Hite, Shere (1942—)

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Hite, Shere (1942—)

Shere Hite burst upon the American scene in 1976 with the publication of her first book, The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study on Female Sexuality. Since then, she has authored a number of other best-selling books on sex and relationships—delighting her publishers, intriguing her public, and frustrating many social scientists, who consider her research to be seriously flawed.

Born Shirley Diana Gregory in St. Joseph, Missouri, Hite spent her childhood being shuttled between parents, grandparents, and other relatives. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in history from the University of Florida. She then moved to New York City, where she dropped out of a doctoral program at Columbia, worked as a model, and eventually joined the National Organization for Women (NOW). Feminism led her to the realization that female sexuality had rarely been studied scientifically, and the determination to change that fact set Hite on the path that ultimately led to the writing and publication of The Hite Report.

The method that Hite used to gather data for her first book was also employed in most of the succeeding volumes. Hite pays to have surveys printed in a number of national publications, and invites readers to answer the questions (all requiring mini-essays) and mail in the surveys. For The Hite Report, she placed her surveys in such publications as Ms. Magazine, the Village Voice, and Modern Bride.

It is this method of research which has brought Hite so much criticism from those versed in the techniques of survey administration. Her approach to data gathering involves what is referred to in social science as a "self-selecting sample"—that is, the only people included in the "sample" (the pool of respondents) are those who choose to participate by answering and returning the questionnaire. Such respondents are likely to be both few in number and extreme in their views on the subject of the survey, since only those with the strongest opinions will usually take the trouble to fill out and mail the survey.

This approach to gathering data may explain the results that Hite reported in her books. She found that 70 percent of her responding women who had been married more than five years reported having an affair, and 76 percent of them claimed not to have feelings of guilt about their infidelity. More than 95 percent of women surveyed for Hite's third book claimed to have suffered "emotional and psychological harassment" from their men, and 98 percent replied that they desired "basic changes" in their relationships with husbands or lovers.

These, and similar results, which Hite freely generalizes to all American women, are usually at odds with other surveys using more traditional methods. For example, Hite's statistic about a 70 percent infidelity rate is in sharp contrast to a survey funded by Playboy that found 34 percent of married women reporting infidelity, and another study, sponsored by Redbook magazine, which reported the figure to be 29 percent.

Undeterred by her critics, Hite continued to produce books using similar survey methods, several of which were best-sellers. In the 1980s, she moved to Paris and her books began to take on more of a "self-help" aspect, such as her 1989 work, Good Guys, Bad Guys: The Hite Guide to Smart Choices. In the 1990s, she published her first novel, The Divine Comedy of Ariadne and Jupiter, and also set up an internet site, through which she offered her services as either a "business consultant" or "personal consultant," and where she posted an exhibition of her art works.

—Justin Gustainis

Further Reading:

Hite, Shere. The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study on Female Sexuality. 1976.

——. The Hite Report on Male Sexuality. 1981.

Wallis, Claudia. "Back Off, Buddy: A New Hite Report Stirs Up a Furor over Sex and Love in the '80s." Time. October 12, 1987, 68.