Hi, Customs: yes, I packed this victim myself

Reader Lee R. just notified us of this: you can buy funny luggage stickers online. You put them over your suitcase, and it looks like part of the suitcase has been ripped away to reveal bags of cocaine or heroin, stacks of money, vibrators or:

It’s a tearful female flight attendant bound and gagged in your luggage. Somebody found this and the other stickers funny. Lee came across it as an allegedly amusing “kicked” story for the news (regarding how these stickers might irk customs officials) and informs me, “There were women who looked at it too, who couldn’t see anything wrong beyond the “OMG Vibrators! HA!”

The humor is supposed to come from the fact that you’re displaying such boldly criminal activity to Customs and airport personnel. I get that. But humor, processed by brains capable of critical thinking, is found in the structure of a story, not its content, so the real test of a joke is: can you swap out the content with an equivalent and find it just as funny?

So let’s test this one: how about an image of a small tearful child, bound and gagged in your suitcase? Are you still laughing?


  1. says

    To me, the kicker is the tearfulness and ovious fear. I mean, the sex toy thing is just college humor, a but raunchy, but vibrators and other toys aren’t (or shouldn’t be) against the law. They’re no crime. Kidnapping is. And of course, it’s a woman.

    As you say, a child would probably be too much because of the automatic sexual implications, and a man would probably be deemed “boring” because of the lack of such implications (just a kidnapping there). But with the flight attendant – uniformed, young and nice-looking women who are already prone to fetishisation – we have the kind of rape threat that society finds acceptable.

    I mean, if they’d at least used something like the gimp from Pulp Fiction, a tightly bound leather/rubber slave in a face mask, i.e. no obvious gender – but no, they obviously went for the violence against women / rape angle. Which of course, if anyone would use it, would then be presented to *actual flight attendants* oder at least service personnel on the ground.

  2. says

    That is insane.

    I just sent my kids on a flight the other day. Someone had accidentally joked with my 7-y-old about bombs on planes the day before, and (being a kid) he brought up the joke again at the airport. Then, we had to have a serious talk with him explaining that it can be illegal to even joke about having a bomb on a plane.

    Similarly, I’ve had other friends and relatives get in trouble for joking about crime on a flight. Frankly, I’d be very surprised if such a thing could get past airport security (considering the jokes one can get in trouble for).

  3. says

    personally, yes, i would find it funny if the stickers were available in “kidnapped child”. but then, i shop at t-shirt hell.

    i also disagree with the assertion that humor is found in structure, not content. while some forms of humor may rely more on structure than content (or vice versa), i think that most are made of both. the argument “it isn’t a good joke because it wouldn’t be funny if it were X instead of Y” doesn’t hold much water, when the humor-creating vehicle is the fact that it is Y.

    • Maria says

      You know, I think what gets me is that she’s crying and looks scared. Like, I don’t think you’re just supposed to laugh at it being haha kidnapped girl… I think you are supposed to laugh because she’s “pretty” (white, blonde, etc) and is afraid and crying. Hahaha we put that bitch in her place.

      The little details like her bracelet falling down her arm and her running eye liner just weird me out. I think it being such a SPECIFIC image (vs. generic vibrators) is what makes it so disturbing for me. That and she’s equated to an object, since the other things in the line are objects.

      Hey Jenn:

      A better question is, I think, if it were a dog or a cat, would it still be funny?

      • says

        Or an endangered animal. But why is that a better question? Do people not give a shit about kids being kidnapped, raped and murdered? God, no wonder it’s so common! No wonder people think they can get away with it – no one cares.

        Good to know!

        • Maria says

          Honestly — they don’t. Rape and abuse can only be funny when there’s a bunch of social structures saying who “deserves” to be hurt — bad women, bad kids, that’s why they need a beating/to get raped/to get put in their place.

          But heck, even a terrifying rabid dog like Cujo is seen as a victim, even when he terrorizes a woman and child for several days. Animals might not have right, but they’re often coded as something you’re supposed to protect. Sadly, that’s not something you can say about women (some women get to be safe, others not) or kids.

          • Maria says

            That’s why in *Feminism is for Everybody* bell hooks insists that we can’t have a feminist movement until we think about the social structures that treat children as second class citizens and make them acceptable targets of mental, emotional, and verbal abuse. Because women and children are both intelligent things you can own (speaking tools, almost, to use the language from the System Failure panel: http://thehathorlegacy.com/wiscon-34-system-failure/) society has to do more work to rationalize keeping them in their place socially… like by normalizing their abuse.

            I can’t count the number of times my radical friends have talked casually about how they think certain kids need and ass whipping, or how some women “deserve” their date rape or sexual assualt for dressing like THAT or being in that place. Being a liberal or a radical does NOT mean you get that that kind of interpersonal violence is NEVER ok.

            That’s one of the reasons I sometimes dig talking about this shit with conservatives. Let me know you are a misogynist straight up, so that we’re not at the park watching a two year old act like a damn two year old and you come out the side of your mouth talking about beating a CHILD.

    • says

      Um. Yeah, so if certain things are inherently funny regardless of a structure that frames them for humor, which part of kidnapping is it that you find inherently funny?

  4. Brand Robins says

    Its interesting. I find the -idea- of it, even the child, funny in theory. Like, if you told me “hey there is this sticker and it shows a man/woman/child/dog/dildo/bag of coke on your suitcase to piss off customs” I’d probably respond with a “that’s hilarious!”

    But the particular sticker in this post? It creeps me out.

    It creeps me out because the woman looks genuinely afraid, in pain, despair, and with no hope of rescue. The moment I actually look at her face and consider that look as expressing a human emotion all the humor value evaporates instantly and is replaced with a loathing both of myself and of humanity in general.

    So I can see where people would find the idea funny. But that people look at the actual image being used, see that realistic pain and fear, and still find it funny? That’s creepy.

      • Anemone says

        Instead of a flight attendant, make it a BDSM practitioner, someone who looks like she is obviously consenting to travel tied up in luggage as a kink.

      • GardenGoblin says

        If the image was like of Batista or the Undertaker, or an image of Freddy with his finger over his lips in a ‘shhhhhh!’ gesture.

  5. Brandon says

    I probably would find a child version funny. But I’d find a man version funnier, esp. if he was a muscular naked man. That might be because stuffing a powerful man into luggage for sexual purposes later is so ridiculous whereas stuffing women into containers for that purpose isn’t so.

    • says

      Yeah, but what do you think they’d be stuffing the child into the suitcase for? Am I severely underestimating the amount of educated, informed people who know what actually happens to the vast majority of kidnap victims of any age?

      • says

        I may be wrong but I think your argument is that this isn’t funny, it is depraved. From my vantage point, this is funny because it is depraved.

        I think that murder, rape and torture can be effectively used for dark humor. The way I see it, this is not a statement that endorses kidnap and rape, or one that dismisses it. I think it throws the horror of the act in people’s faces in a way that is quite funny, and yes, would be just as funny if it were a child.

        Then again, maybe I’m the one misreading the takeaway of your average person.

        • says

          Yeah, you’re wrong, and don’t attempt to tell me what I really mean.

          Lot of male privilege involved there. Maybe if there was an epidemic of criminals viscously chopping off men’s balls and often as not leaving the men to bleed to death, and this epidemic had been going on for centuries, and you had grown up your whole life knowing you had a 1 in 6 chance of getting your balls chopped off and only hopefully surviving it AND being blamed for your own assault, you’d be capable of getting it.

          • says

            When you call someone on their privilege, they typically react in 1 of 2 ways: “Okay, I’ll have to think about that, but thanks” or “Oh, you just dismiss anyone who doesn’t agree with you.” Isaac responded with the latter to a T, so I have banned him and added this to the comments guideline:

            “If someone tells you you’re engaging in privilege, listen. They could be wrong, but they’re most often correct – as we mods have all learned the hard way, too.”

            Anyone else want to push it? If you are male and find this image funny – an image that represents a crime you NEVER have to worry about, but that affects a huge percentage of people Other Than You, and you expect everyone to treat your view as fully informed and brilliant, then you are a waste of bandwidth and we don’t want you. However, if you’re male and willing to analyze your own views and acknowledge the possibility you’d feel different if you had ever actually once had to worry about something like kidnapping and rape happening to you, then we welcome you.

          • says

            Uh-huh, and now Isaac emailing me to tell me what a fantastic feminist he is and what a bad one I am. OH THANK YOU MR. MAN LET US GALS BENEFIT FROM YOUR GUIDANCE. Not.

            Think we got another PocketNerd here: “I’m such a feminist until you say something that offends me, then I must explain to you what a stupid lil’ lady you are, and hey, why aren’t you bowing your head in shame, bitch?”

            I should post stuff like this more often. Gets the creeps to reveal themselves, then I ban them. Wish I’d thought of this before!

      • Brandon says

        I would think the child one funny, because it would be so wrong as to not possibly be taken seriously. Like accusing your opponent of baby eating.

        Maybe I should take it more seriously cause it does happen. But it seems so audacious for a kidnapper/rapist to devert attention this way.

        I’m waiting to see one where the person is dismembered with labels like “prime ribs” “for Friday dinner” etc.

    • says

      See, same here. Call me a square, but while images of *temporary harm* such as a kick to a man’s crotch can be funny no matter how painful, images that invoke the idea of permanent trauma/harm… I just don’t see the humor.

  6. GardenGoblin says

    My sense of humor lends itself to the macabre. After my sister’s suicide, my surviving sister and I must have made a hundred ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ jokes, and that was just a start. My sister is studying to be a forensic scientist and we refer to her texts as ‘how-to books’. We collect dead baby and uses for a dead cat jokes.

    I find the concept of such a sticker amusing, and I recognize that does on some level make me a horrible person. But it stems from the simple fact that it is my nature to mock and ridicule what should horrify me.

    I am however, cognizant of the fact that my sense of humor should not be inflicted upon the unsuspecting public and thus, while I may find such a thing amusing, I would never actually use it for it’s supposed intended purpose. Deliberately offending and horrifying people who don’t share my particular character flaw is just wrong.

    • says

      I get that. I don’t think it makes you horrible at all – sounds like a coping mechanism to me, and we all have them. It’s only when you present these ideas publicly, say in the form of a sticker for sale, that you need to account for them publicly. What you feel in private or express amongst people who won’t misinterpret you – that’s all good, even if it seems sick. Also, I relate here – I have one diagnosed and several suspected NPDs in my family (a type of sociopath – no conscience, no empathy), so I see humor in some of the more chilling moments of Criminal Minds, because I’m already inured to the terrifying way people lacking empathy and conscience think, and all I can see anymore is what pathetic little needy beasts they are. But before I think of cracking a public joke about it, I remember: they’re also very dangerous, and most people don’t know enough about abnormal psychology to get it, and I don’t want to give anyone the idea sociopaths are harmless objects of ridicule.

      • GardenGoblin says

        Monsters exist, but on some level, mocking them takes away their power. I don’t fear what I can mock, and not being paralyzed by fear allows me to react better to a situation.

        My aunt suffers from NPD and is a pathological liar, and my method of dealing with her is to simply ‘blank’ her entirely. Total cut off, number and email blocked and I simply refuse to ‘see’ her even if we are in the same general area at the same time. When she sends her flying monkeys around to try to draw me back into her drama, that is when I mock her. It helps demonstrate to those flying monkeys just how ridiculous the situation is and either helps them pull out of the drama cycle themselves or causes them painful cognitive dissonance that means they leave me alone. Either solution is fine by me.

        Socipaths aren’t harmless. But on some level, mocking them helps take away their power by preventing them from gathering followers to them. A solitary sociopath is still dangerous, but the harm they can do is lessened considerably if they don’t have minions.

  7. Charles RB says

    The thing that really gets me is that it’s a flight attendant, so it’s not just a “ha ha rape and kidnap” joke – it’s specifically targeted to every worker at that airport, “ha ha raping and kidnapping people YOU KNOW AND WORK WITH”. (“Ha ha raping and kidnapping YOU”, some of the female staff are likely to see it) That’s an extra level of bastardry and contempt.

    • SunlessNick says

      Exactly. Offense at this kind of image is usually dismissed as taking them out of context – see Shakesville’s disembodied women series – my take on that is that since the joke only makes sense by imagining a real woman in place of the image, debasement of women is the context. This one proves that like few others.

      • says

        YES to both Charles and Nick. The context actually makes it *more* threatening, hence, a better tool for the rape culture that strives to keep women in our place by keeping us scared.

  8. says

    Hmmm, yeah. It’s difficult for me because I look at the picture and get really horny, since I have a lot of fantasies where I’m a helpless virgin trapped/owned by someone more powerful than me. But I agree that this is problematic because it’s not portrayed as a fetish thing, it’s something you should take to the airport and laugh about because haha kidnapping is funny. Some of my fantasies are scary and I don’t want them to seem normal or acceptable to people if they happened in real life.

    • GardenGoblin says

      Comes down to the consent issue. As long as everyone involved is fully consenting, it’s all good dirty wholesome fun. No consent means back off.

      That’s why my husband can reach over and grab a boob, but any other man would draw back a bloody stump.

      • says

        That’s the thing, though. The fact that there’s no consent _in the fantasy context_ is sexy to me. That is, the idea of me being a dainty flight attendant forced into a suitcase against my will, as a story or a roleplay fantasy, turns me on. Obviously that’s something I’d never want to happen to me in real life, though.

        So, as far as it’s fake, I don’t feel like consent (in the fantasy itself) is the issue; what bugs me is more that this sticker makes kidnapping seem normal or funny, you know? To me, it’s a matter of context.

        • GardenGoblin says

          Yes, but it’s your fantasy, and thus by default, you are consenting to have this aforementioned fantasy.

          • says

            Yeah, I would say no matter the level of non-consent within the fantasy, fantasies of being forced to do something always come with built-in consent, since the victim-within-the-fantasy is actually the artist of what’s being forced upon her/him.

  9. says

    Yes, exactly.

    I was just hoping nobody was objecting to the idea of non-consent in a fantasy, ’cause it’s different from real-life consent, which is paramount.

    • Casey says

      I totally get where you’re coming from, *whisper*I have occasional rape fantasies*whisper* and for a long time I was ashamed of myself for it, mostly due to the fact that men seem to misconstrue this as “Women really do like to be raped!” but it’s DIFFERENT IN A FANTASY! (I don’t really let anyone on to this because of said misconception, though)

      Reality sucks…

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