TSA Watch: What getting your “freak on” really means for air travelers

Almost everyone who heard about the “get your freak on, girl” incident had a good laugh about it.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the condensed version: When a TSA screener found an adult toy in attorney Jill Filipovic’s baggage last week, he left her a note encouraging her to “get your freak on, girl.”

The TSA initially disputed her claim, but after an investigation, it tracked down the employee and fired him. In a prepared statement, the agency called the screener’s actions “highly inappropriate and unprofessional.”

And that’s where the story would end — if that were all. We would obediently go back to reading TSA’s dry accounts of all the handguns it confiscated last week, dismissing the Filipovic story as random news of the odd.

Except that it isn’t.

The TSA, turns out, has a thing for adult toys.

Consider what happened last year to Ann Lombardi, who was flagged by the TSA when the adult toy she was packing began to buzz.

“When the male TSA agent pulled out the unwrapped device, it was in full view of a bunch of travelers, including a man of the cloth.”

She added, “Just when I was recovering from total embarrassment and as I sat engrossed in my magazine at the gate area, two young guys next to me jokingly asked: ‘Hey, aren’t you that woman who just got buzzed at security?'”

And then there’s the story of Renee Koutsouradis, who was returning from a vacation in Las Vegas in 2002 when her newly purchased vibrator made a racket in her checked luggage.

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She was reportedly made to go out to the tarmac, in full view of other passengers, and hold up the adult toy while airline personnel laughed hysterically and made comments such as, “Doesn’t your husband satisfy you?”

Here’s the lawsuit she filed against Delta Air Lines. (And in fairness, TSA didn’t have its fingerprints all over this one, primarily because it was still a fledgling agency at the time. I can only imagine how it might have humiliated her if it were in charge.)

An editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle (warning: adult content) further connects the dots, suggesting the TSA has all the sensibilities of a teenager, when it comes to sex.

Sex toys scanned by X-ray machines get removed from bags for examination. Metal detectors pick up piercings in private areas, and their owners are subjected to extended searches.

And if your gender does not appear to match the gender identity on your driver’s license or passport, you may be in for a long delay — or worse.

I have to admit, when I hear about Filipovic’s note, I did what she did — I laughed.

But then I thought about it, and I realized this was no laughing matter.

The TSA has the power to put us in a scanner and view our naked bodies in high resolution. (True story: A colleague who was seven months pregnant claims she went through an airport scanner recently. When she was done, the TSA agent congratulated her on having a girl.)

They see everything.

The TSA also has the power to put its hands all over you, and although most pat-downs are done by the book, some go terribly wrong, according to passengers. People’s genitals are touched, often with great force.

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So a note to “get your freak on, girl” is not funny. It reflects an attitude that may be pervasive at the airport among TSA agents, ramp workers and airline employees.

While the baggage handers can do little more than snicker at the contents of your luggage and mock you, the TSA agents have the authority to inflict real and lasting damage on you by acting on their fetishes.

Are all TSA agents perverts? No, of course not.

But the fact that one agent thought it might be appropriate to ask a passenger to get her freak on — well, that may say more about how the agency feels about itself than I’d care to contemplate.

(Photo: MHJ ohnston/Flickr)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org.

  • Brooklyn

    I hope that girls lawyer that their freak on and shuts this agency down

  • Karen C.

    The incident above sounds like the TSA has Beavis and Butthead working for them. Despite the good or bad individuals, it’s the agency itself that’s wrong.

  • Tom

    The relationship between airline screeners and sex toys was explored in the 1999 movie, Fight Club. That was two years before the TSA was founded.

    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… [whispering] Airport Security Officer: it’s a dildo. Of course it’s company policy never to, imply ownership in the event of a dildo… always use the indefinite article a dildo, never your dildo. Narrator: I don’t own… [Officer waves Narrator off]

  • Tom

    “True story: A colleague who was seven months pregnant claims she went through an airport scanner recently. When she was done, the TSA agent congratulated her on having a girl.”

    Urban legend. 

  • Sam Varshavchik

    No amount of mere outrage on the part of the sheeple will make any difference, here. The only way to make any change happen, is to vote with our feet. Literally.

    And I am voting, myself. This is not empty posturing on my part. I am not flying for my next regional business trip. Usually it’s an one hour flight but I’ll be driving instead. Factoring in the extra couple of hours getting to the airport with sufficient lead time to avoid any check-in delays, or traffic on the road; and the time I spend waiting to get the luggage, and hailing a cab from the airport to the hotel, the overall difference in time is minimal.

    As a bonus, I can stop any time I feel like taking a short break from driving, grabbing a drink, or stretching out. I think that the mileage reimbursement adequately makes up for a little wear and tear on the car; and for the company the mileage versus the plane ticket is also a wash. Plus, my roomy car is much more comfortable than any Sardine Can Airlines seat, even an exit row one.

    And this is not an empty promise. I already opted for a road trip, instead of a flight for business, earlier this year, as a trial run of sorts. The trial was a success, so, for the foreseeable future, that’s it as far as flying is concerned. In normal times, I’d say that flying is marginally more convenient, but things haven’t been normal for a while, now.

  • Bruce InCharlotte

    It’s great that here we have a TSO “adding” to this passenger’s luggage, but despite loads of complaints of items that go missing, nothing changes.

  • All is about TSA training materials for the agents … higher minimum educational requirement help too.

  • Help Wanted !

    Can I ask some questions please to any expert (away from this story), I will be visiting America soon and I dread reports like these. Can I refuse this Scanner and what if I refuse, can I go to jail? Also if they touch me, how the article says  “People’s genitals are touched, often with great force” what can I do to complain and do I have any rights as a foreigner? Thanks.

  • Severnwatcher

    Am I the only one that sees the irony of supposedly liberated folks getting outraged  by the TSA exposing the fact that they have vibrators in their luggage?  If you’re not sophisticated enough to not care, don’t pack it.

    I agree that the note was inappropriate, but holding up a vibrator for inspection? No way!  If I were the TSA I’d inform folks that anything in the luggage will be treated in the same manner, which means that whether its a vibrator, a gun, or a lipstick tube, it might be made visible. Think about, why should it be treated different than any other electronic device? At least half the time the screeners probably don’t know what it is until its in full view.  (And, just to be clear – I’ve had my luggage oened in full view by the TSA to clear a forgotten water bottle, with my undies and all else spilling out).

    Don’t you folks know that given its shape and batteries, in an x-ray a vibrator looks suspiciously like a bomb detenator?

  • authentic8

    “Am I the only one that sees the irony of supposedly liberated folks
    getting outraged  by the TSA exposing the fact that they have vibrators
    in their luggage?”

    You’re the only one because the irony is not there and you missed the point of the article.

  • Jenny

    Of course last week a loaded handgun made it through the checked baggage check at LAX. When it fell out of the bag at the next airport the TSA said they only screen checked bags for explosives and the gun was the airline’s problem. (A+ pass-the-buck effort right there.) I guess they forgot that in May and again in June at LAX have been fired in the last year for stealing from passengers. In the June case the screener was caught when the pawn shop where he was selling items tipped police. At the time the TSA recommended FedEx-ing valuables to your destination as an alternative. (C+ for effort there. I’d rather not risk my items get stolen by a FedEx employee and just have the federal agency I pay taxes towards be accountable.) Of course it will still be unreasonable to do the bag screening in an area with video surveillance.

  • John

    I worked on the ramp of a major airline for several years.  When I was working the piers loading bags into carts we had several that were vibrating. The procedure was to call the supervisor who called the TSA who brought the passenger down to the piers to open the bag and identify whatever was buzzing.  We never did that.  Usually it was a toothbrust or shaver but a few times it was an adult toy. It never occured to us to bring the passenger down and humiliate her in front of everyone by showing us her toy.  Also the TSA agents were such jerks that noone on the ramp could stand them.  They took pride in humiliating people.  If it was me, I’d open the bag turn off the toothbrush or shaver and take the batteris out of the toy.  End of story.

  • Sharpasice

    A year ago we went to Vegas from Chicago Midway Airport.  Our checked luggage is searched all the time.  This time when we arrived in Vegas and opened our luggage..3 prs of my panties were gone and my husband had 6 prs of socks that were not his!  I think TSA does this purposely. I would hate to be the husband who got my panties instead of his socks.

  • As a foreigner, just like Americans, you have no rights.  Your best bet, given you’ll be traveling under a different passport, is to just let them do what they need to do.  If you complain, even meekly, your life will be made miserable for so long as they care to do so.

    I hate the new scanners.  I can’t stand that my overweight 47 year old grandmother body is on a screen like that.  However, the alternative is to be groped by a total stranger.  
    Just go through the scanner (if they have one – not all airports do) and shudder inwardly.  It makes things infinitely easier.

  • cjr001

    No, TSA is far worse than a teenager giggling about sex.

    It is the child that is used to getting what it wants, and will throw a fit when it doesn’t, because the parents simply don’t care.

  • TSA is the single most abusive agency in our Federal government.  I think it started out as a good idea, but so did Communism.

    I think we can all agree strong security is needed at airports due to the events of 10 years ago (and since then, but we all also know TSA doesn’t catch or stop terrorists, the passengers on the planes the terrorists have been allowed to board are stopping them) but TSA has become a strong arm branch of airport security.  They inflict indignities on us all with a mere blink of the eye and don’t feel bad about it either.

    TSA need a major overhaul and the government isn’t willing to do it.  They enjoy trampling us as a collective and will continue to do so for so long as they exist – and TSA isn’t going anywhere any time soon, if at all.

  • Tom

    Wonder if you found three pairs of panties in your husband’s suitcase that weren’t yours — Would he have some ‘splainin to do?

  • Patsy

    My best advice…just go through security. Be polite and do as requested. If they want you to go through the scanner, go through the scanner. It only takes a few seconds and you’ll be done.

  • Clare

    “If you’re not sophisticated enough to not care, don’t pack it.”

    Personally, I’m not feeling particularly sorry for someone carrying a sex toy… but your across-the-board generalization is unjustified.  I used to work with a young married woman who had had an ostomy.  She had all sorts of horrible stories–which she fortunately was able to laugh about–regarding her need for special underwear, ostomy bags, etc., and the confusion it caused her cleaning woman, her husband’s guy-friends, and others who accidentally encountered these things.  I absolutely cannot imagine all the potential outrages to which the TSA could subject her today.  Would you suggest that she not travel without her undies and ostomy bags?  Or are you saying that she shouldn’t regard her medical condition as a private matter? 

    If your own undies spilled out of your bag and the TSA didn’t apologize to you profusely (you didn’t mention in your post how they handled it), THEY SHOULD HAVE. 

    I once forgot about a water bottle too, in the pre-TSA but post-liquids-scare timeframe.  The screener saw it and told me, and when I realized what it was and apologized for forgetting about it, offered to let me either throw it away or step to the side and drink it.  (That was because, DUH, I don’t fit the profile for a terrorist in any way shape or form.)  In any case, I’M the one who took it out of my bag–they made no move to open my luggage themselves.  Those were the days, I guess!

  • Brooklyn

    “True story: A colleague who was seven months pregnant claims she went
    through an airport scanner recently. When she was done, the TSA agent
    congratulated her on having a girl.”

    Um, no, not true.

  • Brooklyn

    Wow, how overblown.  In the last month I’ve taken a few flights, got the scanner each time except one, and just yawned at the whole experience.  Your outrage is exponentially overblown.

  • Sam Varshavchik

    Well, I realize that this may not be a fair comparison, but decades ago many people didn’t mind sitting in the back of the bus, either.

    But a more fair comparison would be that almost a century ago, people also never thought that getting X-rayed in order to measure one’s shoe size is also a harmless, routine procedure.


  • David

    Oh, please.  Look, passenger, if you want to bring your powered ‘items’ through security, you KNOW they’re going to get x-rayed and examined.  And if you put them in your checked bags, there’s a high probability TSA will see them.  So if you don’t care, go for it.  If you’re going to be embarrassed, send them UPS if you can’t be without for a couple of days.  Use common sense!

  • Severnwatcher

    You missed the point entirely. It IS ironic that folks suposedly comfortable and confident enough in their sexuality to use sex toys would complain about the fact that other people might know they use them

  • Severnwatcher

    Clare, I have a friend with an ostomy – that’s a medical condition and a disability – that is different. We’re talking about supposedly free-spirited consenting adults that are suddenly ‘ashamed’ when their fetish is revealed? C’mon! What’s the cliche? If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen?

  • authentic8

    No, I got *your* point you were making – it was not that abstruse, but I disagree with it because you made several faulty assumptions about people who use sex toys, 1) they are only those who are superconfident and open in their sexuality, not ordinary people with hangups, sexual mores and a sense a privacy about that part of their lives. 2) Even someone who was superconfident and comfortable about their sexuality and use of sex toys would still not find it inappropriate for an official and stranger to broadcast the fact about it in a crowded airport. The assumption that anyone would not be bothered besides and outright exhibitionist (who might still be offended by an abuse of authority and power) is a complete non-sequitur.

    Besides, the point of the article was to highlight an organization feeling empowered to break such obvious social conventions, not about whether people should or should not feel comfortable about those social conventions being broken. It’s about governmental power and authority going to people’s heads and what we can and should do to reign that in.

  • authentic8

    P.S. it’s not as though in this case it was a case full of bondage whips, butt plugs and lube. The item was quite a non-controversial and discreet variety. Many women cannot orgasm easily without such aid and, in fact, that includes some quite conventional married women who use them with their husbands full knowledge and participation.

    I do think many people these days would not be terribly embarrassed by such an event, but would feel angered at the obvious lack of respect. However, the very fact that there are some who would be distressed by such actions would require the TSA and any similarly empowered organization to employ respect, sensitivity and tact at all times or be held accountable.

  • Clare

    I hear what you’re saying, Severnwatcher, but where does one draw the line?  What happens if the TSA goon sees what he thinks MIGHT be a sex-toy–which by your rule, it would be okay for him to pull out in front of everyone–but it turns out to be some medical device or gizmo that should be kept private? 

    The fact is, laws and regulations have to be written objectively, but the distinction you are making is a subjective one (medical things should be off-limits, toys not).  How do you define “toy” and “medical device”?  If a TSA-er honestly tried to follow that sort of a rule, what would he be supposed to do if he spotted something in a suitcase and truly wasn’t sure what it was?  You see the slippery slope here?

    I totally agree with Chris here: at first it might seem laughable, but on second thought, it’s really not!  Once we acknowledge that it’s okay to display somebody’s toy, we’re setting a precedent that logically will lead ultimately to permitting TSA to display EVERYTHING.  And THAT’s what is objectionable about this whole case.

  • Cliffordpwoodrick

    I agree with you. Because I am retired I fly once maybe twice a year vice the ten /twelve trips that we did ten years ago. I have a steel hip and knees plus snapnel from Viet Nam so I get patted down each year. The Doctor’s card stating that I have all this metal means nothing so I get groped. So I do not fly unless I have to – now we drive.

    Have a wonderful day – Cliff

  • LeeAnneClark

    And you’re OKAY with the fact that we must risk humiliation, pawing of our intimate belongings by strangers, and perverted notes left in our bags, just to exercise our constitutionally-protected right to move about our country?

    Wow. The ease with which so many of our citizens cede their most basic civil rights to this out-of-control jackboot-tactic-using government agency is truly horrifying.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Typical “if it hasn’t happened to me, it hasn’t happened” response.

    I have been sexually molested twice by this out-of-control agency. I AM outraged – and rightfully so.

    I’m glad it hasn’t happened to you. But fly often enough and it could. Come on back and tell us our outrage is “overblown” after YOU’VE had some stranger ram her thumb into your crotch with such violence that it made you jump.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Do this only if you accept the fact that you have just increased your risk of getting cancer. It is a scientific FACT that the radiation emitted by the scanners cause cancer. The only issue in dispute is how high that risk is. And the actual scientists who have weighed in on this say that the risk is FAR higher than the TSA states. If you don’t mind increasing your risk of cancer, get scanned. Me…with my family history of breast cancer, I refuse.

  • deb

    I fly out of SEA to visit my elderly mother in Florida a couple of times a year. She loves a particular brand of cheese that is made locally, so I usually pick up a couple of pounds for her. Last time, I went for her surprise birthday weekend—all of us siblings flew in,  and the surprise party was wonderful.

     I did not have any checked baggage. My carry-on had clothes, tacky party decorations, the  picture frame that we planned to fill with a family photo for her gift,  and 2 lbs of cheese. I stepped towards the metal detector. Next thing I knew, I was roughly pulled aside, my bag was unzipped, turned UPSIDE DOWN, and the contents were strewn 25 feet down the conveyor-table-counter, in front of God and everybody! I didn’t so much mind the streamers streaming everywhere, but my neatly folded  clothing and  unmentionables did not NOT need to  be on full display.

    Three TSA agents were doing the flinging, and one seemed quite disappointed to shout  to the others, “Oh, It’s just cheese, not C-4 after all. And the detonator is a picture frame. Too bad, guys.”  Does cheddar really pass for C-4 explosives?  And was there not a more dignified way to check, rather that upending my bag, and leaving it strewn all over the place?? TSA is out of control!

  • LeeAnneClark

    Tom – he didn’t say that the TSA could, in fact, “see” the sex of the fetus. What he said was that a colleague told him that a TSA agent SAID he could see it. Not the same thing. I’ve heard TSA clerks make some pretty unprofessional comments at checkpoints as “jokes”. And given the fact that there is PROOF that TSA screeners can and will make stupid and even perverted jokes to passengers, I see no reason to doubt that some screener said that.

    OBVIOUSLY the screener who made the comment was joking, because the ones out front aren’t even seeing the naked scans – it’s the perverts in the back. Remember, the TSA has gone to great pains to tell us that they do not allow the viewers of the naked images to know the identity of the nude person they are seeing.

    CLEARLY Christopher was including that story as satire on the absurdity of TSA as a whole.

  • LeeAnneClark

    What part isn’t true?  He didn’t say that the TSA could, in fact, “see” the sex of the fetus. What he said was that a colleague told him that a TSA agent SAID he could see it. Not the same thing. I’ve heard TSA clerks make some pretty unprofessional comments at checkpoints as “jokes”. And given the fact that there is PROOF that TSA screeners can and will make stupid and even perverted jokes to passengers, I see no reason to doubt that some screener said that.

    OBVIOUSLY the screener who made the comment was joking, because the ones out front aren’t even seeing the naked scans – it’s the perverts in the back. Remember, the TSA has gone to great pains to tell us that they do not allow the viewers of the naked images to know the identity of the nude person they are seeing.

    I believe Christopher included this story to provide even more evidence, beyond this recent perverted note, as to just how unprofessional the TSA is. It was germane to the story.

  • y_p_w

    Violet Blue was not an editorial writer for the San Francisco Chronicle.  She was a blogger on their SFGate website, and her writings didn’t make it into the Chronicle print edition.

    She did once write about the time she saw Steve Jobs at Macworld and asked if she could have her picture taken with him, in which case he told her she was rude and then just turned away.


  • Shishibeach

    FETISH? Seriously? Wow…..that’s a bit out of line.

  • y_p_w

    They must have had a field day with the stuff I put in a box to take home from Miami.  I got into town just in time for a tropical storm, and I had stocked up on certain supplies just in case I needed to be holed up for several days if stores didn’t reopen – more so than I would have needed for a normal vacation. In my box I had a small beverage cooler, several bottles of soda, shelf-stable milk, breakfast cereal, snack chips, dry pasta, canned soup, etc.  I spent at least $30 on all that stuff, so I figured I’d take it home.  I found that my box (that had been sealed with strapping tape) had been opened and resealed along with a letter informing me that the TSA had inspected the contents, as well as a TSA sticker on the outside of the box.

    This was back when the liquid bomb scare just started, so I couldn’t even take a bottle of water with me as carry-on.

    This was back when AA still had two pieces of check-in baggage at no extra cost.  If this were today, I’d probably have dumped all that stuff before I left because it would have cost more in fees than I paid for it.

  • Bodega

    This was totatlly inappropriate and sexual harassment.  I also find Alaska Airline’s placment of religious materinal with their beverages and meals inappropriate, too. 

  • I wish that you had included Jill Filipovic’s final take on the matter in your article.  She said, “It’s easy to scapegoat one individual here, but the problem with the note is that it’s representative of the bigger privacy intrusions that the US government, through the TSA and other sources, levels every day.  The invasion is inherent to the TSA’s mission, regardless of whether a funny note is left behind – the note only serves to highlight the absurdity of all this security theatre.  I get no satisfaction in hearing that someone may be in danger of losing their job over this. I would much prefer a look at why ‘security’ has been used to justify so many intrusions on our civil liberties, rather than fire a person who made a mistake.”

    Amen.  It’s sexual harassment to let strange men and women paw through an innocent person’s luggage.  The sexually harassing note is just icing on the cake.  It’s sexual harassment to take pornographic photos of women and show them to strange men in little rooms.  It’s sexual abuse when unwelcome sexual contact is forced on travelers without their explicit consent.  The TSA’s mission is to trample on the Fourth amendment and destroy American values.  The TSA’s existence is testament to our shameful cowardice and our lack of respect for human rights and the rule of law.  The TSA firing one employee who is a sexual harasser is just a pathetic joke when John Pistole and Janet Napolitano should have been fired a year ago for orchestrating their nationwide child molestation campaign.

  • Wait, I don’t get it.  Are you saying that anyone who uses a sex toy is automatically the kind of person who’s comfortable having a government agent waving said sex toy around in a crowded area in full view of her friends, family, children, and lots of people she doesn’t know?  Bizarre.  That’s just a bizarre thought, Severnwatcher.

  • I’m very sorry to hear that you’ll have to transit our airport gauntlet of humiliation.  You do have rights! 

    First, check out the site tsastatus.net to find out the current scanner setup for your airport and gate. For most people, the best chance of getting to the plane without becoming a victim of sexual abuse is to use airports that don’t have scanners. 

    Second, if you must go to an airport with scanners, get there early enough to watch the lines carefully: sometimes you can avoid scanners by choosing a metal-detector-only line, and if all the lines feed to naked machines, you can often wait them out.  Porno-scanners are very manpower-intensive for TSA, so they are frequently turned on and off while people take breaks or for shift changes.  Often if you wait 15-30 minutes, the scanner line might close and then people will be sent to the metal detectors instead. 

    If you refuse the scanners, the TSA will perform a patdown that most people report includes rubbing your genitalia through your clothes four times, and breast fondling if you’re a woman.  You can also be forced into a patdown at the whim of a screener, with no justification at all, but this is probably rare. 

    If you do not want to allow whatever mistreatment the TSA has decided you deserve, then you should refuse screening.  Most people report that if you simply stand your ground and say no, no, I don’t consent to that, I want to leave the airport, I don’t want to fly, et cetera, that that the police will be called to escort you out of the area unmolested.  The TSA claims it can fine you $11,000 for doing this, but that fine has never been imposed on anyone.  I know of a dozen or more people who have done exactly this with no penalty other than verbal abuse from the screeners who don’t like the impropriety of their actions being exposed.  You need to be willing to abandon your travel plans to take this route.  Important! You need to remain calm and refrain from swearing or physical resistance when refusing screening, or else the police will trump up some charge and arrest you, as they did with Claire Hirschkind, Andrea Abbott, Yukari Miyame, and other heroes of the resistance.

    I hope that you will be able to travel without being photographed nude or touched inappropriately.  Unfortunately, that’s always a gamble in today’s America.

  • I don’t pose nude for strangers.  If Help Wanted! is comfortable with strangers ogling his/her nude body, then your solution might be the easiest way to get through an airport. 

    But then, stripping is an easy way to pay for college too. Some women just have too much self-respect to go that route.

  • Susan

    And would you rather not have security screening at airports then? If you feel that strongly about your rights, then flying just might not be for you.

  • If you’re that cavalier about throwing away your Constitutional rights and mine, Susan, then America might not be for you.  Look into North Korea – they love your style of unthinking acquiescence to authority.

  • MeanMeosh

    At least if a FedEx employee steals your valuables, you do have recourse.  If bad comes to worse and they won’t pay up for the lost items, you can sue.

    If the TSA steals your stuff?  You’ll get a form letter claiming that an investigation was conducted, no, a TSA employee didn’t take your property, and it’s your fault (or the airline’s fault, or the airport’s fault, or some combination of all three) that you lost your items.  And I’m pretty sure you can’t sue the TSA.

  • MeanMeosh

    At least you can throw away Alaska’s prayer card if you don’t like it.  Unless you’re willing to miss your flight, you don’t have any choice at the airport but to submit meekly to the TSA’s whims that day.  Complain, even a little, and they’re going to make your experience a living nightmare – because apparently, refusing to submit to a government official is “suspicious behavior” in TSA land.

  • cjr001

    And would you rather TSA spend their time going out of their way in trying to embarrass passengers than actually provide security?

    Because that is what is happening right now.

  • Julie Northrop2009

    Actually Severnwatcher, Authentic8 did not miss the point.  The lady in question is not upset that complete strangers knew she used a sex toy. The fact that the TSA agent had the gall to put get your freak on girl, or for a TSA agent to hold said sex toy up for people to see is where the upset lies.  There is absolutely NO reason for a TSA agent to hold up a sex toy for complete strangers to see except to humiliate someone.  All the TSA agent had to do was to look at the toy, and put it away.  I am very confident in my sexuality, and if I were to bring a sex toy on a flight I would not care if a TSA agent found it.  I would however be VERY upset if they were to show the entire security area said sex toy.  Authentic8 was right, you totally missed the point of the article.

  • MichelleLV

    I think that is what they are going for.   The majority of TSA is uneducated jack asses who like to stir up trouble for passengers.   This is just another example of how they get a kick out of harassing people.

  • Susan

    Thanks for your stupid comment.
    What do you really propose we do about security then?
    Do you honestly believe that we would be better off with no screening at airports?

  • Bodega

    With that logic she could have just thrown away the comment. 

  • Yes.  I honestly believe that I would be safer when I travel if there were no screening at airports than I am now.  If an airline offered me competitively priced security-free flights, I’d travel on that airline exclusively.  (If you’re in the 1%, you can fly security-free now.)

    However, you are arguing a complete non-sequitor. There’s a whole lot of daylight between “no screening” and “children and adults being electronically strip-searched and having their sex organs rubbed by strangers”.  For my part, I’d accept metal detectors and baggage X-rays, if that makes the cowards who aren’t real good at statistics or risk assessment feel warm and fuzzy inside.

  • Bodega

    You don’t have to fly.  The perverted note was due to an employee who crossed the line and when his employer investigate it, he was let go.  This incident has NOTHING to do with your right to move around the country. 

  • Daisymae

    You’re the one still missing the point. The point is that it’s not OK for the TSA to make use of their absolute power to deliberately humiliate and belittle someone. That’s called bullying.

    The fact that the TSA also has the power to punish innocent people with sexually humiliating pat downs and the power to have innocent people arrested makes the bullying even more chilling.

  • Paysy

    Clearly you have never flown outside the Us

  • MarkieA

    Sure, I expect any electronic device to get extra scrutiny these days, especially if it “goes off” in the security line. However, I don’t expect the “professionals” – what a laugh – in charge of security at the airport to humiliate me in front of everyone. I don’t expect an “encouraging” note in my luggage. I don’t expect disparaging remarks about my personal life. In short, I don’t expect the TSA Officers to act like %$&^ teenagers. Or maybe I should.

  • MarkieA

    That’s because you exhibit that increasingly rare and apparently misnamed attribute called common sense.

  • The lesson here is to remove the batteries from your adult toys.

  • The Condor

     Other government agencies, such as fire departments, regularly need to invade people’s privacy in even more intimate fashions than the TSA does.  However, if you have a private porn collection, vibrators, S&M dungeon or whatever, the fire department doesn’t expose you to public ridicule.  They’re professional, they fight the fire, and they respect your privacy.

    If you are a government agency in a position that mandates the invasion of privacy, there is a commensurate demand for respect of that privacy.

  • I have often flown outside the U.S.: China, Greece, France, Netherlands, Iceland, Spain, U.K., Ireland, Canada, Australia, India, and Bahamas in the past few years.  I’m not sure why that’s relevant, since the original question concerned screening in the U.S. 

    I think you were perhaps trying to make some point about the intensity of airport screening in other countries compared with that in the U.S., but it actually varies quite a bit by country.  Most of those countries have less invasive screening than the U.S. and none plays the shoe game except where U.S. authorities force them to.  In the U.K. child pornography laws are enforced properly so no one under 18 goes into the strip-search machines.  Some countries have even more offensive screening than the U.S., of course, and India is one; the bullies there perform a manual sexual assault on every passenger, which is why I will never ever return to that country. 

    I’d be interested in your first-hand observations about screening in other countries, since I would love to travel the world but I will never hold still while some cretin molests me again.  What countries have you visited and what was screening like there?

  • VegasBaby

    It was a joke.  Get over yourself.  Perverted is when there’s someone in the next stall taking pleasure in spying on you through the hole in the stall wall.  Saying congratz on a girl is humor.  Maybe its humor you don’t like, but its a world away from perverted.  You need some more experiences in life, clearly.

  • VegasBaby

    “TSA is the single most abusive agency in our Federal government.”

    That right screams “idiot.”  Think about it.

  • VegasBaby

    “It’s sexual harassment to let strange men and women paw through an innocent person’s luggage.”

    I am glad you have no elected office or power, because that statement is delusional on its face.  You and people like you are the single problem in this country going to hell on the backs of the Politically Correct horse.  make a reasonable point, have a reasonable discussion, but calling people going through inanimate objects sexual harassment is simply insane.

  • It’s an interesting point.  I think sexual harassment is a perfectly reasonable way to describe the note left in this woman’s luggage.

    Since anyone going through a woman’s luggage without her present would be free to make the same sexist comments without repercussions as long as he/she didn’t write them down, I applied the same word to describe derogatory comments made about the contents of a woman’s luggage where there is no record of such comments.  Maybe you have a point. Maybe there can be no harassment without a victim who knows of the derogatory comments. 

    Still, there is no shortage of TSA sexual harassment incidents in the public record.  Rolando Negrin harassed at work after his co-workers viewed his naked body in the scanner, the Amarillo woman who was harassed by male screeners after a TSA employee exposed the woman’s breasts (“I’m going to go back and watch the video.”), the “I was going to do her” filth aimed at the TIME reporter, the “Got a cutie for you” to the man in the pornobooth as a pilot’s 17-year-old daughter enters the scanner, and the list goes on and on.  You are right that what the TSA does isn’t always sexual harassment.   But it’s obvious that the TSA’s procedures intentionally leave travelers vulnerable to uniquely disgusting forms of sexual harassment and bullying.

  • Are you going to offer evidence for why any other agency is more abusive?  I mean, TSA’s abuse of innocent people is in the news every single week for the last year.  Who else has that kind of track record?

  • Daisymae

    That’s the same response victims of sexual harassment have been receiving since the dawn of time: “It was a joke. Get over yourself.”

  • Daisymae

    Come on, Vegas Baby, it was a joke. Get over yourself.

    That doesn’t feel very good, does it? Maybe that can give you a glimpse of how it feels for victims of sexual harassment when the perpetrator or some callous bystander says “It was a joke. Get over yourself.”

  • Julie Northrop2009

    Hey Vegasbaby,

    What if you were staying at a high class hotel, and the maid came in and happened to write “get your freak on girl” after seeing a pair of sexy underwear in your drawer?  I guess that you feel it’s okay since you seem to feel that there was nothing wrong with what the TSA agent did.  Sexual harrassment comes in many forms. If someone at work writes me a note like that after overhearing a comment I made to another co-worker, that would be considered sexual harassment. I bet you feel that a woman who gets raped probably deserves it if she’s dressed provocatively. 

  • David

    Look, the whole reason this came out is that some attention-grabber wanted her 15 minutes of fame.  No problem, lots of people crave attention.  Now the OP wants to sue, which is silly because she suffered no economic damages, so why is she suing?  Clearly it’s just to extend that 15 minutes a bit longer.  Hey, maybe she’ll get reality TV show or a spot on whatever daytime TV people watch now.  She could have tossed the note and ‘gotten her freak on’ instead of publicizing it herself.

    And one last thing — too many people ASSUME what she said was true.  Or did she write the note herself?  Stranger things have happend (like the woman who threw acid on her own face to get on a talk show.)

  • David

    Ummm… Condor.  SHE exposed herself on it.  She publicized it, she posted copies of the ‘supposed’ note, she filed a public lawsuit.  She exposed herself to ridicule just to get attention.  Won’t be a bit surprised when it turns out she wrote the comment herself, then blamed the TSA 

  • ButMadNNW

    It’s not “a bit” out of line. It’s WAY out of line.

    All manner of women use vibrators, whether or not they have a steady partner. Married women, women who have trouble achieving orgasm, single women without partners… And many of them are completely “vanilla”, no fetishes. Displaying said vibrators in a public arena as the TSA personnel did feels like nothing more than an attempted “slut shaming”: “Oh, look. She has a vibrator, she must be a slut! Let’s point and laugh.”

    Yes, let’s openly mock women who enjoy pleasure and wish to take control of and enjoy their own sexuality. How bloody well dare they!

    The suggestion that anyone who has a vibrator has a fetish is insulting, to say the least. As is the idea that the ownership of a vibrator somehow negates one’s right for one’s sex life to be private.

    I wonder how the men here would like it if a TSA goon pulled out their pack of condoms and waved them around, showing them to all and sundry?

    (All that said, if you’re going to pack your vibrator in your carry-on, ladies, at least take the batteries out so it doesn’t go off accidentally.)

  • jennj99738

    So the TSA is lying when it reported finding the TSA screener who wrote the note and began disciplinary proceedings?  Why would the TSA admit that one of its screeners wrote the note if it wasn’t true?  Nobody is assuming anything–the facts are in evidence.  Secondly, the passenger tweeted a picture of the note.  That’s it. She isn’t responsible for it going viral.  And she isn’t ashamed of carrying the vibrator.  It is extremely unprofessional of the screener to take time from screening other bags to write this note.  This is the quality of the people screening luggage. 

    The passenger did not lie about it.  The TSA screener is responsible for his or her own actions and most likely, since the TSA is starting disciplinary actions, this isn’t the first screw-up.

  • jennj99738

    Please post the link that shows Filipovic has filed a lawsuit.  You’ve said it twice now and I can’t find it. I’d like to read the complaint and I can pick it up on PACER.

  • Geoff

    There appears to be no public embarassment here. The only reason we are reading about this  is because Jill chose to bring it to the public’s attention, for publicities sake? I feel that Jill should have demanded the TSA agent’s job and would have probably had it. There are thousnads of employees every day that get fired over a pratical joke gone wrong. But, now that it is public, there will be a wrist slapping and another good TSA story to pass around. Case closed!

  • Brooklyn (original)

    Sorry, Sommer and LeeAnne, it wasn’t me.  There are now two other people pretending to be me on this site, and I don’t post here any more except to explain.
    Original Brooklyn

  • Original Brooklyn, I’m sorry you’re upset. Disqus, which hosts our comments, will not allow me to exclude other unregistered users from using a particular username. I’ve appealed to the other Brooklyns to find their own names, but I think they have achieved their goal, which is apparently to either stop you from commenting here or to confuse the rest of us.

  • Sadie Cee

    I was going to write a LONG response to this.  However, I would only like to ask why can a society of mature adults not find a more sophisticated and mature term to describe these devices than the term “sex toys?”

    As for the lack of professionalism among TSAs, no more can or needs to be said. 

  • NotFromNewYork

    I love it. First you say if you don’t like it, don’t fly. Then when someone drives instead of flying, you call them overblown.

  • It’llAllBeOverSoon.

    ^^^ A defense invoked by date rapists.

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