THE SINS OF SHERE HITE
ON THE THIRD SATURDAY in May 1988, shortly after two o'clock in the afternoon, Shere Hite walked into the Eglinton Room at the Inn on the Park, a luxury hotel on the northern outskirts of Toronto, Canada, to face a room full of academic and commercial pollsters, whom she later characterized as an audience of "equals." Equal or not, it was clearly an audience of skeptics, many hostile, some friendly, but almost none sympathetic with the arguments she would offer in defense of her work. And if the events of the previous weeks were any indication, this confrontation could become a real donnybrook.
In the mid- 1970s and early 1980s, Hite had published two books on female and male sexuality that generated a great deal of controversy. Her third book on women and their relationships with men and other women had been published in the fall of 1987, and like the other two, it was both highly praised and roundly criticized. It was praised for the insights into what women were thinking, for the long verbatim passages that gave the reader glimpses at the women who had responded to Hite's questionnaires. And it was criticized for its claim to represent the views of women generally. Hite's methods of distributing questionnaires, and the small fraction of those that were actually filled out, made many critics skeptical that the results in Hite's book truly represented American women. Hite was used to the criticism and controversy that accompanied the publication of her books, and she tried to engage her critics in