LIFE A Pioneer Who Changed Women's Lives; Jo Ind Celebrates the Life and Work of Pioneering Sex Researcher Shere Hite
Ind, Jo, The Birmingham Post (England)
Women all over the world have been affected by the work of Shere Hite.
They may not realise it but nonetheless when they make love, Hite will at some level be in the bedroom with them. Hite is a sex researcher.
In 1976 she published The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality. In 1981 she published The Hite Report on Male Sexuality. The Hite Report on the Family came out in 1994.
In all she has written eight books, including a novel, but she has won a place in many women's hearts because of what she said about women and sex.
What she did and what she said were simple.
She compiled a detailed questionnaire and sent it out to thousands of women asking them how they had orgasms.
She started distributing them all over New York City and went on to distribute them all over the United States.
It took four years to do. It drove her heavily into debt and she worked at it for twelve hours a day, seven days a week.
It was a massive undertaking. The cost of the postage was colossal. Even buying the paper to print the questionnaires on was more than she could afford.
She learnt how to run a printing press herself to save money and mailed batches to all kinds of organisations, including student centres, churches and health groups.
What she found, from the 3,500 women who replied, was that most women were not able to have orgasms through intercourse alone.
What she deduced was that the definition of 'sex' as intercourse was 'sexist' because it was orientated around reproduction and men's pleasure rather than women's.
She said intercourse should not be considered 'the' sex act, but just one way of making love out of many.
This was 24 years ago and such has been the impact of her research that it seems a bit trite and obvious now.
Her work has been translated into 15 languages and published in 35 countries and more than 20 million copies have been sold around the world.
It has also been banned.
It cannot be shipped through the Indian post without a penalty. Only since the end of apartheid was the ban on her work lifted in South Africa.
In Turkey, in 1992, the publisher was called into a police station to 'explain his actions' and in Malaysia, where female circumcision is widespread, it has been banned too.
Her latest publication is The Hite Report on Shere Hite, her autobiography, and it is very touching.
The moving aspect is in the detailing of the immense cost there was to her in creating her work. Hite has been savaged by the media.
It is now almost de rigeur, in writing an article about Shere Hite, to say that her methodology is questionable.
'The work may not be scientific but . . .' has been the way she has been discussed in newspaper features.
Her samples have been criticised as being too small and too selective - only weird women would reply to an anonymous questionnaire on sex.
But it was only journalists, who aren't usually scientists, who said that her work was unscientific.
She has lectured at universities and been praised by academics for her pioneering methods.
She received the Distinguished Service Award for her work from the largest association of sex counsellors and therapists in the US (AASECT).
Over the years most of her major findings and conclusions have been borne out by other research, including that by the US Department of Labor Statistics and the UK Government population statistics.
She just happened to be ahead of her time.
Nonetheless, she has been berated for her 'poor, sloppy methodology' by the media and the effect has been for her to be presented as a person to be ridiculed rather than seriously discussed.
Another cost to her has been financial.
During the five years it took her to produce her first Hite report she lived on $55,000 of which $35,000 was borrowed. …