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Shere Hite. £12.99; Pp 667. London: Hamlyn, 2000. ISBN 0-600-60116-1.
This is a follow up on the author's 1976 Report on Female Sexuality. It confirms the findings of her earlier report on American women and includes a “postscript” which reports similar findings in UK, Australian, and New Zealand women. The emphasis is on orgasm frequency.
In the American part of the study three versions of a questionnaire (labelled I, II, and III) augment the earlier 1972–6 study (labelled IV). Altogether, the number of questionnaires distributed was 100 000 with 3019 returned. The number of questionnaires I, II, and III returned was 1844. Replies received from UK, Australian, and New Zealand women to questionnaire IV numbered 511. The author claims that, especially, questionnaires I, II, and III give a true representation of women of all ages and occupations. The figures are presented partly in the text and by detailed appendices. The text provides detailed individual quotes in abundance on all aspects of female sexuality and orgasm.
In brief, there is little new to report. Masturbation remains the surest source of orgasms both single and multiple. Orgasm “rarely” occurs during intercourse without additional stimulation. Most women were willing to accept sex with a man even if she didn't often have an orgasm with him. Lesbianism was a regular source of orgasm for a few women but many more would “like to try” such a relationship.
From the answers to questions and the personal views presented by women, it is clear that the majority support Hite's view that a “sexual revolution” is needed. They see the way forward as through greater openness. There is a need to destroy double standards—for example, the concept that sexy women, in contrast with sexy men, are not respectable. In addition, it is clear women would like it noted that they would appreciate the pattern and definition of sex to include greater diversity. Sexual intercourse on its own is not enough for many. Greater diversity is called for. In other words women's desires and needs, not least in achieving orgasm more regularly, need to be taken into account.
By way of summary, Hite calls for greater dissemination of data regarding the anatomical basis and the physiology of female orgasm with emphasis on the role of the clitoris. In her revolutionary terms she sees orgasm as a metaphor for women's power in society.
The findings confirm those of Freud, Kinsey et al as well as Masters and Johnson and make it clear that men not only need to take the clitoris seriously but to ensure that its function is more regularly fulfilled whatever the form of sexual congress.
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