Madonna–whore complex  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The term Madonna-whore complex refers to a psychological complex in Freudian psychoanalysis that is said to develop in the human male. The term is also used popularly, often with subtly different meanings.

According to Freudian psychology, this complex often develops when the sufferer is raised by a cold and distant mother. Such a man will often court women with qualities of his mother, hoping to fulfill a need for intimacy unmet in childhood. Often, the wife begins to be seen as mother to the husband — a Madonna figure — and thus not a possible object of sexual attraction. For this reason, in the mind of the sufferer love and sex cannot be mixed, and the man is reluctant to have sexual relations with his wife, for that, he thinks unconsciously, would be as incest. He will reserve sexuality for "bad" or "dirty" women, and will not develop "normal" feelings of love in these sexual relationships.

Popularly, the term is used to describe an unsatisfiable desire by a man to have his wife or other female partner exhibit both of these mutually exclusive traits. This introduces a dilemma where men may feel unable to love any women that can satisfy them sexually and are unable to be sexually satisfied by any women that they can love. Alternatively, the term is to describe or attempt to justify the behavior of men who pursue multiple women as a way of fulfilling each of these needs.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Madonna–whore complex" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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