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  • Writer's pictureScarlett Demy

Madonna-Whore Complex

The Madonna-Whore complex was a psychological theory developed by Sigmund Freud that claimed that men see women in two mutually exclusive groups: the virginal, pure Madonna and the dirty, sexual Whore. These categories are rigid and they are absolute. He theorized that men won’t (or can’t) have real relationships with women they see as Whores—and also that they won’t sexually desire those they see as Madonnas.


We see this playing out in the modern world in realms of dating and marriage. The Madonnas who are “good girls” are seen to be more dating material and can be brought home to mom. While the “bad girls” or promiscuous women are more favored for one night stands and cannot be seen in the honorable Madonna role thereafter.


The complex is played out in marriages where men who spend a certain amount of time with their wives begin to find it inappropriate to play out certain sexual fantasies with her as they deem them too disrespectful, and might instead seek out an affair with the Whore archetype they feel more comfortable expressing themselves with.


In the Tarot we have the High Priestess, the virgin passively waiting, serving spirit guarded in between two pillars, followed by the Empress, earthly and voluptuous in an open pose with her flowing royal gowns.


The psychological split is a reflection of the inability to accept the dual nature of the feminine. That each and every woman is both Madonna and Whore. Good and bad. Destructive and creative. Just as the Mother/Madonna of nature.


“By day she seems to smile on our endeavors, protecting and nourishing our flowers. But at night while we sleep, she busily plants innumerable weeds, which she fosters and tends with equal solicitude.” -Sallie Nichols


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