Could we be on the verge of a whole new world for exhibitionists? The TSA (Transportation Safety Administration, not be confused with the Tourette Syndrome Association) has begun installing backscatter machines in airports. These are specially designed X-ray machines that penetrate clothing but not skin, yielding a perfect picture of what a person looks like in the nude. From the photos on the web from demonstrations and the diagrams on the TSA website the term “perfect” is totally justified. Not only will an operator know what non-metallic items you may be carrying (obviously it can detect metal too, but looking for non-metallic items is what sets it apart) but said operator will also be able to tell how large one’s labia are.
This technology is distressing to me I’ll admit. Not because I give a fuck about being seen naked by a security operator, but because it is designed to detect the very sort of weapons that my family used to travel with, hardwood and plastic knives for instance. The risk of being singled out for a search caused us to change travel tactics a while ago, but that is not the point.
Now, there are steps being taken to preserve peoples’ “privacy” as much as can be done when giving them a radioactive strip search. Originally when I heard about this technology, the plan had been to use a computer algorithm to fuzz out the subject’s bits. Apparently this is no longer the plan. Whether stymied by technology limitations or the risk of people exploiting these known blur spots to hide weapons, I don’t know. Now the computer blurs the details of the face and the operator of the machine who is actually viewing the images created by it is in a separate room and never sees the individual in person, hence never seeing identifying features. At least not identifying features one can see with clothes on. I suppose the idea is that the tech can say “There is someone in Concourse A at the moment that has the biggest dick in the universe, I’m just couldn’t tell you who he is.”
This then implies that a great deal can not be determined from all the other details of a person. Not true. A more accurate statement I imagine would be this: “There is a guy in Concourse A at the moment with the biggest dick I’ve ever seen. He’s about six foot two inches tall. He weighs about two hundred and twenty-five pounds. And he is built like so…” and on.
As I implied earlier, there is one population who I think could benefit greatly from this technology: exhibitionists. As long as some stranger is going to be looking at you with your clothes off, you could have some fun. If someone is going to be invading your physical privacy, invade the sanctity of their mind a bit. I know that for myself, I am not really an exhibitionists (although I write a blog, so there is that) but I know that I am not going to avoid wearing a T-tape and strap (the method of foreskin restoration that I have been using) just because some stranger is going to be looking at my bits on a computer screen. However, I am simply not changing my behavior because of the backscatter machines. I think that where folk could have a lot of fun is with deliberate changes.
If you have labial piercing for instance, use a chain to hold the lips apart to make a pretty butterfly for the nice man (probably want to fix that as soon as you are through security, sounds uncomfortable). I have a picture on my computer of a flaccid guy with a Barbie doll arm coming out of the end of his foreskin. Bet that would look strange on a backscatter X-ray. This could be a whole new market for the butt-plug horse tails that are sold at events like the Fetish Flea Market. Imagine being the security screener puzzling that out during a busy travel time. The list could go on and on.
If backscatter machines do in fact become widely used (right now they are only in a few airports) then I’m sure the TSA will eventually set policies regarding deliberately fucking with the technicians. However, I suspect that there could be a pretty spiffy First and Fourth Amendment case built around the issue.
*5/14/07 Editor’s Note* Due to concern from multiple individuals regarding the possibility of certain facetious comments I made in this post being taken out of context, I have removed the second to last paragraph from this essay. There was concern that certain sardonic suggestions I may have made could be construed in such a way as to imply that I personally, Clan Tashlin, and/or Brigantain Designs LLC could be some sort of terrorism or security concern. While this is absurd, I have complied with suggestions that I remove the objectionable paragraph as it did not contribute substantially to the content of the essay.