Shere Hite (born November 2 1942, Saint Joseph, Missouri) is an American-born German sex educator and feminist. Her sexological work has focused primarily on female sexuality. Hite builds upon biological studies of sex by Masters and Johnson and by Alfred Kinsey. She also references theoretical, political and psychological works associated with the feminist movement of the 1970s, such as Anne Koedt's The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm. After attacks on herself and her work, she renounced her United States citizenship in 1995 to become German.
Hite graduated from Seabreeze High School in Daytona Beach, Florida. She received a masters degree in history from the University of Florida in 1967. She then moved to New York City and enrolled at Columbia University to work toward her Ph.D. in social history. Hite attributes the non-completion of this degree to the conservative nature of Columbia at that time. She later completed a Ph.D. at Nihon University (Tokyo, Japan) and another Ph.D. in clinical sexology at Maimonides University, North Miami Beach, Florida.
Shere Hite has focused on understanding how individuals regard sexual experience and the meaning it holds for them. Hite has criticised Masters and Johnson's work for uncritically incorporating cultural attitudes on sexual behaviour into their research. For example, Hite's work showed that 70% of women do not have orgasms through in-out, thrusting intercourse but are able to achieve orgasm easily by masturbation or other direct clitoral stimulation. Only 30% of the women in her study reported ever experiencing orgasm during thrusting intercourse. She has criticised Masters and Johnson's argument that enough clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm should be provided by thrusting during intercourse, and the inference that the failure of this is a sign of female "sexual dysfunction." Whilst not denying that both Kinsey and Masters and Johnson have been a crucial step in sex research, she believes that we must understand the cultural and personal construction of sexual experience to make the research relevant to sexual behaviour outside the laboratory. She offered the criticism that limiting test subjects to "normal" women who report orgasming during coitus was basing research on the faulty assumption that orgasming during coitus was normal, something that her own research strongly refuted.
Hite uses an individualistic research method. Thousands of responses from anonymous questionnaires were used as a framework to develop a discourse on human responses to gender and sexuality. Her conclusions derived from these questionnaire data have met with methodological criticism. The fact that her data are not probability samples raises concerns about whether the sample data can be generalised to relevant populations. As is common with surveys concerning sensitive subjects, such as sexual behaviour, the proportion of nonresponse is typically large. Thus the conclusions derived from the data may not represent the views of the population under study because of bias due to nonresponse. Hite supporters defend her methodology by saying that it is more likely to get to the truth of women's sexuality than studying women engaged in prostitution as if they were exemplary of women in general, or to study in laboratory conditions women who claim to orgasm during coitus.
Hite has been praised for her theoretical fruitfulness in sociological research. The suggestion of bias in some of Hite's studies is frequently used as a talking point in university courses where sampling methods are discussed, along with the Literary Digest poll of 1936.
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