Follow TV Tropes


Madonna–Whore Complex

Go To
"People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute."
Rebecca West

A pattern of thought that divides female-humanity into two mutually exclusive categories: Madonnas and Whores. The virtuous Madonna figure, possessing and protecting social virtue (and deploring sexuality) is an object of worship and everything that all females should aspire to be. However, sex is not part of this. Anyone who fails to live up to the Madonna standard is a Whore driven exclusively by sexual desire and (therefore) lacking in morality and humanity. An active sex life makes one a Whore… unless one is married, and sometimes not even then. The Madonna-Whore complex is a notable contrast to the The Three Faces of Eve as it ignores the Wife archetype (one who is sexually active but morally good/"pure") and creates a False Dichotomy between the Child and Seductress. That said, many Madonnas are wives, though they are more often mothers or sisters, or other females with close emotional ties to whomever considers them a Madonna.


The Madonna–Whore Complex (aka "Virgin–Whore Complex") was described by Sigmund Freud on the basis of some of his clinical work. Specifically, he noticed the difficulty some men had in having sexual relations with their wives because they differentiated women into these categories. Those men were aroused by prostitutes and mistresses but not their wives because, paradoxically, they respected the latter too much (they viewed them as fellow humans, i.e. not whores) to be sexually attracted to them.

Occasionally this is enforced by The Scourge of God.

Compare Slut-Shaming, Sour Prudes, Light Feminine and Dark Feminine, Betty and Veronica, My Girl Is Not a Slut, Sensible Heroes, Skimpy Villains, Good People Have Good Sex. Sometimes may be seen as a sign of Black and White Insanity. Closely related to Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe, Heir Club for Men, and Altar Diplomacy, as demonizing female promiscuity is one way of ensuring political marriages only produce legitimate heirs.


Not to be confused with someone thinking Madonna acts like a whore… though that would probably be an example of this.

The Madonna: The Madonna is always good at heart, always chaste and often passive. She sometimes is corrupted—often sexually, and often by the Whore, directly or indirectly.

    Common tropes applying to the Madonna: 

The Whore: Always with massive sex appeal, catering to the Male Gaze and fetishes. Often evil and scheming, as well.

    Common tropes applying to the Whore: 

Occasionally, particularly in more modern works, the "Whore" may be more of an Ethical Slut, Good Bad Girl, or Hooker with a Heart of Gold. The line between Madonna and Whore may be blurred, or subverted altogether. A man avoids thinking like this if he's happy that My Girl Is a Slut.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena deconstructs this with the character of Anthy. As Akio says, "Women who cannot become princesses have no choice but to become witches." Ironically enough, in Utena is also the Gender Flip of this trope, as this analysis essay shows.
    • Miki definitely has this complex. He loves Anthy, whom he sees as entirely virginal and passive, because he sees her as basically the foil of his promiscuous sister Kozue, whom he is sexually attracted to. The theme appears to be that Miki sees Anthy and Kozue as two sides of one woman, and by extension seeing neither as a full person in her own right.
  • Naruto contains a variation with the characterization of Sakura and Karin. Sakura is never seen making any sexual advances to Sasuke, only a teary Anguished Declaration of Love and total devotion pre-timeskip whereas Karin is much more openly sexual.
  • Played with in Sailor Moon. While the female villains are always provocatively dressed; positively-depicted females are always dressed, if not actively conservatively, then in socially acceptable variations on uniforms. On the other hand Usagi is shown sleeping with her boyfriend several times throughout the manga series, including the very end of the manga, when he asks her to marry him. She's shown very clearly to be a good person. And not only that, but Naoko Takeuchi often draws Usagi in lingerie or naked. Often alongside a naked/half-naked Mamoru. And she's never denigrated for that.
    "Usagi is pure-hearted, but she isn’t “pure” in the archaic sense. She’s sexual. And I love that she can be both. She’s the amaranthine avatar of goodness and love and serenity in the universe—she is every cherished ideal we hold of what it means to be a “magical girl.” She stands for truth and freedom and hope. She wears floaty pastel clothes and enormous pigtails and her weapons are covered in hearts and stylized angel wings. She’s often drawn with angel wings herself! And she has sex. It doesn’t make her dirty, or suddenly inappropriate as entertainment for young girls. She doesn’t lose her power or her magic. She is a multifaceted young woman who loves sweets and comics and vanquishes the forces of evil and also has sex."
    • Subverted by the Sailor Starlights, a trio of heroic aliens whose outfits are pretty revealing.
    • Also subverted with Makoto and Minako: both have a tendency to chase boys (especially the latter in the manga), with Minako sometimes wearing somewhat revealing clothes, yet they're superheroic (especially Minako, who has a rather pronounced Chronic Hero Syndrome).
  • Magical Girl anime in general tend to have shades of this just by the nature of the genre: if the villain is female (and not the same age as the heroine), there's a better-than-even chance she'll be an older, "fallen" woman whose list of motivations is likely to include things like "bitterness" and "jealousy".
  • In Mamotte Shugogetten, an Ordinary High-School Student winds up with two Magical Girlfriends vying for his affection. One is cute, sweet, somewhat shy and naive, the other is a bit Vampy. Guess which one he likes better.
  • Played with in Anatolia Story. The Big Bad, Queen Nakia, is The Vamp and a Vain Sorceress, but she isn't defined by sexuality. She married her husband out of political obligation and has no love for him, she gave birth to her son only for revenge (she wanted her bloodline to rule the land she was forced to live in), and the only man she seems to have any actual affection for is a eunuch, and thus cannot possibly have a sexual relationship with her. Yuri is young, sweet, idealistic, and hesitant about having sex with Kail; however she doesn't hesitate to get involved with political or dangerous matters (she often goes into war zones to fight), is quite a Guile Hero, tells her female friends to live for love if they want to, and eventually has a very sexual and passionate relationship with Kail, which is considered normal. (In fact, her friends and servants considered it very strange that she waited as long as she did to sleep with him).
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny is a big one, deliberately doubling Lacus's image with Hotter and Sexier Meer; while Lacus is shown caring for orphans, sleeping alone, and never being kissed on the lips, Meer's skimpy and provocative outfits and emphasized chest led Fandumb to scream "Whore!" at nearly first sight of her—and this was before she crawled into Athrun's bed. A continuation of Madonna!Lacus and Whore!Fllay from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED.

    Comic Books 
  • In Promethea when you get to the upper layer of what is basically Heaven you find out that the Madonna and the Whore of Babylon are the same concept seen from different angles.
  • Rorschach in Watchmen is implied to think this way, owing in part to his rather unfortunate upbringing and his mother having been a prostitute, and in part to his love of Black and White Morality. Pretty much every time Rorschach describes a female character, they're either an untouched innocent (Kitty Genovese or the girl who was fed to dogs) or a whore beneath contempt (both Silk Spectres, his landlady). It's not hard to imagine his own issues with sex and gender aren't factors as well.

    Fan Fiction 
  • The Trixie Belden fanfic You Have Got to Be Kidding Me! seems to only exist to demonize and slutshame Dot Murray in order to make Trixie look better. The trope is unintentionally played straight in its truest form, as Dot is rewritten to be a slut while Trixie is portrayed as a saintly, virginal figure (though she has lost all of her backbone and personality and lets her boyfriend fight her battles for her). Special mention goes to the description of the girls' contrasting swimsuits, specifically mentioned to emphasis what a "floozy" Dot is: Trixie wears a "one-piece light blue bathing suit," while Dot is attired in a "red bikini." Really, the entire fic is extremely evocative of the Madonna–Whore Complex.
  • Played with in Hope Springs Eternal. The "bad girl" Hecate, who tries to seduce Hades, is incredibly amoral and trying to control him so she can have command of the Underworld. Persephone, on the other hand, is shown as being pure, naive, and the virginal spring goddess. It's subverted when Persephone's Hidden Depths are revealed: she's naive because her mother has kept her over-protected for her entire life, which she hates. While she's got a good heart, she also can be pretty fierce. And as she points out, spring is the time when animals mate, meaning she's a virginal goddess who's very sexually frustrated. She and Hades end up having a very passionate, physical relationship. It's further subverted with Hades's first wife, who was a tree nymph who was sweet, loving, and too innocent to fake her feelings, but like Persephone, enjoyed a very passionate relationship with Hades.
  • Although Smurfette of the normal universe in the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf series likes flirting with her fellow Smurfs, preferrably Empath, she is considered the Madonna in comparison to the Mirror Universe's counterpart, who as the Whore constantly dresses in skimpy clothing and sleeps around with most of her fellow male Smurfs while still being married to Papa Smurf. Admittedly, Empath finds Mirror Universe Smurfette attractive, but prefers to save himself for marrying the normal universe Smurfette. Prior to this, there was Wonderette Smurfette, who when compared to Smurfette lived up to being the Whore as she made moves on almost every adult Smurf, even going so far as to rape Empath and have him be framed as her rapist. In the end, it turned out that Wonderette was really Hogatha the evil witch in disguise.

    Film — Animated 
  • In most Disney films, but especially Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Sleeping Beauty, where the "good" princess is pure and virginal and the "evil" villainess is an older woman with more sexuality. The first princess to play with this was Ariel, who is a Fiery Redhead who uses a Seashell Bra and is left pretty much naked when she transforms into a human - she's naive and sheltered, but her design was the first one that evoked sexuality.
  • Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame has this as a plot point and heavily deconstructs the trope. Esmeralda, our female heroine is considered to be a Whore (seductive, performs suggestive dances, other men fantasise about her) which puts Frollo in a tough position. He lusts after her but knows he can't have her because she is a Whore (plus he's bigoted against gypsies) so he decides to burn her if she refuses him.
    • What's more, Quasimodo is well-intentioned but only sees Esmeralda as a pure Madonna, heavily idealizing her since she saved him from humiliation and possible death—which does not mix well with the fact that Quasi has an extremely naive view of human relationships due to him living all of his life locked away fom the world. Phoebus is attracted to both Esmeralda's kind heart and her alluring nature, so she chooses him because he's the only one that sees her as a proper human being with flaws and pros instead of just one thing or another. Ironic, considering in the original book…
  • A much milder version is used in Corpse Bride. Victor finds himself engaged to both the sweet but demure Victoria and the much more passionate (but dead) Emily. Victor remains faithful to Victoria, with the advantage that she's the one he met and fell in love with first, but the movie still does show Emily as a good person, and Victor cares very much about her (as do quite a few of the residents of the afterlife, who are pleased with a chance to have at her murderer, at the end of the movie).

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Street Angel: Gino surely thinks this way: he has no problem with hitting a prostitute, and almost strangles his beloved Angela before realizing she's saintly after all.
  • Black Swan: Explains the whole plot of the ballet, and juxtaposes beautiful but sexually repressed Natalie Portman vs. smoldering sexpot Mila Kunis.
  • The Night of the Hunter: The villain Harry Powell has this — being caught at a strip club at the beginning of the film, then later refusing to have sex with his wife on their wedding night and lecturing her that her body is only meant for having children.
  • The Cabin in the Woods has Jules and Dana shoehorned into both roles, Jules becoming "The Whore" and Dana being "The Virgin". Though in reality the Whore is in a steady relationship with her boyfriend and isn't exactly that promiscuous while the Virgin/Madonna isn't actually a virgin and has been having an affair with her professor.
  • The existence of the Final Girl in slasher movies runs on this trope. The Final Girl is typically a virgin and above vices such as drinking, smoking and being promiscuous. She is usually contrasted with other girls in the film who enjoy frequent sex and therefore don't survive the film. Halloween (1978) was among the first to do this with all the female victims being killed in relation to sex. Two had just had sex while the third was on her way to do so.
  • The titular heroine of Malèna. Renato sees Malena as a Madonna figure, even having an Imagine Spot where she rides through the town dressed as the Virgin Mary. The women of the town see her as a Whore because the men ogle her and stare at her as she passes by. Malena herself starts out the film as a Madonna but becomes a Whore when she is forced to become a prostitute to make money.
  • Cruel Intentions has the virginal Annette Hargrove contrasted with the manipulative and sexual Kathryn Merteuil.
  • In Saturday Night Fever, Tony believes a girl can be a "nice girl" or a "cunt", not both.
  • In Analyze This Billy Crystal asks Robert De Niro why he has a mistress. De Niro explains that there are things he can't do with his wife. When Crystal asks what, De Niro replies "Doc, it's the mouth that kisses my children goodnight".
  • In Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Maria is saintly and pure, whereas her robotic doppelganger is a diabolical temptress who works as a dancing girl at Toshiwara. Of course, the machine-woman was deliberately made that way by Rotwang and Joh Fredersen to discredit Maria. They even spell it out for us—not only is Maria named after the Virgin Mary, but her robot double is repeatedly and explicitly compared to the Whore of Babylon from Revelation.
  • Discussed in The Breakfast Club, where the topic of sex is brought up between Allison and Claire.
    "Well, if you say you haven't, you're a prude. If you say you have you're a slut. It's a trap. You want to but you can't, and when you do you wish you didn't, right?"
  • Jake LaMotta suffers from a major case of this in Raging Bull, though slightly more subtly—he can't believe she's with him, so she must be cheating, so be beats her…
  • Stifler of the American Pie series idolizes his mother and hates the thought of her having sex.
  • Laura of Student Services does this to herself, wanting to think of the girl who has sex with clients for money as a completely separate person who has no impact on Laura's much more innocent life.
  • In The Marriage Chronicles, Ethel is alternately intrigued and horrified at his formerly staid wife's burgeoning sexuality.
  • Sound of the Mountain: Shuichi seeks to justify his awful behavior by comparing his wife to "a lake" and his mistress to "a torrent." Shuichi's secretary, who is jealous because Shuichi cheated on his wife with someone else rather than her, says "One can't expect a proper wife to act like a prostitute."
  • Total Recall (1990): The Total Recall saleswoman admonishes Quaid to be honest when assigning traits to his perfect fantasy girlfriend. Quaid first gives "sleazy" as one of her traits, but as he's drifting off, gives a more honest "demure."
  • Rashomon: In the various accounts of the events that led to the Samurai's murder, the account of the Samurai's wife's behavior switches between extremes, going from portraying her as a vindictive, manipulative Femme Fatale to that of a crying, defenseless waif. When the woodcutter gives his account (which is implied to be the most accurate), the woman is portrayed as being much more complex than this. At first being sad and begging for her husband to avenge her for the bandit's rape, only for him to disavow her for being a spoiled woman. She then becomes angry, instigating them both into a Duel to the Death after questioning their manhood. Not surprising, given the time and place the film is set in.

  • In A Brother's Price, whores are women who dress like men, and satisfy other women sexually, as about one boy is born for every ten girls. Protagonist Jerin is very careful about staying husband material, and when someone tells him that oral sex (something he was advised to do with his wives as part of The Talk) is something that whores do, he is very embarassed about having something in common with whores. (Male prostitutes exist, too, but are mainly for making babies, so they don't do oral). He is also worried about being a Technical Virgin, as a man who is not pure, and could have STD, won't find wives, may be sold to the "cribs"—brothels where women go to get pregnant.
  • In Making Money this is exploited by Mr. Bent's Love Interest, who concludes that she's already "ruined" simply by being in his room and may as well keep on going.
  • Left Behind, to a blood-boiling degree.
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: Stephen Dedalus seems to suffer from this acutely.
  • In Anita Blake, the eponymous character suffers from this kind of thinking. Often she and other characters, mostly male, believe her to be a slut and treat her badly because she has something called the ardeur, a magical compulsion to have sex. If she didn't give in to it, it would eventually kill her, and through her, everyone she is magically tied to (most of the cast). This is a source of much Wangst in the series.
  • In And Eternity, the protagonists read the memories of a rapist/serial killer, and find that he was motivated by this.
  • Certainly the view of Ambrosio in The Monk, who tires of Matilda and Antonia for that matter after she is no longer "pure." Surprisingly for the time, Lewis himself seems to take a much less extreme stance on the matter, painting Antonia as an innocent victim and including both Straight Edge Evil female villains ( the nuns, and particularly the Prioress) and two examples of a Good Bad Girl in the story. The most extreme of which eloped with a hot highwayman and is also a bit of an Action Girl who saves The Lancer's life, the other one being his Love Interest, Agnes, a snarky Spirited Young Lady who feels terrible about sleeping with him, but is quickly declared blameless by the heroes and emphatetically not Defiled Forever, even to her incensed brother who crushes on Antonia because she's pure and innocent.
  • A Tale of Two Cities has an interesting variant. Lucie Manette is The Ingenue who is good and possesses a childlike beauty, but depends on others to take care of her. Madame Defarge is the sexy, strong-willed villain. Then there is Miss Pross, who is both strong and good, but implied to be so ugly that she looks no different after a fight than before one.
  • Tess of the d'Urbervilles is made of this. Tess' love interest is a hypocrite, who had sex before marriage himself, but despises her for having been raped. The subtitle of the novel is "A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented", so, in a way, this is a subversion, as the author apparently did not subscribe to the misogynist attitude portrayed in the novel.
  • Margareta (Greta) in Faust is seen by her brother (and the rest of the village) as having fallen from Madonna to Whore as a result of taking a lover.
  • Subverted in Les Misérables. The character of Fantine largely represents the Madonna-esque purity and innocence, however, due to the consequences of being an unwed mother following a summer fling, is relegated (quite literally) to the role of the Whore; in the closest thing 19th century French Literature had to snark, Hugo makes sure to mention that the man she slept with suffered no ill effects of this, and managed to be a rich and successful lawyer, highlighting the double-standard. In addition, the novel makes note that she is both denigrated as Whore and the subject of incredulity as Madonna, leaving her at odds with society as both Madonna and Whore.
  • In Brave New World, John the Savage tries to idealize Lenina as a Madonna in spite of her coming from a Free-Love Future, which causes him to spurn her sexual advances and flagellate himself for having impure thoughts about her. It ends very badly for both of them when John's self-loathing efforts to cleanse himself of all sexual thoughts of Lenina result in an orgy that kills her and drives him to suicide.
  • The Game note  (And "Pick Up Artist" philosophy in general) names and discusses this trope extensively - according to its theories, all women are "Whores" that only put on a "Madonna" facade because that's societally expected of them.
  • In Corpies, Bubble Bubble's public image is that of a demure, wholesome girl, who always wears tasteful, conservative dresses, when she's not engaged in rescue work. Then a sex scandal breaks out, with her in the middle. It turns out that, several years prior, she slept with the director of the movie she was in. Unbeknownst to her, he was dating a well-known movie star at the time. When the truth finally came out, the director quickly tries to cover his own ass by blaming Bubble Bubble, claiming that she used her powers to influence him. Despite Bubble Bubble's powers being well-documented and a matter of public record, the Muggle public is quick to dive back into the typical "who knows what these Supers are capable of" mindset. With her "Madonna" image ruined, she breaks down. Owen than asks his agent Lenny to take Bubble Bubble on as a client in order to fix her image. Lenny agrees and gives Bubble Bubble two options: she can go the easy route, accept public shame, and slowly work to "redeem" herself in the eyes of the people; or, she can own being a sexually-independent woman and publicly attack this trope, which is the more difficult, riskier path. Bubble Bubble goes with the second option, goes on a talk show, and turns the tables on the host, who is utterly unprepared for her not feeling ashamed. She explains that all she did was have consensual sex with a man, who was lying to her, which doesn't make her a bad person. She starts wearing less conservative (but not too revealing) outfits and overall seems happier with no longer having to maintain such a chaste image. It also helps that Owen makes the director a thinly-veiled threat along the lines of Shame If Something Happened.
  • Best Served Cold: Duke Salier shows off two sculptures intended to be displayed as a pair: one of the artist's mother and the other his favorite whore. Monza snaps that she has no time for artists' mothers and whores.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica: Showrunner Ron Moore has described Number Six (or at least the Six that only Baltar can see, who is really a messenger of a higher power) as being a Madonna-Whore made real.
  • Dollhouse has an entertaining scene where Victor, who has apparently been given the imprint of a psychologist, speculates that Adelle is jealous of Echo and the other female actives because they get to be both the Madonna (their innocent resting states) and the Whore (a fair amount of their requested personas) and are celebrated for both roles. Adelle is not amused.
  • Discussed in an episode of Mad Men where the characters mull over ideas for an ad and conclude that every woman is either a "Jackie" or a "Marilyn."
  • In Noah's Arc, initially it appears that Ricky doesn't want to have sex with Junito because Junito is HIV positive. Ricky later confesses that it's because Ricky's falling in love with him, despite having had random sex partners in the quadruple digits.
  • Merlin is one interesting inversion: it is the unambiguously moral Guinevere who is linked with love and sex (desired by both Arthur and Lancelot) whilst the more dubiously good Morgana becomes more asexual as the show goes on—she begins as a flirty and good female version of The Charmer, but loses all interest in men by series 3, at which point she's a Wicked Witch. Even more interestingly, Morgana's evil plan to discredit Guinevere revolves around making Arthur believe that she's cheating on him with Lancelot. Morgana initially dresses more revealingly, and then during her descent into darkness she comes to wear long-sleeves exclusively, while Gwen goes from modest servant dresses to fancy, low-cut gowns.
  • 8 Simple Rules initially contrasts the bookish and conservative Kerry with the outgoing and promiscuous Bridget, Kerry would often be given more steady boyfriends while Bridget would have a different guy every week (sometimes when she was with a boyfriend too). The show keeps subverting it though and Kerry lampshades it in one episode where she remarks that their father expects her to be "some old spinster like Miss Havisham" and tries to act like a Whore to annoy him. The show really turned the trope on its head when it's revealed Bridget is still a virgin and Kerry loses hers by cheating on her boyfriend.
    • The trope is actually invoked by another female—Bridget after she's annoyed that her mother starts dating.
      Bridget: You're not a woman, you're a mother.
      Cate: I hate to break it to you but you can be both. Or are you unsure about how I became a mother?
    • A similar contrast is done in Hope & Faith with Madonna Hayley and Whore Sydney, as well as the titular sisters Hope and Faith respectively.
  • In Boardwalk Empire, the protagonist Nucky Thompson spends his time indulging in blatant "Whore" Lucy Danziger, but later dumps her in favor of innocent Irish Madonna Margaret Schroeder. However, the show implies this has more to do with Margaret being his intellectual equal, while Lucy is a shallow airhead.
  • Played for Laughs in How I Met Your Mother:
    Victoria: Boyfriends? I guess I've only had two.
    Robin: Prude alert!
    Victoria: Wh—? Well, that's serious boyfriends. I've dated other guys in between.
    Robin: Oh, slut alert!
  • Once Upon a Time
    • The show uses this with Belle and her Cursed counterpart Lacey. Belle is the Madonna—she's the Token Wholesome as well as bookish and caring. She's the one able to see the good in Rumpelstiltskin. Lacey meanwhile is the Whore—she dresses provocatively, Really Gets Around, drinks and hustles people playing pool. She meanwhile is attracted to the darkness in Rumple.
    • A similar contrast is done between Snow White and Regina. Snow White of course has Incorruptible Pure Pureness and her Storybrook counterpart Mary Margaret is modest and virgin-like. Regina meanwhile as the Evil Queen favoured outfits with Absolute Cleavage that provided plenty of Fanservice. Whenever she's attempting a Heel–Face Turn, her outfits become more modest. Of course on a deeper level, it's not so black and white. While Regina is essentially raping Graham, the "relationship" doesn't last that long—and Regina is pretty asexual for most of the time. Meanwhile Mary Margaret has no problem having a one night stand with Dr Whale or pursuing a married man.
  • In Taxi Louie lampshades why he is unable to form a sexual relationship with Zena, even though she wants him to. "I was brought up that there are the nice girls, and then there are the girls you have fun with." He can't even go into her bedroom without having a mental crisis.
  • Embodied in Emerald City by the contrast between Glinda and West. While West runs a brothel and spends her time having sex and getting high on opium, Glinda runs an order of virginal and celibate quasi-nuns devoted to the pursuit of knowledge. Lampshaded in "Science and Magic" by Tip when she's asked to choice between going with Glinda and going with West.
    Tip: So you're saying my only choice as a girl is nun or whore?
  • Million Yen Women: This gets Gender Inverted in one of the series Harem Genre moments. Midori, the youngest of the women (she's still in high school), finds out that Shin and Minami kissed. Midori asks Shin if he kissed Minami because he's in love with her. When Shin answers "no", Midori immediately comes to the conclusion that Shin is the kind of man who easily kisses women.
  • Outlander: Discussed by name after Jamie gets quite upset that Brienne wore a bikini in the photo Claire showed him of her. She rebuts the notion, complaining of it's being so prevalent in the 1700s.
  • Frontier: The owners of the Alehouse have to get Captain Johnson in a compromising position with one of the tavern girls in order to blackmail him. The problem is that he's a deeply Christian man, so Imogen taking the direct "whore" approach just leads to Johnson getting annoyed and telling her to leave. Mary instead tries the "madonna" tactic by presenting herself as a religious girl who finds herself tempted by bodily sin. This proves a lot more successful.
  • Fittingly explored in Jane the Virgin when Jane (an aspiring writer) loses her virginity. She has trouble figuring out her character Cecilia's motivation, and can't help but cast her as either a promiscuous horndog who believes sex should be celebrated, or a devout nun who disavows sex. This is later revealed to be an exploration of Jane's feelings on the matter — she had spent so long with 'virgin' as one of her identifiers that she has trouble reconciling sex as a good thing, and when she starts moving past it, her writing also starts flowing.
    Cecilia: Now, can we finally stop with that virgin-whore nonsense? (in Spanish) There are so many other interesting things about me!
  • In The Handmaid's Tale, women in Gilead are expected to be either daughters and wives (which are the most respectable position in society) or Handmaids (forced to be breeding slaves) and Jezebels (forcibly turned into pleasure slaves), both of which are reserved for "unruly", "fallen" or "rebel" women. Curiously there are classes such as the Aunts (drill sergeant nasties for Handmaids) and Marthas (domestic workers) that fit neither classification. (This may be because, particularly in the novel, the Aunts and Marthas were usually women who were unmarried, and too old to bear children (and thus too old to either get married or become Handmaids or Jezebels.)

  • Madonna is almost the embodiment of this trope, down to her name. She has cultivated a pious and chaste Catholic image along with very confrontational sexuality throughout her entire career. Like a Virgin was likewise the first time she teased the audience with this.
  • This seems to be a constant problem with Taylor Swift, to the point that an image from "You Belong With Me" was the page image:
    • The video for "You Belong With Me" is really anvilicious. The "narrator"? Totally sweet, tomboyish and Girl Next Door-like and thus undoubtly the better option. Her pretty and popular cheerleader rival, who also is more overly sexual than her? Stupid evil whore who cheats and whines and is bad. Intrestingly enough though, Taylor plays them both.
    • In the "The Story of Us" music video, where Taylor's love interest chooses a girl who's much more physical in her affections than Taylor is, who shows to be more flirty and playful.
    • Another more meta example is from her album Speak Now. In "Speak Now", the narrator persuades the groom to run away on his wedding day but is played to be sympathetic and heroic. In "Better Than Revenge" another girl steals the narrator's boyfriend is told in no uncertain terms to be "better known for the things that she does on the mattress."
  • Lampshaped in "Opheliac" by Emilie Autumn
    She knows in society she either is
    A devil or an angel with no in between
    She speaks in the third person
    So she can forget that she's me
  • Christina Aguilera has been very vocal about her dislike of the whole thing, and her second album Stripped spends a good amount of time complaining about it.
  • Britney Spears is have been noted for using this as her selling point. In her Greatest Hits:My Prerogative collection the writer says is she a good girl doing bad things, a bad girl doing good things, or a mixture of both
  • Marina & the Diamonds uses Britney Spears approach to the trope as inspiration for her second album Electra Heart where Britney was the muse for the project.
  • Justin Timberlake uses this in his musical work.
    I know that you're a bad girl
    You're a good girl
  • Meat Loaf has a song titled "Good Girls Go To Heaven, Bad Girls Go Everywhere."
  • The J. Geils Band song "Centerfold" is about a guy who realizes that the "pure" girl he had a crush on in school is now doing porn. Eventually he gets over it.
  • Cyndi Lauper has a song titled Madonna Whore which is about this exact trope.
  • Deconstructed in Berlin's "Sex (I'm A)". The male singing part is repeating "I'm a man", while the female part is "I'm a..." followed by "goddess", "virgin", "blue movie", "bitch", "geisha", "little girl", "boy", "your mother", "one night stand", "bi" (male chuckle), "slave", "virgin", "drug", "dream divine", and so on, emphasizing while the male is only required to be the male in sex, a woman has to adopt a myriad of roles.
  • The Flemish folk singer Zjef Vanuytsel has the song "Hop Marlene", telling about the eponymous girl, who is a stripper. She's regarded by both men (in admiring terms) and women (in disapproving terms) as the Whore—until a King witnesses her dancing and decides to marry her, making her the Madonna for her subjects.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Tends to be inverted with Bra and Panties matches. When the woman is stripped to her underwear, the villainous woman will be hugely embarrassed and try to cover herself up while the fan favourite will not be and will proudly show off her body. And if she wins the match (by keeping her clothes on) she'll usually remove her clothes anyway.
  • Otherwise played straight. While most women in wrestling tend to be sexualised in some way, a face will often be a Girl Next Door type and sexuality will tend to be downplayed. A seductress character will usually be a heel. Eve Torres, Lita, Stephanie McMahon and Trish Stratus are examples, though Jackie Gayda is one who was a baby face, at points, such as times she flashed La Resistance and Test, distracting them long enough for Rico and or Charlie Haas to gain the upper hand. In Test's case it was in retaliation to him stomping on her hand.
  • Inverted with Molly Holly. She was a villainous Madonna who referred to herself as "pure and wholesome" and despised the other Divas for flaunting their sexuality and frequently wore a lot of white outfits. She was a heroic Whore before that, not necessarily being heavily sexualised but her attractiveness was played up a lot more and she took part in a lot more bikini shoots and provided Fanservice.
  • On the inversion end, there's also Ivory from Right 2 Censor, as well as ODB and Jackie Moore's "cleaning up the Knockout division" gimmick from when they both returned to TNA and feuded with Velvet Sky. Looking through history, face women wrestlers are usually actually in the middle—somewhat sexualized but still implied to be women of valor and virtue—whereas women played to either extreme have made for great heels in the past. Velvet Sky is a great defiance of this trope in her own right. As a heel she was definitely a Whore. However as a face she was still Ms. Fanservice and had no problem showing off her body—she just happened to be presented as heroic as well.
  • SHIMMER and WSU during their time as the "main two" women's promotions of the USA. The former was the offspring of the "No Bra and Panties" IWA Mid-South women's division and less likely to feature death matches than its "parent". Wrestling Superstars Uncensored on the other hand had The Human Tornado, a pimp, as their heavyweight champion and the decision to switch to all women's shows didn't stop them from being the metaphorical whores. Ironically, one of that pimp's actual whores, Candice LeRae, was a bigger hit in SHIMMER than WSU, her biggest WSU moment where she almost beat Cherry Bomb actually contributing more to her SHIMMER angles.
  • The WWE Divas vs the TNA Knockouts. The Divas are Madonnas—they belong to a family-friendly company, any sexual stuff is more often implied (when villainous women do it) or just playful and light hearted (when fan favourites do it). Most of the Divas fit a certain look (read: very pretty) and naturally they don't curse on PG television. The Knockouts however are the Whores—they are brash, heavily sexualised, curse a lot and some of them even bleed from time to time.

  • Grease has this in spades.
    Look at me, I'm Sandra Dee
    Lousy with virginity
    Won't go to bed 'til I'm legally wed
    I can't; I'm Sandra Dee!
    • "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" deconstructs this trope. Betty/Rizzo laments that everyone sees her just as a whore and especially when there are rumors about her Teen Pregnancy, even when she's not a petty thief and only sleeps with one guy. Ironically, she's the ringleader in the "Sandra Dee" song (mocking Sandy for being a Madonna), Sandy is one of the few who offers Rizzo support when she's shunned for being apparently pregnant and Sandy ends up having a sexy Unnecessary Makeover in the end.
  • Swan Lake follows two identical girls, each expressing one side of this complex, and ultimately ends in tragedy. It subtly deconstructs this trope, as the prince loves the White Swan's purity, but doesn't seem to have any problem with it when she seduces him (though it's actually an imposter). It further emphasizes the deconstruction by having the same dancer play both parts, implying a real woman has both the Black and White Swan.
  • Played with in Man of La Mancha: Aldonza is literally selling her favors; while the narrative treats her more-or-less sympathetically, most of the other characters view her as trash for doing so. Alonso views her quite insistently, in fact as a completely different person: Dulcinea, his pure and noble liege-lady.
  • In Faust Greta's brother used to boast of her virtue and feminine perfection until she started an affair. Then he calls her a whore and tells her to start charging all comers. Okay, so he's mortally wounded and understandably bitter when he says that bit, but still!
  • Deconstructed in a blisteringly ironic routine by the Dutch comedian Hans Teeuwen. He starts out by talking about how much respect he has for women: for their beauty, their strength, their grace, their wisdom, etc., and how he firmly believes that women are much better than men, who are competitive and jealous, whereas women are "givers". From there, he argues that since women have so much power, "with great power comes great responsibility", and a woman shouldn't just reveal her beauty to just anyone, only to her husband. From here, he proceeds by logical steps to arguing that, since a "real" woman's ultimate pleasure lies in giving pleasure to her man and not in experiencing it herself, no real woman needs a clitoris:
    Hans Teeuwen: You wanna be a real woman? [Beat] Chop, chop.note 
  • Discussed in Delibes' Lakmé during Act I, when two British officers accompany two British ladies onto temple grounds to have a picnic. The British women state that European women have the ability to "properly love" men in comparison to 'exotic' Indian women, who they say are merely seductresses who enchant men.
  • At one point in The Music Man, the leading Lovable Rogue sings about how he pursues more (ahem) knowledgeable women, out of fear that women who follow traditional values of purity will tie him down in a committed relationship.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • The Bible:
    • In the Book of Genesis, where Tamar disguises herself as a shrine prostitute to sleep with her former father-in-law and becomes pregnant by him. At first, Judah sentences her to be burned to death for engaging in illicit sex… but she sends a messenger with the cord and seal that she had taken as "collateral," saying that the man who owns them is the father. Judah recognizes the MacGuffins as his, and spares Tamar's life. He even says that she is more righteous than he is, because she had done her duty (perpetuating the lineage of her deceased husband) and Judah had not (he married his youngest son Shelah off to someone else, even though Shelah was supposed to marry Tamar to provide for her and father children on his dead brother's behalf.) From then on, Tamar lives in Judah's household, raises the twins born from their sexual act and he provides for her and the kids as he would an actual wife (although they didn't have sex again.)
    • Averted with Rahab, a prostitutenote  from the Book Of Joshua. She is shown to be a kind person, and even hides the Israelite spies. Not only does she end up later having a family of her own, but she becomes part of the lineage of the Messiah.
    • Played straight in the Book of Proverbs, where the students are warned about "strange" women, and where these women are contrasted against a personification of Wisdom, and against the Wife of Noble Character.
    • There's nowhere in any of The Four Gospels who says "Mary Magdalene was a prostitute", neither is she positively identified with the Woman With The Alabaster Jar (who seems to be a shamed slut, whether professional or not), but in any case, it's common practice to make her a Composite Character with the Woman With The Alabaster Jar to counterbalance, you know, The Madonna. Even then, this composite Mary Magdalene plays with the dynamic by being a Whore who becomes a Madonna.
    • Subverted in the The Four Gospels on at least two occasions. The first time, Jesus chats with an unnamed Samaritan woman at her town's well, and does not treat her with contempt for having been married and divorced five times and living with a boyfriend as a "kept woman," even though everyone else does, to the point where she comes to the well at high noon instead of at dawn or dusk when the other townswomen do. The second time, a woman who was caught in the act of adultery is being brought out to be executed by stoningnote . The townsmen ask Jesus what should be done with her, and He calls on the sinless among them to throw the first stone... leading them to spare her life. He then tells her that he doesn't condemn her, and to go and live her life and not cheat again.
    • Played straight in the Book of Revelation, however. The Whore of Babylon (a personification of a culture of corruption, idolatry, and immorality) is contrasted to the pure Bride of Christ (the church).
  • The Mesoamerican legend of Xtabay inverts this. Xkeban was promiscuous but kind and humble. Utz-Colel was chaste but selfish and haughty. When Xkeban died, her body emitted a perfume scent and her grave grew beautiful flowers. Utz-Colel felt shocked and jealous, vowing that her death would be more beautiful, only for a putrid scent and an ugly plant to birth during her funeral. Afterwards, Utz-Colel became the eponymous sex demon out jealousy for her rival and the misbelief that promiscuity (rather than kindness) had been the key to her success.
  • How many a philosopher have portrayed the two aspects of Aphrodite: the heavenly Aphrodite Urania, spiritual love, and Aphrodite Pandemos, carnal love. There is evidence that this might have been a more complex matter in historical religion, however.

    Video Games 
  • Heo Min-Jung from Analogue A Hate Story. Being from a culture that is reminiscent of Joseon-era Korea, she strongly believes that all women desire to get married and be good, obedient wives. She equates any woman wanting otherwise and be "independent" to being a "Whore".
  • Star Fox provides a meta example in Krystal—canonically she remains rather pure, if not romantically inactive, while the fan commmunity—notably, the Furry Fandom—uses her as a prime source of entertainment.
  • Heavy Rain: Madison plays with this one in a weird way. Her encounters along the story tend to be overtly and unnecessarily sexualized, but they play her up to be an abuse victim (a dream sequence where she's attacked in her underwear, being assaulted by an insane rapist/murderer doctor, being forced to perform a striptease at gunpoint) and her successful action sequences are when she's defending herself from those assaults; further, there is an optional sex scene between Madison and Ethan, but the player is controlling him, and not her.
  • A variant in Psychonauts: when Sasha Nein was a child he wanted to know more about his Missing Mom, but his dad was reluctant to discuss her. Eventually Sasha started reading his dad's mind, and got some happy images of her as an angel in Heaven—but, when he dug too deep, also got some more...personal memories of her. It's implied this made the father-son relationship a bit awkward, and inspired Sasha to leave home as soon as possible.

    Web Comics 
  • In Sinfest, Slick tries to join the best of both (for him, meaning a housewife slut) but Monique and Trike Girl avert it. This comic is the Page Image for the trope.
  • Porrim from Homestuck blurs the lines between the two, being attractive and unabashedly promiscuous while also the friendly Team Mom. Her post-Scratch self The Dolorosa and her descendant Kanaya are much closer to the Madonna side of this trope, and in the case of The Dolorosa she literally was the Troll Madonna as the adoptive mother of Troll Crystal Dragon Jesus.
  • Played with a couple of times in Kate Beaton's 'Hark! A Vagrant' but most notably here where the "Body Police" arrest the recently deflowered girl because there's only room for Madonnas and Whoresnote 

     Web Original 
  • Gender-inverted with The Nostalgia Chick, Todd in the Shadows and The Nostalgia Critic. In the Chick's eyes, Todd is the every way perfect man who'll fix her, and she's driving herself crazy in order to attain him. Critic on the other hand, is the comfortable flirt who jacks off butter and sings about how everyone should be slutty, but is just too fucked up for her to think a proper relationship with him could work.
    • In the Freddy Got Fingered review, a crossover with Oancitizen, he suggests that Gord's Love Interest is the perfect synthesis of Madonna and Whore: she's obsessed with phallic objects and blowjobs, but they never have any other kind of sex, and being a disabled nurse plays her as being nurturing but also needing to be nurtured herself.
    • In the Charlie's Angels review a combination of the movie and stupid fan comments brings about the end of feminism, and she declares that the two options are "burqa or slut." Thus she does the review in a burqanote .
  • In Worm, Interlude 24 (Donation Bonus #1), the superhero Defiant recalls having invoked this trope in a discussion of gender roles with Dragon, suggesting that she was the feminine ideal because, as an AI, she could be both. He is subsequently bewildered by the fact that she found this offensive.
  • Whateley Universe: Discussed in Vamp's narration in Diamonds Are a Vamp's Best Friend (Part 1), when Vamp's mom is called a whore by her legal father:
    "Shut yer filthy mouth, ya miserable WHORE!" O'Brien roared. In case you haven't heard of it, the Irish are notorious for falling into that trap of dividing women up into 'Saints' and 'Whores'; and any woman with a sex drive is a whore by those standards.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Virgin Whore Complex