Nipple Rings and Reactions

I would imagine that anyone reading this blog has heard about the US Transportation Authority’s nipple fiasco at the Lubbock, TX airport several weeks ago, but for those who may have missed it, here’s the 411: A woman in the Lubbock airport was wand-scanned after walking through the detector, and her nipple rings set off the alarm. She explained that removing the rings would be nearly impossible, and asked to have them checked by a female TSA officer (two were present at the time). The male officers denied her request, and asked that she go behind a partition to remove them with some pliers (no report on whether the pliers were confiscated from a previous passenger), or else she would be denied permission to board the aircraft. After some difficulty, Mandi Hamlin was able to extract the rings and managed to catch her flight.

If you’re reading this with your jaw agape in astonishment, you’re not alone. The story has been picked up by most of the major news outlets, initially as one of those odd or quirky tales, but has been growing into one of those stories that shows some of the more ridiculous antics by a quasi-government agency with an obvious lack of focus. If you have been following this story, you might be interested to learn that the TSA itself has a blog (really!) on which this incident has been addressed. Sort of.

The TSA blog has a rather odd title, and a lackluster subtitle: Evolution of SecurityTerrorists Evolve. Threats Evolve. Security Must Stay Ahead. You Play A Part.

Charming. Anyway, even more interesting than the blog article on this, are the approximately 300 comments, most of them anonymous, and most – although not all – opposed to the treatment that this woman received. Many of the opinions expressed the hope that she might sue the TSA, and that the officers involved would be fired (or suitably disciplined). Surprisingly, I did read several comments from people supporting the actions of the TSA officers, although they did not give any arguments to support their opinions, making it seem as if the TSA were “just following orders.” I think that it’s certainly worth a few minutes of reading time.

Soem of the more interesting comments:

“What if she had blasting caps in her bra? What if she was part of a covert test at the airport and they just took her word they were piercings? They would have failed another one of those tests you guys like to bash them for failing.”

“Let’s face it, women are mules and their undergarments a fortress for any item they feel they have a need to conceal. As far as humiliation, she wasn’t too humiliated when she got the piercings, why should she be humiliated to remove them “in private”.

“In this case, I would probably add layers of ignorance and prejudice. Texas being “the buckle of the Bible Belt,” the Lubbock TSOs perhaps asserted their personal beliefs that someone with a nipple piercing is “perverted” or “sinful” and therefore deserves to be publicly humiliated. ”

“I suppose the TSA could offer passengers the choice of a male or female screener for their private inspection. But that could lead to its own problems. For example, what if a female screener were to complain that having to inspect a male’s genital piercing creates a hostile work environment and grounds for a sexual harassment lawsuit? I can easily see that happening — in fact, I’ve known at least one female body piercer who will not do genital piercings on male clients.”

“If you are willing to wear piercings, then you should be willing to accept the consequences that come with it. With [Attorney] Gloria Allred by her side, it is obvious she is only seeking money.”

“If people insist on mutilating their bodies as an expression of their “alternative lifestyle” or to announce their individuality (“Look at me! I’m different – just like everyone else…) then they should be prepared for the fallout. You have piercings? You’re going to have to go through more in depth searches at the airport… thus, costing the rest of us time, too. So, thanks.”

The chastity groups have been tossing the story around for the last couple of weeks, mainly because of the number of men who have genital piercings and are now concerned about traveling. My own frenum piercing did not set off any detectors, and I’ve even placed the lock to my chastity device in my pocket, just to see what would happen. (Nothing). Although I find it difficult to imagine having a piercing big enough to set off an alarm, I’ve certainly seen them. I can’t even imagine trying to remove, say, a 0-gauge captive ball PA piercing with a pair of pliers.

Just like the people who have had to toss out baby formula for their infants, or the people on long flights who have their own food confiscated, the entire incident points up the growing ridiculousness of the current system.

About Tom Allen

The Grey Geezer Dauntless defender of, um, something that needed dauntless defending. Dammit, I can't read this script without my glasses. Hey, you kids, get off my damn lawn!
This entry was posted in News, piercing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Nipple Rings and Reactions

  1. Fuse says:

    Don’t even get me started on the studipity of the TSA. Or the whole system they’ve implimented. It’s a fucking joke…

    Shortly after 9/11 4 of my co-workers and I were boarding a flight home in Las Vegas and you know who they chose to “pat down”? A little old lady in her 80’s or 90’s sitting in a wheelchair. You should have heard the comments made by others in line, and we started wondering if the TSA agents were going to disassemble the wheelchair…

    My friend turned to me after the check and said sotto voice ” I feel so much safer now”.

    Nothing this stupid department does surprises me anymore, and the funniest thing about them to me is everything they do is a knee jerk reaction to something that already happened.

    Down here in Australia you don’t have to take off your shoes or jacket when boarding, and most times you don’t even have to take your computer out. Much nicer.

  2. Patty says:

    I do understand their concern, terrorists have to be smart about techniques, otherwise they wouldn’t be such a threat. They took apart my infant carrier one trip. So if people would exploit infants that way, why not a blasting cap bra? (wow, that could be kinda exciting; put the spark back into things…).

    But I can’t believe they wouldn’t have a woman search her. I requested a woman for a pat down and they happily obliged. I am sure that the TSA will find a way to alleviate their suspicions in these cases without offending future travelers. It is just a shame that it takes incidents like these to do so.

  3. Tom Allen says:

    I realize that I am straying into dangerous territory here, but instead of singling out 70 year old women or infants, why not place special emphasis on, say, 20-something year old men with backpacks or briefcases?

  4. darklily says:

    It seems to me that these screeners had no common sense. Some of the posters on the TSA Blog are the same way.

    – Duh…the alarm went off. What *do* I do? Oh, yeah…it’s like a watch..take it off. She could be hiding something in that bra…I’ll make her take the nipple rings off and ignore the actual bra. –

    If you think there are blasting caps in the bra, search the frickin’ bra!

    Seriously though…the underwire in my bra set off the alarm once. I told them there was an underwire in my bra. They wanded me (the bra area in particular), end of story.

    I have also been singled out on at least 2 occasions because I was traveling (without the DH) with a male without luggage…my infant son (duh). Had to take him out of his stroller at the gate while he was sleeping so they could search it.

  5. MissBonnie says:

    The very least they should of done… is offer to have a woman search her, and asking her to remove them with pliers !!! and to further add insult only offering her a partition to change behind. The TSA should pay or at the very least apologize .if they (TSA) plan to have such controls in effect , they should have a working system of operations for ALL eventualities. I understand the concerns, but a little organization on behalf of the TSA on procedures wouldn’t hurt.

  6. Gillette says:

    Wow, people are so compassionate!

    And then there’s the story of my daughter who forgot she had a five inch knife and pepperspray in her bag. She made it to and fro with no problem, only discovering the items upon her return.

    Scary, yes?

  7. Ms. Rika says:

    The process is highly flawed… but let’s face it, it’s put there to give the illusion of security and to, perhaps, dissuede wanna-be’s from trying anything. It probably works.

    The economics of running a first-rate security system (read: El-Al) are far beyond the scope of the American-based airlines, who are cutting fares by charging for blankets and pillows (or now, checking a second bag). So, the work of security is outsourced to the lowest-cost providers – large security companies whose main focus is how to provide standardized service at a minimal cost. The result is a lower rates of training and a lower pay scale for the people doing the work. The people running the security checkpoints are trained to follow routines – trained to avoid putting their own opinions into the system. They follow procedure. That’s the cheapest way to standardization.

    It’s no surprise this happened. Frankly, if you’re wearing metal piercings you can expect a problem. It’s pretty easy to recognize the potential for embarassment.

    If you want to be sure to this embarassment, call the airline (do so annonymously) before you fly and ask them what their procedure is…and then make a choice to fly another airline or remove your piercings before you leave for the airport!

    But, to think you’re entitled to pass a metal detector, with metal, undetected, is kind of foolish.

    – Rika.

  8. Wendy says:

    What I was wondering in all of this was one thing – What on earth were her nipple rings made of that they set off the alarm?!
    Body piercings are normally made of surgical type steel, like they use in, you know, surgery, partially, I assumed, to keep this sort of thing from happening.
    My friend M doesn’t set off metal detectors, and he’s got thirteen pieces of steel in his elbow (hockey injury). When I had my nipple rings in, they never set off metal detectors.
    Not to take away from what happened, but maybe she should upgrade her piercings, and get a better metal.

  9. Emma Kelly says:

    Hi there Tom,

    I hadn’t heard about this incident at all. Guess I’ve been caught up in other things.

    Em and I do have a TSA tale to tell however.

    Once a few years back departing an airport in Virginia, a young, black male TSA officer’s wand pinged as he waved it past the front of my pants. He waved it again and it pinged again. Then we made eye contact.

    “I have piercings in my dick,” I said.

    His eyes rolled. “Oh man,” he said, calling over a co-worker, also a young black man.

    They talked about it for a minute and told me they were going to have to take me into a room and check it out. Apparently two officers have to be present for a physical inspection. I guess one has to restrain me from blasting the C4 I’ve packed into my dick while the other one writes up a report.

    The whole thing sort of reminded me of my military induction physical many years ago during the height of the Vietnam War when I had to drop trow and spread my cheeks for a an Army doctor. Nothing I could have said to him could have been more eloquent than that gesture.

    Em was laughing as the current scenario unfolded and I was just hoping that the silliness of the situation and my irrepressible exhibitionism wouldn’t cause me to spring a woody while the brothers were checking me out.

    As we walked down the hall to the room the original guy said,” Damn, I really, really don’t want to do this.” He looked like he might puke. I’m thinking, seriously homophobic.

    “Don’t worry about it,” I said, laughing, “It’s your job.”

    So here we are, two black guys looking at this wimpy white guy’s little pierced dick. I’m thinking I’d sure like to see their cocks since I’ve shown them mine. But, of course, I don’t go there.

    “Okay, man, that’s okay. You can go,” says the second TSA guy and, as I’m zipping up, he leaves.

    The original guy pauses as I’m about to exit and asks, “Now that’s supposed to heighten the female’s pleasure, right?”

    “Right,” I said. And he nods, pensively.

    “Yeah, I get it,” he said.

    “Cool,” I said, wondering if he might ask me if I knew a reputable piercer in Norfolk. Then I rejoined Em and moved onward to our flight.

    Clearly the guys in the case you referred to just didn’t want to confront the situation constructively and need to be disciplined. Maybe we could send Em over to cane them.


    Mrs, Kelly’s Playhouse

  10. Dave says:

    Relying on common sense in others is a fool’s errand, and all the indignation, and fulmination in the world won’t change that.

    There’s no shortage of non-metallic body jewelry out there…it only makes sense (common sense you can count on!) to use it when traveling, going to court, etc.

  11. says:

    A visual inspection by a person of the same sex would have stopped this nonsense. The so-called authorities in this case should have their assess kicked.

    I am a wearer of such jewelry, and I am inclined to remove it before traveling. If, for some really strange rule I could not do that, I would be willing to face whatever scrutiny I must endure. Fuck the lawsuit, it’s for loosers.

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  13. Michelle says:

    Wow! How in the world did I missed this story? That has got to be embarrassing for the woman. I mean come on, does TSA truely think someone is going to have a “nipple ring” as a bomb? Of course, since airport security has now check with a fine tooth comb, the woman should have removed the jewelry in the first place.

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