Women and Love

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

From 1980 to 1986, Shere Hite distributed 100,000 questionnaires asking women to write essays describing their love relationships. She received 4,500 replies. A majority of the respondents reported that they had negative and destructive personal relationships and faulted men for this deplorable state of affairs.

Excerpts from the questionnaire answers form the bulk of Hite’s text. These usually describe men as callous tyrants incapable of affection or loyalty, who twist the lives of the women who love them into hideous nightmares of oppression. Hite supplies the reader with the statistical breakdown of her study, noting the “84% of women are not satisfied emotionally with their relationships,” “83% of women say they do not believe most men understand the basic issues involved in making intimate relationships work,” and only “13% of women married more than two years say they are ’in love’ with their husbands.”

Hite uses her statistics and her reams of bilious letters to support her main thesis, which is that men cannot love well because their culture is based on competition and aggression. By contrast, Hite finds that women’s culture is rooted in cooperation and nurturing. She says that society must incorporate more of these “feminine” values if it is to avoid military and ecological disaster.

Hite trivializes the goals of both the women’s movement and the peace movement when she implies that the world’s problems would be solved if only wicked boys would behave more like guileless girls. Her argument is not only simplistic, but also sexist, in that she assigns stereotypical personality traits to gender. Perhaps Hite is aware of the weaknesses in her ideas, and that is why she buries them in more than nine hundred pages of tedious, repetitive cavilling cloaked in a shroud of specious statistics.