The Deidré Wallace System

43: Freud 6. THE MADONNA AND WHORE COMPLEX.

1 Posted by - November 22, 2016 - My Step-By-Step Relationship System, Uncategorized

Does Your Relationship Contain Aspects Of The Madonna and Whore Complex?

Firstly, this is a complicated topic and one that should ONLY be diagnosed by a trained relationship and/or psycho-sexual therapist.

The Madonna and Whore Complex which Sigmund Freud first identified, is said to develop in men who see women either as saintly Madonnas or debased prostitutes.

Sigmund Freud developed this theory to explain certain men’s anxiety towards women’s sexuality, suggesting that certain men can cast women into one of two categories:

  • The Madonna (a women whom he admires and respects) and/or
  • The Whore (a women he may disrespect).

The extent of this split can of course vary from man to man.

It is Virgin Mary versus Mary Magdalene – the repentant prostitute or the promiscuous woman. It is the notion of the innocent virgin versus the sinning prostitute.

Yet in trying to understand the Madonna-Whore theory, often it is only the male perspective which is ever discussed.

We forget that women are brought up in the same society as the men that are observed or written about. Women may as a result, have a similar belief system to men about how they (women) should behave or be treated.

What has often been observed is that men with this complex are often attracted to women who have intimacy issues relating to relationships and sex, which is often as a result of childhood trauma, sexual abuse or they may have unresolved father issues and so on.

As a further result, these women may have consciously or unconsciously felt like the tainted whore – who has been abused and even discarded by certain societies.

Furthermore, evidence of the Madonna and Whore Complex can also be observed in all sorts of relationships, in different societies, cultures and religions.

The Madonna-Whore theory is complex and not just a belief or behaviour system reinforced possibly by certain religions, be it Judeo-Christian or Muslim and so on.

It is often rooted somewhere deep in childhood experiences.

Let me explain:

A man may categorise a women into two groups: women he can admire versus women he finds sexually attractive.

This can be based on the relationship he has had with his mother – how distant she was and so on. If she was emotionally unavailable, this could lead to frustration and even anger. If these feelings remain unresolved, they could then be projected onto all women or relationships in adulthood.

You may remember that in Blog 18, I mentioned how couples often split their descriptions and feelings of one another as good or bad depending on their relationship they had with their mothers/care givers and so on. I also referred to the work of Melanie Klein who was one of the founding figures of psychoanalysis.

Melanie Klein’s observations help us understand how we split maternal love into good or bad mothering. Children, even adults, usually learn very quickly that no one is perfect and depending on how ‘the good or the bad’ is resolved, this will determine expectations and behaviour within relationships later on in life.

If however we remain split, this can be projected onto how women are seen and treated:

If instead of experiencing a mother as adoring, loving and nurturing, she is experienced as an abandoning mother, she may become hated and despised. Some men may even seek revenge and in adulthood, the boy-turned-man, could seek to avenge these ‘mistreatments’ through sadistic attacks on women – who can become stand-ins for his mother.

Such a man could court a woman with maternal qualities, hoping to fulfil a need of mothering and intimacy, only to be disappointed because we can never use people to repair our past.

Also, and as many of you will have experienced, it is often in relationships that past feelings emerge. If there are unresolved childhood emotions then the relationship could be in for a rough ride – especially when there is a hopeful, sometimes unconscious fantasy that a partner may help you heal your past.

When for example, unresolved or repressed feelings surface and in the case of the Madonna and Whore Complex, where there might be an attraction to a Madonna-like parental figure, someone who is caring and so on, any attempt of having exciting ‘whorish’ sex, may occur for a while, as the only option, until the couple begin to realise that you don’t actually have sex with your parents.

This could lead to emotional confusion, feelings of failure, sadness and angst that possibly relate back to feelings that go way back – when they felt rejected by their mummy, and so on.

The couple may then find themselves in mourning as they let go of any possibility of having sex in the future.

Therapy could be an option. It would help the couple understand their relationship and it would enable them to ‘take back the projections’ or feelings that belong – not with the current partner but way back in childhood.

To continue:

We also learn through socialisation that women are supposed to be sexually passive whereas men are supposed to be sexually active.

The stereotype that men are generally sexually eager and women are coy, if not sexually repressed, is still expressed to this day.

Men can have a profound subconscious ambivalence towards women and their sexuality. Men can lust after women, yet on the other hand, they can also grapple with an intense fear of women. The fear of abandonment and a fear of the withdrawal of a woman’s love being part of a fear of intimacy and being attracted to her, can create huge swings of confusing emotions – which can become destructive if not understood.

At the mild end of the spectrum these contradictions can create an incongruity – potentially leading to sexism, misogyny, and even violence or rape.

Because healthy sexuality is often sublimated, it is rerouted towards the secrecy and debasement involved in pornography where the concept of slut is outwardly despised and privately craved.

This dichotomy may contribute to many relationship issues, where men generally seek to maintain the image of their romantic partner as a Madonna, but may seek the whore in order to achieve both opposing idealisations that are difficult to project onto the same woman. These men therefore usually prefer prostitutes over having an affair with someone ‘nice’.

(Please note: The Madonna and Whore Complex presents slightly different issues than what I wrote about in Blog 39 with regards ‘Why People Have Affairs’. Blog 39 was about intimacy issues, although both Blog 39 and this Blog stem largely from early abandonment issues – as do many of the issues I write about.)

In order to summarise this vast topic, it can be said that, if a child experiences abandonment of any kind, they can develop deep trust and bonding issues that may last a lifetime. Abandonment can leave a child very angry and very confused – and they would certainly struggle with long-term relationships.

This blog is just another reminder of the consequences that any form of abandonment can have on a child.

© 2016 Information Copyright Deidré Wallace

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