NASHVILLE, TN – It’s a new day in Tennessee for student-turned-activist Kyle Roth. Roth, a sophomore Economics major, has been the leading voice in a movement and petition on campus to ban all statues and pictures of statues by Michelangelo, in the name of male body positivity. The petition states that the images of male genitalia presented in such art promote unreasonable expectations of how large the average male penis should be.
When the Slant sat down to discuss the petition with Roth, he seemed particularly animated. “Literally no one I know has a penis that large, and I lived on Gillette 5 last year, so believe me, I’ve seen a lot. It honestly kind of frightens me that this is the penis standard, and I’m an Econ major. Can you imagine how hard it must be for an art history student to see such massive representations of penises on a day-to-day basis, and then to know you’ll probably never be able to match up?”
We spoke to Vanderbilt art historian Noam Werner as well, to get some perspective on how penis-shaming as an art form developed over time. According to Werner, Michelangelo specifically crafted his sculptures to showcase something more perfect than any man could attain. Additionally, he wasn’t the only Renaissance-era artist to do this. “DaVinci once famously remarked, “If I can draw a penis so large it is nearly an index finger’s length, I will have transcended art. Even the Romans dubbed it the ‘phallus rubicundus magna nimis,’ which literally translates to ‘too-large penis’,” said Werner. He also indicated to us that this was the first historically recorded instance of men lying about their penises to impress potential partners. “For centuries, artists used such artwork to impress women. If you think about it, these really were the first known examples of fake penis-enlargement advertisements.”
The petition has rapidly attained widespread support. Over 200 students in Branscomb alone have signed the petition. One Lupton resident, who asked to remain anonymous, expressed growing insecurities as a result of such artwork. “My girlfriend is an art history major, and I quite literally get performance anxiety because I know what her academic experience is, and what I’m being compared to. Last time we hooked up, she started yelling out the name “David,” and then the next day, I found Michelangelo’s Paintings of Genesis in a private folder on her phone!” Based on the Slant’s conversations with numerous petition signers, he was not alone in his sentiments.
At press time, Roth had just emailed his petition to the Office of the Chancellor, and was busy working on ways to expand this movement. “I’ve reached out to the Office of Student Life to see if we can co-host a ‘Let’s Take the Micro Out of Micropenis’ panel.” Hopefully, Roth will be able to bring about some real change on campus.