Madonna-Whore Complex

“Your nails are pretty,” he said as he examined her hands, “are they fake?” In the world of pick-up artists, or PUAs, back-handed compliments like this are known as negs. PUAs purposefully use psychological tactics like negs to entice a girl into being attracted to them.

“Of course not!” She was flustered and caught off-guard. “This guy has no tact,” she thought to herself. But he had a formula. And the formula worked, sort of. They ended up making out at the end of the night, but the chemistry was fleeting. Perhaps she just had buyer’s remorse and his game needed work, but her attraction to him quickly waned when they moved beyond the script into the world of genuine human connection.

Many books like The Mystery Method and The Game have emerged lately, offering some very effective, sometimes offensive, and generally entertaining advice on how to pick up women. It is admirable that guys would go to such elaborate lengths just to get their foot in the door (as women we really do take that for granted), but unfortunately, their solutions don’t address other key areas of a relationship, such as finding areas of mutual interest, transitioning from stranger to interested date or becoming a long-term partner. Maybe tackling these other areas is not the point, but later on, when a guy does want a real relationship with a girl, it can be difficult to transition out of the “game” into creating a genuine and intimate relationship. Since the joy of romantic connection doesn’t lie in prefabricated interaction, their whole mindset has to change from approaching the girl or woman as a “target” of possible conquest to being with a “person” of potential value and interest.

Tucker Max, best-selling author of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell and Assholes Finish First, posted a dating application online that received many responses. His multiple-choice form asked potential dates questions such as, “What will my friends say when they see you?” Below are some of the options responders could choose for that question:

“Another tall, hot blonde with no self-esteem — he’s getting laid tonight.”

“Tonight’s forecast calls for scattered clothes, with a significant chance of intense, passionate humping.”

“My Lord — she smells like the fish market.”

“Well, she’s too ugly for him to date … $10 says he sleeps with her anyway.”

“I wouldn’t call her fat, but he’s gonna need the Jaws of Life to get out of this.”

“She’s just a cheap hooker. I wonder how much smack she cost him.”

“Should have been a blow job.”

On one level, it’s a joke. But it makes you wonder why Max’s writing turned into a No. 1 New York Times bestselling book while many people are embarrassed to buy condoms or don’t know how to have an honest conversation about sex.

We see sex everywhere, so why is it so hard to talk about? Is being crude — thus lowbrow and easily dismissible — the only way to make it acceptable? A lot of men in America have developed a Madonna-Whore Complex in part because of this strange divergence. Described as love without sex and sex without love, these men want a wholesome woman as their mate and a whorish woman as their lover. A classic example in cinema is film director Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, where actress Kim Novak plays two women that Jimmy Stewart’s character cannot reconcile:  a cool sophisticated blonde, who is a sexually repressed “madonna”, and a dark-haired, sensual “fallen woman”. A modern example is Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, where Natalie Portman’s innocent and fragile character ends up having a darker more devious side that is portrayed by Mila Kunis.

When men with a Madonna-Whore or Virgin-Whore Complex come across a woman in the real world that is nice and sexual, it doesn’t compute and they often push her away because they don’t want sex unless it’s impersonal. They don’t get aroused by their “pure” partner, and often do not want to expose that partner to their “impure” sexual fantasies as they feel she would be degraded by them. Sometimes they feel they would be rejected because of these desires – but this happens on a subconscious level – so they don’t communicate anything but instead rely on other outlets such as cheating, porn, or good old-fashioned sexual repression. This creates hugely challenging intimacy problems for everyone involved.

In their blog, Celeste & Danielle offer some advice; they run into “…Many men who say that they feel that they have internalized the virgin/whore dichotomy, that they can imagine having wild, fantasy-filled, and naughty sex with just about anyone other than the woman with whom they are in love. We want you to know that that dichotomy is inside of you, and it comes from shame. All those things that you can imagine doing with a mistress, a porn star or a prostitute (and not your wife or or girlfriend) is a separation between what you feel are your acceptable sexual desires and your unacceptable sexual desires. However, in order to maintain a long-term, sexually hot and passionate relationship with a woman who you love and care about, you will need to keep all of the things you find most sexually exciting about sex involved in that relationship. She will need to be your virgin and your whore, your goddess and your slut. Don’t try to blame it on her and say that she is not going to be up for anything, especially if you’ve never even tried to broach the subject.”

It’s not only guys that have Madonna-Whore Complexes though. Women do too. Everyday examples could be something as simple as women making snide remarks about another woman’s wardrobe as a reflection of her character, the “nice” girl wearing an extremely revealing Halloween costume, or using alcohol or drugs to reduce anxiety or insecurities about engaging in sexual behavior. Sometimes a woman that rejects her partner’s fantasies has some sexual shame of her own as well. Celeste & Danielle also offer some advice for women who have internalized this duality: “How you feel about yourself as a sexual person has a huge impact on your libido and, unfortunately, in our culture and many others, women’s sexuality is repressed and stigmatized. From the time we are girls all the way through the phases of womanhood, we are given messages that sex is not for women – sexual women are still called “sluts” or “whores” and we are told from early on to fear and feel responsible for preventing pregnancy and STDs. We are also given the responsibility of gatekeeping boy’s and men’s desire in order to protect our virginity or our reputation as women are generally separated into two categories – marriagable mothers or whores who you sleep with.

In the midst of these kinds of negative messages, however, to get in a relationship and keep our relationships happy, we also are supposed to look and act sexy and want sex even though so much of what we hear is that we are not supposed to want it or do it. Have you ever noticed that most highly sexual women in movies and television shows are usually villains, who often end up being punished or killed, while the less sexual women get rescued, loved and married? In the face of a constant bombardment of these messages, some of it inevitably sinks in, leaving women shameful of their sexuality, distanced from their own sexual desires, and denied the freedom to pursue these desires openly and honestly. We distance from our desire to protect ourselves from being labeled “slut”, and end up not being able to reconnect with it when we want it. We often lose our natural abilities to walk in the world comfortably connected with our sexuality, which inhibits not only our libido but many other things including our ability to flirt, attract partners, seduce, enjoy pleasure, touch and move our bodies in sensual ways, make sexual sounds and reach orgasms. Unfortunately, because of all of this, women often don’t even think about the need for sexual compatibility when choosing a long-term partner. So take a moment to think about your own comfort with your sexuality and ask yourself a few questions:

1) Do you get embarrassed talking about sex?
2) When you get dressed up, do you pay attention to whether you look “too slutty”?
3) Do you feel comfortable initiating sex and asking for what you want sexually?
4) Do you move and make noises during sex to enhance your own pleasure (not for your partner)?
5) Do you notice people who you are attracted to and make eye contact or flirt with them?
6) If you have children, did you notice yourself feeling “weird” about being sexual once you had your children?
7) Do you feel comfortable talking sexually during a sexual experience?
8) Do you feel comfortable being naked in front of your partner and having them look at every part of your body? (We will talk more about this in the next blog on body-image).
9) Do you have fantasies about how you want to be seduced and taken?
10) Do you notice when you are feeling turned on or horny?
11) Do you masturbate when you feel aroused?
12) Do you feel comfortable helping yourself get orgasms however you need to (i.e. touching yourself or using a vibrator when you are with your partner)?

If you answered “Yes” to questions 1, 2, 6, and “No” to any of the others, your low libido is likely coming, at least partially, from sexual shame as a result of all of the negative messages about sexuality you received and it is time for some de-shaming!”

For more on overcoming sexual shame, check out sexologist and relationship expert Veronica Monet’s articles.

– Nikita

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  1. Pingback: Performance Anxiety? I’m A Young Guy & Can’t Get Hard Or Stay Hard During Sex | Better Sex Ed

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