Kurt Freund circa 1966.
|Born||17 January 1914
Chrudim, Austrian Bohemia
|Died||23 October 1996
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
|Alma mater||Charles University in Prague|
|Known for||Penile plethysmograph|
|Institutions||Clarke Institute of Psychiatry|
Kurt Freund (17 January 1914 – 23 October 1996) was a Czech-Canadian physician and sexologist best known for developing phallometry (the objective measurement of sexual arousal in males), research studies in pedophilia, and for the "courtship disorder" hypothesis as a taxonomy of certain paraphilias (voyeurism, exhibitionism, toucherism, frotteurism, and what he called "preferential rape").
Freund was born into a German-speaking Jewish family in Chrudim, then part of Austrian Bohemia, later Czechoslovakia, now in the Czech Republic. He married Anna Hlounová, a non-Jewish Czech pianist and music teacher, on 13 January 1942. In 1943, they divorced in order to protect Anna and their newborn daughter Helen from anti-Jewish and anti-miscegenation legislation implemented by the German Nazi Occupators. They remarried after the war in 1945, and Anna gave birth to a son, Peter, in 1948. Many of Freund's relatives died during the Holocaust, including his parents Heinrich and Hella, and his brother Hans.
Career in Europe
Freund is best known for being the first to apply plethysmography (measurement of bloodflow) to the penis, thus permitting the first objective measurement of sexual arousal in males. Over his career, he refined the penile plethysmograph as part of a broad program of research on male sexual interest. The device remains controversial, and indeed Freund published articles acknowledging its limitations. Among other concerns, sexual offenders could sometimes suppress arousal through concentration or surreptitiously causing themselves pain, similar to methods for producing false results on a polygraph (lie detector). However, Freund still felt that the plethysmograph remained the best measure of arousal (there was no evidence that subjects could consistently fake arousal, though they could sometimes suppress it.) Other researchers and activists dispute PPG as the best measure of orientation, pointing out that neither identity nor behavior are perfectly correlated with measured or self-reported arousal. Freund acknowledged this, and in fact demonstrated it in his studies, but maintained that orientation per se was best defined as the object of arousal.
Freund was initially commissioned to use penile plethysmography to detect recruits attempting to evade military service by falsely claiming to be homosexual. (The Czechoslovak Army barred homosexuals from serving.) His larger research program, however, focused on detection and diagnosis of sex offenders, particularly preference pedophiles, with a view to more appropriate treatment guidelines. Freund was also involved in administering conversion therapy: "Freund made a large-scale attempt in Czechoslovakia in the 1950s to change the sexual orientation of homosexuals to a heterosexual orientation through the use of behavioral aversive therapy." His empirical data also showed some of the first evidence that sexual orientation conversion therapy was generally futile. He demonstrated that even homosexually oriented men who appeared to have given up sexual relations with other men and established heterosexual marriages were still aroused by images of men rather than women. Freund also challenged contemporary psychoanalytic theories of male homosexuality that suggested it was due to a fear or aversion to women. Freund concluded that homosexual men simply lacked erotic interest in females. Based on these studies, he advocated the decriminalization of homosexuality in Czechoslovakia (which took place in 1961) and the end of conversion therapy. These opinions also put him out of favor with the psychoanalytically dominated psychiatric establishment in Toronto, as he continued to argue that homosexuals needed understanding and acceptance rather than treatment. His efforts, along with those of German sexologist Rudolf Klimmer, helped decriminalize homosexuality in East Germany in 1968.
Freund also contributed to the idea of a genetic origin of homosexuality by including in his book a study of identical twins who have almost always the same sexual orientation (heterosexual or homosexual). This part of his contribution is not widely known in the West. (See his book Homosexualita u muže, Praha 1962.)
Freund received his M.D. at Charles University of Prague, and later a D.Sc. degree there in 1962. He carried out post-doctoral research and later both research and clinical work at Charles University's Sexological Institute.
Career in Canada
Freund fled to Canada in 1968, in the wake of the Prague Spring. Freund then began plethysmography studies of male sexual orientation at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (then called the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry) in Toronto, where much of the research and published data using PPG originated. The Kurt Freund Laboratory at that centre is named after him. There was controversy regarding potential abuses of devices to measure sexual interests, following fears that it might lead to discrimination against gay men. Phallometric testing has been shown, however, to be one of the most accurate, if not the single most accurate, methods of identifying the sexual offenders that are most likely to commit new sexual offenses against children. On the other hand, another study concluded that "although the validity of the technique for research and clinical assessment is now established, justification for the routine use of the technique must await a proper standardization of the technique and the publication of reliable norms."
Freund was diagnosed with cancer in 1994 and was a member of Dying with Dignity. When his health deteriorated in 1996, he committed suicide by taking a lethal cocktail of muscle relaxants, sleeping pills and wine. Freund was cremated, and his ashes were scattered on the lawn across from his office at the Clarke Institute in Toronto and on the grounds of Psychiatric Hospital Bohnice in Prague, where he had worked for many years in Czechoslovakia.
- Freund, K., J. Diamant, and V. Pinkava. 1958. "On the validity and reliability of the phalloplethysmographic (Php) diagnosis of some sexual deviations." Rev Czech Med 4:145-51.
- Freund, K. 1963. "A Laboratory Method For Diagnosing Predominance Of Homo- Or Hetero-Erotic Interest In Male." Behav Res Ther 21:85-93.
- Freund, K. 1962. Homosexualita u muže (Homosexuality in man), Praha: Státní zdravotnické nakladatelství (State Medical Publisher), 274 pp., 3000 copies.
- Freund, K. 1963. Die Homosexualität beim Mann, 1st ed., Leipzig : S. Hirzel Verlag, 275 pp.
- Freund, K. 1965. Die Homosexualität beim Mann, 2nd, expanded ed., Leipzig : S. Hirzel Verlag, 321 pp.
- Freund, K. 1965. "A simple device for measuring volume changes of the male genital organ." Československá psychiatrie 61:164-6.
- Freund, K. 1967. "Diagnosing homo- or heterosexuality and erotic age-preference by means of a psychophysiological test." Behav Res Ther 5:209-28.
- Freund, K. 1974. "Male homosexuality: an analysis of the pattern." in Understanding Homosexuality: Its biological and psychological bases, edited by J. A. Lorraine. Lancaster, England: Medican and Technical Publishing Company, Inc.
- Freund, K. 1977. "Should homosexuality arouse therapeutic concern?" J Homosex 2:235-40.
- Freund, K. 1977. "Psychophysiological assessment of change in erotic preferences." Behavioral Research and Therapy 15:297-301.
- Freund, K. 1978. "A conceptual framework for the study of anomalous erotic preferences." J Sex Marital Ther 4:3-10.
- Freund, K., S. Chan, and R. Coulthard. 1979. "Phallometric diagnosis with 'nonadmitters'." Behav Res Ther 17:451-7.
- Freund, K., B. W. Steiner, and S. Chan. 1982. "Two types of cross-gender identity." Arch Sex Behav 11:49-63.
- Freund, K. and R. Blanchard. 1983. "Is the distant relationship of fathers and homosexual sons related to the sons' erotic preference for male partners, or to the sons' atypical gender identity, or to both?" J Homosex 9:7-25.
- Freund, K., H. Scher, and S. Hucker. 1983. "The courtship disorders." Arch Sex Behav 12:369-79.
- Freund, K., H. Scher, I. G. Racansky, K. Campbell, and G. Heasman. 1986. "Males disposed to commit rape." Arch Sex Behav 15:23-35.
- Freund, K. and R. Blanchard. 1986. "The concept of courtship disorder." J Sex Marital Ther 12:79-92.
- Freund, K., Watson, R. & Rienzo, D. (1987). A comparison of sex offenders against male and female minors. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 13, 260-264.
- Freund, K., Watson, R. & Rienzo, D. (1988). Signs of feigning in the phallometric test. Behaviour Research & Therapy, 26, 105-112.
- Freund, K., Watson, R. & Rienzo, D. (1988). The value of self-reports in the study of voyeurism and exhibitionism. Annals of Sex Research, 1, 243-262.
- Freund, K., Watson, R. & Rienzo, D. (1989). Heterosexuality, homosexuality, and erotic age preference. The Journal of Sex Research, 26, 107-117.
- Freund, K. & Watson, R. (1990). Mapping the boundaries of courtship disorder. Journal of Sex Research, 27, 589-606.
- Freund, K., Watson, R. & Dickey, R. (1990). Does sexual abuse in childhood causes pedophilia? An exploratory study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 19, 557-568.
- Freund, K. & Watson, R. (1991). Assessment of the sensitivity and specificity of a phallometric test: An update of "Phallometric diagnosis of pedophilia". Psychological Assessment, 3, 254-260.
- Freund, K., Watson, R., Dickey, R., & Rienzo, D. (1991). Erotic gender differentiation in pedophilia. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 20, 555-566.
- Freund, K., Watson, R. & Dickey, R. (1991). Sex offenses against female children perpetrated by men who are not pedophiles. Journal of Sex Research, 28, 409-423.
- Freund, K., Watson, R., & Dickey, R. (1991). The types of heterosexual gender identity disorder. Annals of Sex Research, 4, 93-105.
- Freund, K. & Watson, R.J. (1992). The proportions of heterosexual and homosexual pedophiles among sex offenders against children. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 18, 34-43.
- Freund, K. & Watson, R.J. (1993). Gender identity disorder and courtship disorder. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 22, 13-21.
- Freund, K. and M. Kuban. 1993. "Toward a testable developmental model of pedophilia: the development of erotic age preference." Child Abuse Negl 17:315-24.
- Wilson, R. J., & Mathon, H. F. (2006, fall). Remembering Kurt Freund (1914-1996). ATSA Forum. Beaverton, OR: Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.
- Brzek A, Hubalek S. Homosexuals in Eastern Europe: Mental Health and Psychotherapy Issues. in Psychopathology and Psychotherapy in Homosexuality, Ed. Michael W. Ross, p. 160.
- Freund, K., & Blanchard, R. (1983.) Is the distant relationship of fathers and homosexual sons related to the sons' erotic preference for male partners, or to the sons' atypical gender identity, or to both? Journal of Homosexuality, 9, 7-25.
- Freund, K., Langevin, R., Cibiri, S., & Zajac, Y. (1973). Heterosexual aversion in homosexual males. British Journal of Psychiatry, 122, 163-169.
- Hanson, R. K., & Bussière, M. T. (1998). Predicting relapse: A meta-analysis of sexual offender recidivism studies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 348-362.
- Quinsey, V. L., Harris, G. T., Rice, M. E., & Cormier, C. A. (1998). Violent offenders: Appraising and managing risk. Washington, DC.: American Psychological Association.
- Seto, M. C. (2001). The value of phallometry in the assessment of male sex offenders. Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice, 1, 65-75.
- Launay, G. (1999) "The phallometric assessment of sex offenders: an update," Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, 9 (3) 254–274.
- Associated Press (October 26, 1996). "Kurt Freund, 82, notable sexologist". (registration required)
- Kuban, Michael (Summer 2004). "Sexual Science Mentor: Dr. Kurt Freund". Sexual Science. 45 (2). Archived from the original on 22 December 2010.