Skip to content

Madonnas & Whores: Unrealistic Depictions

Cavallino_the_virgin_annunciationHetaera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the Madonna-Whore Syndrome and is this still relevant to our love lives in the 21st century?

A man came to see me the other day. He complained that he was in love with two women. One woman he had a child with and the other he was having an affair with.

The first woman was the mother of his child. The second woman he loved to have sex with. He told me in so many words that he needed both women in his life. This particular ‘triangular’ is an illustration of the contemporary Madonna-Whore Syndrome. The syndrome tends to show up after the birth of a first child.

The mother of this individuals’s child is the ‘Madonna’ and the woman he likes to have sex with is the ‘Whore.’ The “Madonna’ is an idealized person. Her role is the mother and keeper of the ‘good values.’ In many instances she ‘takes care’ of her man as the universal mother of the children and the husband. This idealized role moves her away from being a ‘sexual object.’ She is beyond that. Sex is too dirty and low brow for the ‘Madonna.’ She embodies the values of non-sexual love and maternalism.

The ‘Whore’ is the sexy woman. She is the one who can handle the lust that is directed to her. She is not respected as a person but as a ‘sexual object’ she’s the best. Her role is to participate in the man’s sexual pleasures. She is not the woman you bring home to your mother. She is not the woman you want raising your children. But if you are ‘horny’ she’s the one you’ll seek.

The problem here is the man with a ‘Madonna-Whore Syndrome’ has separated two important female ‘functions:’ sex and mothering. Both functions are part of every woman’s psychology. When they are separated and projected into separate women you end up with the ‘Madonna-Whore Syndrome.’ Boys who learn that sex is ‘dirty’ or that sex is ‘wrong’ and feel guilty when they desire or partake in sex are most inclined to experience the ‘Madonna-Whore Syndrome’ later in adulthood.

Both the ‘Madonna’ and the ‘Whore’ are unrealistic depictions of real women. A real woman has both the capacity to mother and to need and enjoy sex. In fact the ‘cure’ for this syndrome is to help an affected man relate to a single woman as both a sexual partner and mother. To have a relationship where one ‘function’ (mother or sexual partner) doesn’t cancel the other out. This correction always deepens a man’s relationship to his female counterpart simply because he can now enjoy more with one single person.

By the way, the female version of this syndrome I’ll call the ‘Good Daddy-Playboy Syndrome.’ I’ll get to that in a followup post.

Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan

Posted in

Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

Leave a Comment