The Disappearance of Shere Hite (15) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir: Nicola Newnham, US 2023, 116 mins.

Cast: Dakota Johnson – voice of Shere Hite

Review by Carlie Newman

I learnt something new from this documentary – and no, I won’t say what! Shere Hite became really well known following the publication of her book The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality in 1976.

This film is a portrait of the real woman and shows her earlier life and later ‘disappearance.’ An early feminist and renowned sex researcher, she is now little spoken about. This film allows us to understand her importance.

In order to earn money to pay her way to undertake her PhD, she worked as a model. A beautiful young woman with a kind of pre-Raphaelite look and thick auburn hair, she was much in demand. Discovering the feminist movement, she became an activist.

Researching her study involved an anonymous survey of 3,000 women about their sex lives. She found some amazing facts – chief among them being that women (70% of them in replies) didn’t need penetrative sex to have an orgasm. Many men were up in arms about her findings – we see them sniggering on chat shows where Hite is being interviewed. She was ridiculed for having been a model, including for Playboy, and also for her research methodology. Her later research on male sexuality led to more disapproval and outrage. It got worse in the 1980s; there is a clip of Hite being interviewed in front of an all-male audience on The Oprah Winfrey Show which is very hard to watch as the men bait her with their hatred.

Hite found all the hostility very hard to deal with and she left the US with her husband to live in Europe, where she stayed until her death, at the end in London in 2020. She was very little discussed or heard of after she left America – this is her ‘disappearance.’

Dakota Johnson voices Hite’s words and seems to give a good interpretation of Hite. We see her looking gorgeous in a number of archive interviews.

This is certainly a film to make you sit up and take note! Not to be missed.

On release in cinemas now.