Why are sexy women referred to as vixens?

Well. That’s about it, really.

Cuz they’re foxy.

Yup, goes back, etymologically, to “fox”: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/vixen

My googling doesn’t uncover an exact answer, but definitions for “foxy,” “fox” and “vixen” all carry meanings akin to “sly,” “cunning,” “crafty,” etc., so I’m going to hazard a guess that it has something to do with a connection between being seductive and being sly. I do think that “vixen” often does carry a connotation of wiley seductiveness rather than just attractiveness per se.

The European red fox makes a good deal of noise calling for a mate in the early months of the year. The vixen would get perceived as ‘sex mad’ as a result (although I thinks it’s the dog fox that does the calling)

Why are sexy women “foxes”, and ugly ones “dogs”, when both animals are Canids?

Well, we do speak of ‘catfights’…

For me, a woman who was a fox might well be perfectly sweet natured, whereas a vixen might be sexy, but certainly not sweet. According to the OED, vixen meaning “An ill-tempered quarrelsome woman; a shrew, a termagant” goes back to 1575, whereas fox, as U.S. slang for an attractive woman, goes back only to 1963 (although it finds foxy used in the relevant sense used back in 1913, and probably originating in Nebraska). As far as I know, fox and foxy in this sense are still not common outside the USA (certainly they were not in England when I grew up there).

All this suggests to me that fox (attractive, sexy woman) and vixen (bad, strong-willed woman) have quite different origins, but perhaps recently they have become conflated a bit, and vixen has taken on connotations of attractiveness from fox. Of course, “bad” women are also often thought to be “easy,” and some men find strong-willed or feisty women sexy, so that is probably another aspect of the sexiness of vixens. Although the OED does not explicitly say so, some of its early examples of this use of vixen do seem to carry connotations of sexiness as well as of willfulness.

Dave Barry on vixens:

That’s what I figured, but didn’t want to assume too much. Y’all are angels. Thanks.

“Vixen” doesn’t usually refer to any wholesome sort of sexy. (The best kind IMO) It usually implies intentional or exaggerated sex appeal and a willingness to exploit it. Ginger might be a Vixen, but not Mary Ann.

Pig-headed, crazy like a fox, playing chicken, it’s a turkey, weasel-words, quack medicine, lion-hearted, man or mouse, she’s a shrew, bats in the belfry…

We ascribe characteristics to many animals with little or no good reason.

Duck!

And then there’s minx, the feminine of mink, which have a reputation for a remarkable amount of enthusiasm when mating.

What?! Why?!

You never heard about the duck that made a goose under the porch?

I always picture ‘vixen’ as slender and sharp and sexy and sly and a bit wicked. I love the idea of being a vixen, but alas, I don’t think a big mama really fits the description.

I always loved the word “termagant.” When my wife is being bitchy, I call her termagenty (which of course only adds to or sparks a fight).

Yeah, sexy, seductive, sly and manipulative. Think Jessica Rabbit. (I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.")

I recall this scene from the Justice League cartoons:

Hero:* <points>* “Duck!”

Villain: “Ha! You won’t fool me that-”

<giant duck statue falls on villain>

Hero: “Told you.”