In A Nutshell
Lord Baden-Powell is one of the most influential men in history, a war hero who went on to found the deeply conservative Boy Scouts of America. There is also a lot of evidence that he was a severely repressed homosexual who hated women and was obsessed with masturbation.
The Whole Bushel
Scouting for Boys is one of the most influential books ever written (right up there with the Bible, Koran and Mao’s Red Book). Inspired by Baden-Powell’s wartime adventures in the South African bush, it set out the principles that continue to bind the staunchly traditional Scout Movement to this day: self-reliance, wholesome Christian charity, sexual repression, and lots of masturbation.
No joke: Baden-Powell was a deeply odd man. For one thing, he was terrified both of women—whom he divided into either “Hags” or “Heifers”—and the effect of women on young boys. The original edition of Scouting for Boys has whole pages devoted to teaching adolescents how to repress their lust, including advice on periodically dipping your “racial organ” in ice-cold water.
In person, Powell was no less obsessive. He frequently urged his Scouts to avoid “girlitis” and do their best to repress “the animal instinct.” When he finally got married at the age of 55, the simple act of sharing a bed with a woman gave him blinding headaches, and he quickly took to sleeping alone on his balcony, even in the winter. The only time he ever seemed comfortable around women was when he was playing one: During his time in the army, Powell became famous for cross-dressing on stage to entertain his troops.
In fact, Powell’s entire life reads like a caricature of a closeted gay man. When he was a child, the young “Stephe” liked to play with dolls and formed close bonds with other boys. He was an open admirer of muscular men—and even fondly recorded dreams where strong, young soldiers would whip him and ask if he’d ever been “disciplined.” Then there was the matter of his close friendship with Kenneth McLaren—a boyish army officer on whom Powell openly doted and who fell into a deep, lasting depression after Powell’s sidelined wife forbade the two from seeing each other.
Sadly, Powell never got the chance to acknowledge his secret side. He grew up in Victorian England, after all, and the mere suggestion of homosexuality would have been enough to completely discredit him. The huge divorce between his feelings and actions can perhaps best be seen when, during World War II, Powell was informed that a German scoutmaster had been sent to a concentration camp. With a shrug of his shoulders, Powell simply remarked that the man had been taken away for “homosexual tendencies” and left it at that.