- Deprive (a man) of his male role or identity
Is there a female equivalent? I came up with efemulate but this sounds strange.
Seems he got it from Dr. Mary Stopes, described here in Margaret Jackson's The Real Facts of Life: Feminism and the Politics of Sexuality, c1850-1940:
Like Ham and Bacon, I would have chosen "defeminise" as the closest analogue of "emasculate" in the sense of "Deprive (a man) of his male role or identity". It also has the advantage of not being completely obscure.
The verb emasculate has at least three related but distinct meanings, given by the OED as:
To find a “feminine equivalent” requires a different treatment for each of these.
The obvious answers
Before looking at each of the three senses separately, let me note that the OED does attest both defeminize and unfeminize.
The first, defeminize, is given as:
And the second of the two, unfeminize, has no distinct definition given, only citations:
The less-obvious answers
1. To unsex
The principle sense, sense number 1, requires removing the reproductive organs. Wikipedia takes a slightly different take on this, whereby emasculation is distinguished from castration:
A castrated male can still have sex, but he cannot conceive children. To the extent that there is some difference to be had here, an emasculated male can not only no longer conceive a child, he can no longer have sex at all (well, apart from receptive anal sex, which may or may not not count for these purposes).
So in a very real sense, there can be no possible female equivalent of emasculation, only of castration. After all, even a woman who has undergone an oöphorectomy, meaning the excision of her ovaries, or a hysterectomy, meaning the excision of her uterus, nonetheless remains capable of having sex, just not of conceiving a child.
On the other hand, a woman who has undergone a clitoridectomy (the excision of the clitoris) is still able to conceive a child, but is unlikely to enjoy the act in the same way as a woman who has not been similarly mutilated.
If to neuter a man is to castrate or geld him, then to neuter a woman is to spay her. However, we usually reserve that word for non-human animals.
2. To weaken
The second sense of emasculate is essentially to weaken someone, to enfeeble them. This is not restricted to men, and so no “feminine” version is needed. Weakening a woman and weakening a man are the same thing.
If the thought that to make someone less of a man is to make him more of a woman, then a corresponding feminine equivalent may be possible. We use the word unman for doing this to a man; it turns out that a corresponding unwoman exists.
Please Note: This one — meaning to unwoman — may well be the best choice out of the several offered in this answer to suit what appears to be the OP’s desired sense.
The word has been around for a quite a long time in this sense. The OED gives this definition and citations:
Unlike the case with unman, the secondary sense of unwoman meaning to unsex her is quite rare. The OED provides only one citation of this sense:
So it seems that to unwoman is used virtually always in the figurative sense. Given that, it seems the best choice for a corresponding figurative sense of to emasculate.
Another possibility would be to masculate or masculinize her, both of which are preferable to any other suggestion given in other answers to this question. The former term, masculate, the OED describes as “very rare”:
In contrast, masculinize is a much more common term, and is often used for making a female more like a man. In this way, it serves as an feminine opposite for emasculate; it just may not be politically correct. Here are relevant citations from the OED:
Thinking of the virility aspect, there are plenty of antonyms to invigorate, such as for example to enervate or to vitiate. However, none of these is especially feminine in connotation.
3. To bowdlerize
The third sense of emasculate, meaning to remove the saucier or meatier bits of a literary composition by bowdlerizing it, is perhaps the most difficult to find a female equivalent for.
The intransitive verb harlot is sometimes used for someone who is acting like one, but as it is intransitive, it does not work well with an object. There is a transitive version of whore, so you might get a way with whoring it up.
Strike that. You probably would not get away with that one. The PC police would be all over your case. Best not use it.
Moving right along, you might simply want to sex, spice, sauce up the work. You could also debauch it. Or, if you think of the literal meaning of emasculate, then by transference its opposite might be to put some meat into the composition.
On the other hand, it might be safest to leave the sexual arena altogether and simply uncensor the work.
Lady MacBeth asked to be "unsexed" in the following passage:
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