Complex and Reflected


One of the subjects that has interested me for a while is the so-called “Madonna/Whore Complex.” A number of male bloggers have covered it in the past, including me, in large part because it connects with a number of “red pill truths.” Several recent discussions that I’ve had with a few “red pill” aware individuals has made me wonder about its origins or source, and if it has a female counter-part. Some further discussions has led me to believe that there is indeed a female counter-part, and it is surprisingly similar in its origin to the male equivalent. Before I talk about the female version of the complex, I will explain some thoughts on how men develop it.


One of the striking things about the Madonna whore complex is how it strictly divides women into two camps: one sexualized and one de-sexualized. It is striking in that there isn’t really any room for a grey area- women are mentally forced into one category or the other. I think this binary division is connected to the natural male filter for determining the investment quality of a woman.

Men have an innate instinct to divide (attractive) women into two groups: (attractive) women who are worthy of long-term investment, and (attractive) women who aren’t. Now, neither group is de-sexualized in either way- rather, it is that the women in the second group, while regarded as possible sexual partners, are not considered worth investing time or resources in. To use the vernacular of the modern day Pick-Up Artist, they are only good for a “pump’n’dump.” For men, sex may be cheap, but investment/commitment is not. Hence the need for an ability and inclination to assess women as being commitment worthy or not.

What I theorize, and others may have done the same before me, is that the Madonna/Whore complex involves a corruption of this natural filter. Whereas the normal filter includes women who are possible sexual partners on both sides, the filter is distorted so that you get sexual women who aren’t worthy of commitment on one side, and non-sexual women who are worthy of commitment on the other. I believe that this complex develops as a result of environmental triggers, specifically involving a man’s interaction with women. The Madonna/Whore complex seems to develop the most frequently amongst cultures and environments where men spend a long time unmarried and around loose women. It can occur in other situations, but that seems to be the most common.

What I think happens is that men who spend a long time with loose women come to associate female sexuality with unworthiness of commitment. This is because slutty behavior is one of the hallmark indicators that a woman isn’t worthy of commitment. Over time, men will be conditioned to associate them together, and eventually they will become inseparable. Since loose women tend to be fast paced and “exciting”, this association is intensified and exacerbated because of the strong emotions that men will develop during their time with such women. Men will have a fun, exciting time, and yet the filter doesn’t go away. It will be sending constant messages to these men that the women they are with are unworthy of commitment. For men, this manifests in a feeling of disgust and repulsion hinders the development of any lasting emotional bond. Over time, this disgust and repulsion will probably take on moral qualities, and so men will see loose women as disgusting (and maybe even evil) harlots.

Commitment worthy women, on the other hand, will be mentally associated with the opposite kind of emotions and sentiments. They, not being harlots, will be good and pure and wholesome. Men will instinctively assign to them all the positive traits that loose women lack, and none of the negative traits that loose women have. The problem for such women is that men will instinctively de-sexualize them. Partly this is because “good women” don’t act the same way as loose women do, and so don’t generate the same kind of excitement and “fun” that men with the complex associate with loose, and thereby sexual, women. The other part of it is that men instinctively recoil against thinking of “good women,” Or “Madonna’s,” as sexual. This is because their minds associate female sexuality with a whole host of traits that make women unworthy of commitment. So when a man considers a good women in a sexual way, it threatens to shake his mental image of her as a good or commitment worthy woman. Since he know she isn’t like that, he is apt to react by rejecting any sexual behavior or attitudes on her part. In fact, it is likely that if she acts that way he will react forcefully, in an angry or possibly even violent manner. His own sense of security and order and mental image of the woman in question would demand as much.


This brings us to the female counter-part. I think that the basis is much the same, although the mechanic is a bit different. This is because women don’t divide men into the categories of commitment worthy and non-commitment worthy. Of course, women don’t give commitment in the way that a man does (via resources/time), but rather receive those. Instead, female commitment is expressed by having a man’s children. The primary characteristic women use to assess a man as a mate is whether a man is attractive or not, not whether she will give commitment, or even receive it from him. In fact women seem to be inclined to try and receive as much investment from as many men as possible (sensible in terms of helping her offspring survive). Certainly any man who she considers attractive is one that she would want to receive commitment from. This would seem to suggest that women wouldn’t fall into their own version of the complex.

Things get somewhat complicated, though, when we consider the phenomenon known as “Alpha F—s, Beta Bucks”, or AFBB. This seems, at first glance, to be a female behavior wherein women will sleep with one sort of man and seek commitment from another. However, this isn’t a full picture of what AFBB is. AFBB is a strategy that women adopt as a result of male behaviorisms; it is reactive in nature. It isn’t what women really want, at least, not as their first choice. What they want is commitment from the guys that they sleep with (and want to sleep with). However, the simple fact of the matter is that  without significant social pressures the most attractive male members of a social group (“Alpha’s”) will not offer exclusive commitment to a woman. Instead, because of the copious attention they receive from women, such men have the power position in any relationship and will offer little to no commitment to women.  Thus women, if they want to have a relationship with such men (which they do), have to comply with their rules. However, women still need male commitment in order to support themselves (especially during pregnancy) and their offspring. So they will seek out men who are more likely to offer commitment (“Beta’s”), and offer a relationship with them in exchange for commitment in return. Such relationships are merely a matter of convenience, though, on the part of women.

AFBB is a coping mechanism, if it were. I think the fact that it is reactive, and not active like the male binary perception of women means that it has less of an impact on female behavior. However, the same kind of environmental factors which might precipitate a man acquiring the Madonna/whore complex might also create a similar effect in women, even without that kind of base.

For example, take women who spend a lot of time in the company of exciting, handsome men, with whom they have sexual relationships. Have this last a number of years, the length of which is determined by how well the women age and what their relative beauty is. Over time, their minds will associate positive (as in desirable) male sexuality with men who display those traits. These impressions will be very potent, because the female brain is more emotionally connected than the male brain. With enough time and conditioning, women will only be able to associate male sexuality in a positive way coming from these kinds of men. Less exciting, “safer” men won’t generate the same kind of emotional responses in women with this kind of background, and so women will de-sexualize them. And if the men do act sexual, then because it isn’t associated with a positive form of male sexuality, women will see it in a negative light, which we around these parts refer to as “creepy.”

I was originally planning on calling this the Bad Boy/Nice Guy complex, but that isn’t really accurate. After all, it isn’t a binary division because the men who aren’t Bad Boys fall into two groups themselves: sexual and therefore creepy, and non-sexual and therefore safe. The latter are basically resource dispensers in the eyes of affected women, sad to say. So its more of a Stud/Creep/Drone complex than anything else. Not a great name, I know. If someone can think of a better one please feel free to mention it.


I’m curious what some of my readers think of this theorizing on my part. Taken together, both versions of this problem stem from prolonged lifestyles that are hedonistic and promiscuous. Over time the brain is re-wired to the point where healthy long-term relationships become difficult, if not impossible.

Something I didn’t talk about in this post, but am curious about, is the reaction that people have to those who live these kinds of lives. What kind of impact is there on good women and nice guys living in a system where this is commonplace?

One thing that I am sure of is that this kind of sickness in society is what we can expect when sexual immorality is the norm.  Now, if only we have some kind of guide-book which would help us as a society to avoid perils like this….


Filed under Alpha, Attraction, Beta, Desire, Femininity, Masculinity, Men, Red Pill, Sex, Sexual Strategies, Sin, State of Nature, Women

18 responses to “Complex and Reflected

  1. I would imagine the warping of both the male and female mind(s) due to casual sex would be akin to that of the things that happen as shown on “your brain on porn” website.

    The women have pretty much the same issue that the men have.

    The “bad boys” are the only ones that have some semblance of masculinity albeit it evil… whereas all the rest are nice guys. There are no evil nice guys… but there are no good attractive men either. Feminism has killed both of these categories.

    Likewise, there are vain women or women who are super hot and take care of their looks but have garbage personalities…. whereas those who are truly nice girls don’t take care of their appearance at all in most cases.

    Both sexes should just focus on working on both of this to as much extent as they can. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there I suppose.

  2. As far as I can tell, the madonna/whore complex is normally associated with Italian men, especially those from Southern Italy, and generally men raised in traditional cultures where sexual repression is the norm. If you’re raised such way and you happen to be a beta, you’ll never in your life even see any woman display raw sexual desire. All the women around you are tightly controlled by their families and the community at large, and you’re taught to see them as future mothers and wives with pure hearts and sound morals. You’re also taught that your animalistic sexual lust is evil, and if you cannot control it until you get married, you should still not even think about sating it with those “good girls”, mainly because their male relatives will beat you up and you’ve already put them on a pedestal in your mind anyway.

    Where does that leave you? You’ll either masturbate, have sex with goats, pay for prostitutes or visit the handful of women around you that are known to be “loose” (some of the widows, infertile spinsters etc). Such male practices are quitely tolerated in such cultures. These women are obviously good for nothing else, or so does your entire community think. Female lips that kiss the children on the cheek and the husband on the mouth should never touch a penis or get dirtied by goo after all, or so the logic goes. And thus you internalize the madonna/whore complex completely by the time you’re old enough to be considered marriage material. Your wife won’t like this one bit, because all the attempts to repress her sexuality can only go so far, but what can she do? Everybody expects her to keep her mouth shut about this issue. And it’s not like either of you can divorce. The fact is that you won’t like this either, because you aren’t free of sexual lust, lust that is ideally sated in marriage. So you’ll just keep on quietly visiting prostitutes from time to time when the urge to engage in something more satisfying than missionary sex with a woman as enthusiastic as a corpse is becoming unbearable.

    Such cultures have almost completely disappeared in the West, so I highly doubt the madonna/whore complex is much of a problem there anymore.

  3. The Madonna/Whore complex has to be based on our narcissism, i.e dividing things into all-good and all-bad. The Manosphere has made the same mistake, believing in that Alpha (all-good)/Beta (all-bad) nonsense. And no matter the rationalizations and excuses, that’s exactly what Alpha/Beta means.

  4. Agapoula

    Hoellenhund2, you have explained the dynamic very well. But it is not only Italian thing, I would say it is more of a Mediterranean thing.

    This is a really big issue, and I am glad you wrote about it Donal. I do not know about the female version of this, it is something I have not thought about it very much, but male version is something of a big issue here.
    I know many women, who’s husbands clearly have this warped mentality.
    A women who used to live close to me said her husband had not touched her for 4 years, yet you could clearly see his car parked outside of the brothel many nights per week. And that is quite a normal thing. Women are not expected to have those needs.

    Prostitution is somewhat of a “rite of passage” for many young boys becoming men here. It is all kept quiet, but it is one of those things we all know. A lot of wives are just expected to put up with it, and not complain.
    I feel sorry for women, but I also feel sorry for the men too. Because these cultural narratives are driving women to unhappiness, and men to sin.

    Obviously, it is only natural that if they have this kind of belief that they cannot see their wife in that way, they are going to look for other women to satisfy their needs with.
    It really is not a man’s fault if he has that complex, I hate to criticize Orthodoxy, as I am an Orthodox Christian, but I think that because celibacy is very highly valued, and also with so many fast days, people get into their mind that sexual desire for their spouse is something dirty, and to be ashamed of. But natural needs are still going to be there, and people must realize that not everybody has been called to be chaste forever as soon as they have had a few babies.

    “Female lips that kiss the children on the cheek and the husband on the mouth should never touch a”. This is quite natural I think that many men would not want their wives to do that. Think of it this way, that is the mouth that kisses your children, and that is also the mouth with which you kiss icons, and take holy Communion. So I believe that is completely understandable, I really do not know if I can say that is part of the madonna whore complex.

    Women need to vet out which men they think have this problem. They are certain signs that indicate he sees you more as a mother type. It is better to talk about these things during engagement. A man that has some problems with this line of thinking, will not flirt very much, but he will treat you very well and tell you are an angel, and the most good house woman, and you are so pure “I feel I could never corrupt” you, things along those lines.

    There is much more to say on this, but this comment is getting long already. 🙂

  5. Agapoula

    Some other major red flags are if he is always saying you are so much like his mother. He might even refer you as mother occasionally. (Freudian slip).

    -He will also be very angry if you hear a joke with slight sexual connotations or mild profanity, and find it funny. He might be very angry at this. He might even be angry at the words “consummate marriage”, as you should have absolutely no understanding of the meaning of these things. He will be absolutely horrified if you ever talk about anything sexual in any way.

    -He will not ever try to kiss you before marriage (that can be a good thing), but he will kiss your hand or the top of your head.

    -If he sees you putting your washing out to dry, and you have underwear that is not “grandmother” underwear. He will express disapproval and ask you to throw it away.

    -He prefers you to always wear white, if you try to wear red dress of a modest cut, he will not allow you to.

    -He will sometimes want to baby you, othertimes he will want to be mothered, he will ask you to go to his home to cover him with a blanket or tuck him in bed.

    -He will be very overprotective, and perhaps even become violent to another man if any other man ever looks at you.

    -He will be strict about where you can and cannot go during engagement, he prefers you not to go out without his family.

    -He will show off about your cooking skills, and say to others that you cook like his mother.

    -If you have a bruise on your leg or belly or somewhere and want to show him, he will shield his eyes.

    -He will want to support you financially immediately, and want you to quit your job before you are married.

    -He will go out to bars, which he deems as unsuitable for women.

    -He will look at other women dressed immodestly, but you will never catch him looking at you in that way.

    -He may be jealous of your father. He might feel threatened by another man’s authority over you, and not even like you to mention your father.

    -He refers to immodestly dressed women or women he has previously dated as wh*res and poutanas.

    – If you are married, he will have sex with you only when you want to be pregnant. The rest of the time he will get very angry if you try to.

    There are more, but these are the main ones.

  6. femininebutnotfeminist

    Yet another good reason to avoid marrying someone with a colorful sexual past (both women AND men).

    Oh but Donal, we do have a guidebook (the Bible) but most people pay no attention to what it says these days…

    I wonder, if a man with this complex marries a good girl that doesn’t show him her sexuality prior to marriage, but then turns out to be quite passionate and enthusiastic about it after marriage, would this make him angry (considering her sexuality isn’t being expressed when it shouldn’t be)? Or is it only if she makes her sexuality known in some way prior to marriage? Or is it both?

  7. TBH – wouldn’t make me angry – but then again, I’m Protestant, and haven’t had that superspiritualisation filter over Song of Songs…

  8. @ Deep Strength

    I think your comparison to the “brain on porn” is a good one. How we act, what we choose to do, affects us in lasting ways. Participate in the wrong activities, and we warp our brains.

    The problem isn’t that the opposite sex fits into these profiles (they are too absolute for that to be the case terribly often), but rather that our brains force them into one position or the other. This impairs a person’s ability to connect (mostly sexually, but in other ways as well) with the opposite sex. And their significant other cannot help but feel resentment, among other emotions, as a result. Its a recipe for disastrous marriages.

  9. @ hoellenhund2

    Agapoula is correct that there are still Mediterranean countries with this problem. It is one that used to be much more common in the West, and in fact there were signs of it in parts of the USA until not too long ago. The sexualization of our culture sort of killed it off (except perhaps in a different form in certain Churchian circles). However, it has been replaced in many instances with the reverse complex held by women.

    @ Bob

    I allowed your comment in, but I am going to caution you to keep on topic. I won’t tolerate this thread being derailed by your bashing of the Alpha/Beta dichotomy in this thread. Not the least because I don’t like it myself. But also because it is off topic.

  10. @ Agapoula

    Thanks for clarifying and expanding on what I talked about.

    One thing I would like to address though is whether it is a man’s fault or not. When the culture is set up so that men are naturally pushed in that direct, then I would tend to think it mitigates his fault somewhat. He isn’t intending to develop the complex, although he is still responsible for any sin.

    Thanks for the red-flags as well. Would make for a good post to list those, and to list the female equivalents.

    @ FBNF

    Yes, history/the past matters, no matter what some folks like to say.

    I wonder, if a man with this complex marries a good girl that doesn’t show him her sexuality prior to marriage, but then turns out to be quite passionate and enthusiastic about it after marriage, would this make him angry (considering her sexuality isn’t being expressed when it shouldn’t be)? Or is it only if she makes her sexuality known in some way prior to marriage? Or is it both?

    It would probably trigger a reaction from him at any time. It might be stronger before marriage, but the nature of the complex would still generate that kind of response in him. Remember, it isn’t the context of her sexuality that is the problem in his mind- it is the fact that she is sexual at all. He has developed an unhealthy view of female sexuality in mind, and that is not an easy thing to cure.

  11. It seems like this is an issue that has existed even from early Christianity, with some Church Fathers believing or suspecting that
    sex was bad, only for the purpose of procreation, etc. Regarding the US in particular I was just watching a documentary clip that mentioning the 1920s flapper era being a reaction against Victorian norms insisting that even in marriage there was supposed to be this separation for men between women with whom they fathered children and those with whom they expressed desire. This is a longstanding issue in the West that just seems to take on different forms in different eras. Imo, this is probably because lust itself, since it objectifies its object, will always split women into these two categories–those to whom a man will be devoted for some higher purpose, and those whom a man will simply use for the gratification of lustful desire. The Madonna cannot be an object of lust, because the moment she becomes so, she ceases to inspire devotion, as one cannot devote himself to something seen as a mere tool for the self.

    Discerning a genuinely holy sexual desire that circumvents lust seems to be the trickiest but most needful thing.

  12. When it comes to Alphas and Betas from the female perspective, I agree that women are generally going to seek and hope for commitment from the most masculine man they can find and proceed accordingly until what she will receive from a man no longer outweighs what she will give (and I do think women have to give a lot in marriage rather than only receiving). So that could be why it’s not women who came up with the Alpha/Beta dichotomy, men did.

    I am and always have been very skeptical of the “Nice Guy” concept and have a draft post that grows bit by bit as more ideas are added to it. Aside from “nice guy” implying “people pleaser” which is *not* virtue, the concept seems to be heavily tied to whether or not a man is sexually active and to what degree. And while God’s commands are clear against fornication, it seems that some men are believing that not being sexually active or promiscuous is what makes them a better potential husband than the “Bad Boy” when it’s not necessarily clear that that is the case–it would depend on what exactly made the “Bad Boy” such.

    Isn’t it true that each gender can tend to project what it finds most important onto the opposite sex and assume they feel the same? So men may feel that sexual virtue is the most important thing in a woman, so internalize that and say, “Well if I’m sexually virtuous/eager for commitment, that’s the most important thing women value about me. This makes me a Nice/Good Guy.” At a certain point, it’s important to look at how it actually plays out. If sexual indiscretions were ever deal breakers for women, there would never have been polygamy, prostitution/brothels, formalized bastardy laws, etc. I’m not saying it’s good or that women view it as OK, just that my impression is that often, self-proclaimed Nice/Good Guys are focusing on qualities re: sexual virtue that women have never really until very recently claimed to care about in men. And beyond that, there’s the whole question of whether the claimed niceness or sexual virtue is truly virtue or rather lack of opportunity and/or ability to live a promiscuous life. The devotees of pick-up-artistry would be a prime example. idk, it just raises suspicions.

  13. @ Denise

    You are correct that this issue is an old one. America used to have its fair share of the Madonna/Whore complex in the past, and I suspect that all of Christendom has as well. Sadly, the occasional bouts of what I can only call “sex is evil” philosophy that strike the Church on occasion play a large role in this. Of course, cultural development also does this as well.

    One thing I didn’t mention in the post is that delaying the ability of men to marry will increase the chance of this happening, as their sexual experiences before then will warp their view of healthy female sexuality.

    As for “Nice Guys”, its a huge catch-all phrase that leaves a lot to be desired (pun intended). I look forward to your eventual post on the subject, as it is something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while but haven’t managed to pull off yet.

    One thing to keep in mind is that “Nice Guys” are natural. They are taught to be that way, often by women (especially older ones). So its easy to blame them, but would be wrong in many instances- they are simply doing what they are taught is right. Of course, not all have pure motives, but that is true of anything.

  14. deti


    Excellent post. And thought provoking.

    You and I have disagreed before on why the AF side of AFBB happens. You said:

    “AFBB is a strategy that women adopt as a result of male behaviorisms; it is reactive in nature. It isn’t what women really want, at least, not as their first choice. What they want is commitment from the guys that they sleep with (and want to sleep with).”

    I don’t think so, at least not initially. From appearances, the AF phase is marked by girls wanting fun and remain unattached while using their sexual agency to gain affirmation and validation of their sexual worth. Look at what happens when the guys they sleep with offer commitment. The PUA wing has written about this more and more frequently, mostly Roosh and to a lesser extent, Krauser (I think). The exposition is (paraphrasing):

    I’ve met a few girls in my pick up exploits who I wanted to lock down, but I couldn’t. Those girls didn’t want a relationship; they wanted entertainment.

    So to me, at bottom, the AF side is really just about affirmation, validation and competition: girls wanting affirmation of their sexiness, validation from the most attractive men, and the ability to compete with and defeat other women. Now, you might protest that PUAs aren’t the highest status, most attractive men. Perhaps, but these are the men who have sexual access to women, which is what ALL men want. So when it comes to actually knowing how to deal with women and gain access to women’s most valuable asset, PUAs know more about this than nearly all other men and certainly other women.

  15. @ Deti

    I think your mistake is calling AF a phase, when it isn’t. After all, women who have secured the BB don’t stop wanting the AF. Cf Jenny Erikson. It the the BB component which is a phase, as it were. Women don’t need men to support themselves now, at least, not when they are single and don’t have any children. So they are free to chase the “Alpha” men to their heart’s desire… for as long as their looks last. However, as they get older, and/or if they have children, women will start to feel the need for male commitment. That is where the BB kicks in. They will want, no, need commitment, but they know that it won’t come from the “hawt” men they love to bang. So they seek it from the BB men. But if they could find an “Alpha” who offers the “bucks”, that is, commitment, then they would be just as happy as a clam.

    The problem those PUA’s report isn’t that women don’t want them to commit to them. Its that women don’t want them to commit to them then, as opposed to later. As Cindy Lauper so cogently observed, girls just wanna have fun. As long as they can play the field, they will, and that means turning down offers of commitment (which they feel will bind them and restrict the freedom they love). Give it a couple of years, and those women who turned down the PUAs will be singing a different tune.

  16. mdavid

    Really good post. Lots of moving parts. A few comments:

    1. I agree the “Adam & Eve” version of marriage is how man was created. However, many cultures have evolved away from this ideal…birth rates today strongly correlate with a low parental investment culture (read: Africa) where the village or government fills the role of husband for BB. Until this model breaks down, expect a bizarre sexual dance that correlates with “woman at her worst – unleashed”.

    2. The whole Mediterranean angle is fascinating. A mother complex is a normal evolutionary reaction to a multiple-wife culture…that is, when a man has the potential for many wives, his heart (and female attachment) remains focused the only loyal female in his life. His mother. It’s much like how in non-marriage cultures men often raise their sister’s sons since they don’t know who their own sons are. We even see this in the Bibe; Kings of the Jews are listed with their mother (except two I think) and the wives are usually an afterthought (until they have a son). We see this culture at the wedding at Cana of John’s gospel where Mary turns to the servants and says, “Do whatever he tells you”, as if she is deciding for Jesus when his ministry will start. To a Jew expecting a Davidic king, it would make complete sense for mom to kick things off, but to an Anglo-Saxon culture it seems odd.

    3. I do think your post is a tad ethnocentric to Western culture. That’s ship has probably sailed (at least, looking at the genetic trend of the last 200 years when European culture went from 25% of world population circa 1800 to an estimated <5% this century. Christians of other cultures have very different views on male-female relations and family. These are obviously more successful, if only because Westerners are breeding themselves to extinction. Proving that whatever sexual views Westerners have held for the last 200 years are a failed model. So I would just ignore the modern sexual dance since it won't be around much longer if Darwin has anything to say about it. It seems God's modern method of dealing with Sodom is merely more easygoing than OT times. But just as effective!

    4. Denise: those were a couple of good posts. I'm still thinking them over and may try to comment later.

  17. doowop

    The problem is those loose women can’t get the hot guys to commit so she goes after one the guys who were unsuccessful with women trying to act like she’s an angel. Im one of these men and it doesn’t make me happy that women didn’t want anything to do with me until they ran out of options, had kids or their looks started fading. The worst part is they you should be happy that they want to “settle” with you. The only thing that makes me happy is telling these women that I would die alone with a smile than be with them.

  18. Pingback: A Complex Problem | Donal Graeme

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