It was only two weeks ago (in early February) I found myself on national UK day time television talking about how I have a small penis and how I'm okay with that. In fact I've been saying pretty much the same thing for the last two years since my poem on the subject went viral. I was proud and pleased to be sending this body positivity message to millions of people, and I thought the world really was changing for the better.
I couldn't have imagined such a sensitive topic being discussed on mainstream media a year ago. It felt as though, as a society, we really were growing up and leaving the playground behind. Then I saw an article that opened with: "It has long been suspected that Hitler's conquest of Europe was an attempt to compensate for a lack of potency elsewhere."
Has it really? Some might think it had a little to do with the conditions of the treaty of Versailles or the effect of the Great Depression. But we have a long cultural tradition of blaming aggression on a man's shortcomings (think Napoleon Complex). Which is perhaps why the press so readily picked up one part of historians' Mayo and Craigie's recent book "Hitler's last day: minute by minute". They said: "Hitler himself is believed to have had two forms of genital abnormality: an undescended testicle and a rare condition called penile hypospadius in which the urethra opens on the under side of the penis".
Now there's nothing specifically there that says Hitler had a micropenis, but it's common for tales to grow longer down the line and as I read report after report Hitler's tail diminished by the column inch. And of course, the conclusion that this drove him toward all his atrocities followed readily as a matter-of-fact, based on opinion:
Mail online: The two conditions would go a long way to explaining...his deep-seated fury.
Daily Star: Adolf Hitler suffered from a humiliating condition which could explain his trademark rage...
The Sun: Hitler suffered from an embarrassing condition that may be able to explain... his rage...
Unilad: Historians have revealed that Hitler suffered from a rather embarrassing condition which probably explains his anger issues...
As a guy with a small penis, these quotes are particularly sickening. The trouble is though, there may well be some – albeit twisted – grain of truth here. Hitler might well have had a small (or even micro) penis and like many men today, that may have shamed him and helped fashion his psychology. But crucially, due to sexual attitudes – not his biology. If we create a direct causal link between the condition of his genitals and his atrocities then several bad things happen to us:
- We inadvertently support his abhorrent beliefs that humanity is defined by our biology, we support eugenics, euthanasia of the disabled and his final solution for ensuring the supremacy of the 'master race'
- We absolve ourselves of responsibility; we blame his condition not the conditions of society; we blame the monster
- We perpetuate mistakes. If nothing in our attitudes change we risk creating more Hitlers. Perhaps we already have?
77 years ago, in August 1939 someone penned the rhyme:
Hitler has only got one ball,
Göring has two but very small,
Himmler has something sim'lar,
But poor old Goebbels has no balls at all.
But those were simpler times and that was wartime propaganda. Surely that great struggle for democracy and freedom was meant to lead us to a better place, to more enlightened times?
It's difficult to imagine ideas can change, society can improve, that the sum total of misery can be somehow lessened – but the very fact that there is a debate on this fills me with hope. I hope that readers here will believe me when I promise that, despite my small penis, I'm not planning on aggressively conquering Europe; guys like me really aren't built that way – however easy it may seem to assume we are.
Ant Smith is a performance poet and photographer.