Photo: © 2010 Jupiterimages Corporation
Getting naked is not something many of us take lightly. Unless you're one of the fine specimens featured on MTV's reality-esque show The Jersey Shore—"juiceheads," I think they're called?—the prospect of having random strangers ogle your uncovered form is just, well, terrifying.
Whether it's sunbathing at the beach or changing in the gym locker room, the absence of full clothing encourages all kinds of body image insecurities to rear their ugly heads. It reminds each of us how much more we have to strive for...more visits to the gym, more repetitions while there; fewer meals out, fewer desserts while there. We humans are perhaps fatally flawed in our assumption that everyone else is primarily interested in judging us as harshly as we judge ourselves. (Newsflash: Do you remember how fat Betty looked in her swimsuit last summer? Neither do I, and neither will anyone else. Except, of course, Betty.)
Embracing your form, whether it errs toward the Rubenesque or not, is something everyone hopes to achieve. From a purely scientific standpoint, we can appreciate the immense power and capacity our bodies give us. They are, after all, incredible machines. Given the right fuel and care, they will last us a lifetime—not many manufacturers can guarantee such performance. From an aesthetic point of view, learning to love every inch takes time.
Until we reach this state of bliss and can frolic merrily in the buff without an ounce of shame or self-consciousness, many of us will spend as much of the year as possible in various states of dress. Unfortunately, however, it has now become a matter of national security that we all defy society's conventional outlook on public nudity (I think an uncle of mine might have gotten arrested once for such folly) and bare ourselves every time we get on an airplane.
In our post-9/11 world, anti-terrorism efforts have taken precedence to many things. Requiring travelers to bare their most intimate selves to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guards via some of the new full-body scan equipment being used to search for terrorist threats in airports across America would not be the first time such efforts impinged on citizens' privacy. However, the question being asked today is two-fold: a) how much can these digital scans see and is performing a digital strip search taking the privacy violations too far, and b) are these full-body scans even effective in preventing terrorist threats at all?
To begin with, one must ask what, if not your body, is yours and yours alone? What gives your government (or the government of a foreign country, as these machines are increasingly implemented around the world) the right to view your body the same way they might go through the contents of you pocket? Asking someone to show parts of themselves they have likely only shared with those closest to them in the name of protecting national interests requires a complete objectification of the human body: It, like all other human possessions, could be used as a weapon and is therefore subject to search. Submitting to such intrusion requires either a great deal of patriotism or an ignorance of what the machine's eyes can actually see.