Frigid Woman

“You’re as cold as ice… you’re willing to sacrifice our love.”- Foreigner

For the OED assignment I choose to research the word ‘Frigid’ in “The Female Man.” The word appears in section 6 chapter 2 which is a short section describing two polar opposite versions of the same woman.

I choose this word because it stood out to me the first time I read the passage and I thought it was an interesting choice of words. At first I merely thought that it showed that the woman described in the first paragraph was just cold to all feelings and sense of being alive. That she was numb to life. That she was frigid like a dead body preserved with dry ice. However, after looking up the word in the OED I blushed to realize the deeper connotations of the word.

“Frigid” not only means a state of extreme coldness but also has the sexual meaning of being “Wanting in sexual vigor; impotent. Now usually applied to women who are sexually unresponsive.” Ah-ha! Now that makes sense with regards to the whole sexually charged nature of the passage as well as the whole book!

This definition of being not only emotionally cold but sexually cold enriches the passage by further adding to the contrast of the first and second versions of this woman. In her first version she is a docile man-pleasing-machine. She doesn’t dream and she’s sexually cold. While in her second version she is a crazy dreamer who lives a messy insane life full of passion and fantastic sex. In one version she’s as cold as frigid ice. In her next version she’s a red hot burning fire!

It is also interesting to note that the passage in which this word appears is in the section that is predominantly about Jeannine. Jeannine gets no sexual pleasure from Cal and avoids having sex with the poor bloke like the plague. It’s also funny to note that she prefers her cat “Mr. Frosty” to having sex with him.

I smile at Joanna Russ’ cleaver use of the word ‘frigid’ and plan on using it in my regular vocabulary and writing. When it’s appropriate; of course. It strikes me as a very subtle way to be perverse without offending.  How convenient for the female man.


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