Shere Hite was a sex educator and feminist who issued the groundbreaking Hite Reports that explored human sexuality and focused on women’s experiences.
Hite began her series of studies on human sexuality after working as a model as a student. Having posed for Playboy and for Olivetti typewriters, Hite became frustrated with the work after seeing the tagline on a typewriter ad she posed for: “The typewriter is so smart she doesn’t have to be.” She joined a protest led by the National Organization of Women (NOW) and began the research she would become known for. Hite distributed questionnaires – first to women only, then later to men – on sexual experiences. Her findings challenged the existing sex research done by Alfred C. Kinsey and Masters and Johnson, which concluded that women who couldn’t achieve orgasm through traditional intercourse were experiencing sexual dysfunction.
Hite broke new ground by asking women about their sex lives with and without partners and discussing the importance of female masturbation and clitoral orgasm. When her initial study, “The Hite Report on Female Sexuality,” appeared in 1976, masturbation and women’s pleasure were taboo topics, and she was among the first to shed light on this aspect of female sexuality. Her later studies looked at topics including male sexuality and extramarital affairs. Hite’s methods were frequently criticized, and she later left the U.S. to become a German citizen.
“Researchers should stop telling women what they should feel sexually and start asking them what they do feel sexually.” —from Hite’s writings
Tributes to Shere Hite
Full obituary: The Washington Post