In psychoanalytic literature, a Madonna–whore complex is the inability to maintain sexual arousal within a committed, loving relationship. First identified by Sigmund Freud, this psychological complex is said to develop in men who see women as either saintly Madonnas or debased prostitutes. Men with this complex desire a sexual partner who has been degraded (the whore) while they cannot desire the respected partner (the Madonna). Freud wrote: "Where such men love they have no desire and where they desire they cannot love." Clinical psychologist Uwe Hartmann, writing in 2009, stated that the complex "is still highly prevalent in today's patients".
In sexual politics the view of women as either Madonnas or whores limits women's sexual expression, offering two mutually exclusive ways to construct a sexual identity. The duality implies that women must assume subservient roles, either as madonnas to be protected or as whores to be punished by men.
The term is also used popularly, often with subtly different meanings.
Famous quotes containing the word complex:
“The money complex is the demonic, and the demonic is Gods ape; the money complex is therefore the heir to and substitute for the religious complex, an attempt to find God in things.”
—Norman O. Brown (b. 1913)