3.3
August 4, 2016

Breaking Down the Madonna Whore Complex.

Martha and Mary Magdalene *oil and tempera on canvas *97.8 x 132.7 cm *circa 1598

Sex is personal, messy, complex, and unreasonably and overwhelmingly emotionally charged.

When a Madonna Whore Complex seizes a relationship, specifically, when our partner is the one acting out the complex, we take it personally and think it’s about us. The problem with thinking it’s about us when it’s not, is it’s not.

When we stand in troubled sex waters, our ego is our own enemy, and erroneously puts us at the focal point when we are but the periphery. We try everything to save and revive our relationships, yet nothing works, because the complex doesn’t revolve around our qualities or our feelings.

It’s not about how we look, how much we weigh, what we wear, or what our values are. It’s about how we are perceived by our partners—something that’s determined by their needs and psyche. Their needs and psyche—not ours. We won’t accept it at first. But resistance, denial, and rejection are usually the first signs of self-protection and self-betrayal. Demons only grow in the dark, so let’s shine some light on it.

The Madonna Whore Complex is more commonplace than polite society like to believe it is, and manifests itself in various ways. Ultimately, everyone who is touched by it hurts, because it rides on bipolar waves of superiority and inferiority—which can further develop into their own complex derivatives if they’re not arrested or addressed in time. The nature of this dichotomy lends itself to the idealization (Madonna) and degradation (Whore) of romance, both manifesting in deviated realities and are illusory. Within this realm, psyche is King because it controls, orchestrates, and dictates how we think and what we need.

The treatment of the Madonna Whore Complex here is going to sound rather binary and mutually exclusive—dispassionate relationships with a respectable partner versus intense sexual encounters that are devoid of meaning. There is grey. Of course there is grey.

But at the core of this complex is the incapacity to integrate emotional love and physical lust, and therefore allow for such overlaps. We each have our own sets of needs—physical, emotional, primitive, psychological, spiritual, and intellectual. Altogether, these needs determine our positions within this dichotomy, which on a two-way street, manifests into four roles that operate in four separate domains.

  1. The Madonna—You fulfill the myriad of emotional needs of your partner. You are picture perfect, Facebook official, and likely long term steady. You are respected, and taken to all the family gatherings and public functions. You are a good woman/man. Your sheets are clean and probably don’t smell like sex. You are sexual but not satisfied. Your partner claims sex isn’t important. You ask your coupled friends how often they sex. You feel guilty and disappointed at the same time. You’ve tried everything but nothing works. Your Brazilian waxes are a waste of time and pain. Yet you are loved. You get the flowers, not the dirty talk.
    ~
  2. The Whore—You’re the booty-call that fulfills primitive needs and answers to sex drives. You are not the “+1” quota that a more respectable partner has filled. You are the secret. You have a collection of nudes in both your inbox and your sent box. You are the fun after dark. You are the image fantasized when your partner masturbates. You are wanted and needed for physical release. The sex isn’t intimate, but detached and shallow. You are the vamp. You may want more, but you know that’s beyond your reach. You are flesh. You are for f*cking, not cuddling.
    ~
  3. Needing the Madonna—You are capable of feelings, and are open to sharing these feelings with the partner you respect and admire, but do not sexualize. Your emotional partner is likely a long-term partner, rooted with the investment of time, and endorsement of family and friends. Sex with this partner is routine, bland, predictable, obligatory, quickly over, if it exists at all. You tell this partner sex is not important. You cuddle to console the hurt. You need the Madonna for image.
    ~
  4. Needing the Whore—Your lower self rules you. You change partners frequently to avoid the possibility of attachment and development. Your sex is intense but shallow, devoid of meaning. You tell them you’re emotionally unavailable. You don’t make love. You flesh f*ck and want nothing more. Your sex drive drives you. You are not in control. You could probably benefit from therapy, but you f*ck instead. You need the Whore to fill your void, which is a bottomless hole that only gets deeper.

Three years have passed since the vortex of my own hell unraveled. Three years, I’ve lived in the literature of psychology, addictive behaviour, philosophy, romance, self-help, group-help, psychoanalysis, and therapy… Three years, my ego has finally let go, and I’ve at last come around to accept that it’s not about me. Three years, I no longer mourn a relationship that didn’t end up in marriage as it was projected to, but can look at things clearly now, and can live and love honestly now.

A lingerie model then, I lost 10 pounds on zero appetite when I first discovered, that up to 12 times a day, my ex-partner had been cheating with a handful of overweight, ugly, uneducated, do-nothing women, whose names had been changed to their masculine versions, so that caller ID wouldn’t alarm me. I thought he was gay…until I saw the photos. Those who knew, consoled me and told me it’s not about me. The way I spent all of the space above saying to you that it’s not about you. You won’t at first believe me, but know that it’s true. It’s not about you. It’s about the voids that cannot be filled.

Without fundamentally changing who I am or what I look like, I’ve cycled my way through all four domains of this complex, with lovers and stories that hit various magnitudes of sanity and moral compass. I’ve learned that romantic love can be without judgement and experimental. I’ve learned that each of the four domains have their own voids. I’ve learned that unless we can locate these voids in our lives, we can never fill the holes, and our glass will be forever empty. I’ve learned that until we know, with crystal clarity, what we need, what we feed on, what fuels us, and where our abandons are, we can never be involved in a fulfilling relationship where the reward is true intimacy, integrated in all forms. I’ve learned that living with abandon is like camping in a minefield. I’ve learned that we cannot build anything solid on such dangerous grounds. I’ve learned that the ever-elusive, all-integrated love, exists.

If you’re reading elephant, you probably value authentic living and practice mindfulness. We each arrive at our own conclusions about love at our own time, in our own way, with our own mistakes. We can continue to seek different partners to fulfill our various needs, entangling more people into our mess, then escaping in time to not get burned, creating more chaos than what we can be held responsible for. But hurt people hurt people. Recklessness can only carry on for so long, and we all lose in the end.

Sometimes, it will take years, decades, up to a lifetime to address our demons. Conversely, if we can embrace the darker things in life, we can sooner come to light. We can’t love or be loved with a porous heart. The first step to ending our damaging complexes is to face our demons and voids, head on and sober. Until then, we continue to run through the motions of being an unavailable partner, refusing to grow up, with a look that doesn’t age well.

 

 

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Author: Xiren Wang

Image: Wikipedia

Editor: Travis May

 

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