Madonnas and whores, and that awesome double standard

Are you a Madonna? Or a whore?

For a long time the whole Madonna-Whore Complex gave women two roles – we could be “pure” as wives, mothers and virgins. Or we were “dirty” as whores – women who enjoyed and appreciated sexual fulfilment.


Madonnas and whores – the two categories for women.

Nothing in between. The thought that sex could be a normal healthy part of a person’s (particularly a woman’s) life was, and is still, problematic for people who see women as either madonnas or whores, as pure or impure.

Because sex is such a massive stepping stone in the madonna-whore world, such a huge item of goods to be traded and sold by a woman’s father on her wedding day to the prospective husband, it can never be seen as a normal healthy thing that humans simply do because its enjoyable and natural.

In the Madonna-Whore world, virginity is of incredible importance. Without her virginity, a woman is worthless. Soiled. Trash.

And a man who has had sex with many women? Well…


Have you ever noticed how there are so many words for a woman who has had sex (or a woman who people think has had sex) but there are very few for men?



The outcome of “sluts versus studs”

So we get the politicalisation of contraception – because only a whore would need it. Once a woman is married, her role becomes simply that of “Mother” or “Prospective Mother” and contraception is an unmentionable. Although almost all couples use contraception in modern society, it’s an unmentionable topic. People pretend it doesn’t happen.

And we get the politicalisation of abortion. Only a whore would abort. A “nice” pure girl doesn’t get pregnant in the first place (because she’s “abstinant”). And if she does (whoops!), she’ll marry the father and have her Happily Ever After.

Except life doesn’t always work out that way. And atheists have a lower divorce rate than religious couples. Hmmm…something seems to be going a bit wrong.

This very narrow view of women – as pure or impure, madonna or whore – stems from patriarchal religions, is tied up with the old worldview of women as chattel and property, and is directly at odds with the direction society is headed in. Hence the clash between the patriarchal churches and society at large.

And the churches are losing. You can see this very clearly in the political landscape in the United States at the moment, the likely collapse and fragmentation of the Republican party – it has aligned itself with the old, white, extreme right religious sects of society, and is finding it simply doesn’t have the numbers. Those numbers are reducing at a very rapid rate, reflecting the way society is changing.

So what’s happening?

Sex is coming out of the closet. That’s what’s happening.

Women are starting to talk about sex, we’re starting to proclaim loudly that it is natural to enjoy sex – with however many partners of whatever gender we wish – and that whatever sex we happen to enjoy does not value or devalue us as individuals. It is simply something we, as human beings, do.

The changes we’re seeing in society, and the death of the madonna-whore complex, are part of women’s movement towards full equality as human beings. That’s all it is.

A group of people cannot be equal as long as they continue to be put into boxes for their behaviour and stereotyped. The “purity” concept needs to die – and the sooner the better. Purity is a concept that should be attached to clean water, or safe food. Not to women and girls. Not to people. We’re not a commodity. We’re human beings.

Aphrodite is a Goddess who represents the sexuality and power of women. She is strong, and fearless – and yes, she is sexual, and sensual, and beautiful. That is why she is intensely uncomfortable for people who have traces of the Madonna-Whore complex instilled in them. Because we’ve been taught that sexuality should be secretive, that is doesn’t give us strength and power. Yet it does.

This is why I think women need to embrace Aphrodite and what she represents. Make peace with our beauty, our sexuality, our sensuality. Be proud to say we enjoy sex. With whomever we choose. In whatever way we wish. Our bodies are our own to use as we desire.

That is why we do the Slut Walks, and why we support the womens shelters. That is why we do NOT bitch against other women, or criticise them for their sexual choices. That is why we support the right to choose, and the right to have safe, freely accessible contraception. Because all of these things are about the right to control our own bodies.

I’m no Madonna. I’m no whore. I’m a human being. And so is every other woman on this planet. It’s time to throw the boxes out the window. None of us is pure, or impure. There is no such thing as virginity – I’m tossing that out too.

We’re all just women. And we’re amazing.

Should I come out of the broom closet?

Coming “out of the broom closet” as a Pagan is a big issue for a lot of people.

It’s hard to decide whether you want to remain under the radar as a Pagan, or if you want to be out of the broom closet.

Consider where you live

One of the things to consider is the type of community you live in. For example, I used to be very much “out” when I lived in a big city a few years ago. But since moving to a small rural community (in another country), I have decided to remain pretty much in the closet about my beliefs.

People who know me well can often guess what I believe, but I don’t talk openly about my spiritual side, I don’t wear a pentacle openly, and I keep my faith pretty much to myself. The community in which I live now is very conservative, and I think my family and I are better of remaining quiet about being “different”.

Overall, my experience has been that the larger the city or community is, the more open it is to new ideas and alternative viewpoints. You might want to think about this, and consider what sort of community you are a part of, before deciding whether you wish to be open about your faith or not.

Consider your family

Think about how coming out may affect your family. Are you partnered to someone in a high profile career, whose interests, however unfairly, might be damaged by your coming out?

I’m not saying this is fair. It’s not. But we do have to be aware of how our actions and beliefs are accepted or rejected in our community, and how our beliefs affect others who are related to us.

Are your children enrolled in a Christian school? Likewise, your coming out may affect their prospects at school, or their prospects of enrollment. People can be cruel bigots.

Consider your career

How will your openness affect your career? In some careers (such as politics and law), presenting a conservative image is really important. You may need to think about this.

Coming out to a partner

Deciding whether or not to come out to a new partner can be a difficult decision. Are they open-minded? Will they support you? Do they understand your beliefs? Do they practice another religion or set of beliefs?

It’s often really hard to know whether a partner will be supportive or not. But if they’re the kind of person who is open-minded and open to new ideas, they’ll generally be okay.

Sharing your beliefs is, in the end, a matter of trust. Do you trust others to respect your beliefs, and to continue to value you as a person no matter whether they agree with you or not? Do you trust them to be willing to take the time to understand? Are you willing to share such an important part of yourself with others?

Do what you feel is right. If you have any doubts about sharing your beliefs with someone, or being open in your community about who and what you are, take your time. There is no rush. Come out about paganism only when you are absolutely certain it is right for you. Some people come out the moment they start their pagan path. Others remain in the closet their entire lives. Both choices – and everything in between – are valid.