Oh That Awful Madonna-Whore Complex

Sir Barken Hyena writes:

I come from good old WASP/Athiest stock so I don’t think I ever even encountered this odd phrase until I was in my twenties. I thought it baffling. An early exposure was Tess. Dude she’s beautiful and she’s all yours now what’s the PROBLEM!? Again, baffling.

But recently it’s become clear to me that MW complex was there in me, and the whole wider society all along, just wearing different clothes. Now, most men will readily distinguish the two types. These are viewed as two populations of women, however vaguely bordered, and son you better damn well be sure just which one she is before you tie that knot. Hint: you want an madonna. The other kind? They’re good for sex but nothing more. Better for sex, in fact.

Is this view a cultural creation or something rooted in human nature? To find out I deeply researched (googled for an hour) the subject of sex relations among primitive humans, living in something close to the ancestral environment. It seems that the picture there is quite different. While they do possess the institution of marriage, relations are more equal, divorce can be initiated by either party and each retains more freedom than in civilized settings. Women were not property. The typical marriage seems to last about 10 years, long enough for the child, in that environment, to achieve a high degree of independence and more or less take care of themselves. Often the couple will split amicably after this point and find new partners. Trysts are common but usually kept secret.

I don’t want to get all Noble Savage here because it’s not all a rosy picture, of course. There were passion murders, love triangles and all the other staples of Opera, out there in the bush. But once civilization arrives there’s a big change. I can oversimplify it this way: previously men and women were free, but poor. With civilization, freedom is given up for material gain. The men, before free to range the bush and hunt as they liked, were now bound by law and property to support more powerful men. In exchange, civilization made women their own property. The men exchanged freedom for control over their wives and became their own mini-despot of the household. Patriarchy was born.

While in the bush the children were raised to a larger extent by the whole group, once in civilization this becomes the job of the family relations. Now paternity raises it’s head. Women seem to have a hard time grasping how it effects the male psyche that we can’t know for sure if our kids are truly our own. A man doesn’t want to squander his resources raising someone else’s kids that he thinks are his. All of this complicates the question of choosing a mate and escalates all issues revolving around trust, for both sexes. Civilization leads men to solve this problem by controlling female sexuality.

At this point female desire can become a threat to male interests, but not the other way around. If a man strays and impregnates another man’s wife, the child is provided for by the woman’s husband, as long as the secret is kept. It’s a boon to the man (from a “selfish gene” perspective) and no loss to the woman. But for the other guy, it’s a total loss, he’s wasting his resources.

So the new patriarch has got to keep his woman sexually exclusive to himself, and the number one threat to this is her natural desire for sex. So this must be stigmatized, as it never was in the bush. The Slut is born, and as her compliment, the Madonna too.

These are conceived as two distinct groups of females, and each potential mate has to be assessed as one or the other; as good for sex, or good for a wife. While men actively making a social pariah of “the slut”, it doesn’t mean they don’t like them. They like them very much indeed, but not in the home. Meanwhile, “the madonna” is not really liked all that much, she’s kind of a drag to be honest, but respected and valued. And feared a little because the contrast to doglike male sexuality is a little too plain.

This basic pattern is to be seen in all civilizations and, it seems to me, no primitive societies. The two types are evident in literature from across the world, and through history.

In the present day, Feminism has been used to promote the ideal of the two types. This may seem counter-intuitive but it works through putting women on a pedestal, which is equally done by Feminism. Women are either much much better than men, or fallen in prior societies. Under Feminism, they are either much much better than men or totally under their influence, “fallen” in other words. Same thing, either way young men grow to believe women are better than them, and are the path through which their gross nature can be elevated to a higher more spiritual plain.

But what really implants the pedestal view is the mother. I believe that of all human relations, none evinces the unconditional love of a mother for her son. Yes, mothers love their daughters but they judge them more harshly. Yes, fathers love their daughters and sons too but we know that nature has no force like an enraged mother.

Men, such as myself, who come into the world with this kind of motherly love are simply predisposed to believe females are of a more elevated character by this first and most profound contact. And those that don’t, that have a bad mother, also develop this Madonna ideal as what they lack and desire from a woman but aren’t getting.

When we grow up and go out into the world as men to find our soul mate, we naturally seek one like our mothers…or rather, what we imagined our mothers to be. Because hard as it is to see that, she was not that, never was that, and never will be. She was simply showing that side of her because of her love.

Because the problem with the whole Madonna-Whore complex is that these are not separate groups of women, they are the same woman in different contexts, around different men, and at different times. There are no sluts nor madonnas, but simply human women with multidimensional characters that change with every moment, with a range of behavior.

Which is what men are like as well! This is a hard pill to swallow, but it’s most liberating once absorbed. It means, no, women are not more elevated, not better, not kinder but these things can come from them when she really loves you. Then you can have the slut and the madonna at once.

But can you keep her?

About Sir Barken Hyena

IT professional and veteran of start ups. Life long musician and songwriter. Voracious reader of dead white guys. Lover of food and women.
This entry was posted in Personal reflections, Sex, Women men and fashion. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Oh That Awful Madonna-Whore Complex

  1. Okay, I accept this as one way to interpret “affairs.” Now, is there another equivalent bifurcation of men? The warrior/aesthete? Father/son? King/serf? What implications? Which do women look for, the protective Papa or the thrilling Bad Boy?

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    • Candide III says:

      Obviously both, not always in one person, depending on the circumstances. The crude expression for this phenomenon is “alpha fux, beta bux”.

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  2. Candide III says:

    One bit missing from your account is what women are getting in civilized societies in exchange for the subjection of their sexual desires, and that is civilized-level resources and living standards. When men do little to nothing, the result seems to be in the direction of “female farming” societies in Africa. J.D.Unwin (1934) argues that it is incorrect to talk about marriage in most primitive societies, because there is no expectation of permanence, fidelity or pre-nuptial chastity. Of course there isn’t much of either left under our modern dispensation. 80 years make quite a difference.

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