Biography and Sexual Teachings of Shere Hite Part 1

About the model turned researcher Shere Hite, biography and history of her sexual teachings.


SHERE HITE (1943- ), U.S.

A classic beauty with heavy-lidded Renaissance eyes, Shere Hite is a phenomenon of the women's movement. She has broken the barrier which in the past separated decorative from scholarly women. Author of a research study on female sexuality, she also was a fashion model in New York, Paris, and Milan, an experience she does not like to discuss because, as she told a Time reporter, "when you say 'model,' people think you're frivolous."

Armed with an M.A. in the history of ideas from the University of Florida, Hite moved to New York in the mid-1960s and enrolled at Columbia University to work toward a Ph.D. in social history. However, she did not complete the requirements, but turned to modeling, and then to feminism. In 1972 the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women let her use their letterhead to send out questionnaires for her research study on female sexuality. Most of her respondents were from feminist circles or were readers of church newsletters, the Village Voice, Oui, Brides, and Mademoiselle. During the study, the questionnaire was revised twice. The result, The Hite Report, was based on less than 2,000 of the 3,019 questionnaires that came back, because there wasn't enough time to compile those that came in late.

Now director of the Feminist Sexuality Project, Hite is working on a study of male sexuality and the politics of private life. She has never married and avoids publicity. "People assume that when you do something like this, there's something wrong with you," she says.

Her book, published in 1976, was a best-seller, possibly because of its subjective, almost confessional accounts by women of their sexual activities, desires, and dissatisfactions. Reporter Karen Durbin in a Mademoiselle article quoted one male who described the book as a "478-page bull session." He is right, for the voices of women of all persuasions come across clearly, perhaps for the first time in a book on sex.

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