Shere Hite, Who Challenged Myths of Feminine Sexuality, Dies at 77

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Shere Hite, Who Challenged Myths of Female Sexuality, Dies at 77

Both later books have been widely criticized for relying on unrepresentative samples of respondents. Ms. Hite received death threats in the mail and on her answering machine after the publication of "Women and Love," which Time Magazine said was merely an excuse for "male-bashing".

Many dismissed her as angry feminist, even though she had come to feminism in a roundabout way. As a PhD student at Columbia University, she made money on tuition fees as a part-time model. One of the brands she posed for was Olivetti typewriters, which featured her as a long-legged blonde stroking the keys. However, when she saw the ad's tagline – "The typewriter is so smart it doesn't have to be" – she was appalled and soon joined a group of women who opposed the exact ad she was in. picketed the Olivetti offices.

This led her to attend the sessions of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women. At one meeting, according to her report, the topic was the female orgasm and whether all women had one. There was silence until someone suggested that Ms. Hite investigate the matter. Seeing how little research had been done, she began what would become The Hite Report.

The tidal wave of anger and resentment against her inspired 12 prominent feminists, including Gloria Steinem and Barbara Ehrenreich, to denounce the media attacks on them as a conservative backlash directed less against one woman than against "the rights of women everywhere".

And it spurred Ms. Hite's decision to give up her American passport, leave the country and settle in Europe, where she felt her ideas were more accepted.

"I gave up my citizenship in 1995," she wrote in The New Statesman in 2003. "After a decade of persistent attacks on me and my work, particularly my 'reports' on female sexuality, I no longer felt free to do my best in the land of my birth."

The New York Times caught up with her in Germany in 1996 in the apartment she shared with her German husband Friedrich Horicke, a pianist, in Cologne. "The hunted look she had in her final years in the US is long gone," The Times wrote, "and she has regained her sense of humor – but only because it is finally being taken seriously."

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