If the government wants to look at my naked body, let them. Who cares? When I say this, people get all red in the face. They use abstract ideas like “privacy” and “violation”. But when all of the bluster is done, nobody seems able to explain what the actual problem is.
Some people say: “It’s violating, and undiginified! It’s like sexual assault! I’m being treated like a criminal!”
No. It’s none of those things, and the only people who would ever say that are people who had never been assaulted sexually or treated like a criminal. The pat-down procedure is ritualized, professional, clothed, and performed under very controlled conditions in a very specific context. The images are naked, but not sexually suggestive. (Americans seem to have a peculiar type of prudary that they think that all nakedness is sexual.) To claim that the pat-down is like sexual assault or the images are like pornography is, quite honestly, an insult to the actual victims of actual assault…. and, well, it’s an insult to pornography, as well.
Some people say: “Oh, I bet you are the type of person who was also fine with the government wire-tapping our phones! I bet you were the type of person who said that nothing is wrong if you have nothing to hide!”
No. I really believe there is a qualitative difference between listening in on a phone call and seeing a naked body. When you listen in on my phone call, you learn something about me. I might be talking about feelings I don’t want to share with everyone, or admitting to actions that I don’t want on public record. When a TSA official looks at an image of my naked body, what does he learn? Nothing. An image of a naked body is not information about a person. It it just… a body.
Some people say: “It will be confusing to our children, whom we’ve told over and over that strangers are not allowed to touch them there!”
No. We already tell children that doctors can touch them in ways that other people can’t. And even that isn’t a blanket exception. We are very careful to teach our children: only a doctor can touch you there, and only when in a doctor’s office while wearing a doctor’s coat, and only when mommy or daddy is also around. There is no reason we can’t teach our children to discern and understand the circumstances of a TSA agent at the airport (also, only when the parents are also around). Children are smart, there is no reason they can’t understand what these circumstances mean, if you bother to teach it to them.
Some people say: “What if a pedophile performs the search? Or a pervert who gets turned on by the scanner image looks at my image?”
If someone employed by the TSA abuses their position, then they will be caught and appropriate actions will be taken. Just like when it is a teacher, or a doctor, or anyone of any other profession. But the risk of some un-detected pedophile TSA official is no greater than the risk of some un-detected pedophile doctor. It’s something we try to prevent, we keep an eye out for, and we punish when we see it happen. Why should our fear of this in the TSA be any greater than our fear of it in our teachers and doctors?
Some people say: “But my body is personal… I only want the people that I choose to be able to see it!”
This is, by far, the best argument I’ve heard so far.
But just to re-cap: it’s NOT sexual assault; it’s NOT the government learning any private information about you; it’s NOT sending a “mixed message” to our children; and it’s NOT exposing us to any more risk than we have interacting with doctors, teachers, and policemen already. In short, these security measures are NOT abhorrent, or “degrading”, or an infringement on basic rights.
They are merely something you don’t feel comfortable with.
And that’s fine! You don’t have to feel comfortable with it. But it’s not some huge objective moral outrage. It is merely something you would prefer not to do. There is no actual “big deal” here, except that you would prefer to hide your body from people.
And if you want to argue for that right, then do so loudly and proudly.
But don’t try to twist it into a bigger deal than it is.