Until today, all the conversations I had heard about the full-body scanners being used in airports were about invasion of women’s privacy. (Do I have to say I think that’s an important issue? I think that’s an extremely important issue.)
But this story points out a disturbing variation.
Screener Rolando Negrin’s private body parts were observed by his Transportation Security Administration colleagues conducting training on the airport’s full-body imaging machines.
Months of [daily ribbing about the size of Negrin’s genitalia] culminated on Tuesday night, when Negrin attacked a co-worker in an employee parking lot, according to an arrest report.
Negrin “stated he could not take the jokes any more and lost his mind,” said the report.
Let’s take this story apart:
First of all, in the process of training on the machines, TSA workers, in effect, see each other naked. Being seen naked by strangers when you come through the screeners is bad enough, but being seen by the people you work with every day is even worse. People have all kinds of reasons to keep their “private parts” private from their co-workers. (See this post for just one take on work and genital privacy.) I’m betting that the TSA provides little or no trainings on the complications of opportunities to see co-workers naked; anyone want to take the other side of that bet?
Second, they not only see each other naked, they (in this case at least) know exactly who they are seeing. If all the rest of the exposure is completely inevitable (which I do not believe), it should still be possible to do full-body screenings of all the identified men in a work group and then show those screens in a randomized order to all the identified men, and similarly with all the women. But clearly, no one bothered to do that here.
Third, the harassment. While I can’t defend Negrin’s attack, I can’t defend what was done to him either. I want to know why he was subjected to “months” of mocking. This speaks to an environment in which he didn’t feel safe going to his supervisor; in fact, the supervisor may have been among the harassers. It also speaks to an environment in which no one stood up for him, or told his co-workers to shut their mouths.
Finally, the meat: first, there is nothing whatsoever wrong with having a small penis, and no man should ever be teased about it, let alone repeatedly and viciously. Sometimes, a small penis can be evidence of an intersexual condition or other medical condition, but most often it’s just small. What’s more, flaccid penis size has very little to do with erect penis size, so whatever the harassers saw doesn’t even have the implications they were mocking.
I respect and defend the TSA’s zero-tolerance policy for assault. At the same time, I stand very strongly for better ways for victims to protect themselves from concerted vicious campaigns. I stand for everyone’s right to physical and genital privacy, our rights to managerial protection from asshole co-workers. This is yet another case of a nasty systemic problem treated as if it was the individual’s problem. Negrin may be guilty, but he’s not guilty in a vacuum.
Found via Arthur D. Hlavaty.