In Memory of William Hartman

By Bullough, Vern L. | The Journal of Sex Research, Fall 1997 | Go to article overview
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In Memory of William Hartman


Bullough, Vern L., The Journal of Sex Research


William Hartman (1919-1997), he male half of the Hartman and Fithian team of sex therapists and researchers, died on September 27, 1997, in Palm Springs, CA. He had been in ill health for several months and had gone to the desert resort area to rest and recuperate.

Bill, as he was known to all of us, was born in Meadville, PA. His parents had married while they were students at Allegheny College in Meadville, and Bill was the eldest of four children. He was drafted into the service in World War II before he could complete his college degree, but he rarely talked about his war service. In June 1944, he married Iva Decker of Mesa, AZ, and the couple had seven children (five boys and two girls), the eldest boy born while Bill was still in the service. Although he divorced his wife in 1980, he remained devoted to his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, brother and sisters, and their children and grandchildren. He initiated a Hartman family reunion and continued to preside over the growing group until his death.

After World War II, the Hartmans moved to southern California, where Bill enrolled at the University of Southern California on the G.I. Bill, completing his deferred undergraduate degree and then receiving a Ph.D. in sociology in 1950. He served as a marriage counselor/psychotherapist while working on his Ph.D., and he felt this experience was critical in his becoming interested in human sexuality. After teaching briefly at a community college, Bill joined the faculty of California State University, Long Beach, in 1951, where he spent his entire academic career. He first taught courses in marriage, family, criminology, and juvenile delinquency, and he later taught courses on sexual behavior.

On a 1959 sabbatical leave spent investigating some sources of aberrant and antisocial behavior, Bill came in contact with a postal inspector in New York who told him that pornography was the base cause of crime. To this inspector, nudist magazines were particularly suspect, because they could circulate comparatively freely. Bill had never heard of nudism or nudist parks before this incident, but he became intrigued. He began researching the topic on his return to southern California, where there were several groups and resorts. As Bill began compiling data, he asked Marilyn Fithian, one of his students, to help him, and she soon joined him on the project. Although Hartman and Fithian found nudism a fascinating social and sexual phenomenon, they strongly disagreed with the postal inspector. Their research resulted in a book, Nudist Society.

Hartman and Fithian became convinced that if the generally accepted views about nudism were far removed from reality, the whole subject of sex, especially after the breakthroughs of Kinsey and his group and Masters and Johnson, also deserved study. The two began to study nonorgasmic women and decided in 1968 to start a West Coast operation similar to that of Masters and Johnson in St. Louis. They founded the Center for Marital and Sexual Studies in Long Beach, which they devoted to therapy and research. Soon included on their staff was a physiologist, the late Berry Campbell, who helped set up a special laboratory to examine various aspects of the sexual response cycle. In the process they gathered information about masturbatory and coital responses of 469 women and 282 men, although much data still remain unpublished. They did write two books based on their work at the Center. One, Treatment of Sexual Dysfunction, is therapeutically oriented, and one, Any Man Can, about the multi-orgasmic male, is more research oriented.

During the late 1960s and 1970s, as their reputations grew, Hartman and Fithian also held seminars across the country. They taught their techniques and methods, which encouraged a large number of professionals to enter the sex field.

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