Cruelest Experiment in the History of Psychology: David Reimer

The case of David Reimer: One of the most scandalous cases in the history of psychology.

Who was David Reimer? In today’s article we will recall one of the most terrible cases in the history of psychology. In a brief conversation with several professionals, on the question of what was the most ruthless psychological experience they have ever had, most brought up the case of David Reimer.

David Reimer: a marked childhood

David Reimer was born in 1965 in Winnipeg, Canada, being the monozygous twin brother of another baby named Brian. In the northern United States and Canada, the circumcision it is common, and David and Brian’s parents decided, on the recommendation of their doctor, to submit the seedlings for surgery.

So far everything was normal, but during David Reimer’s operation the surgeon in charge could not be present and the assistant had to perform the circumcision. Inexplicably, there was a failure of the electric cauterizer, which completely burned David’s penis. Later, the penis went into necrosis, and a few days later it detached from the body.

Possible solution: transsexual David Reimer

The development of genital reconstruction surgery was at a very premature stage, which bodes few options for little David. However, David’s parents cautioned against the existence of a Baltimore doctor the theory defended the non-existence of innate sexuality, And that it is therefore possible to change a child’s sexuality through development. John Money was a renowned sexologist whose idea of ​​the superiority of environmental influence over the biological had won him some recognition in environmental circles of the study of psychology. Money was convinced that education determined the behavior of subjects.

When David’s parents decided to seek advice from Money, he saw a good opportunity in the case, as he would have a subject to analyze and experiment with, David, and another witness subject, Brian, with whom to compare the differences. . to the education received, because it is clear that at the genetic level, David and Brian were practically symmetrical.

Money informed the Reimer family that David should have artificial vaginal reconstruction surgery, And after the operation was over, David was to receive an education according to his new gender: that is, the education that a girl would receive. David’s name was Brenda now. So the precepts that parents had to follow were simple: it was enough to treat Brenda the same as if she were a girl, and not to mention in any way the subject of her artificial sexuality.

Evidence challenges doctor’s theory

So the family began to carry out the plan. however, Brenda hated girls’ toys like dolls and used to tear their clothes. Her parents’ fear that one day Brenda would fall into her real sexuality was growing, but the problems were just beginning. As Brenda continued to grow, hormonal effects began to show, despite her estrogen treatment, so she began to develop some female musculature and size. According to her brother Brian, the only trait that differentiated Brenda from him was her long hair, and based on the recklessness of the children, one can imagine the cruelty with which Brenda had to be treated during her schooling.

The brothers often went to John Money’s office to assess the development of John’s children. According to the two brothers, Dr. Money’s therapy had disruptive consequences for them. In his biography, David Reimer recounts how the doctor showed them sexual photographs, which Money said were necessary to reorient their sexuality. One of the most terrifying scenes in therapy with Money, according to David, is that the doctor forced them to undress against the will of the little ones, And forced Brenda to get on all fours while her brother Brian performed pseudo-sexual movements and touched himself against her sister’s back, in a scene they called a “sexual rehearsal.” Brian could never get over those years. However, the doctor has always denied these practices.

Suffering in adolescence

Brenda was growing and her life was gradually deteriorating. He refused to undergo further operations and his suicide attempts were starting to be serious. Gradually, Dr. Money was moving away from the family, and that’s when Brenda’s father decided to tell her the whole truth of her story. After hearing the story, Brenda changed her gender again, again being a man at the official level. David married years later, but soon his story came to light, losing his job and his wife. A few years later, his brother Brian allegedly committed suicide because of the deep guilt he felt for doing well from the circumcision operation and for years of frustration at seeing his brother’s suffering.

Money’s research was skyrocketing at the time, because according to his supporters, the case of Brenda Reimer is the empirical demonstration that socio-cultural conditionings determine the subject’s sexuality. This was a partial triumph of the environmentalist branch of psychology, as it was confirmed that some of Brenda’s behaviors were indeed modulated by the education she received, and few genes could counteract this learned conditioning, although some of David’s later attitudes and statements qualified this. question.

A tragic story

In spite of the advances that the investigation supposed, the human consequences of the same were catastrophic. David Reimer has had an unhappy and miserable life. His life was entrusted to a seeker who altered his will behind selfish returns. If anything can be clarified from the story, it’s that determinisms must always be debatable. We are the result of a set of combinations, circumstances and coincidences that ultimately shape the way we are, and this way of being should never be a scenario where other people can manipulate in the name of a science which, in this case, despised human life.

David Reimer, finally, ended his life on May 4, 2004, When he was only 38 years old.

Documentary on the life of David Reimer

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