Madonna-Whore Complex


In Freudian psychoanalysis, a Madonna-whore complex is a psychological complex that is said to develop in the human male.

Red chalk and silverpoint on rose-colored prep...

da Vinci’s Madonna

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 in adulthood, hoping to fulfil a need for intimacy unmet in childhood. Often, the wife of the sufferer is 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, the feelings of love and sex – the physical act – 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. This introduces a dilemma where men may feel unable to love any women who can satisfy them sexually and are unable to be sexually satisfied by any women who they can love.

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