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Sex Roles

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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
Original Article

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.

Keywords

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

Notes

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The research was conducted in compliance with APA’s ethical standards in the treatment of human participants, which includes providing informed consent and a full debriefing. The study was approved by Tel-Aviv University Institutional Review Board.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11199_2018_895_MOESM1_ESM.docx (74 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 73 kb)

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The School of Psychological SciencesTel-Aviv UniversityTel-AvivIsrael
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyLawrence UniversityAppletonUSA

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