File:Screening in DTW Airport.jpg

A nun is frisked by a TSA officer at Detroit Metro Airport.

File:Rémy Cogghe Fouille en douane.jpg

Fouille en douane (Frisked at the customs), by Rémy Cogghe.

"Don't touch my junk" is a phrase that became popular in the United States in late 2010 as a criticism of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) patdowns.[1] The word "junk" is American English slang for a person's genitals.[2] The phrase refers to the offense many people took to the November 2010 decision by TSA to begin full body patdowns of airline passengers in the United States who refused to go through a TSA full body scanner machine.[3]

Origin of the phrase[edit | edit source]

The phrase was inadvertently coined in 2010 by passenger John Tyner of Oceanside, California, who released an audio recording from San Diego International Airport in which he told TSA agents: "If you touch my junk, I'm going to have you arrested." Tyner had initially chosen to undergo a pat-down rather than going through a full-body scan machine because of health concerns and the fact that he viewed the machines as a threat to privacy. The TSA refused to allow him to pass without this intimate search and so he declined to travel and got a refund on his ticket. An official then demanded that he submit to a search regardless. He declined and was threatened with prosecution, as well as a fine[4] of $10,000.[5]

In response to being asked by a reporter if he thought he looked like a terrorist, Tyner said no, "I'm 6-foot-1, white with short brown hair". He subsequently uploaded a video onto YouTube based on his experience, which went viral and received 70,000 views by the end of the same day. Most of the comments posted on the video were supportive of Tyner.[6]

Support and criticism[edit | edit source]

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer subsequently wrote an editorial in which he expressed support for Tyner and described "Don't Touch My Junk" as the "anthem of the modern man, the Tea Party patriot, the late-life libertarian, the midterm election voter" and even compared it to the American patriotic phrase "Don't Tread On Me."[7] At least two "Don't Touch My Junk" songs have since been released, one of which was written by Houston, Texas, musician Danny Kristensen and was based on a James Cotton song, "Cut You Loose".[8]

Michael Kinsley weighed in on Politico in a column entitled "Go ahead, touch my junk", in which he defended the TSA against criticism from Tyner and others.[9] A columnist for The Atlantic, Wendy Kaminer, argued that the intentions of those, such as Krauthammer, who were criticizing the indiscriminate screening of passengers were actually promoting racial profiling. Kaminer described Krauthammer's suggestion that screening should be conducted on the "profile of the airline attacker [which] is... universally known," as more aptly summed up as "Don't Touch My Junk, Touch His".[10]

On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh offered a slightly different formulation of the slogan: "Keep your hands off my tea bag, Mr. President", alluding to the recent use of the phrase "tea bag" in reference to the Tea Party Movement.[11] In another variation, news anchor Brian Williams said on the Late Show with David Letterman, "I always get it at [Los Angeles International Airport]. I get nailed. They go, they go right in. This new thing, they go right after Dave and the twins."[12]

"Don't touch my junk" was parodied, to the tune of Parliament's "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)", at the 2011 Gridiron Club dinner, with President Obama in attendance.[13][14] Also in March 2011, two New Hampshire state representatives introduced proposed legislation, colloquially called the "don't touch my junk bill", that would criminalize as sexual assault invasive TSA patdowns made without probable cause.[15][16][17]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Rowe, Peter. "'Junk' catchphrase rockets into pop culture lexicon: Oceanside’s John Tyner strikes chord with TSA protest." San Diego Union-Tribune, November 17, 2010.
  2. Barrett, Grant. The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English: A Crunk Omnibus for Thrillionaires and Bampots for the Ecozoic Age. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006, p. 201.
  3. Parker, Ashley. "Facing Scrutiny, Officials Defend Airport Pat Downs." New York Times. November 16, 2010; Coleman, David. "How the Indignity of 'Junk Touching' TSA Pat Downs Strikes a Shared Nerve." Huffington Post. December 1, 2010.
  4. Kim Zetter (November 16, 2010), "TSA Investigating ‘Don’t Touch My Junk’ Passenger", Wired, 
  5. McGreal, Chris (2010-11-19). "'Don't touch my junk' passenger sparks revolt against airport searches". The Guardian (London). 
  6. "Oceanside man ejected from airport for refusing security check". Retrieved 2010-12-17. 
  7. Post Store (2010-11-19). "Charles Krauthammer - Don't touch my junk". Retrieved 2010-12-17. 
  8. Barron, David (2010-11-24). "Airport pat-down inspires the Don't Touch My Junk song | Travel Texas | - Houston Chronicle". Retrieved 2010-12-17. 
  9. "Opinion: Go ahead, touch my junk - Michael Kinsley". Politico.Com. Retrieved 2010-12-17. 
  10. "'Don't Touch My Junk, Touch His' - Wendy Kaminer - National". The Atlantic. 2010-11-22. Retrieved 2010-12-17. 
  11. Limbaugh: ‘Keep your hands off my tea bag, Mr. President’ Retrieved 12-17-2010.
  12. Gavin, Patrick (2010-01-04). "Brian Williams: TSA groped me". Politico. Retrieved 2010-01-05. 
  13. Roberts, Roxanne; Amy Argetsinger (2011-03-13). "Obama gets laughs at first Gridiron Club dinner as president". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-03-21. 
  14. Groer, Anne (2011-03-13). "The Gridiron Club's 2011 Political/Media Roast and Toast Lyrics". Politics Daily. Retrieved 2011-03-21. 
  15. Manuse, Andrew J. (2011-03-07). "Rep. Andrew J. Manuse: Why I sponsored the TSA 'don't touch my junk' bill". New Hampshire Union Leader. Retrieved 2011-03-21. 
  16. Rogers, Josh (2011-03-10). "O'Brien Applauds Vote to Retain Anti-TSA Bill". New Hampshire Public Radio. Retrieved 2011-03-21. 
  17. Frayer, Lauren (2011-03-15). "Man With 4th Amendment on Chest Sues Over Airport Arrest". AOL News. Retrieved 2011-03-21. 
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