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Psychology & Sexuality Frigidity: an intellectual history, by

Kristina Gupta's 2015 review for Psychology & Sexuality of my book with Peter Cryle, Frigidity, an Intellectual History (2011).
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  Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at Download by:  [Western Sydney University Library] Date:  15 September 2017, At: 03:02 Psychology & Sexuality ISSN: 1941-9899 (Print) 1941-9902 (Online) Journal homepage: Frigidity: an intellectual history, by PeterCryle and Alison Moore, Basingstoke, PalgraveMacmillan, 2011, 328 pp., £58.00 (hardback), ISBN978-0-230-3045-4 Kristina Gupta To cite this article:  Kristina Gupta (2015) Frigidity: an intellectual history, by Peter Cryle and Alison Moore, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, 328 pp., £58.00 (hardback), ISBN978-0-230-3045-4, Psychology & Sexuality, 6:2, 209-212, DOI: 10.1080/19419899.2013.858644 To link to this article: Published online: 28 Nov 2013.Submit your article to this journal Article views: 50View related articles View Crossmark data  BOOK REVIEWS Frigidity: an intellectual history , by Peter Cryle and Alison Moore, Basingstoke,Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, 328 pp., £58.00 (hardback), ISBN 978-0-230-3045-4In  Frigidity: An Intellectual History  (2011), Cryle and Moore undertake a genealogicalhistory of frigidity in European thought, focusing on France, with the intention of demonstrating the historical contingency of the term. Their purpose in doing so is, asthey put it,  ‘ to see frigidity to its grave, to produce a historical monument that will doubleas a tomb ’  (p. 9). In the introduction, they distinguish their approach from other historicalapproaches on two fronts: first, they argue that their history differs from some social-constructionist approaches because they consider a longer historical time span and they donot attribute excessive agency in the construction of frigidity to individual actors. Second,they argue that their approach is different because they recognise the somewhat paradox-ical nature of their endeavour   –   if they were to simply trace different uses of the word  frigidity  in different historical contexts, they would miss the  ‘ intersecting genealogies of similar concepts appearing under different names ’  (p. 18). However, if they were to trace asingle concept (for example,  sexual coldness ) throughout different historical contexts,they would overconfidently  ‘ affirm the identity of [their] object despite differing con-ceptual parameters arising within specific sets of intellectual and institutional practices ’ (p. 18). Their solution is, in some sense, to do both; they trace the history of the term  frigidity  (and related terms) and their changing referents while also identifying  ‘ non-receptivity of a person to a particular desire or sexual expectation of another  ’  as  ‘ theminimal recurring element in all formulations of female sexual coldness, frigidity, ana- phrodisia or vaginismus ’  (p. 20).Chapter 1 traverses the mid-thirteenth century to the late eighteenth century, examin-ing discussions of   frigiditas  and  impotentia  in Catholic canon law. In much of canon law,  frigiditas  (lacking the heat required for erection or ejaculation) was a cause of   impotentia (an inability to engage in coitus) and was generally understood to occur in men only or was only considered significant when it afflicted men because only then it was thought toimpede coitus. An exception was Paolo Zacchia (1584  –  1659), who argued that becausewomen normally produce seed during coitus, they too could be frigid if due to coldnessthey failed to produce seed. In Chapter 2, Cryle and Moore examine medical under-standings of frigidity in France in the nineteenth century. As some doctors, notably FélixRoubaud, began to define so-called normal copulation as including female sexual desireand pleasure, these same doctors began to argue that women, like men, could suffer fromimpotence, frigidity, or anaphrodisia if they did not experience desire or pleasure (theseterms were sometimes used interchangeably and were sometimes used to indicate slightlydifferent conditions). In addition, these doctors began to argue that impotence/frigidity/ anaphrodisia could be the result of physical causes or moral causes (the term  moral   wouldlater be supplanted by the terms mental and psychical).In Chapter 3, the authors examine the mid-to-late nineteenth-century transatlanticdevelopment of vaginismus as a diagnostic category, used to describe spasms of thevaginal muscles that prevented both intercourse and gynaecological examination.  Psychology & Sexuality , 2015Vol. 6, No. 2, 209  –  215    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   W  e  s   t  e  r  n   S  y   d  n  e  y   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y   L   i   b  r  a  r  y   ]  a   t   0   3  :   0   2   1   5   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   7  According to them, the definition of vaginismus was reflective of new ways of thinking,as its cause was understood to be partially moral, but its effects were clearly physical.In Chapter 4, Cryle and Moore examine the proliferation of discourses about femalefrigidity in what they call middlebrow, French medical texts and literary works at the finde siécle. According to them, these two genres both reflected and established a number of commonplaces about frigidity, including the idea that the husband was often responsiblefor the wife ’ s frigidity, frigid women could be awoken from their frigidity by a virile malelover and some women might resist men by choosing frigidity. In Chapter 5, the authorsexamine descriptions of the wedding night in these same texts. By the turn of the century, both medical doctors and authors of fiction saw the wedding night as the moment whenthe husband needed to carefully initiate his wife into sexuality; if the husband acted either too brutally or too delicately, the wife could develop frigidity.In Chapter 6, Cryle and Moore discuss the treatments for frigidity offered by nine-teenth-century physicians. Many of these physicians combined physical treatments (suchas the use of electricity) with moral treatments (such as encouraging patients to read eroticliterature), but, according to the authors, they did not really have the theoretical or  practical tools to offer much in the way of moral treatment. In Chapter 7, the authorsdiscuss the rise of psychoanalytic approaches to frigidity in the late nineteenth and earlytwentieth centuries. Early psychiatrists, like Richard von Krafft-Ebing, simply addedhypnosis to the list of treatments already proposed by earlier physicians. In 1904, OttoAdler published the first medical text devoted exclusively to frigidity in women; likeKrafft-Ebing, while Adler understood frigidity as primarily a psychological problem, herecommended a range of physical and psychological treatments for the condition. It wasWilhelm Stekel, who published  Frigidity in Women  in 1920, who brought frigidity fullyunder the umbrella of psychoanalysis, identifying the cause of frigidity as an unconsciousrefusal to experience sexual desire or pleasure and recommending psychoanalysis as theonly proper treatment for frigidity. In Chapter 8, the authors examine the work of MarieBonaparte, a psychoanalytic writer who herself identified as a frigid woman. According tothem, in the 1930s, Bonaparte contributed to the psychoanalytic re-conceptualisation of frigidity as a woman ’ s failure to transfer the locus of her pleasure from her so-called phallic clitoris to her so-called passive and feminine vagina. Interestingly, whileBonaparte recommended psychoanalysis as a treatment for frigidity, she also advocatedclitoral surgery  –   recognising the importance of the clitoris for achieving orgasm, shesought to make it easier for women to achieve orgasm through vaginal intercourse alone by recommending a surgery designed to relocate the clitoris closer to the vagina.In the conclusion, Cryle and Moore argue that after Marie Bonaparte, there have beenno significant theoretical innovations in the definition of frigidity. There continued to be both psychoanalytic and medical texts published about frigidity through the 1970s. Sincethat time, the term has faded from use (although not entirely), but the authors point out that various forms of female sexual dissatisfaction continue to be pathologised.Overall, the book,  Frigidity: An Intellectual History , is an interesting and thought- provoking work, which should be of interest to historians of sexuality and to thoseinterested in the current classification and treatment of female sexual dissatisfaction. Inaddition, the book should be of interest to scholars studying contemporary asexualidentities. As Cryle and Moore point out, the history of frigidity has been neglected byhistorians of medicine and sexuality, and they make a significant contribution in demon-strating the ways in which not just sexual excesses or perversions have been pathologisedin the history of western biomedicine and psychoanalysis, but also sexual deficiencies andabsences (which, as they argue, can themselves be constructed as a type of perversity). As210  Book Reviews    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   W  e  s   t  e  r  n   S  y   d  n  e  y   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y   L   i   b  r  a  r  y   ]  a   t   0   3  :   0   2   1   5   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   7  a work of history,  Frigidity  is impressive, covering a significant historical time span anddrawing on sources from a number of different countries and different fields, includingreligious law, medicine and literature.I have three primary criticisms of the work. The first is that the authors perhaps work overly hard in the introduction to differentiate their approach from standard social-constructionist accounts. In examining how frigidity has been defined and understood incannon law, medical texts and literary works and in tying changing definitions of frigidityto changes taking place within specific fields and within the broader social, economic and political context,  Frigidity  reads as a classic work of social-constructionist history. I think the authors would have been better served by embracing this as a strength of the work.Second, I would argue that Cryle and Moore overestimate the extent to which frigidityhas really faded in importance as a concept or diagnosis. They are careful to state that frigidity may survive in some forms, but I think even this may be understating the case.What their history demonstrates so wonderfully is that the labelling of women alone asfrigid if they did not experience orgasm through penetrative vaginal intercourse with aman was a practice that only lasted a few decades. Throughout most of its history, theterm  frigidity  and related terms were applied either only to men or to both men andwomen, and the term was used to describe conditions as varied as a lack of sexual desire,arousal, orgasm or pleasure, the experience of pain during sex and/or the inability toengage in intercourse or conceive children. In this sense, while the idea that a woman isfrigid if she cannot experience orgasm through vaginal intercourse has largely disap- peared, earlier understandings of various sexual difficulties as medical and/or psycholo-gical disorders for both men and women seem to be with us as much as ever. I suspect that the answer to the question of whether frigidity remains a prominent discourse depends onwhether one focuses on the word-  frigidity -or the thing- ‘ non-receptivity of a person to a particular desire or sexual expectation of another  ’ . While the term  frigidity  seems to havefaded from usage, I would argue that the phenomenon of   ‘ non-receptivity of a person to a particular desire or sexual expectation of another  ’  remains as much a target of medical andmental health practitioners as it was in the nineteenth century.My third criticism is that I do not think the authors have adequately justified their focus on women. If they had set out to determine how frigidity first came to be appliedonly to women unable to experience vaginal orgasm and then lost this meaning, a focuson women would make sense. It would also make sense if they were primarily attemptingto intervene in feminist conversations about frigidity and female sexual pleasure.However, they state that they are writing an intellectual history of frigidity in order todemonstrate the different meanings the term has held in different historical contexts.Given that their own work shows that, for the majority of its history, the diagnosis wasapplied to men only or to men and women equally, I am not sure whether their focus onwomen is warranted. They themselves write,  ‘ So even at this  ‘ late ’  stage [the late nine-teenth century], in spite of all that our modern controversy might lead us to suppose,frigidity was not thought of as a typically female disorder. The feminization of anaphro-disia took place only when psychologists and psychiatrists mapped the field according totheir own theories ’  (p. 190). I would argue that emphasising the ways in which men toohave been captured by the diagnosis of frigidity (and related terms) would further bringhome the historical contingency of the term.Despite these criticisms, I believe  Frigidity: An Intellectual History  has the potentialto spark interesting conversations about female sexual pleasure and displeasure. For example, I am particularly interested in how  Frigidity: An Intellectual History  cancontribute to feminist conversations about frigidity and female sexual pleasure and  Psychology & Sexuality  211    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   W  e  s   t  e  r  n   S  y   d  n  e  y   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y   L   i   b  r  a  r  y   ]  a   t   0   3  :   0   2   1   5   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   7  displeasure. Cryle and Moore point out that most contemporary western feminists havedismissed frigidity as laughable and as reflecting a masculinist misunderstanding of female sexuality. As their work demonstrates, however, the definition of frigidity objectedto by feminists, is actually only a small part of the history of frigidity, the part that labelledas frigid women unable to achieve vaginal orgasm. In fact, some theorists of frigidity indifferent historical contexts made the same points about frigidity that feminists were tomake later   –   for example, that frigidity in women was the result of cruel or incompetent male partners or of female socialisation. I was fascinated to read that Otto Adler suggestedin 1904 that frigidity in women might be the result of adopting the  ‘ standard position for copulation ’  and recommended the adoption of different positions that might allow for more direct stimulation of the clitoris (p. 211), thus, in some ways, foreshadowing thework of Anne Koedt in  ‘ The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm ’ . In general, as Cryle andMoore demonstrate, theorists of frigidity often saw female sexual pleasure as a right or asnatural, saw female sexual dissatisfaction as a problem, and recommended a variety of treatments, including sexual education and training in sexual techniques, to address the problem. In this sense then, many contemporary feminists, particularly sex-positivefeminists and feminist sex therapists, are well aligned with some theorists of frigidity.Cryle and Moore ’ s work thus enables us to ask the fascinating question, what does it meanfor feminist theorising on sexual pleasures and displeasures that feminist critics of frigidity have actually made many of the same arguments put forth by proponents of frigidity in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries?Kristina Gupta Georgetown University, Washington, DC, © 2013, Kristina Gupta Safe, sane and consensual. Contemporary perspectives on sadomasochism , edited byDarren Langdridge and Meg Barker, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan,2013, 2nd edition, 336 pp., £19.99 (paperback), ISBN 9781137338372This book, edited by Langdridge and Barker, approaches contemporary sadomasochism(SM) from different perspectives: psychological, medical, sociological and more. In thissecond edition, the introduction was revised and extended in order to take into account thenew research and the debates surrounding SM which have arisen within the last few years.The section on contemporary debates comprises: feminism and consent, SM andabuse, SM as therapy and citizenship and belonging. These debates are subsequentlydeveloped in subsequent chapters of the book.As regard the structure of the book, the co-editors stated that the chapters of the first edition were used again in the second since they remain current. It is a pity, nevertheless,that the last edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders(APA, 2013a) was not used to update the relevant contents of the book. In fact, in thelatest fifth edition of the DSM, SM is considered as a consensual sexual practice and not amental disorder (APA, 2013b). It should be noted that in addition to race, class, ethnicity,trans- and disability issues not being dealt with at all, polyamory  –   that appears to be212  Book Reviews    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   W  e  s   t  e  r  n   S  y   d  n  e  y   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y   L   i   b  r  a  r  y   ]  a   t   0   3  :   0   2   1   5   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   7
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