Madonna-whore Complex

Madonna-whore Complex – The Saint or the Slut?

~ Kushagra Bhardwaj

The Madonna-whore Complex is one of the most prevalent but least recognized complexes. It explains the misogynistic mindset of society towards women and their problematic characterization.

The complex was identified by Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, decades ago. But it still holds water, even today.

What is the Madonna-whore Complex?

The Madonna-whore complex conveniently explains how men divide women into two groups, namely the Madonnas and the whores. The Madonnas are highly respected, acclaimed, asexual, loved but not desired. However the whores are considered as impure, tainted, sexual yet desired.

Ironically, desire and love are kept on very different pages following the complex. Sigmund Freud beautifully quoted,

“Where such men love they have no desire and where they desire they cannot love.”

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The theory was written for men specifically but has become gender fluid over time.

Causes of the Madonna-whore Complex

  • Freud believed that the complex was caused because of the bifurcation in the affectionate and sexual streams in the mind. The inability to believe that affection and sexual desires can exist in the same person leads to such a complex.
  • Yet another theory, suggests that if the sufferer is raised by a cold, overprotective mother, he longs for maternal affection. In this lieu, he desires his partner to fulfil his longing for affection and seeks maternal intimacy, denying the sexuality of his partner.

    Thus, he appreciates all the Madonnas in the society despising all others as whores, although desiring them sexually.
  • The basic flawed ideology behind this complex is that being “divine sex is for procreation and not recreation”.
  • Sexual desires of females have always been fictional for the misogynistic society and it is a major contributing factor to the complex.
woman darkness

Effects on Relationships

The Madonna-whore Complex can have a drastically negative impact on relationships and marriages.

In cultures where sex before marriage is considered a sin, the female partner has to transform from a pure, dignified entity to someone with sexual desires in the period of a wedding night. 

Sufferers of the complex don’t wish to degrade their partners by having sexual intercourse with them. As a result, this leads to anger and frustration at both the ends of the relationship.

Specifically in developing countries or the Muslim-majority nations, the complex is so deeply rooted in the people’s mindsets that it has become a culture and isn’t even recognized as undesirable by society.

The most affected community by this complex is that of men, who have different standards for choosing their girlfriends and opposite for their wives.

This complex immensely strains relationships because the loved ones are not desired and the desired ones cannot be loved.

It is a double-edged sword, the female partner continues to repress her sexuality but despite her efforts, she remains undesired. On the contrary, a man who loves and respects his partner but doesn’t desire her.

This creates a void in relationships which either leads to depression, separation, or maybe more drastic results.

Slut-Shaming

Slut-shaming is the practice of stigmatizing a woman for her behavior and being sexually active

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The Madonna-whore Complex is a major contributor to the mindset of the people who are involved in such activities. The men who suffer from the aforementioned complex, have already set up some boundaries.

Consequently, the ones who cross those ‘limits’ are sluts, according to their sick mentality. The Female gender, all over the world has always been dictated to limit their sexuality to themselves.

The general notion of society is that no women can ever be kind, generous, affectionate, pure, and sexually empowered at the same time.

There hardly has been any woman (or girl), who has not been trapped by the judgemental eyes of the society. This complex has been one of the reasons for such a culture.

Motherhood and the Madonna-whore Complex

Giving birth to a new life is among the purest things that humans can do. Women are blessed and fortunate to have that ability. However, this boon also acts as a bane for them because of the Madonna-whore Complex.

The moment a baby is born, it gets difficult for the partners to see them as beings with sexual desires. Although the feeling is natural, but it can get frustrating for the mother to not have their desires fulfilled.

Respecting each other’s desires and personalities is the first step to a successful relationship. Even after becoming mothers, women do have their sexual desires which need to be fulfilled.

Especially in cases of normal deliveries, the baby comes out of the birth canal. As a result, in the minds of men, the vulva transforms from an organ of sexual desire to one that is sacred and capable of bringing life into the earth.

However, this has to be normalized to fulfill desires. It is a common phenomenon that after the birth of a child, the mother seems less desirable to her partner, drastically impacting her self esteem.

Nevertheless, a woman can always ‘initiate’ even though she is a Madonna – pure, affectionate, and virginal.

What is depression

A Double-Edged Sword

The complex has impacted not only men but also has forced women to believe their fate and act as either – the Saint or the Slut. Women all around the world have repressed their sexuality to cope up with this complex.

With years of forced teaching and flawed discipline, females have started believing in the fact that their sexuality is fictional. They believe they can either be all white or all black. Women have started believing that recreational sex is attainable only by men and not them.

Thus, we live in such a flawed society where half of the female population has to kill their true self owing to some flawed notions of their male counterpart.

Conclusion

Sex has turned into a taboo, irrespective of the cultures. As a result, complexes such as the Madonna-whore Complex, Jocasta Complex and so on are all by-products of it.

To eradicate these flawed notions we’ll have to stop stigmatizing sex and see it as a natural phenomenon.

Ironically, India was probably the first country to publish books about the sexuality of humans. Ironically, even today, we continue to see it as a sin, not talking about it publicly and judging the ones who do.

The world is not an all-black or all-white place and thus, trying to make it one is unnecessary. We need to have equal standards for all. Female sexuality is not a fiction but a biological requirement that needs to be fulfilled.

We do various biological activities every day but the only sin among them turns out to be sex. Love and desire cannot be kept on different pages of life. They have to co-exist, to provide us successful relationships and satisfying life.

Women are not the ones whose sexuality needs to be tamed. Rather, everyone should have the right to express our feelings and desires and be the best and truest versions of ourselves.

Anupam Kundu
A professional blogger and an IT freak. The atypical combo of a Civil Service aspirant and a Tech enthusiast.