cover image The Hite Report on the Family: Growing Up Under Patriarchy

The Hite Report on the Family: Growing Up Under Patriarchy

Shere Hite. Grove/Atlantic, $22 (424pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-1570-6

Hite's latest sex report, based on some 3000 questionnaires completed by children and adults in 16 countries (50% from the U.S.), focuses on the child's developing psychosexual identity and the impact of this process on adulthood. Her guiding theme is that the patriarchal family is outmoded, sexist and authoritarian and suppresses openness between children and parents about the body. Unlike critics who decry a breakdown of the traditional nuclear family, Hite argues that the rise of diverse new family structures signals a democratizing of the family and a growing concern for women's and children's rights. Her respondents' testimonies, organized around specific themes, touch on all manner of taboo subjects (e.g., the link between childhood spankings and adult sadomasochistic fantasies; parents' erotic feelings for their children; sexual play between boys). For most children, Hite claims, growing up in single-parent families is beneficial, particularly for boys raised by their mothers. A manifesto masquerading as a scientific report, her in-depth, unusually frank survey gives voice to some of the most closely guarded secrets and feelings of women, men, girls and boys struggling to define themselves sexually. 50,000 first printing; first serial to Ms. (March-April cover story); author tour. (May)