While she was a graduate student at Columbia University, Shere Hite worked as a model part-time. One of her photos appeared in an ad for Olivetti typewriters, showing her working the keys with the tagline, “The typewriter so smart, she doesn’t have to be.”
This bit of misogyny enraged her (and others too), leading to her awakening as a feminist and soon enough, to her career as a sexual researcher. Her 1976 book, The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality, “sparked a revolution in the bedroom,” Ms. magazine said.
“The Hite Report helped awaken [women’s] sexual power and was seen as advancing the liberation of women that was rapidly underway,” according to the New York Times.
Any woman who pursues her own sexual pleasure unabashedly owes a thank you to Shere Hite, who died last week at her home in London at the age of 77.
Causing a Stir
Even though her book came out in the middle of the sexual revolution, it still was shocking. The 3,000 survey respondents answered questions about their sex life with a level of intimacy and honesty that had never before been seen. More than 70 percent admitted that they didn’t have orgasms during intercourse, but instead needed clitoral stimulation. Many said they were too embarrassed to ask their partners for that.
This central notion that women did not need men to achieve orgasm was a threat to many a male ego; conservative groups came to see her championing of women’s sexual pleasure as contributing to the dissolution of the family.
Though some critics faulted for her methodology and her two follow-up books (one on men and sexuality and another on women and love) didn’t sell as well as the Hite Report, it’s clear that many of us would have been short-changed in the sex department without her work. We salute you Shere Hite.