Santino asks a good question

2 Jan

I’m doing some editing on the third Rachel Peng book, and there’s a throwaway bit of dialogue that struck me as interesting. Here’s the spoiler-free version of the text:


The suspect’s face was thinner, her eyebrows altered to look further apart. Her hair was a different color and cut after she had lost the red wig, and she now sported a longish brown bob. She was wearing a trendy but loose jacket, and a pair of Armani jeans that looked painted to her body but moved easily when she walked. A stylish pair of sneakers finished the outfit: she was ready to run if she needed to.

“She knows she could be caught,” Rachel mused through the phone lines. “She’d definitely here for a reason.”

“Maybe a handoff?” Santino asked. “Is she carrying the [MacGuffin]?”

Rachel started to protest: she tried to avoid prodding around clothing and what lay beneath. Larger objects, like guns and most knives, she could pick out no problem, but they were chasing a piece of metal the size of her palm and that involved a slower, more… thorough set of scans.

“Just do it,” Santino muttered. They’d had this discussion many times before. “If you asked someone if they’d rather have you stare at their naked bodies, or pry into their minds, I bet nine times out of ten they’d rather be naked.”

“Reading emotions is not the same as reading minds,” she said, as she fine-tuned her scans to go through pockets and purses and all manner of private places. “And who’s part of a hivemind here anyway, you or me? I’d much rather have someone in my head than pawing at my body.”

“Yeah, right. Ask Zockinski which he’d rather… You know, this might be a gendered issue.”

“Jesus, Santino. Go write a paper on it.”

“Good idea!”

“Shut up,” she muttered, and this time she meant it. Her partner fell silent as they held their positions, keeping Miss Armani in sight until the police could get close enough to tag her.


So! I’ve already asked friends who identify as male or as female whether they’d rather have someone spy on their emotional status or spy on their naked body. So far, it’s been unanimously males who’d rather have someone look at their bodies, while females would rather have someone look at their emotions. But I think my sample size is too small.

If you’re okay with answering these questions, would you mind noting which type of privacy violation you are most okay with, and whether you identify yourself as male, female, or differently gendered?

34 Responses to “Santino asks a good question”

  1. Mr Ak January 2, 2015 at 10:49 pm #

    Male, and body.

  2. Mr Ak January 2, 2015 at 10:53 pm #

    Actually, let me add an addending point: it also wouldn’t occur to me that people would go the other way. (Although now it’s pointed out, it’s entirely reasonable.) But yeah, my immediate position isn’t just the preference but an initial assumption that the preference would be universal. Don’t know whether that might *also* be a guy thing.

    • Aslansjoy January 24, 2015 at 5:34 pm #

      Nah, that’s a person thing. Until the mind is told that its outlook may not be universal, it has no way to know.

  3. rjlouise January 2, 2015 at 10:58 pm #

    I’m non-binary and I would – nine times out of ten – prefer someone to look at my naked body than my emotions. But there’s always that tenth time.

  4. Anonymous January 2, 2015 at 11:00 pm #

    female, and I’m going to go with the general female consensus and say emotions, but not by much.

  5. Andrew January 2, 2015 at 11:01 pm #

    Cis male, would rather be seen naked.

  6. Paul January 2, 2015 at 11:02 pm #

    I’m a guy and when I actually thought about it, the idea of someone spying either me without clothes or on my emotions really does not bother me either way. Anyone can read emotions just by observation, and what Rachel does seems to me to be the same thing, she is just better at it.

    Spying for a look at my naked body – well – they might be careful what they wish for. 🙂

    True story, when I was very young, about 21, a thief broke into my apartment around 2:30am. He was thinking I was not there, but plans changed and I was home. He left very quickly though.

    Apparently, 198 pounds of enraged naked man charging you with a baseball bat and cursing at you very loudly – well, that can scare just about thief out of the house.

    It sure would put an agent into a comical fix if someone caught them spying, got angry, and charged them, with the agent tuned to see ’em naked. (grin)

    -Paul

  7. TallGuy January 2, 2015 at 11:16 pm #

    I’m male, and I’m also in the ‘body’ camp. I’m more guarded with my emotions, for some reason. Not sure why.

  8. Erik January 2, 2015 at 11:22 pm #

    I’m not personally okay with either type of transgression, but if I had to choose I’d rather have someone read my emotions. It’s close, mind you, but at some level both body scan and emotional sensing are just more extreme versions of something that people do all the time. There are people who are much better at reading emotions than others, and better at seeing approximately what’s concealed by clothing, so both of these feel like just another step on an existing path rather than completely new.

    Reading my actual thoughts would be a different story, mind you – that’s far worse then either seeing my body or reading my emotions. My thoughts are where the self-aware me lives, and that’s the core that privacy is protecting. If it was a choice between *thoughts* and body, I’d definitely prefer to expose my body.

    And I’m a male, in my early 50’s if that matters (and an unapologetic hippy and long-time Burner & Maker, if those matter either 🙂 ).

  9. PFoxen January 2, 2015 at 11:26 pm #

    I’m male, identify as male, and would much rather someone poke around in my emotions than be naked in front of them.

    If it were actual thoughts the answer would change, but emotional state is, in my opinion, useful in a way nudity isn’t. Add to that my lingering image issues and my choice is easy.

  10. Fea January 2, 2015 at 11:59 pm #

    I am female (31, if that makes any difference) and I would seem to be bucking the general trend here.

    Personally I would rather someone be able to see me naked than read my emotions as clearly as someone like Rachel could!

    My feelings are that a body’s a body and we’ve all got one. Different shapes, sizes, colours, etc, but in the end there’s really not all that much difference.

    Emotions though… It’s not reading a person’s thoughts, but it can still reveal far more than I would necessarily want anyone to know about my state of mind and how I’m feeling at any time.

    My tuppence worth.

  11. Sean Eric Fagan January 3, 2015 at 12:04 am #

    I think that’s a bit of a false dichotomy there: when Rachel looks at someone’s emotions, she’s just looking — it’s a passive activity, essentially.

    Doing a deep scan to look underneath clothes, as described, is a lot more active. It’s more akin to a pat-down. (Or, perhaps as a better analogy, aiming a boom microphone at someone.)

    So one answer is: emotion-scanning is better than the alternatives. (And I’m a guy.)

    But the more invasive options? I find both x-ray vision and mind-reading to be pretty offensive. But I’d go with the x-ray vision, because it’s only my skin, not me, and what I look like doesn’t define who I am.

    A choice possible in reality: would you rather go through a porno-scanner, or have the TSA go through every item on your phone/tablet/laptop?

    • Erin January 8, 2015 at 1:42 am #

      Oh gosh, no one would ever make it to their planes on time if the TSA had to go through every single file. You’d have to get in line months in advance. I’m not sure what you mean by a porno-scanner, though, or how that’s different from an x-ray machine. Could you explain?

  12. Gail January 3, 2015 at 12:31 am #

    I am biologically female and identify as female. My first gut reaction is to pick the emotion scan. However, I think that it depends on the scan itself and what the intent/use of the scan will be. If it is just a surface scan and nothing is retained or copied or reproducible for others to see or misuse, either could work. In fact, if the scan is just of the surface, the body scan might actually be less invasive. However, if it is a deeper scan of body or emotions or thoughts, I would not be comfortable having that done to me. Particularly with emotions or thoughts because they can be so subjectively interpreted as well as incredibly private.

  13. DocFuture January 3, 2015 at 12:54 am #

    Male, body.

    I think this may be driven by differences in which is objectively more dangerous, given no information about who is doing the spying and why. Anyone could be harmed by emotional eavesdropping–but body spying isn’t hypothetical, and is mostly directed at women.

  14. KSippel January 3, 2015 at 1:21 am #

    Female. I’m with Fea on this one, definitely body. My body is my body. Everyone can see it. It isn’t hard to extrapolate what I look like without my clothes on. I’m pretty sure there were a fair share of people on my commuting train that did exactly that. My mind, my emotions are my own. It is the only privacy that can’t be violated. That being said I did grow up in a household where the standard saying was “if you see anything you haven’t seen before, shoot it.”

  15. anglo January 3, 2015 at 1:29 am #

    65 , male , and a geek with a science fiction bent , so I’m not entirely sure how representative I am.
    I’m not body shy ( normally ) , and most people get incorrect readings on me as I’m a rather closed individual , despite any animation on my part.
    But I ‘m pretty sure ( based on past experience ) that circumstances will change perception and reception .
    Or in other words , “it depends”

  16. altmerlin January 3, 2015 at 1:31 am #

    Body; female. It just feels less intrusive to me, honestly.

  17. baldricbear January 3, 2015 at 2:17 am #

    Body; male, politely heterosexual.

  18. Lizzie January 3, 2015 at 3:13 am #

    I’m… not sure. Oh, cis female, btw. Honestly, neither would bother me in theory because naked is naked, and my emotions are normally pretty open/readable by body language. But I suppose if we’re saying that I have to pick one side, I’ll say I’m more bothered by a deep emotion/personality type scan.

  19. Hiddentass January 3, 2015 at 5:29 am #

    Straight cis male. I’d far prefer to have my body scanned. My emotions are somewhat private, and can be masked (to various degree), while the flow of nudity on the web means that anyone interested can probably guess what I might look like under my clothes (somewhat silly and undignified like most guys 🙂

  20. Jules January 3, 2015 at 7:20 pm #

    Male (in both senses), 28 years old, and I’d rather they see my body too

    It’s been said before, but everybody has a body, at the pool everyone can even see most of it.
    In contrast, my emotions are ME, how confident I am, what image I currently want to project, etc.
    I’d feel more vulnerable if that emotional shell was compromised than the cloth shell.

    Though the same arguments apply more or less to the cloth shell, I wouldn’t be comfortable at a business function if part of the attendees could choose to see me in swimwear rather than the suit I’d actually wear. Uncomfortable yes, but not as uncomfortable as when they could see I _feel_ like an out-of-place imposter who is way outclassed by everyone else present.

  21. hilzabub January 4, 2015 at 5:10 am #

    Male. I’d prefer to have someone looking at my body. Probably due to the common misconception by men that we look better than we do, and the lack of actual experience with being ogled.

  22. Kit January 5, 2015 at 9:16 pm #

    Cis female, and I would rather have the body scan, but it’s not by much. (in fact, I always always opt out of the image scans at the airport; I’ll go through a metal detector or go through a pat-down instead.) It just feels marginally less invasive than having someone read my emotional state. Too close to reading my thoughts, as the former is going to reflect the latter.

  23. Anonymous January 6, 2015 at 2:22 am #

    Female and naked… but I worked in healthcare for 10 years…

  24. Erin January 8, 2015 at 1:56 am #

    Huh. Cis female here, and I was initially going to say body wins by a slight margin – but then I realized that’s totally context-dependent. If it was a situation like with Rachel, where only a few people can do the scan, then sure, a body is a body and mine’s nice enough as bodies go so I’ll take that over the emotional scan. But if every single person I pass on the street has this scanning power, then NO THANKS!, take a look at my emotional state instead. I have encountered wayyyy too many creepy people out in public to want just anyone staring at my naked body, and really, during the course of an average day my emotional state is probably pretty unremarkable. There’s only so much you can get from an emotional scan without being able to get at the underlying thoughts for an explanation, right?

    I’m with Erik on the thought-reading though. If that enters the picture count me out.

  25. Slacker January 8, 2015 at 5:59 pm #

    Your stereotypical straight white hetero dude here… Body. Definitely body.

    My body’s just a slab of meat. I really don’t care who sees it. There’s a roughly 3 billion of them more or less exactly like it. My brain/emotions/thoughts are unique and make me ME.

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