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Airport Frisking: Gender v Sexuality!

Posted on the 10 October 2012 by Charlescrawford @charlescrawford

A tongue in cheek (so to speak) Tweet by me this afternoon led to a micro Twitter spat on Gender and Sexuality. Cor!

This is what started it:

Charles Crawford@CharlesCrawford

If it's ok for women not to have men frisk them at airport security, why is it not ok for me to insist that no gay men frisk me? #hypocrisy

This prompted cross replies from @anticameron and @ivorsawbottom (sic) accusing me variously of being a homophobe and failing to grasp the distinction between Gender and Sexuality. How dare I even ask about the 'sexuality' of a male airport frisker! That would be illegal! Bigot!

Twitter is not the place for post-modern irony or much intelligent discussion. What I was getting at (albeit over-tersely) is the strange and arguably inconsistency in the way gender/sexuality come into some areas of life but not others.

Remember the ungendered loos in the Ally McBeal Boston law firm (ie cubicles in the same area for all genders)? What a sensation that was. Yet was it not a good idea? Why segregate such facilities on gender grounds? We smirk at the bizarre contortions of the Saudi authorities in trying to decide whether or not female lingerie should be sold only by men or only by women. But we then create no less peremptory norms here.

The underlying argument seems to me that women in general do not feel comfortable when men frisk them at airports, hence women should do so. An extension of the proposition that women may insist on female doctors.

This nonetheless can lead to new sorts of embarrassment:


I got a security 'patdown' by a woman at the airport that made me feel very uncomfortable and left no doubt about her sexual preferences

@anticameron insisted that she did not mind lesbian guards touching her:

 I've never felt worried about them. But a man who isn't a lover touching my bits?

... cos its about GENDER, not sexuality.(Some female guards might be lesbians but can still search me) Jeez

Thus she (in effect) accepts that there is something unsettling for her in the imposed intimacy of an airport frisking performed by a man 'who is not a lover'. Why is it not OK to accept that a heterosexual (or indeed homosexual) man might feel unsettled by another unknown man frisking him? Does the very fact of finding that sort of thing indefinably unsettling define one as a 'homophobe'? Obviously (I say) not.

Or take the dismal example of Isambard Community School in Swindon that has banned parents from watching their children doing sport unless they have been through police checks to try to weed out paedophiles:

The school introduced the new measure at the start of the term to prevent strangers from accessing other parts of the school from the playing fields. A spokesman said: "It is with regret that from now on we will be unable to accommodate parents wishing to spectate at our sports fixtures unless they are in possession of an up-to-date Swindon Council CRB check ... At Isambard we take safeguarding very seriously and because of this we are unable to leave gates open for access to sporting venues at anytime during the school day."

The insane implication here is that radical measures have to be taken to stop even the smallest possibility of potential abuse. Likewise as a cost-adding move to reduce the risk of abuse of patients by doctors and associated anxieties on the part of patients, male doctors now are expected to offer a 'chaperone' to a female patient for some 'personal' examinations, although in fact the NHS guidelines are gender-neutral (ie any M/F patient can ask for a chaperone with any M/F doctor).

Yet we seem to take no well publicised steps to stop gropers becoming airport friskers, or to give an explicit choice to passengers. Any deviant of either gender wanting a free rein in touching people all day would make a beeline to those jobs.

What of a male passenger worried (even irrationally) about being touched improperly by a male security person and asking to be frisked by a female security person? Could be some new oppressive assumption be made that the passenger himself was a kink who wanted secretly to enjoy a female security officer's subtle touching?

In other contexts of state life that sort of choice is accepted - and even encouraged. Under NHS rules I (as a male) am allowed to ask to have a female GP, if I happen to prefer to reveal my medical problems to a woman rather than to a man. Does expressing that choice make me a homophobe or a perv? Er, no. On the contrary, it's seen as giving me a civilised choice.


Extend that civilised choice to airport security too.

Failing that, bring on the robots. Although even then their very lifelikeness will probably displace the issues to new levels of deviance and moral complexity, not solve them

Me, I'll be honoured to be frisked at Heathrow by Geminoid F.

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