The Wild Hunt was one of the first places I heard about the new TSA pat-down procedures which are being introduced just as full body imagers (or “pornoscanners,” for those rhetorically inclined) are becoming common in US airports. Specifically, the Wild Hunt reposted an interview with a Minnesota Pagan who was traumatized by the new pat-down procedure because it triggered her memories of sexual assault.
There are lots of good reasons that these changes in airport security shouldn’t be happening. There are health concerns. There’s a Constitutional argument to be made about unwarranted search. Even if simply flying is considered “consent” to such an invasive, warrantless search, there’s a strong argument that these “improvements” are actually security theater. We’re increasing the difficulty, cutting down on people’s rights, by a huge amount, in order to get a very, very small amount of possibly increased security. To use economic language, the marginal benefit in security is tiny, compared to the marginal cost of the invasion of privacy. That kind of cost-benefit analysis ought to appeal to even the most conservative Tea Partiers.
But more than that, as a Witch, and as a Pagan, I oppose these measures on religious grounds. The theaology of Paganism and especially Witchcraft puts great emphasis on the body. My body is not merely a piece of meat, and it is most certainly not part of the public sphere unless I choose to make it so. My body is holy to me; it is one of the primary places I experience the divine. It is not something separate from me, as if I can temporarily pretend I’m not there, it’s just my body being examined, not me, as a person. I as a person am inextricably wrapped up in my body, and when you invade my body, you invade me.
As a feminist, I am all too aware of the ways that women’s bodies tend to be treated as male property or even public property – something to be objectified, something to be legislated, something that the public has access to and influence over. For me, part of respecting the divine feminine is about treating women’s bodies as valuable and holy and private to the woman herself, just as men’s bodies have historically been respected. Yes, the TSA is supposedly staffed by professionals, and they are working for the government, but given their track record with these devices, I don’t feel very comfortable with that. For example, if I felt this uncomfortable about how my body was being viewed or exposed in the doctor’s office, I would certainly object and would expect the staff and the medical institution to work with me to assure my privacy.
For those who would make an argument about the Charge of the Goddess saying that we shall be “free,” I would say very simply that I am not in a situation of “perfect love and perfect trust” with TSA agents. In fact, the more they invade my privacy, the more they damage my ability to make meaningful choices and to be free in my own body. As my husband likes to say, there’s both freedom from and freedom to something. I want to exercise my freedom in the Goddess from invasion of my own body and my own privacy. If TSA agents can see me effectively unclothed and/or touch my genitals any time I fly, does that affect what it means when I choose to be nude with my husband, or when my husband touches me? If others are taking away the choice about how much of my body to reveal, then it’s less meaningful when I do choose to reveal or share myself. When freedom from that invasion is guaranteed, then it will be easier for me to have the freedom to be open and caring with others.