Home Intellectual aspects of sexuality Shere Hite published in 1976

Shere Hite published in 1976

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 in the US through women’s magazines and to passers-by on the street in the early 1970s. Shere Hite’s sample was not selected in a way that would make it representative of the general population. So the percentages cannot be applied to all women. Women’s accounts of orgasm were less reliable, being written anonymously on a form rather than given via personal interview as Kinsey’s research was.

Shere Hite hoped to show that women use clitoral stimulation to orgasm with a lover. But she failed to establish this. Although four fifths (82%) of her sample of women said they could masturbate to orgasm, around half said the same techniques did not cause orgasm with a lover. Only 44% of the women in her sample said they could orgasm regularly with a lover by stimulating the clitoris manually. Only 42% could orgasm through oral stimulation. In other words, the number of women who conclude orgasm is impossible with a lover outnumber the women who think it is possible.

The idea that millions of men and women over millennia have not discovered something that researchers can discover just by talking to a small sample, does not make any sense. If heterosexual men had discovered a reliable technique for providing women with orgasms, the details would spread like wildfire. Nevertheless Hite proposed that some women were successful with orgasm with a lover (while others did not) because they took conscious steps to obtain clitoral stimulation. But if this were true, more heterosexuals would be aware of the role of the clitoris in female orgasm.

30% of Hite’s sample said that they could orgasm regularly through intercourse alone by using a hands-free approach. They find a position for intercourse that maximises the clitoral stimulation they obtain from intercourse. But why would anyone engage in an act that only provides indirect stimulation? We can see from the male experience that men need direct and continuous stimulation of their sex organ. It doesn’t make sense to suggest that women need less stimulation. Intercourse provides neither sufficient stimulation nor the right kind of stimulation to cause orgasm.

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.

Both Alfred Kinsey, and later Shere Hite, noted that women use clitoral stimulation when alone and also during sexual activity with another woman. They didn’t take into account the fact that women often engage in sexual activity without ever achieving orgasm. 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. They assumed that the clitoris should respond exactly as the penis does. 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 larger and critically, it protrudes from the body. Most of the clitoris is internal as are the corpora cavernosa.

Shere Hite mentioned that women were often unsure about the orgasms they thought they were supposed to have. She also commented on the bragging attitude of women who were confident to boast about orgasms with a lover. This was evidence of the political and emotional incentive for women to claim to orgasm in the sociable context that pleases men. By specifying the anatomy that they assume must be involved in orgasm (this is supplied by the researchers) women are able to sound more convincing.

One of the problems with suggesting that female orgasm occurs through masturbation, is that very few women masturbate. Most women are clearly not interested in masturbation because of the disgust they show towards men’s masturbatory activity. Most women are embarrassed by any reference to fantasies or explicit clitoral stimulation, which is associated with porn. Women who promote the clitoris and masturbation on the web are clearly providing turn-ons for men. They imply that they use the same techniques with a lover. They are evidently unaware that there is no research to support the idea that clitoral stimulation works with a lover. Hite’s work is the only research we have and that indicates that most women think it’s not possible.

Kinsey concluded that educated women were less responsive than other women. But there is no logical connection between education and responsiveness. Educated women have the confidence and the independence 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 that provides sexual pleasure.

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)