A new documentary examines the work of bestselling author Shere Hite and her absence from the feminist canon
Depending on your age, you likely either have some feelings about Shere Hite or know nothing about her. In 1976, Hite, an independent researcher of qualitative experience, sparked a “revolution in the bedroom”, as Ms Magazine put it, with her anonymous surveys on female sexuality. Namely, as she stated often and without equivocation, that women knew how to have orgasms when and how they wanted, with or without intercourse.
The Hite Report was an immediate bestseller – it has sold over 48m copies worldwide – and turned Hite into a media fixture. She was a frank interviewer and thus a lightning rod for criticism, having committed the cardinal sin of promoting female pleasure, which many took as demoting men, and then, in subsequent books, describing how men really felt (lonely, isolated, emotionally stifled) and women’s feelings on love. Facing intense backlash and lack of support from her longtime publisher, she eventually decamped to Europe for self-imposed exile, where she remained until her death in 2020. Her books went out of circulation and her notoriety as a feminist trailblazer waned. The Hite Report is, by some estimates, the 30th bestselling book of all time, yet many young feminists have never heard of her.