The Madonna / Whore Complex: a Female Dichotomy


Remember Sigmund Freud? How could you not. As much of a weirdo as he is, he is endearingly referred to as the father of psychoanalysis because he gave us so many foundational elements of psychology that are still used and recognized today.


We can attribute this psychological dichotomy unearthed in male patients to our pal, Freud.


The Madonna / Whore dichotomy can be defined as men who perceive women’s nurturance and sexuality as mutually exclusive. Men with this complex saw women as either saints or prostitutes, loving the first and desiring the second, though never intertwining both.


Let’s apply this to today’s logic.


Have you ever heard a dude say something along the lines of, “If I have kids, I better only have sons. I could never deal with a daughter.”


The answer is probably yes, because men, whether they know it or not, tend to sexualize everything, including their hypothetical offspring. But I digress…


This is because of the Madonna / Whore Complex.



That’s why some dudes are obsessed with having a son. Because if they had a daughter they’d be forced to view women in a light other than “maternal caretaker” or “sexual object” and they cannot fathom doing that.


It’s the same reason my brothers don’t want to hear about the dates my mom goes on with other men. Or the girls my brother hooks up with never being “wifey” material. Because women cannot be multifaceted, 3 dimensional human beings in the eyes of the male population.


You’re either one or the other.


As Freud said,


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

The theory was originally said to stem from a man’s relationship with his mother, though has become fluid over time. Aka can be applicable to any familial female relations, i.e. sisters, cousins.


That’s why people say men only start to truly respect women when they finally have a daughter of their own. This is because she no longer fits into that rigid dichotomy. She’s not a maternal figure or a caretaker... you as the adult have to take care of HER. She’s not a sexual object for your conquest... She's your infant daughter, someone you’ll never be sexually attracted to.


Today, the dichotomy means that women either have to be pure and “virginal” or sexual and forthcoming. Never both.


Nothing is black and white, and the same goes for women’s sexuality. They are not to be confined to a box with rigid labels and rules, either as saintly or as a whore. Let us be fluid.


If your partner is having trouble removing you from one box, an honest conversation needs to be had either alone or with a therapist. But don’t ever make yourself smaller than you are to fit into that box for them!