Shere Hite’s work was a thesis produced for her doctorate in sexuality. Her research had much lower funding than Kinsey’s and so was more limited in scope. Hite circulated a lengthy questionnaire through women’s magazines and to passers-by on the street in the US in the early 1970s.
Shere Hite’s sample was made up of volunteers. Her sample was not selected in a way that it could ever be representative of the general population. So the percentages cannot be applied to all women. There was even less reliability in the claims since they were written anonymously on a form rather than given via personal interview as Kinsey’s findings were.
Shere Hite based her work on the proposal that the clitoris is the female sex organ. This fact would explain why women did not orgasm through intercourse. But she also hoped to show that women could orgasm with a lover if the clitoris was stimulated manually or orally. Hite wanted to show that clitoral stimulation would cause female orgasm with a lover. But she failed to establish this. She completely ignored the issue of mental arousal.
Of the women in Hite’s sample, 82% said that they could easily orgasm when masturbating. But only 30% of them said that they could orgasm regularly through intercourse alone (hands free). Hite suggested that the women who could orgasm through intercourse did so because they took conscious steps to obtain clitoral stimulation. But if this were so more heterosexual couples would be more aware of the role of the clitoris.
Hite suggested that the ‘hands free’ approach worked for women who had found a suitable position for intercourse that maximised the clitoral stimulation. We can see from the male experience that men need direct and continuous stimulation of their sex organ. It doesn’t make any sense to suggest that women need less stimulation. Why would anyone engage in an act that only provides indirect stimulation? In any case the stimulation would never be sufficient or of the right kind to cause orgasm.
Although four fifths (82%) of her sample of women said they could masturbate themselves to orgasm, around half said the same stimulation techniques did not help them orgasm with a lover. This is assuming that all the women in her sample were masturbating to orgasm and so stimulating the clitoris. Only 44% of them said they could orgasm regularly with a partner through clitoral stimulation by hand and only 42% through oral sex.
One of the problems with suggesting that female orgasm occurs through masturbation, is that very few women masturbate. Women are rarely motivated to engage in sexual activity because they are not easily aroused. Most women are not interested in masturbation and are disgusted by male masturbation. Most women are embarrassed by any reference to fantasies or explicit stimulation of the clitoris, which is associated with porn.
The few women who do talk about the clitoris and masturbation on the web are clearly providing turn-ons for men. They often imply that they can use the same techniques with a lover. They are evidently unaware that there is no research to back this assertion. Hite’s work is the only research we have and that indicates that most women think it’s not possible.
The anatomical evidence for the clitoris as the female sex organ is overwhelming. By suggesting that women might stimulate the clitoris with a lover, researchers are encouraging women to say they do. There was no evidence previously that heterosexuals (of either sex) had any interest in the clitoris. Researchers did not appreciate the issue of arousal. If clitoral stimulation caused female orgasm with a lover, the clitoris would be accepted as the female sex organ. It would not be ignored as it currently is.
Kinsey concluded that educated women were less responsive with a lover than other women. But there is no logical connection between education and responsiveness. Educated women have the confidence and the economic autonomy to challenge male fantasies. Some women are confident that they do not orgasm with a lover because they appreciate that orgasm must be a significant and identifiable phenomenon.
Both Alfred Kinsey, and later Shere Hite, noted that women use clitoral stimulation when alone and also during sexual activity with another woman. They concluded that women should be capable of orgasm with a man if they were to use clitoral stimulation. They didn’t take into account that women often engage in sexual activity without ever achieving orgasm. It is assumed that the clitoris should respond exactly as the penis does.
But men and women approach sexual activity with different levels of arousal. This is the key reason why the clitoris does not respond with a lover. The penis and the clitoris develop from the same genital tubercle in the foetus. But the amount of development is much greater for the penis. The penis is much larger and critically, it protrudes from the body. Most of the clitoris is internal to the body as are the corpora cavernosa.
Has orgasm regularly from intercourse 30%; Has orgasm rarely from intercourse 22%; Has orgasm during intercourse with the addition of simultaneous clitoral stimulation by hand 19%; Does not orgasm during intercourse 29% (Shere Hite 1976)