The Madonna-Whore Dichotomy: Men Who Perceive Women's Nurturance and Sexuality as Mutually Exclusive Endorse Patriarchy and Show Lower Relationship Satisfaction

Orly Bareket, Rotem Kahalon, Nurit Shnabel, Peter Glick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations

Abstract

The Madonna-Whore Dichotomy (MWD) denotes polarized perceptions of women in general as either “good,” chaste, and pure Madonnas or as “bad,” promiscuous, and seductive whores. Whereas prior theories focused on unresolved sexual complexes or evolved psychological tendencies, feminist theory suggests the MWD stems from a desire to reinforce patriarchy. Surveying 108 heterosexual Israeli men revealed a positive association between MWD endorsement and patriarchy-enhancing ideology as assessed by Social Dominance Orientation (preference for hierarchical social structures), Gender-Specific System Justification (desire to maintain the existing gender system), and sexist attitudes (Benevolent and Hostile Sexism, Sexual Objectification of Women, and Sexual Double Standards). In addition, MWD endorsement negatively predicted men’s romantic relationship satisfaction. These findings support the feminist notion that patriarchal arrangements have negative implications for the well-being of men as well as women. Specifically, the MWD not only links to attitudes that restrict women’s autonomy, but also impairs men’s most intimate relationships with women. Increased awareness of motives underlying the MWD and its psychological costs can help practice professionals (e.g., couple therapists), as well as the general public, to foster more satisfying heterosexual relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-532
Number of pages14
JournalSex Roles
Volume79
Issue number9-10
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Gender attitudes
  • Gender-specific system justification
  • Madonna-whore dichotomy
  • Relationship satisfaction
  • Sexism
  • Social dominance orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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