The Madonna/Whore complex is a term developed by Sigmund Freud through his clinical work with patients. Specifically he noticed the difficulty some men had to the point of having sexual relations with their wife, because they had differentiated women into various identities. One being the virtuous Madonna figure as the protector of social virtue who deplored sexuality, and the figure of the whore lacking morality and driven by sexual desire. These men were aroused by prostitutes and mistresses but not their wife.
Freud noted the madonna/whore complex as phenomena with his clinical patients to the extent some men lacked the ability to be sexually aroused or have sexual relations with their wife.
In general the Madonna/Whore complex is thought to be a problem for men; yet women also compartmentalize women into different categories. The Madonna figure as the protector of social virtue; this pure innocent figure stands in sharp contrast to the figure of the whore. As a result women are forced to identify with one or the other. Unfortunately to some degree most individuals carry around this conceptual dichotomy and men in particular have some idea in their head that the type of woman they have a relationship with is not the kind of woman who is highly sexual. This factor is displayed explicitly when you see politicians who promote social morality having affairs with women they believe possesses something their wife lacks. Perhaps, this is because they made their wife purely a mother (Madonna figure) and neglected the depth of her feminine sexuality.
It’s essential to alleviate this grouping, labeling, and accept the extreme sexual potential in all women, in all types of relationships. It’s essential to get over the Madonna/Whore complex.
Most women, in fact, have likely spent some time cultivating one role or the other which they now associate with their identity. Women fear doing something that would compromise this identity. This is a real fear, and many women have seen other women ostracized from social groups, or socially stigmatized for crossing social accepted sexual norms. This burden weighs heavily on the sexual relationship of both partners.
Most women have developed the notion that crossing these boundaries and initiating sexual promiscuity to be a serious threat and could harm the very essence of their identity.
In general the Madonna/Whore complex for men affects the way they interact with women. Most individuals have some conception in their head of the type of woman they want in a relationship. It’s healthy to know what you want in a relationship, but although women are highly sexual, this will only be cultivated in a relationship if both partners are fully accepting of it. Otherwise the false dichotomy creates internal conflict.
It’s essential to get over the Madonna/Whore complex and recognize the complex social, cultural, biological, and personal factors that shape sexuality. Understand that these factors are fluid and change or over time. Notice if you have a problem with it, and get it handled.
Many women, for example, are aware that other women have been ostracized or socially stigmatized for being sexual. Many women then develop the notion that crossing boundaries, social norms, or initiating sex could be detrimental their social status or personal identity. Paradoxically, many women are also taught they can manipulate or control men with their sexuality. But this is still linking sexuality to identity in way that’s essentially counterproductive.
This is interrelated, because the idea only some women are highly sexual makes a women’s sexuality a type of commodity.
Many men carry some degree of this complex around with them. Even the most open-minded individuals, if you pay attention inside, might notice a residue of this in your life. It’s essential, however, to get over this dichotomy if you really want to take things to the next level.
You should understand that all women have both sides to them. Women are both highly sexual and also want to be respected as smart, sophisticated, professional human beings in their daily life. These same women, however, want a part of their personal life open to exercise an active adventurous sex-life. Far more open and adventurous then many are willing to reveal, because again, to do so could threaten their sense of self.
For women it’s important to maintain respect in their professional daily life. However the vast majority of women also want the other side of things. They want to experience pleasure and exciting sex and will try all the same things most men want. The problem is that most men think the kind of woman you settle down with in a relationship does not have a highly sexual side of them. The kind of women you have fun passionate sex with is the same you can have a long loving relationship with.
Collapsing the Madonna/Whore complex can be fairly unsettling for some men who are uncomfortable because it challenges their whole socially contrived perception of women. But it’s essential to do this and go beyond the socially conditioned perception of women. Men need to do this so they can help guide women through this dichotomy. Many women have actually been, to various extents, traumatized. This might seem like a strong word, but consider that even through school most women witnessed a situation, where a female did something sexual, or there was a rumor started, and as a result this person was ostracized from their peer group or became a social pariah.
They were often ridiculed by everyone around them. Even if this happens sporadically it leaves an indelible mark in the subconscious mind of all women that sexual promiscuity can threaten the core of their identity and social status. In extreme cases you can find situations where girls have taken their lives over these issues. They were teased and tormented simply for being sexual. Often this stress and tension carries on in the subconscious adult life of women who feel fear about their sexuality and specifically expressing their sexuality because the consequences of being socially ostracized, losing friends, and most importantly losing the respect of the people they love. This can create a very intense internal tension in women.
Women are conditioned to believe if they want a relationship with a quality guy, or want to have a strong committed relationship they need to act in a certain way which often generally entails repressing the deeply sexual aspects of their desire. A lot of women choose the good girl approach if they want to be respected, they play a role, and downplay their sexual side.
It’s important for men to take the lead so women can begin to free this part of their sexuality without taking responsibility; though women can and should cultivate a more healthy comfortable internal relationship with their desire and sexuality. The most essential factor is their understanding that sexual desire will not compromise the love and respect of their partner. Generally, this needs to be conveyed over time.
An extreme example of the Madonna/Whore complex in the minds of women plays out with things like rape fantasies in literature. Obviously no woman wants to be raped. The rape fantasy, though, has remained popular in literature, especially in romance novels over the years. You see these novels become more popular in sexually repressive eras such as the Victorian era. The rape fantasy allows women to retain that level of social virtue where they are simultaneously the object of desire and the protector of social virtue. By virtue of being non-consensual the rape fantasy removes culpability and responsibility from the woman.
She’s not an active participant in the situation and therefore does not bear the responsibility. Again, no woman wants to be raped, but what men can learn from this is the importance of leading the interaction and demonstrating confidence. Generally, women feel the burden of social pressure and do not want to take responsibility for the act or initiating, because she’s worried about losing the respect of the man in her life. Because of social conditioning in our culture it tends to fall on the shoulders of men to lead so that women do not have to take responsibility.