Kurt Freund

Kurt Freund was the head of the gender program at Toronto's notorious Clarke Institute.

Born in Czechoslovakia in 1914, Freund conducted much of his pioneering research into sexual arousal while based in Prague from 1945 to 1968, after which he fled the country following the failed revolt against communist rule.

Freund's most influential achievement was the development in the 1950s of phallometric testing, especially the penile plethysmograph. Freund developed the device in Czechoslovakia to prevent draft dodgers from claiming they were gay just to avoid military duty. The method is now primarily used to assess sexual arousal among pedophiles and other male sex offenders.

In The Man Who Would Be Queen, psychologist J. Michael Bailey of Northwestern University cites Freund's research to refute the existence of bisexuality in males:

Kurt Freund , who invented penile plethysmography, related that he was never able to find a subset of men who appeared bisexual in the lab. Although their data are less scientific, gay men share Freund 's skepticism. They have a saying: "You're either, gay, straight, or lying." (95-96)

Bailey notes that Freund's protege Ray Blanchard met Freund at the Ontario Correctional Institute, a detention facility for sex offenders. There, the two made plans to use their sex offender assessment methodologies to assess gender-variant children and adults:

During that time, the eminent sex researcher, Kurt Freund, consulted at the hospital. Someone suggested that they meet, and during their first conversation, they made plans to collaborate. In 1980 Blanchard took a job at the Clarke, where he has remained, recently taking Freund 's position after his death. (157)

Freund was replaced by his protege Ray Blanchard following Freund's suicide in 1996. Under the guidance of Blanchard and Ken Zucker, the practice of treating gender-variant children and adults like sex offenders continues at the Clarke Institute to this day. Michael Kuban, manager of the renamed Kurt Freund Phallometric Laboratory at the Clarke Institute, notes:

On a daily basis we saw a variety of medical and legal patients presenting to the clinic due to their problems. Most had committed criminal offenses against children or women, but others were identified as having a sexual disorder -- transvestism, masochism, fetishism, exhibitionism, or similar such concern.

See the discussion of plethysmography on this site for more on Freund's legacy and its damaging effects on gender-variant people.


Kurt Freund obituary. Associated Press, 29 October 1996.

Kuban, Michael. Featured mentor: Kurt Freund. Sexual Science, Volume 45, Issue 2 (Summer 2004) www.sexscience.org/uploads/media/sex_sci45-2.htm

See also:

Clarke Institute Clearinghouse: documenting the words and actions of CAMH staff