In examining the many manifestations of domestic abuse, the Madonna/Whore complex deserves a closer look. Although it is a man’s affliction (husband/boyfriend) it is the woman (wife/girlfriend) who suffers the consequences, as it may pre-dispose him to acts of violence.
According to Freudian psychology, Madonna-Whore syndrome may develop when a little boy is raised by a cold and distant mother and is deprived of maternal nurturing and physical tenderness. When the boy grows to manhood, he may subconsciously seek girlfriends or a wife with the qualities of his mother in order to fulfill the unmet needs of his childhood. But, in the mind of the sufferer, the image of mother is chaste and pure (“Madonna”) and incompatible with sexual desire. So he may be reluctant to have sex with his wife. Instead, he reserves his sexual feelings for “bad” or “dirty” girls (“Whore”) yet he cannot develop traditional feelings of love for these “impure” women.
As a result, a man becomes conflicted; love and sex can never mix. He is unable to love any woman who can sexually satisfy him, and he cannot be sexually satisfied by any woman he can love.
So how does this lend itself to violence? A man with Madonna/Whore complex is hyper vigilant. He is constantly scrutinizing his wife’s every action. In a convoluted way, he believes that what he feels for her is “love,” but it is actually an unhealthy mix of obsessive/compulsive behaviour, control issues, and delusional jealousy. Because he is obsessed with “purity,” the husband hovers over his wife, monitoring where she goes and what she does. In a flood of insistent questioning via phone calls, voice messages, texts, and emails, he insists that she must be able to account for every minute they are apart. Failing to adequately explain for her time instigates punishment. It may be verbal abuse or emotional abuse. It might be forced isolation. Or it could be physical violence — from slapping, punching, and kicking, to the use of weapons. Because the couple has intimacy issues, the husband sees his wife as intensely desirable to other men. And because she is sexually neglected at home, he suspects that she would be an “easy” sexual target. This dichotomy flips the switch on his psyche — and the “whore” part of the equation comes into play. She is now a “bad/dirty” girl. The thought of her “soiling” herself with another man triggers his jealousy and anger but, perversely, sexually stimulates him at the same time. It is a hotbed for violence.