Most people feel annoyed and a little exposed when they find a TSA inspection note in their luggage. But when blogger Jill Filipovic opened her suitcase after a recent flight, she got a personalized (read: invasive) message along with her notice.
Filipovic, a lawyer who writes for the site Feministe, saw that one ever-so-discreet TSA inspector had written some encouraging words on the note he or she slipped into her bag. “Get your freak on girl” read the scribbled remark. And to what did Filipovic owe this bit of unexpected support? The TSA screener had apparently found Filipovic’s vibrator in the bag.
After posting a photo of the note to the blog and adding, “Total violation of privacy, wildly inappropriate and clearly not ok, but I also just died laughing in my hotel room,” Filipovic later became more disturbed by the agent’s creepy gesture.
“The fact that TSA rifles through our personal items isn’t a secret, but it’s also something most of us don’t particularly want to think about,” she told the site Daily Dot in an email. “The fact that they would leave a note takes it to another level of invasive — especially since I imagine they assumed I’d be embarrassed by their discovery.”
And that’s where the problem really lies. Some may think it’s all fun and games to poke fun at Filipovic’s ownership of a sex toy. But for the TSA agent to use his or her power to make Filipovic potentially feel embarrassed and violated — when agents are supposed to be professional and discrete while rifling through our personal belongings supposedly to detect bombs — is just plain wrong.
Sex toys aren’t illegal, but they certainly are taboo to many people. They’re okay to have, but maybe not okay to talk about. The TSA agent responsible for the note was clearly aware of that. Never mind trying to pack your underwear at the bottom of your luggage (in hopes that if your bag does get inspected, the TSA agent won’t have to touch your unmentionables). Now you have to worry about whether the TSA’s getting a laugh at your expense.
Frances Romero is a writer-reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @frances_romero or on Tumblr. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page, on Twitter at @TIME and on TIME’s Tumblr.