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On Saturday I had an encounter with TSA on my way to catch a flight from Boston to San Francisco. It’s strange enough that travel these days involves disrobing and sometimes being patted down. But when there are questionable items in carry-on luggage, it adds even more insult to the experience.

First some “hot spots” showed up as I passed through the X-ray machine. No clips in my breasts, no metal in my bra, I think the agent just wanted a quick feel. I teased her a bit, but she wasn’t smiling, so I stopped.

Then she wanted to search my carry-on bag. Being a sex educator, I travel with all manner of equipment for my teaching and speaking engagements. This time I had 2 items in question ~ a battery operated vibrator and a Kegels barbell. First as she tapped the top of my bag, she accidentally turned on the vibrator. “Darn it,” I thought, “I forgot to remove the batteries.” When she opened the zipper and saw the vibrator, she quickly said, “Turn that thing off!” So I did, silently snickering to myself.

Then she pulled out the barbell. Made of stainless steel, it weighs about 2 pounds and looks like a small weight lifter’s tool, albeit much smaller and shinier. (That’s a photo of a barbell above this post.) She asked me what it was and I said, “Do you really want to know? It goes with the vibrator…” She dropped it like a hot potato, blushed as red as a tomato, and zipped up my bag.

I couldn’t let the moment pass. I said, “I carry these things with me because I’m a sex educator. Would you like my business card for future reference?” She was clearly torn between curiosity, embarrassment and indignation. It was a precious moment, when I was reminded of why I do what I do.

There is so much shame and embarrassment about our sexuality and it’s heart breaking because it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s a blessing to be able to open up conversations about this, even if they are awkward. Over the years of doing this work, my ministry, I have many stories to tell. One of the best was carrying 25 specula for an overseas training …  I’ll spare you the details; however, just imagine what it was like when that TSA agent opened my bag and saw that bounty!

If you have stories about vibrators or other devices, please share them. Talking about these things helps to normalize them!