Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport was the site of field tests for the new “backscatter” X-ray machine. The machine, the size of a doublewide freezer, bounces low-radiation X-rays off you to produce a photo-quality image of you as if you were undressed.

You stand in front of the machine, putting your feet inside the outlines, and hold your arms up. You do the front first and then you turn around for the backside view. This machine makes its unnecessary for security people to have to pat you down, and it better scrutinizes every nook and cranny in your body. This machine can pick up things non-metallic: it can recognize explosives, a ceramic knife, even your plastic IUD.

The TSA officer directing you doesn’t see your near naked image; it’s transmitted to a security person in some remote room. I jiggled a bit hoping the dance would animate my privy parts and provoke a smile to my unseen examiner, but I was told to stand still.

I didn’t like the experience, and it’s not because I consider nakedness scandalous; as a matter of fact, I quite like getting naked. Last year, when more than 18,000 people stripped off their clothes and posed nude for the photographer Spencer Tunick in Mexico City’s famous Zocalo square, I wanted to participate in the record-setting event.


I didn’t like being strip-searched by a machine as an act of patriotic duty in the fight against terrorism. If I get naked for my country, I’d like to do it with 100,000 Americans in front of the White House, promoting peace instead of escalating paranoia (and I’d like Spencer Tunick to immortalize the performance).