary…

  15. They went through my luggage recently on a trip to California. I was going to a costume event so I have a sleeping bag, a knife, a tiara and a license plate in my suitcase. Everything else was kosher. After they completely messed everything up AND BENT MY TIARA I decided on the return trip to FedEx my TROPHY that I had won, from said event, for said costume as I didn’t want it confiscated. What a bunch of assholes. You are not making us safe, you are wasting our money.

    1. “a knife”……   lmfao. 

      BTW, when you’re driving and the light turns red in color, it means you’re supposed to stop.

    1. I am guessing, just guessing, that it is in the two most commonly spoken languages in the US, one on each side.

      But hey, don’t let common sense stop you.

  16. “A silver bullet is not a “fake cock.” It’s a small vibrating egg-shaped device”

    I’m confused. You mean a penis is not supposed to be egg-shaped, nor vibrate when excited?

    Oh dear….

  17. So can I pack my vibrators in my carry-on or are battery powered devices not allowed through security? I can’t remember. 

    And seriously, a silver bullet is *not* all that freaky. I can show them some “freaky” stuff if they really want to see it.

  18. Here’s a question: How do you know the screener was a male? And is the comment more or less disturbing as an expression of sisterly solidarity or of male adolescent fantasy?

      1. That part goes without saying. I’m looking at the point the perp was trying to make, not the one they actually ended up making.

    1. Exactly; the gender of the screener is irrelevant to the violation.  It is juvenile to assume that a female leaving an inappropriate comment in a passenger’s luggage is somehow more acceptable.  That said, the handwriting contains more attributes (from my experience dealing with hand-filled forms on a daily basis for several years) of a male writer.

  19. Maybe putting the vibrator in a clear plastic bag with a paper sign that says “this is a vibrator” on it would have prevented it from being handled…hard to tell how far the TSA will go when it comes to this stuff though. Specifying on the sign that it is a used vibrator might help keep them from taking it out and touching it even more (psychological contagions are a two way street).

    I know the written remark was sort of positive, but still…super inappropriate.  Positive judgements are still judgements and shouldn’t happen in professional settings.

  20. Playing Devil’s advocate here: Perhaps the handwritten note was an attempt on the part of the TSA Agent to deflect possible embarrassment of knowing that the TSA went through your bag containing very personal items.  I guess, in a way, the TSA Agent may be making a judgement, but haven’t we ourselves made a judgment against the Agent?  How about not assuming the worst in people.  Hell, even if I’m wrong, at least I’m happier.

  21. Producing a line of sex toys that are certified Handled By A Real TSA Agent would probably be a disaster.  The whole crate would end up being dumped outside Toys for Tots.  On the other hand, inflatable paramours that are dressed like TSA agents might be a hot seller.

  22. What’s the most awful thing here is that these examples of mocking invasions will go without recourse from those who were affected.  People – you have the evidence of misconduct IN YOU HAND.  All you need to do is keep asking the simple question of “Who let this occur?” all the way to the top, or to the culprit.  Either way it’s a termination of employment – which you should want it to be.  There’s no excuse… and yet there’s nothing done.  And we wonder why dirty hippies are the only one’s who are protesting?  They’re the only ones who will

  23. I’m amazed and appalled that Americans seem to have given in or given up, have decided to lie down and wave the white flag. Just about all of the comments on here recognise that what happened is wrong, however a large number seem to find the incident an excuse to debate sex-toy hygeiene or to worry about the effect on the TSA worker. There are also varying degrees expressed of how wrong it is, from good-humored annoyance to outrage. The edges are blurring; it is now becoming more acceptable to have your most private things gone through by a complete stranger. I guess this is what happens when fascism encroaches. Like a frog in heating water, people stop noticing that their very dignity has been violated; that their ‘one’ has been subsumed into the ‘all’. If this story does not inspire outrage by all who read it then I will have lost faith in the american people. Home of the brave, land of the free my ass.

  24. Geez – it wasn’t that “pervy”.  Missy Elliot released a song that was played on public radio stations called “get your freak on”.  “Pervy”?  Yeah, okay, they shouldn’t have written that, but whatever.  Everyone is always up in arms about their friggin privacy and then posts extremely personal stuff on the Internet for everyone to see:  “Taking a shower…”  “LOL, drunk off my a$$”  “Had a great F**K last night”, etc, etc…  Homeland Security couldn’t begin to come up with something as willingly revealing as Facebook.  Overation.

    1. There is a decided difference between willfully releasing personal information on the internet  and having a stranger touch your stuff and then leave you a winking note about it.  The fact that there is a song on the radio (I’ve never heard it, I don’t care) doesn’t make this act more palatable.  If I want to tell you I was drunk last night, or I got laid, that’s my choice.  TSA takes that choice away when they go through my personal stuff and then tell me their opinion on what I decided to pack.  I didn’t ask for that.

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