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We fly a lot and while I found the puffing scanners much much worse, I put up with the loss of privacy/dignity but I'm starting to freak a little about the breast cancer/melanoma risk from backscatter scanners (less for the fractional additional radiation than for the suggestion from UCSF that the radiation absorption wasn't correctly calculated) - plus I find the things claustrophobic so I'd be glad if this particular piece of security theatre fell to the rising ire of the American travelling public. But I keep hearing people say the TSA opt-out gropes are sexual assault' and I don't think they are. It's intimate and unwanted touch; it's an indignity - and it's not like a visit to the gynecologist because the touch is neither expected nor medically necessary (and I'm not convinced that even an intimate pat down will catch explosives that are tucked away real well, so to speak). But it's not sexual touch; I'm assuming the TSA staff aren't getting any sexual satisfaction either from touching the sweaty thighs of random strangers or from making travellers submit to the pat down (they're not doing it because they can, they're doing it because it's their job) - and I think intent matters very much for the definition of sexual assault. I'm not saying the experience won't be unpleasant, distressing, embarrassing, potentially triggering for people, but I also think that this kind of intrusion is more likely to be done away with if we attack it for what it is rather than giving it a more dramatic label that can't ultimately be substantiated.

What am I missing?



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
18th Nov, 2010 07:00 (UTC)
the TSA argues that you may not like it but you invite it by declining backscatter scanning; that you knowingly put yourself in line for it. It feels different from the perv trapping you by the back door, perhaps because - incidental pervs aside - their intent is about the security rather than the side effect? it feels to me that the actual intent does matter, somehow...
(Deleted comment)
20th Nov, 2010 18:06 (UTC)
Note to self: Read comments before commenting (below).
(no subject) - gummitch - 17th Nov, 2010 10:39 (UTC) - Expand
18th Nov, 2010 07:01 (UTC)
I'm not sure that someone brushing their hands over my labia feels any less intimate than the cupping and stroking; it's not about how I personally might feel about it, it's whether I think it's the same as the perv doing it for kicks...
21st Nov, 2010 01:36 (UTC)
Also fascinating; suggestions that women complaining have been ignored but a white man complaining about being touched by a man has gone viral...
17th Nov, 2010 11:00 (UTC)
I'm assuming the TSA staff aren't getting any sexual satisfaction

I'm sure that in the vast majority of cases this is true. But I'm not sure that it is always a safe assumption. (I've experienced borderline sexual harrassment by airline security staff, and several cases of, shall we say, dubious actions have been reported.)
18th Nov, 2010 07:03 (UTC)
of course - individual agents might be as pervy as they come (the idiot planting fake coke on passengers comes to mind). but for the genuinely non-perv TSA agent, I think it's - perhaps indefinably - different.
17th Nov, 2010 22:56 (UTC)
In order to avoid the X-ray machines, I'd offer to take all my clothes off, but only if they allow me to do it out in the public areas.

As for touching, only if I get to pick the person doing the touching. Oh, it would have to be a TSA employee? Then maybe not, depending on the particular situation. And employee roster at the time.

Would they buy me a beer afterward?
20th Nov, 2010 18:05 (UTC)
You are entitled to your opinion, of course, but I and many others with PTSD from sexual assault (which may have been full on rape or 'merely' unwanted groping on the underground) would consider this to be unwanted groping and thus both triggering and sexual assault. I will not be consenting to the scan or the groping (whether they call it a pat down or not, they do apparently pat and squeeze tits and groins) and so therefore will not be able to travel by plane in the US (or anywhere else that uses these 'security' methods). I have nothing to hide but also cannot agree to either 'choice' in these situations. I am sure you saw my LJ post about this which may or may not have prompted your rant here but, in case you didn't, here is a link.
21st Nov, 2010 00:13 (UTC)
Intent doesn't affect whether something iis triggering or not, I know, but I think it does have some relevance in definition. Someone hammering on my chest isn't assault if it's cpr; not a direct parallel but part of why I feel it's not automatically 'any intimate touch I don't want = molestation'. Someone who falls downstairs and ends up touching me in some intimate way might trigger distress but isn't actually assaulting me. I think there's some difference between the way I feel about something and the intent behind the act that can be different. No easy answers and this could be dangerously close to ends and means but the lack of intent and gratification seems important. Is there a concept of a crimeless victim?
21st Nov, 2010 00:43 (UTC)
As I think someone already commented upthread, intent is irrelevant as to whether it is deemed assault in the law. IANAL, though, and so would bow to a lawyer in this. I just knwo that I would feel sexually assaulted in that circumstance and I have not suffered any major sexual assault or abuse. I do have PTSD from other abuse and so that might colour my reactions. I just know that my travelling (by plane) days seem to be over now because of the worry I have about this which is stressful in itself. :(
21st Nov, 2010 01:40 (UTC)
I'd like us to be attacking ludicrous security theatre on grounds that can't be put down to overreacting, because it's not proven security and yes, it's at best tedious and at worst rather creepy (though the TSA agents are often nice and trying hard (though as with the rest of life, not always))
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


full steam ahead
Mary Branscombe
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