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Sigmund Freud made some interesting claims along the way surrounding the human psyche specifically related to gender. I find it hard to trust an incest fanatic and although I don’t agree that young boys secretly desire their mothers and young girls secretly desire their fathers, a broken clock is still right twice a day.

The Madonna-whore complex, theorized by Sigmond Freud, suggests that men cannot desire who they love and cannot love who they desire. Basically, men cannot love a woman who they would want to have sex with, and they cannot imagine having sex with any woman they consider worth loving. If you’ve ever looked at a woman and thought, “wow, she’s so beautiful but I wouldn’t want to have sex with her because that’s degrading” that is the Madonna-whore complex. Women want to be respected and also desired but many men struggle to reconcile with this concept that they view as paradoxical. Madonnas and whores are two separate identities that do not overlap. The Madonna is based on Mary, the mother of Jesus who represents the ultimate example of purity because she is literally a virgin and a mother. The whore on the other hand is merely a sex object who represents none of these godly-like features. Although the whore is socially despised, she is privately desired.

There are countless examples of this theory being proven. This week, on the popular app Tik Tok, a user posted a short clip with the caption: “You know you really like a girl when it feels weird to think of them in a sexual way.” The user eventually removed the video when numerous responses shamed him for his Madonna-whore complex. The thing is, thinking of someone you love in a sexual way is not taboo or unnatural. Perhaps it is due to the overconsumption of porn or the proliferation of explicit content in music videos, advertisements and social media, but sex does not have to require women to be treated as objects.

When women become categorized into sex objects or the kind of women that are suitable to bring home to mom, it damages not only self-worth but sex lives for both the man and woman. Women may struggle to feel comfortable performing in the bedroom because they don’t want to be perceived as whores and men may feel uncomfortable engaging in sex with a woman they love for fear of degrading her. I’ve always speculated that this is one factor that leads to cheating, because men may feel that their filthiest desires can be better executed with women they don’t value as Madonnas.

There are a lot of factors that contribute to why the Madonna-whore complex exists. One of the main issues in our society is that we have trouble believing that women actually want to have sex the same way men do. We especially have trouble believing this when it comes to a so-called Madonna figure, and God forbid from a mother. Grasping this concept of women wanting sex is not rocket science and it certainly doesn’t mean that they are any less valued. The desirability and sexual nature of a woman and her pure and maternal aspects are not mutually exclusive. She can be both. It can exist. It is time to stop boxing women and recognizing that we need to move past the Madonna-whore complex.

Mary Shanahan

Wilfrid Laurier '21

Mary is a fourth-year English student at Wilfrid Laurier University.
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