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  • Ernesto L. Brea

A brief insight into “Madonna whore complex”


According to the Madonna Whore Complex, men either view a woman as a sexually restrained and well behaved ‘Madonna’, or as a sexually free ‘whore’ who must be punished by the man.

The Freudian view

Sigmund Freud first coined this psychoanalytical term and according to him the origins of this dichotomy lie in the childhood relationship with one’s mother. Freud suggests that men feel a fear of oedipal castration when they start to feel the same affection for their wives or partner that they felt for their mother. In order to deal with this subconscious fear, two distinct categories must be created – the women of virtue to admire and protect, and the women to desire, to punish and demean for being sexual.

While Freud’s theory is largely concerning childhood influences, and the mother-son relationship, the psychology behind the Madonna Whore Complex could also be about power, and man’s subconscious fear of losing power. Women’s sexual liberation implies a transfer of power from man to woman, as the man is no longer in control. The woman is no longer a submissive being at the mercy of man’s sexuality, but rather expresses her sexuality independent of the man. Female sexuality also implies loss of power over reproduction as women possess the womb. Procreation and protecting one’s young is a very deeply embedded primal instinct, and control over reproduction is key to this instinct.


Seeing a women as a whole self

Some men are affected by this psychological distinction of women into good and bad to a degree where they are unable to view a woman as a whole human being with sexual desires. The man is unable to feel unrestrained sexual desire for a woman he loves and admires, as she cannot be respected and desired at the same time. But although the man is unable to view his wife or partner in a sexual way, sexual desire still exists, and so he starts to look elsewhere, and can only feel attracted to ‘bad women’ who he despises for being sexual. As both the partners are human beings with sexual needs, this usually leads to infidelity and broken relationships.


How to relate better

Sexuality is an integral part of human experience, but it can also be a confusing part of the human experience. A surprisingly high number of people are maladjusted to the notion of sexual desire, not least due to powerful social and cultural influences. Talking to a counsellor in a non judgemental and frank setting can help explore their concept of sexuality, and how the individual perceives their own.

The aim of talking to a counsellor in the context of the Madonna Whore Complex would be to help deal with overcoming a false dichotomy between good and bad women and learning to view all women as beings with their own sexual desires. Prejudice and conditioning is usually very deep rooted. So much so, that sometimes we are not even aware of our own prejudices. Therapy and talking to a counsellor can help conquer deep rooted prejudice and conditioning. It can help overcome a fragmented and flawed perception of women, and develop a more ‘whole’ view of women as human beings.

Images on Creative Commons license courtesy of Gonmi, The Wandering Faun, CJ Scuffins – iPhoneography

#selfimage #sexualhealth #therapy #selfesteem #relationships #anxiety #stress #sexuality

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