Note #1: The Reporting Sexual Harassment page has been updated with contact information for Orbit.

Note #2: Each year Pat Rothfuss runs a fundraiser for Heifer International.  He’s offering a ton of prizes to donors, including autographed copies of Goblin Quest and Stepsister Scheme.  Go forth and check it out.


Apparently the TSA is now offering would-be travelers a choice: either go through the full-body scanner or submit to a pat-down that includes “checks of the inside of travelers’ thighs and buttocks.”  Of course, even if you do opt for the scanner, if the screeners decide you have a blurred groin, it’s groping time.

In Michigan, second degree criminal sexual conduct is defined as:

1. Sexual Contact (intentional touching of intimate parts or clothing covering intimate parts, for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification) and…

2. Any of the circumstances from First Degree CSC, including when the assailant “is aided by another person, and assailant uses force or coercion.”

Security screeners work in teams, right?  There’s your aid from another person.  Given that screeners are apparently reaching into people’s pants and feeling around, we’ve got the touching of intimate parts.  As for coercion, these are people who have the power to refuse to let you on your plane, to isolate you in a holding pen, and to use any number of other tactics.

What about the first point of the definition, where it specifies the contact must be “for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification”?

That’s a fair question.  At first, I wondered how much intention matters to the victim.  If I deliberately run you over with my car, are you less injured than if I simply didn’t see you and ran you down by mistake?

But then, there are certain medical screenings/examinations that are just as personal as these TSA “enhanced patdowns.”  It’s not assault every time my doctor checks me for a hernia, is it?

To me, the differences are:

  1. I know and trust my doctor
  2. I understand what my doctor is screening for, and believe that
    • it’s a real risk
    • this is an effective way of screening for that risk

This is where people jump on me for implying that terrorism isn’t a real risk.  Obviously, it is a real threat.  But is it a big enough threat to justify this kind of intrusive violation?  (The odds of dying in a terrorist attack are far slimmer than the odds of dying in a car crash; when do we get the War on Automobiles?)

And are the scanner and pat-down an effective way to prevent that threat?  I’m not convinced on the pat-down, and I’m not aware of the scanners having prevented any real-world threats yet.  (If there are examples of the scanners working in a real-life scenario, please let me know.)

Getting back to the sexual arousal point, I believe many, even most of the folks working airport security are good, decent people.  But does anyone really believe some individuals aren’t getting off on the chance to grope travelers day after day?  Particularly given the TSA’s apparent laxity when it comes to background checks.

Now imagine what it’s like to be a rape survivor forced through these procedures if you want to fly.

But remember, it’s for your own good, right?

My agent also has a post about this.  He said last week that he was jealous of how many comments I got on my blog, so go check it out.  As my agent, I believe he’s entitled to 15% of my blog comments.

Discussion welcome, as always.