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Dear Inga la Gringa,

I’m going on pilgrimage for three months, several different countries, biz and pleasure. Here’s my quandary: I like my sex toys. Nothing super kinky, or anything that can be mistaken for a terrorist weapon, but I do think I could be stopped or embarrassed or something at certain borders (one in the Middle East). Could I get in real trouble — or just red-faced? What should I do?

Packing in Pittsburgh,

Dearest Packing Jamie,

I like your sex toys too, but as of September 11, 2001, I’d suggest scrapping the idea of traveling in the Middle East altogether. Embarrassment that your sex toys are displayed for all and sundry to see could very well be the least of your worries. The political climate between Christians and Muslims dictates that customs officials may be looking for something as insignificant-seeming as a sex toy to detain you.

Ten days after the WTC bombing, I traveled to Ohio. Luggage was being thoroughly checked on a selective basis, and that selection — as far as I could tell — was based on skin color. Airline employees checked the luggage of an elderly Filipino man, a Guatemalan family, a group of Japanese teenagers and two Chicano sisters. It may have been a coincidence that no white people were subjected to this kind of intense scrutiny in my presence, but I stood in line at US Airways for over an hour, which seems ample time for me to get a sampling of who looks like a “potential terrorist” in the American imagination. If this is the case here in America, then in the Middle Eastern imagination, anyone who looks like a “Western imperialist infidel,” will probably be placed under, at best, intense scrutiny as well.

Before September 11, I probably would have told you that a sex toy might be rocking the boat a little too heavily, anyway. I mean, when visiting countries where women’s sexuality is kept very much under wraps, why would you want to flaunt your sex toys? Anyone inspecting your luggage would be sure to notice them, and you are already — like it or not — a blaring neon Las Vegas showgirl sign. If you aren’t wearing a head covering, chador, veil or whatever women wear in the country you visit, then you look like a goddamn, two-bit whore.

Besides, isn’t resourcefulness half the fun of traveling? If you were walking around a market, for instance, with the contextual image of something to fuck yourself with, I have no doubt that you would find some wonderful items. Also, think electric toothbrush when packing. Lots of sex shops also have toys that are MEANT to look like something other than what they are. Check out the Babeland, Good Vibrations, It’s My Pleasure, Forbidden Fruit, or Grand Opening!, nearest you.

But that was then and this is now.

Now, here’s what I think you should do. I think you should take all the money you set aside for your trip and send it to Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. These women live their lives in fear for the crime of teaching their daughters how to read. They receive death threats and must constantly keep on the move, because they try to help Afghani women surviving, dying and going insane under the draconian Taliban regime. Such organizations in the United States often deal with funding shortages, but not gang rape, mutilations and murder. In ways, it sickens me to see the cover of People magazine blazing that the stars have managed to pool together 100 million dollars to assist the victims of the WTC bombings.

Filipino people, Guatemalan people, Japanese people and Chicano people have all been killed either by, or with backing from, the U.S. government. Our CIA trained Osama Bin Laden back when he was useful. We created that monster. I don’t understand why American people think it is just fine for Afghani people to be starved, tortured, beaten and bombed, but not us. Have we ever sat down at the table and figured out why Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos sought asylum in Hawaii, and how many people died before they were ousted? How come it’s all right for 200,000 indigenous Guatemalans to be murdered? Where was the outpouring of grief for the people of Hiroshima, Nagasaki? How have we recognized the disproportionate number of Chicano males who were drafted into the Vietnam war?

United we stand on the graves of millions of people, and there are organizations all over the globe that could seriously benefit from some of our ever lovin’ U.S. cash flow, now more than ever before. What do you think the women of RAWA could do with the few thousand dollars you’ve socked away for your trip? Maybe pay rent for a decent apartment to stay in for a few weeks so they can update their website? Maybe feed a few thousand insta-refugees who were already quite hungry? Smuggle some key intellectuals out?

The possibilities are endless once you consider them.

Inga la Gringa
Traveling With Sex Toys

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Embarrassment that your sex toys are displayed for all and sundry to see could very well be the least of your worries…

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