Sigmund Freud noticed that men who grew up with strenuous relationships with their mother developed a complex toward women. Hence he formed the theory of the Madonna Whore Complex. Freud argued that the madonna whore complex is a split between the affectionate and sexual currents in the male desire.
While Sigmund Freud theories surrounding the Oedipus complex, penis and castration fears have been debunked by modern day psychology, modern day psychologists have found that modern implications of Madonna Whore dichotomy remains.
The Madonna Whore Complex
The Madonna Whore split may be caused when the victim is raised by a cold but overprotective mother. This lack of emotional nurturing results in a man courting someone with maternal qualities, hoping to fulfil a need for intimacy unmet in childhood.
His need to capture his mother’s attention and affection as a child is later projected onto the woman he chooses to pursue. He ends up looking a woman with similar psychological make up with his mother. Since it’s ‘immoral wrong’ to think of his mother in a sexual manner, he forms an inability to feel sexual arousal in a committed and loving relationship. This returns repressed feelings surrounding the earlier relationship with his mother, hence preventing sexual satisfaction with his current partner.
My personal belief is that men who struggle in their dating and relationships life have some degree of skewed beliefs and towards women. The women lovers have a problem feeling sexually attracted to women they love. The women haters have a problem feeling romantically attracted to women they sexually desire.
In either cases, they are researched to feel less satisfied in romantic relationships. The lover is out of touch with his objectification of women and the hater is out of touch with his need for affection.
This can play out in your dating life (as it did in mine), you feel a lot of emotional affection for your partner, however for some reason, you aren’t able to perform in bed. On the other hand, you’re able to feel sexually attracted for a one night stand (a girl that you never thought of dating in the long run).
The Madonna – The Woman Lovers
Men struggling with the complex hence categorized women as either saintly Madonnas or debased prostitutes. Hence, the term “Madonna-Whore”.
Let’s take a look at one end of the spectrum: the women lovers. The men that see women as Madonna put women on a pedestal.
The complex plays itself out in the paradox in which any woman a man sexual desires must be a slut or a whore, and any woman who loves him and adores him is considered pure and consequently, he fears intimacy and feels inferior around her.
The women lovers worship feminine love, romanticize self-sacrifice and suffering for the sake of it. They are usually people pleasing and supplicant. They are the ones that find themselves doing things for women over and over again although there’s no form of reciprocation. They put sex on a pedestal and find themselves in love with their best female friends. These are the men that find themselves doing favours for a girl who has not shown them any signs of affection.
These men, on the end of women lovers, are out of touch with their objectification of women: their desire for sex.
This may affect men who have little or no experience in sexual relationships. They may find it difficult to accept that women are sexual beings, have sexual needs, enjoy and desire sex as much as men do.
These beliefs may hinder your social interactions with women, you may being afraid to be physically intimate with her, believing then women do not like to be touched. You may feel that she may be more sexually experienced than you, thus feeling inferior to her.
Thw Whore – Woman Haters
Psychologist Richard Tuch suggested that woman-haters become who they are because as a young boy, because he suffered frustration and narcissistic injury at the hands of his mother, in adulthood, the boy turned men seeks to avenge these mistreats through sadistic attacks on women who are ‘stand-ins’ for his own mother, hence forming a hatred for women.
These men are the ones that see women as ‘whores’. They see women as something to be researched and conquered. They see affection and love as something that’s worked for and struggled for. They perceive women to be fundamentally different from themselves. These are the men that go on angry rants about how women not knowing their social roles, that they ‘belong to the kitchen’, being dirty slutty for desiring sex and etc.
It’s also important to note that women haters don’t exactly hate women. Rather, they experience a love hate relationship with women. They may also perceive women as fundamentally different from them. They may also maintain dysfunctional and manipulative relationships as the women they end up attracting profiles that match them in bitterness and distrust.
These beliefs are commonly expressed in the pick up artist community. Woman haters tend to gravitate towards being players. They are often out of touch with their desire for love and affection.
The Madonna-Whore Complex Expressed in Modern Culture
Through my years of talking to men as friends and a dating coach. It’s not uncommon to hear men saying that they want to marry a ‘good girl’:
She preferably has to be virgin, hasn’t dated a lot and is ‘pure’ and ‘innocent’. He, on the other hand, desires to date and have sexual experiences with as many other girls as possible, that he would never think of starting a romantic or committed relationship with them.
This is the conflicted desire of wanting to marry a ‘pure and innocent girl’ but then they couldn’t have sex with her, because if that’s true, that’ll mean she’s a dirty, down-ridden ‘whore’. However, when he wanted to have a sexual relationship with a woman, he’ll never date her, as sex signalled ‘her lack of morals’.
Love is only reserved for the ‘good’ girl, the girl you can bring home to Mum, the one who’s of ‘marriage material’. Sex, on the other hand, is reserved for the ‘bad’ girls.
This is commonly expressed as: “I want to have sex with many girls, but I ONLY want to marry the good one, that hasn’t had sex a lot.” This also suggests ‘good girls’ don’t desire sex as much as ‘bad girls’. Or ‘good girls’ are defined as good because they haven’t had multiple sexual experiences.
Not only this is a double standard, but this categorisation of female sexuality leads you to properly appreciate your partner as an integrated person with different needs.
Your Beliefs: How Do You View Women?
The Madonna-whore dichotomy can often be unconscious and subtle. It can be difficult to pin point if you’re a woman hater or lover, even if you’re struggling with women flipping to and fro between these two different beliefs, flipping back and forth depending on the situation, and depending on the girl.
Regardless, both belief systems are unhealthy fixations. The woman lover obsesses for love, the woman hater obsesses for sex. Both belief systems lead to manipulative and dysfunctional relationships. Both fail to see the opposite sex as equals. One sees them as superior, and the other as inferior.
For the woman lover/ hater, when confronted with a girl they sexually desire, they would view her as a trash-ridden whore, something use for their own pleasure and amusement. On the other hand, when confronted with women with good morals and or status, they put her on a pedestal, seeing her as something pure, perfect and of a higher order.
I’m not saying that this psychological theory is carved out in stone, however, the Madonna-Whore complex concept can be used as a model to better your beliefs around female sexuality.
Curious if you harbour some of these beliefs?
You can ask yourself some questions:
- What are your beliefs with women like?
- Are you living out those double standards?
- How do you feel and react if your partner earns more than you?
- How do you feel about women desiring sex as much as men do?
- Do your interactions with women involve the objectification of women?
- Do your interactions with women lean towards feminine worship?
- Has the relationship with your mother affected how you perceive dating and relationships with the opposite sex?
- Did you grow up with a cold/ distant/ abusive mother?
- How is your relationships like with female counterparts growing up?
These are difficult questions that can lead to difficult answers. However, be honest. These questions helped me become more introspective about my emotional maps and belief systems. It has also helped me become more objective my relationship with women.
So, assuming you’re a pussy pedalling individual or secretly belief that all women only belong to the kitchen, how can you get better? The cure to the Madonna-whore dichotomy isn’t simple. The only way to resolve your anger or worship toward is to confronting your deep-seated beliefs. It involves being introspective about your beliefs towards women.
Firstly, it is to perceive our female counterparts as equals. This means not worshipping or objectifying female sexuality. Secondly, it is to do the therapeutic work required to resolve any misgivings or anger. This may stem from your childhood, this may not. Ultimately, women are not to be worshipped nor objectified. They are similar to that as men: with needs, desires, virtues and vices.
Hartmann, Uwe (2009). “Sigmund Freud and His Impact on Our Understanding of Male Sexual Dysfunction“. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 6 (8): 2332–2339
Tuch, Richard (2010). “Murder on the Mind: Tyrannical Power and Other Points along the Perverse Spectrum“. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis 91 (1): 141-162.