Follow TV Tropes

Following

Playing With / Madonna–Whore Complex

Go To

Basic Trope: There are two kinds of women; Respectable Women who don't have sex (marriageable) and Whores who do have sex (not marriageable).

  • Straight: Bob has two women who like him; Alice, The Ingenue, and Carol, The Vamp.
  • Exaggerated:
    • Women are literally divided into a caste system in which they can either be married or prostitutes.
    • Alice is the Embodiment of Virtue, and Carol is the Embodiment of Vice.
    • Even after marriage, women aren't supposed to enjoy or initiate sex, but rather endure it for the sake of keeping their husbands happy and producing sons for them. And it's culturally accepted that most married men will have at least one mistress, or hire prostitutes, to have sex with for pleasure. Married women aren't supposed to make a fuss about this.
  • Downplayed:
      Advertisement:
    • Bob has a relationship with Alice that does include sex, but monogamously and with a condom; or only after marriage and only for procreation.
    • Bob wants a girl who's over the party scene, or never was into it in the first place, feeling that a Hard-Drinking Party Girl who Really Gets Around is too immature with whom to settle down, or won't be a good role model to any children they might have.
    • Sensible Heroes, Skimpy Villains
    • Bob wants a younger partner, because a younger girlfriend is, theoretically, more likely to be a virgin. (So Bob chooses 18-year-old Alice over 25-year-old Carol.
  • Justified: Bob, Alice, and Carol live in a society where they're taught to save sex for marriage, so the "moral" Alice does so while the "immoral" Carol has sex with other boys.
  • Inverted:
  • Gender Inverted: Alice has two men who like her; Bob, the shy Nice Guy, and Charles, The Casanova.
  • Subverted:
    • Bob has a third woman he has interest in. She's Debbie, the Hooker with a Heart of Gold.
    • Alice secretly has a lot of sex and Carol acts like The Vamp only for effect, so the "Madonnas" and "whores" are Not So Different.
    • Bob decides that he doesn't want to take the time to "show Alice the ropes" on their wedding night, and he'd rather have a wife who "knows what she's doing."
    • Carol isn't a virgin, but it's because she was raped, not because she had consensual sex.
    • After marriage, Alice is expected to just magically flip a switch and become the ultimate sex goddess (but only for Bob,of course), and be available to him whenever he wants.
  • Double Subverted:
      Advertisement:
    • Turns out Debbie is a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, making her a bad whore like Carol.
    • It turns out that Debbie was actually forced into prostitution. Once she escapes from her captors she vows not to have sex again until she's married, making her a Madonna like Alice.
    • He caves to pressure from his family and marries Alice.
    • Bob still considers her to be "Defiled Forever."
    • Alice does exactly that, and Bob loses respect for her, because he liked the thrill of the chase too much.
      • Alternatively, Alice simply can't just "flip the switch" and go from Girl Next Door to Sex Goddess. Both Bob and Alice feel ripped off, like they're trapped into something that "wasn't supposed to be this way."
  • Parodied: Alice is blatantly meaner than Carol, but Bob, in his Insane Troll Logic, thinks Alice is good since she is a virgin.
  • Zig Zagged: Alice's purity isn't portrayed as a good thing, while Carol does show Pet the Dog moments, especially towards Bob.
  • Averted: Neither Alice's nor Carol's morals are connected to their sexuality.
  • Enforced:
  • Lampshaded:
    Bob: There are two kinds of women in the world: the women you marry and have kids with and the women you fuck.
  • Invoked: Bob's old-fashioned parents teach him how to find the perfect wife.
  • Exploited:
  • Defied:
    • After some thought, Bob decides to see each girl as more than whether they're virgins.
    • Bob doesn't want to marry a virgin, and ends up marrying a literal porn star.
  • Discussed: "Carol is fun and sexy, but would you really want her to be the mother of your kids?"
  • Conversed: "There is more to a woman than her sexuality; get to know her, and then decide whether to commit or not."
  • Implied: They are characters in a kids show, so the writers keep it family friendly and avoid naming sex directly. Instead, Bob does not want to date Carol because "she's had too many boyfriends".
  • Deconstructed:
    • Bob chooses Alice, the "good" girl, but she doesn't have a heck of a lot in common with him; he chooses her on the basis that "she'll make a good wife and mother." Eventually, Bob becomes bored with Alice, and finds himself tempted by Carol and her ilk. Alice is hurt because Bob is losing interest in her and neglecting her, and Bob is hurt because he now feels like it was a big mistake to marry Alice, he feels guilty for cheating with (or just lusting after) Carol and blames her for his problems, Alice is jealous of Carol, and ironically, Alice and Bob's home life is in more danger than it likely would have been if he had just chosen Carol in the first place. The marriage becomes troubled, and might just end altogether depending on the setting.
    • Alice is Cute and Psycho, while Carol is an All-Loving Heroine. While Alice becomes more and more unhinged and abusive, and Bob stays with her because they both want to live the perfect, suitable suburban life, Carol is a healthy, generous, and romantic person. She ends up finding someone who loves her and thinks that she is wonderful for who she is inside, and they have the epitome of a beautiful love and family life. Debbie and Emma, Alice and Bob's children, end up abused by Alice while Bob is unwilling to stand up to her, so they go asking for Carol's help, because they do not want to repeat the mistakes of their parents.
    • Alice has trouble reconciling with this worldview. The "ideal" place for her to be is as a Madonna, which is generally held as the more respectable of the two, but comes with tight restrictions that make her life miserable, that will instantly shunt her into the "whore" category if she breaks them even once. Carol gets caught on the other end of this, being a "whore" who is seen as unworthy of respect and generally looked down upon even as she's lusted after, and try as she might, she can't do much about people seeing her as Defiled Forever. Both find their positions belittling and dehumanising, if for different reasons.
  • Reconstructed:
    • Alice divorces Bob and marries Charlie, who thinks like she does, and they become Happily Married.
    • Debbie winds up a prude like Alice and finds someone she loves, while Emma emulates Carol's lifestyle and fails to find a meaningful relationship.
    • Alice just wants to save sex till marriage, while Carol gets into trouble because her uncontrolled sex life gave her STDs, unwanted pregnancies, etc.
  • Played For Laughs: Alice may be a nice girl, but she's a total Gonk.
  • Played For Drama:

Back to Madonna–Whore Complex
Top

Example of:

/

Feedback