Shere Hite

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Shere Hite
Hite in 1981
Shirley Diana Gregory

(1942-11-02)November 2, 1942
DiedSeptember 9, 2020(2020-09-09) (aged 77)
Tottenham, London, England
Alma mater
Known forResearch pertaining to female sexuality
  • (m. 1985; div. 1999)
  • Paul Sullivan
    (m. 2012)
Scientific career

Shere Hite (/ʃɛər ht/;[2][3] November 2, 1942[4] – September 9, 2020)[5] was an American-born German[6] sex educator and feminist. Her sexological work focused primarily on female sexuality. Hite built upon biological studies of sex by Masters and Johnson and by Alfred Kinsey and was the author of The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study on Female Sexuality.[7] She also referenced theoretical, political and psychological works associated with the feminist movement of the 1970s, such as Anne Koedt's essay "The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm". She renounced her United States citizenship in 1995 to become German.[1]

Early life, education, and career[edit]

According to Katharine Q. Seelye, Hite was born Shirley Diana Gregory in St. Joseph, Missouri to Paul and Shirley Hurt Gregory.[3] Shortly after the end of World War II, her parents divorced. When her mother remarried, she took the surname of her stepfather Raymond Hite.[3][8] According to her friend Joanna Briscoe, Hite had never known her father, and had been abandoned twice by her mother; her grandparents raised her until they divorced, and she was sent to be raised by an aunt.

Hite graduated from Seabreeze High School in Daytona Beach, Florida. After she received a master's degree in history from the University of Florida in 1967, she moved to New York City and enrolled at Columbia University to work toward her Ph.D. in social history.[3] Hite said that the reason for her not completing this degree was the conservative nature of Columbia at that time.[9] She posed in the nude for Playboy magazine while studying at Columbia University.[10][11]

In the 1970s, she did part of her research while at the National Organization for Women. Her most well-known work, The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study on Female Sexuality., was published in 1976.

In 1988, she made an extended appearance on the British TV discussion programme After Dark, alongside James Dearden, Mary Whitehouse, Joan Wyndham, and Naim Attallah.[12]

In 1989 she was interviewed in London by Joanna Briscoe, who later became her friend, and whose flat she often lived in. Eighteen months later she left the United States because of "vicious media attacks, doorstepping, public humiliation and death threats, all of which contributed to the loss of her American publishers and of her ability to make a living", despite The Hite Report selling 50m copies, estimated to be the 30th bestselling book of all time. According to Briscoe she commuted between Paris, the Kensington Hilton and a mattress on the floor of a squat in north London, and perpetually swung between spending and thrift. Between 1991 and 1997 she lived largely between France and Briscoe's small flat. She tended to write all night and sleep all day. Briscoe said that Hite "had an extraordinary effect on people – possessing a strange, delicate charisma that hooked them".[13]

Hite taught at Nihon University (Tokyo, Japan), Chongqing University in China, and Maimonides University in North Miami Beach, Florida.[6]

Research focus[edit]

Hite focused on understanding how individuals regard sexual experience and the meaning it holds for them. Hite believed that the ease at which women orgasm during masturbation contradicted traditional stereotypes about female sexuality. Hite's work concluded that 70% of women do not have orgasms through in-out, thrusting intercourse but are able to achieve orgasm easily by masturbation or other direct clitoral stimulation.[14][15][16]

Hite, as well as Elisabeth Lloyd, criticized Masters and Johnson for uncritically incorporating cultural attitudes on sexual behavior into their research; for example, the argument that enough clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm should be provided by thrusting during intercourse and the inference that the failure of this is a sign of female "sexual dysfunction."[16] While not denying that both Kinsey and Masters and Johnson have played a crucial role in sex research, Hite believed that society must understand the cultural and personal construction of sexual experience to make the research relevant to sexual behavior outside the laboratory. She offered that limiting test subjects to "normal" women who report orgasming during coitus was basing research on the faulty assumption that having an orgasm during coitus was typical, something that her own research strongly refuted.[14][page needed]


Hite used an individualistic research method. Thousands of responses from anonymous questionnaires were used as a framework to develop a discourse on human responses to gender and sexuality. Her conclusions were met with methodological criticism.[17][page needed] The fact that her data are not probability samples raises concerns about whether the sample data can be generalized to relevant populations. As is common with surveys concerning sensitive subjects such as sexual behavior, the proportion of nonresponse is typically large. Thus the conclusions derived from the data may not represent the views of the population under study because of sampling bias due to nonresponse.[18]

Hite has been praised for her theoretical fruitfulness in sociological research.[19] The suggestion of bias in some of Hite's studies is frequently used as a talking point in university courses where sampling methods are discussed, along with The Literary Digest poll of 1936. One discussion of sampling bias is by Philip Zimbardo,[20] who explained that women in Hite's study were given a survey about marriage satisfaction, where 98% reported dissatisfaction, and 75% reported having had extra-marital affairs, but where only 4% of women given the survey responded. Zimbardo argued that the women who had dissatisfaction may have been more motivated to respond than women who were satisfied and that her research may just have been "science-coded journalism." Some or all of her published surveys[21][22] depended on wide multi-channel questionnaire distribution, opportunity for many long answers on a respondent's own schedule, enforced respondent anonymity, and response by mail rather than polling by telephone. Sharon Lohr argues that the distribution of questionnaires to women's organizations and the length of the questions and the allowance for long responses introduces a bias towards people who are not typical. She also argues that several of the questions are leading the respondent to reply in a particular way.[23]

Personal life[edit]

The former US embassy in Bonn, photographed in 1990, where Hite renounced her US citizenship.

In 1985, Hite married German concert pianist Friedrich Höricke, who was 19 years her junior.[24] The couple divorced in 1999.[25] Hite was married to Paul Sullivan in 2012.[26] They moved across Europe multiple times together, settling in north London, England.[5]

In 1995, Hite renounced her U.S. citizenship at the former Embassy of the United States in Bonn. She accepted German nationality because she regarded German society as more tolerant and open-minded about her endeavors.[1][27]

In September 2020, Hite died of corticobasal degeneration at the age of 77.[5][26]


The biographical documentary film The Disappearance of Shere Hite, directed by Nicole Newnham, had its premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival,[28] and was released in the U.S. in November 2023.[29][30]

Notable works[edit]

  • Sexual Honesty, by Women, for Women (1974)
  • The Hite Report on Female Sexuality (1976, 1981, republished in 2004)
  • The Hite Report on Men and Male Sexuality (1981)
  • Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress (The Hite Report on Love, Passion, and Emotional Violence) (1987)
  • Fliegen mit Jupiter (English: Flying with Jupiter) (1993)
  • The Divine Comedy of Ariadne and Jupiter (1994)
  • The Hite Report on the Family: Growing Up Under Patriarchy (1994)
  • The Hite Report on Shere Hite: Voice of a Daughter in Exile (2000, autobiography)
  • The Shere Hite Reader: New and Selected Writings on Sex, Globalization and Private Life (2006)


  1. ^ a b c Hite, Shere (November 17, 2003). "Why I Became a German: So Vicious Were the Attacks on the Feminist Shere Hite That She Decided to Give Up Her American Citizenship". New Statesman. Archived from the original on October 16, 2013.
  2. ^ pronunciation respelling SHAIR HYTE
  3. ^ a b c d Seelye, Katharine Q. (September 11, 2020). "Shere Hite, Who Challenged Myths of Female Sexuality, Dies at 77". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 4 December 2023.
  4. ^ "Home page". Shere Hite - The Official Website. 2011. Archived from the original on March 9, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Weaver, Matthew (September 10, 2020). "'She began the real sexual revolution for women': Shere Hite dies aged 77". The Guardian. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  6. ^ a b Jayson, Sharon (May 15, 2006). "Decades Later, Hite Reports Back". USA Today. Archived from the original on October 11, 2012.
  7. ^ Jong, Erica (October 3, 1976). "The Hite Report". New York Times. Retrieved December 6, 2023.
  8. ^ "Shere Hite". Archived from the original on October 12, 2011. Retrieved May 21, 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  9. ^ Bindel, Julie (15 September 2020). "Shere Hite obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  10. ^ "Personal Visions of the Erotic". Playboy: 140–149. December 1971.
  11. ^ Courtney, Kevin (June 25, 2011). "Then & Now: Shere Hite, Sexologist". Life and Style. The Irish Times. Archived from the original on March 19, 2016. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  12. ^ Marriage: What Do Women Want?, After Dark, 1988-02-26, retrieved 2022-11-07
  13. ^ Briscoe, Joanna (24 January 2024). "My life with Shere Hite: the forgotten feminist who changed sex for ever". The Guardian.
  14. ^ a b Hite, Shere (2004) [1st pub. 1976]. The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality. New York, N.Y.: Seven Stories Press. ISBN 1-58322-569-2. Retrieved March 2, 2012.
  15. ^ Shere Hite: "I was making the point that clitoral stimulation wasn't happening during coitus. That's why women 'have difficulty having orgasms' – they don't have difficulty when they stimulate themselves.
    Tracey Cox: "It's disappointing that one of Hite's main messages – that 70 percent of women don't have orgasms through penetration – is not completely accepted today. Plenty of women don't feel comfortable admitting it, even to themselves, for fear their partners will love them less. But women are far more experimental now." "Shere Hite: On Female Sexuality in the 21st Century". The Independent. April 30, 2006. Retrieved April 10, 2011.
  16. ^ a b Lloyd, Elisabeth Anne (2005). The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution. Harvard University Press. pp. 21–53. ISBN 0-674-01706-4. OCLC 432675780. Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  17. ^ Jones, Janet (1997). Understanding Psychological Research. Prentice Hall.
  18. ^ Stark, Philip B. "Chapter 24—Sampling". SticiGui. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016.
  19. ^ Ekerwald, Hedvig (February 1998). "Reviews: Shere Hite: The Hite Report: Growing Up Under Patriarchy". Young: Nordic Journal of Youth Research. SAGE Publications. 6: 58–59. doi:10.1177/110330889800600105. S2CID 143663317. Archived from the original on November 18, 2002.
  20. ^ Discovering Psychology with Philip Zimbardo (Episode 2: Understanding Research)
  21. ^ E.g., The Hite Report on Female Sexuality (1976)
  22. ^ E.g., The Hite Report on the Family: Growing Up Under Patriarchy (1994)
  23. ^ Sampling: Design and Analysis. Sharon L. Lohr. Cengage Learning.
  24. ^ Hewitson, Michele (May 27, 2000). "The Real Shere Hite Report". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved November 9, 2011.
  25. ^ "Friedrich Höricke". Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  26. ^ a b "Shere Hite obituary". the Guardian. 2020-09-15. Retrieved 2022-12-19.
  27. ^ McKee, Victoria (April 7, 1996). "Shere Hite, Now a German Citizen, Finds Appreciation and Celebrity". The New York Times. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  28. ^ Reynolds, Robin (January 12, 2023). "Sundance 2023: Movies in the U.S. Documentary Competition Program". MovieWeb. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  29. ^ Renner, Amy. "The Disappearance of Shere Hite Movie". Movie Insider. Retrieved November 17, 2023.
  30. ^ Girish, Devika (November 16, 2023). "'The Disappearance of Shere Hite' Review: The Feminist Mystique". The New York Times.

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