This must be the stupidest thing I’ve seen about airport security in a long time: a woman in Texas was forced to remove her nipple rings in order to board an airplane.

Unless that ring looked like this…

Spiky Nipple Ring

….there’s no way they can explain that as a threat.

Here’s the story: after passing through large metal detectors without a hitch (normal – or else everyone would be stopped for every little wedding ring and piercing) Mandi Hamlin, 37 then set off a hand held device (one wonders why she was scanned by hand if the larger detector didn’t go off but, whatever). Idiocy ensued:

Hamlin said she told the [female TSA agent] she was wearing nipple piercings. The agent called over her male colleagues, one of whom said she would have to remove the jewelry, Hamlin said.

Hamlin said she could not remove them and asked whether she could instead display her pierced breasts in private to the female agent. But several other male officers told her she could not board her flight until the jewelry was out, she said. 

She was taken behind a curtain and managed to remove one bar-shaped piercing but had trouble with the second, a ring. “Still crying, she informed the TSA officer that she could not remove it without the help of pliers, and the officer gave a pair to her,” said Hamlin’s attorney, Gloria Allred.

What is the reasoning here? With the thousands and thousands of people who pass through detectors with piercings and never set them off (and I know from experience) it’s hard to believe this was nothing more than malicious cruelty and humiliation. It seems to have no practial value, as Hamlin notes,

She was scanned again and was allowed to board even though she still was wearing a belly button ring.

So a belly button ring is non-threatening but a nipple ring is? The only real difference is that a nipple ring is a far more private, sensitive, and sexualized piercing, so the effect of being made to expose and remove it would be far more intimidating and harmful. And sorry, not trying to be the paranoid feminist – but I have to wonder if they (the male officers who Hamlin said were chuckling about the whole thing) would have been quite so obnoxious if they had discovered a penile piercing.