Friday, November 17, 2023

The Disappearance of Shere Hite

The Disappearance of Shere Hite examines the life and work of Shere Hite whose books on masturbation and female sexuality caused an immediate stir and brought conversations about sexuality, gender, love, autonomy, and gender, which are still debated go this day, to the forefront of national discourse. A researcher, feminist, and author, the documentary covers both Hite's work and the backlash they caused both to her personally and later to the feminist movement which eventually led to her to leave the United States, renounce her citizenship, and spend the remainder of her life in Europe.

Dakota Johnson, who also serves as executive producer on the film, narrates much of Hite's own writing for the documentary which also makes use of television and news footage, plenty of talking heads across the decades, and interviews from those who knew Hite before, during, and after the media storm her books caused. We also see Hite ground down by both personal and professional attack against her work, her conclusions, and her motivations.

As the the documentary points out, most of the backlash against Hite came from those who didn't read her books but were nevertheless threatened by her research. It just goes to show how, even in decades before Internet and its flood of misinformation, the uninformed mob weren't shy about spreading ignorance and hate against anything that questioned a comfortable status quo. Eventually, as you can see in the film, a beleaguered Hite had enough of playing the punching bag and removed herself from the equation.

While celebrating Hite's life from her early days making rent by modeling, her struggles within academia at Columbia University, and time, effort, and love that went into the project which would eventually be published as The Hite Report, the film has a melancholy feel. Towards the end of the film, director Nicole Newnham begins to examine the disconnect between The Hite Report remaining the 30th best-selling book of all time, Hite's struggles to be published within the United States in the later years of her life, and how many women today don't recognize Shere Hite's name or are aware of her groundbreaking work in the field of female sexuality and women's rights. In those ways the woman who began the conversation seems to have disappeared from public consciousness, even though the conversation she started ever continues.

  • Title: The Disappearance of Shere Hite
  • IMDb: link
Watch the trailer

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