TSA encourages blogger to “get her freak on” after finding vibrator in bag

Yesterday it felt like the Internet exploded when friend and fellow feminist blogger Jill Filipovic Tweeted the following:

“Just unpacked my suitcase and found this note from TSA. Guess they discovered a “personal item” in my bag. Wow.”

The Tweet was accompanied by this picture depicting a handwritten note that read “Get your freak on girl”.

TSA slip says get your freak on grl

Jill is a blogger for Feministe and a longtime friend of Feministing. She wrote a post about the experience on her blog, calling the note a “total violation of privacy, wildly inappropriate and clearly not ok” but admitting that she did have a good laugh about it.

I too had something of an ambiguous reaction. It is pretty hilarious, but at the same time there’s something disturbing about the TSA’s (Transportation Security Administration) lack of professionalism and downright immaturity. I’ll think of this little incident next time I see one of those TSA slips in my bag, and I’ll definitely hesitate to pack a vibrator.

Comments on Jill’s original Twitpic are representative of the wide range of opinions this elicits:

“So WRONG. Our personal items are not for TSA comment.”
“A rare human moment/connection from a normally humorless agency. I like it & whoever wrote it.”
“wow, that’s inappropriate!”
“Might as well read, “We’ve just invaded your privacy. Haha. How does that feel?” Icky! Sorry.”

What do you think, readers? Funny, disturbing, inappropriate, or a little bit of all three?

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18 Comments

  1. Posted October 25, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    A vibrator or any sex toy is perfectly normal. Its presence in luggage should be no more remarkable than the presence of a drum pad (good for hotel practising) or a really nice pair of heels. So even if the TSA agent intended to be funny, and even the owner of the suitcase got a laugh out of the comment (at least at first), to comment at all was inappropriate. We might as well have Beavis and Butt-head working for the TSA.

  2. Posted October 25, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    It’s odd that the writer of the note would read “freak” into vibrator. I mean, that’s a pretty normal thing for an adult woman to carry.

    But also… I have a gendered reaction. If a female agent wrote this I would feel better– sort of encouraging another woman and expressing solidarity.. If a male agent wrote this I feel kind of icky, like he’s indicating that female masturbation is fun when boys get to laugh about it or because it indicates that she’s sexual and therefore he is allowed to comment on her sexuality? I don’t know if that’s fair or if that indicates a problem with me. Does anyone else feel differently depending on who the agent was?

    In any case I don’t think it’s professional on the part of an agent, male or female. I would feel strange if the same happened to me.

    • Posted October 25, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      Yeah I feel the same way… if it was written by a woman then it’s a funny moment of sisterhood. If it was written by a man it’s kind of a creepy invasive moment. Kinda looks more like a guy’s handwriting to me, but you can’t always tell.

    • Posted October 26, 2011 at 12:10 am | Permalink

      This seems a very poor comment to make; what about solidarity across genders about healthy sexual behaviour? Why is a woman any more valid to make a joke about sex when all genders take part and it’s ingrained deeply in culture and jokes are made about it in media daily.

      This sort of comment assumes some sort of sexual intent behind the comment when clearly the officer whom wrote it knew they would never be in contact with the person. Would you be more or less upset if the man was gay? Would you feel icky if the hypothetical woman was a lesbian?

    • Posted October 26, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      While I don’t necessarily disagree, I find these positions hard to square with the notion of equality that feminism so rightly professes.

  3. Posted October 25, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Funny? Yes. Extremely unprofessional? Yes. Should it happen again? No.

    The fact that the message was funny (to me and to the note’s recipient) is purely coincidental. But I find it disturbing that the note was written in the first place, and I hope that whoever wrote the note loses his (her?) writing utensil privileges while on the clock.

  4. Posted October 25, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    I definitely laughed when I read that.

    That said, I think that having your bags searched is an inherent invasion of privacy.

    I imagine that the agent knows that as well, and you caught him/her in a rare moment of happiness .

    Given the nonsense my family and I have received from the TSA in the past, it’s honestly a little nice to know they still have a sense of humor.

  5. Posted October 25, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    I immediately read it like it was from my best friend, high-fiving me, in celebrating the fact that I love to sexually please myself even when I travel.

    Some people will find it offensive, and some will find it invasive. I can understand both of those stances; however, I wouldn’t take it as either. Since I interpreted it as friendly, I wouldn’t have been offended that someone decided to take the extra step to let me know that they acknowledged and also celebrated the pure awesomeness of having a vibrator. If it was going to express how perverse they thought having a vibrator was, perhaps they would’ve conveyed that in the message, or perhaps they would’ve just not have written anything at all because in doing so would jeopardize their job. I wouldn’t have found it invasive either because I can imagine what it must be like working a job like that, sometimes you just want to lightly step outside of your job just to make a positive connection with another human being. Perhaps that person thought they were leaving a friendly note, a kind of “you go girl” message, not thinking that it would offend due to the risk involved if it did.

  6. Posted October 25, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    not okay!

    funny becuase missy elliot rocks and positive reinforcement for sexual empowerment (which could = confidence in carrying vibrator in tow) is a good thing. totally unprofessional, however, and also totally alienating should embarassment be the first of the traveler’s reaction. invasion of privacy during the search is enough, making any sort of judgement and intruding on that space by actually leaving something is creepy and a further breach of authority.

    also interesting, though, in that leaving that note totally lifted the veil and displayed the TSA search (in broad daylight and so that you can’t ignore it) for exactly what it is: an invasion of personal privacy.

  7. Posted October 25, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    I was travelling with my partner via Gatwick; and carrying my dilator in my hand luggage . I should explain that I’m a transsexual woman, and a typical dilator is like a 9 inch perfectly smooth dildo. So they considered this object suspicious as it went through the xray, and hand searched the bag. The security agent found it, looked at me, looked at my female partner, smiled and said “you girls” with the implication that he knew exactly what we’d be using it for. Well, no.
    I dislike having my luggage searched, but I’d rather have a human do it.

  8. Posted October 25, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    It seems highly suspicious out of all the people they could have written a note to they just happened to pick a suitcase that belonged not just to any woman blogger, but the editor of a large feminist website.

    Too many coincidinces raise suspicion.

  9. Posted October 25, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Yes, it was incredibly unprofessional…but I think most people (the recipient included, whose opinion should really matter most) think it was really, really funny, and a great story to tell friends. If you can laugh about something that happened to you (i.e. not strictly at your expense or at the expense of others), really laugh and not just the fake nervous “I know I should laugh in this situation so I’m going to fake it so nobody knows I’m actually really uncomfortable” laugh, but real, genuine laughter, I can’t find fault with it. Genuine laughter is a sign that things are okay and you feel good: you can’t compel it. If there’s more real, genuine laughter in the world then it has to be a good thing.

    Yes, it was unprofessional…but who says being professional all the time is all that great? I get the feeling that the agent definitely wasn’t laughing AT her, she was laughing WITH her.

  10. Posted October 25, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    lol. I guess it’s better than getting a handwritten note consisting of some Christian moralizing. Or how about one of those little proselytizing “How can you be sure you’re going to heaven?” pamphlets?

    I went through security at an airport last week and was randomly (or supposedly randomly, anyway) selected to have my electronics “checked,” and had to hand my cell phone over to someone who was “just going to run a quick test.” Of course, they never tell you what kind of “test” it is, until I asked and quickly suggested it must have been dusting for explosives or something (which I don’t actually think it was), and the TSA agent nodded and said something vague. I find it extremely disturbing that TSA workers can probably download your entire cell-phone message history in 10 seconds – and you’re “required” to give it to them in the name of safety. In my opinion, the lack of transparency is a crock of shit. If they’re going to “run some tests” on your personal items, you have a right to know what they’re doing and what they’re checking for.

    On the other hand, I can understand TSA screeners probably have a difficult job trying to differentiate via X-ray between vibrators and explosive devices. I was on a trip last summer and developed some tongue sores, so I purchased a sea salt grinder so that I could rinse my mouth out with a sea salt solution, and I put the grinder in my carry-on. I was stopped in the security line so an agent could go through my bag – probably because the X-ray picked up the tiny blades. The TSA agent laughed and said, “I should have known that’s what that was! I cook with spice grinders all the time!” And I said, “Well, I wouldn’t really blame you for not having any idea why I’m flying with a sea salt grinder.”

  11. Posted October 26, 2011 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    I mean, that’s what vibrators are for, right? Haha I guess I feel like a reaction that is not shaming a woman for choosing to have non-male induced orgasms is fine by me.

    The only thing I see as a problem is that it’s a little creepy to think that TSA is totally looking through your bags and judging you for what’s in there, notes or no notes.

    And in the absence of actual privacy, I’ll take the TSA notes of endearment for sure.

  12. Posted October 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    To me, this is much less about the TSA’s invasion of Jill’s privacy than it is about gender stereotypes in our society. Regardless of the potential for this to be received well by some, it represents an archaic attitude about sexually active women. For some reason, if a woman owns a vibrator and takes it along on a trip, she’s labeled a sexual ‘freak.’ You know, because it is so weird for women to like sex. The fact that it is any less normal than underwear or socks in a suitcase is frankly disturbing, and just serves to remind us how much work there is left regarding sex positivity and the gender binary.

    • Posted October 26, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

      I think you may be misinterpreting the slang definition of the term “get your freak on”, which really is about having fun and getting off. Think the Missy Elliot song.

      An invasion of privacy? All searches are, in a way.

      But I don’t think that the note implies that a woman who owns a vibrator is bad or wrong at all.

  13. Posted October 27, 2011 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    I laughed

    Then I thought ”if that happened to me — I’d never be able to masturbate with that vibrator again without thinking of the TSA”
    for some people that might be a hot sexual fantasy — for others a complete and total turnoff

    I’m not sure which one I fit under ;)

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