Another TSA groping question...
November 30, 2010 7:51 PM   Subscribe

I have a piercing. In my clitoral hood. I can't remove it. I have to fly on Thursday, if I go through the porno scanner will this create an issue? I am nearly sick with worrying about this.
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Many airports don't have the virtual strip search machines. FlyerTalk's list is probably the most comprehensive.

That said, the resolution on these things is low enough I seriously doubt it would detect it. Even if it did, I gather such piercings are not exactly rare.
posted by wierdo at 7:54 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can check whether you'll even have to go through a scanner here. You might find info on piercings in this thread there.
posted by salvia at 7:55 PM on November 30, 2010

Side note, I went through MSY and ORF Thanksgiving, and they were only scanning every other person.
posted by Night_owl at 8:02 PM on November 30, 2010

I have walked through the porno scanners with an 8ga horizontal hood piercing, and the TSA did not blink an eye. (Do I hope they noticed? Maybe a little bit. But no one said a thing, and I did not get pulled aside for questioning or extra searching.)

Don't worry any more about it.
posted by weatherworn at 8:02 PM on November 30, 2010 [6 favorites]

I spoke with my brother about this over the weekend. He travels a lot and he has a PA (nsfw), among other piercings. I warrant the gauge is much thicker than the ring you have.

He says it's totally not a problem. The TSA folks know what body piercings are and they aren't worried about them. YMMV, but that's been his experience.
posted by alms at 8:04 PM on November 30, 2010

My boyfriend has a PA too and he leaves it in and he's never had a problem.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:05 PM on November 30, 2010

I have three piercings with thick SS jewelry and the only place I ever had a problem was Albuquerque, where the metal detectors seemed to be tweaked up to an inordinate degree. The new full-body scanners undoubtedly see them and the TSA people probably go "Huh. Kinky." They've seen it all, and they're not interested.
posted by jet_silver at 8:38 PM on November 30, 2010

What you should probably be worried about is the metal detector, not the backscatter machine. You've got a very very very large chance of being cursorily wanded, asked about what would make it blip near your crotch, and then told to move along. You have a very very very small chance of encountering a particularly irritable or power-tripping TSA agent who has the power to subject you to humiliating procedures on the slightest pretense (such as some metal in your crotch). If you can remove it and this second prospect is frightening to you, I'd suggest removing it. If you truly can't, then you'll almost definitely encounter no problems, but there is always a chance.
posted by tehloki at 9:03 PM on November 30, 2010

If you go through the "porno-scanner" - by which I'm assuming you mean a backscatter x-ray as opposed to the usual metal detector - your crotch area will be blurred, or at least that's what the TSA tells us. I doubt that the TSA actually blurs things, so at worst, they'll see an outline of the ring or CBB in your crotch area when you go through the backscatter.

Odds are good it won't get you pulled out for a secondary screening, but you do, and you're not traveling with anyone you'd like to keep your piercing a secret from, inform them that you have a piercing. They are not permitted to look with their eyes in your underwear by asking you to remove clothing, in a private room or not. If you're traveling with someone you'd like to keep in the dark about your piercing, ask to speak to a supervisor and explain the same thing privately. Then again, if you're really concerned about the piercing showing up on the backscatter, you may as well opt out and get a pat-down, which is certain not to detect the piercing.
posted by juniperesque at 9:30 PM on November 30, 2010

What you should probably be worried about is the metal detector

Wear jeans with a zipper. The metal detector wand has no way to tell whether it's your pants or the ring making the beep. Nor, for that matter, do the wands usually beep on such small amounts of metal anyway. My partner has several piercings (including the same one you have, plus a couple of others nearby) and the airport metal detectors (walk-through or wand) have never gone off from her piercings.

If you are super, super worried about this (though there is no real reason to), you can always temporarily replace the jewelry with some thick monofilament (eg fishing line) or one of the purpose-made non-metal pieces of jewelry (examples, more examples).
posted by Forktine at 9:49 PM on November 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

Just opt out (yes, you CAN do that). When they tell you to go through the scanner you say "I opt out" in exactly those words and they are required to give you the pat-down instead. (Bonus for avoiding cancer points). I had the pat-down a couple weeks ago and it's really nbd. Wear tight-ish jeans and yes the TSA lady will grace your crotch for about a third of a second, and then she'll send you on your way, piercing drama avoided.
posted by mokudekiru at 10:27 PM on November 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

They are not permitted to look with their eyes in your underwear by asking you to remove clothing, in a private room or not.

Anecdotal: A friend of mine had to show his PA to the TSA upon detection of it with the handheld metal detector. This was a couple of years ago, though.

To the OP: just opt out of the scanner and get the pat-down. I have unscientifically had my husband conduct a pat-down that's as thorough as the ones described in the worst horror stories on me while I am wearing a thin pantyliner and thick-ish denim jeans, and he can't feel my hood piercing in those circumstances.
posted by bedhead at 12:57 AM on December 1, 2010

Choose the pat-down instead.
posted by Decani at 3:02 AM on December 1, 2010

I just can't help thinking about the cucumber-wrapped-in-foil scene in "...Spinal Tap".

FWIW, I don't see that you should have much to worry about - piercings are so common now.
posted by sundrop at 6:21 AM on December 1, 2010

Nthing "don't worry about it". Friends in the leather scene report that the TSA has never given them a problem about this.
posted by Lieber Frau at 7:09 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

nthing the 'don't worry' sentiment for completely different reasons. someone who looks worried, or acts worried, will likely be screened or scrutinized. instead, just keep breathing at a regular pace, and simply remember that your piercing is of *zero* interest to screeners (years ago, before the current brouhaha, i just needed to verbally confirm a similar piercing ... they didn't want to see it, even though I flashed them anyway just to show them i took them seriously and that i was not intimidated because it is nothing to hide or be concerned about).
posted by kuppajava at 8:07 AM on December 1, 2010

I would say go for the pat-down. I opted out over Thanksgiving, and the patdown was no worse than what I get when I go through security to see a music concert.
posted by Windigo at 12:07 PM on December 1, 2010

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