Unravelling the Madonna Whore Complex

madonna whore complex

The Madonna Whore complex shows up so frequently in my sex coaching practice that I thought a blog addressing it would be in order.

What is a Madonna Whore complex?

Coined by no other than Sigmund Freud, the Madonna Whore complex is the belief,  that women are categorized by men as either good girl Madonnas, pure, innocent, virginal, or bad girl Whores, sexually expressed, indiscriminate and aggressive.   Men tend to want to marry and have kids with the Madonna but are sexually attracted to the Whore.

Freud believes that this dichotomy shows up most frequently in men whose mothers were detached, cold, absent or emotionally abusive. Some become women lovers who cherish and worship women, putting them up on a pedestal, hoping to receive the acknowledgment and love that they didn’t get from their mother.  Typically these men get involved with narcissistic, demanding, and dysfunctional women who crave attention but are undeserving and ungrateful.

The flip side are men who hold a lot of disdain for women.  They are not able to empathize with women and see them as sexual objects that need to be conquered.  They objectify and sexualize women and seem to be in a constant power struggle with them.  They tend to get involved in dysfunctional, manipulative and dishonest  relationships with women who are equally dysfunctional.

Madonna Whore Impact on Women

While much has been written about the Madonna Whore complex and its impact on men, it also can have an enormous impact on women.  Whether we realize it or not, it is often the reason that many single women think about whether they should have sex with a man that they really like on the first date.  The fear is that despite what he says in the moment, she will be considered the “whore” and will lose him to the “good girl”.

Slut shaming is another common place where the Madonna Whore complex comes into play.  Somehow it’s OK for men to sleep with a lot of women but when women do that, and act more like men, they are judged and denigrated for it.

This sometimes shows up for women in both the choice of their long term partner and how they act sexually after marriage.  There is “before marriage sex” and “after marriage sex”.  The former being lustful, playful, experimental, and highly erotic and the latter being boring vanilla sex.

I often see women who in their single days were fully sexually expressed and dated “bad boys” end up marrying the good boys.  They are fearful that if their true sexual nature comes out their parter will leave them. They often repress their sexuality and succumb to boring sex which no one is content with. Frequently it’s these “good guys” who are seeking sexual stimulation outside of the marriage.

 Breaking the Madonna Whore Cycle

Both men and women need to acknowledge that we are all sexual creatures.  Men need to accept and embrace the vixen in their partners, to encourage women to push their edges, and to explore and express their sexuality.  Just because a woman is a mother and wife does not mean that she has lost her wild side or doesn’t want to explore it.

Women need to be honest with themselves and their partners about their own sexual desires.  If sex on the first date feels right, go for it and no looking back.  Besides we don’t want a partner who judges us for expressing our sexuality.

Drop the belief that your partner doesn’t want to have crazy, wild sex with you or that he won’t respect you if you reveal this part of yourself.  Rather than destroy your relationship or marriage, breaking the Madonna Whore complex will likely save it!

 

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