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Stockholm syndrome

March 12, 2022

Anti-circumcision activists use several ad hominem techniques to dismiss anything their opponents have to say. They accuse circumcised men of protecting a fragile ego, or of being in denial about the supposed harm of the procedure. They accuse mothers of imposing their own sexual preferences on their sons, or of treating their sons as property. They accuse Jews and Muslims of being brainwashed by religion, Americans of being blinded by cultural bias, and medical professionals of being motivated by pure greed. They accuse all circumcision defenders of suffering from cognitive dissonance.

Another method intactivists use to dismiss the experiences of happily circumcised men is to accuse them all of having Stockholm syndrome. They'll say that any man who expresses gratitude that he was circumcised during infancy suffers from Stockholm syndrome, which they define as "a condition in which victims of abuse have positive feelings about their abuser(s)."

Based on a 1973 six-day bank robbery hostage crisis in the capital city of Sweden, Stockholm syndrome has a very specific meaning. The term refers to a psychological coping mechanism that may seem counter-intuitive. In order to deal with his fear, a captive in a hostage situation may subconsciously convince himself that his captors won't harm him if he's on their side. Thus he may experience feelings of sympathy and support for his captors. These feelings may continue after the hostage situation has ended and the captive has been freed.

The term "Stockholm syndrome" was coined by Nils Bejerot, a Swedish psychologist and criminologist. Psychiatrist Frank Ochberg defined the term for the F.B.I. and Scotland Yard.

He explained: "This is a situation in which suddenly, out of the blue an otherwise normal person is held hostage by a criminal who has the power to kill them and, within a matter of hours, the hostage is treated like an infant and has a kind of regression to infantile emotions.

They can't eat; they can't talk; they can't use a toilet; they can't move without permission. To do it risks death and they accept the feeling that this is the giver of life just like my mother was. They don't put it together consciously. They just give me all the evidence of that and then afterward when they're safe and we talk about it, they agree. ‘Yeah, that's what happened’, they say. So the Stockholm syndrome begins with this terror, this infantilisation and then this ironic positive, paradoxical feeling of gratitude for the gift of life and an attachment like an infant is attached to mum."

Notably Ochberg said that instances of Stockholm syndrome are rare.

The validity of Stockholm syndrome is disputed.

"Scepticism about the authenticity of this syndrome began as early as 1980, mainly due to its rarity. Also, it has come into disrepute because it implies irrationality on the part of the survivor, whereas it may be that the befriending of those who have the power to injure, rape, or kill you is extremely rational. It is a survival strategy, and one which is generally unconscious. Antagonism directed at would-be rescuers by captives can also be interpreted as being rational. The efforts of the police may trigger violence by the captor towards the captives before they can actually be protected. The American Psychiatric Association does not include Stockholm syndrome in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Nor does it appear in the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases."

The iconic photo of the Stockholm hostage crisis shows rope nooses clearly visible above the heads of the terrified hostages. The bank robbers put the nooses around the necks of the captives, threatening to hang the prisoners if the police pumped tear gas into the bank vault. In that situation it could be perfectly rational to view the police as a lethal threat.

Stockholm syndrome, if it is valid, refers to a psychological survival technique during and after a hostage situation. Other survivors of hostage-type situations who have displayed this response include concentration camp prisoners, members of cults, and victims of long-term kidnappings.

A circumcised man is not in a captive situation. He has no conscious memory of his newborn circumcision. He has no reasonable fear of imminent harm at the hands of his parents or the specialist who performed his circumcision. Although the circumcision procedure took place during infancy, he is not treated like an infant; nor has he regressed to an infantile state. There is no reason or cause for him to develop a subconscious survival technique or psychological coping mechanism. Thus Stockholm syndrome has no application to circumcision.

Intactivists continue to search for a way to dismiss the inconvenient truth that most circumcised men are not angry or depressed about their circumcision status. Perhaps one day intactivists will offer the acceptance and validation of the feelings of happily circumcised men that they demand the rest of us provide for the feelings of the tiny fringe of unhappily circumcised men.


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