When reading the title of this post, Are You an Angel or a Slut, What came to mind? Which one did you choose? How about this: why do we have to choose at all? Why can’t we be both?

An angel or a slut in the media

There’s a scene from the TV show Modern Family where Phil and Claire are trying to spice up their marriage with role-playing. In the fantasy Phil is married, but he goes to a hotel bar and meets a seductive stranger (Clare) and wants to go up to a room with her. When she asks him why he is there trying to pick up her instead of being at home with his wife. Phil says, “Because I respect her too much to do to her the things I’m going to do to you.” Wow. Okay, I’ll admit I found this really hot. So did Claire. And with a single line, Phil had defined the Madonna/whore dichotomy.

Named the Madonna/Whore Complex by Freud in the 1920s, he theorized that men put women into one of two categories to satisfy their wants and desires. The Madonna is the wife, mother, and keeper of a good home; only men do not feel a sexual attraction to her. Seething with sexual tension men seek out gratification from the whore, who they would never dream of marrying. From here we all know the script, men have relationships with “good girls” and use the “bad girls” for sex.

The idea has been around for centuries, as early as the bible with the Virgin Mary (the original Madonna) and Mary Magdalene. It’s seen in medieval art with virtuous women being depicted as angels and mothers, while debauched women are half-naked, sexual, and evil. Throughout the next several hundred years, men took honorable women on carriage rides and had sex with the indecent girls in the stables.

Think it doesn’t exist in modern times or here in America? Look no further than our American pop culture. Like the Modern Family scene, this dichotomy is presented in TV, movies, music, and literature. In the TV show Two Broke Girls with the blonde moral one and the cold, promiscuous brunette; in the movie Legally Blonde where the lead character Elle’s boyfriend breaks up with her saying she’s a Marilyn and he needs to marry Jackie.

In Margaret Atwood’s feminist book, The Handmaid’s Tale, some women are wives or used to bear children and all others are prostitutes. In music, women are often lifted upon a pedestal in a cheesy love song or degraded in an overly-sexualized way. You could say that it’s not real or it’s just entertainment, but is it really? Men (and women for that matter) are writing this material because it appeals to a wide audience and people are reading, watching, and listening.

Why does it matter? Because these roles are created and defined by men and when these roles are absolute men get to have it all and we, as women, have the choice of a sexless relationship or sex with a partner who thinks it’s meaningless. They can be used to identify who we are. Both can be negative. And just like high school, be an angel and be called goody two shoes, repressed or cold. A slut is considered easy, without morals or values.

an angel or a slut
Photo by Jonathan Cosens Photography on Unsplash

When reading the title of this post, Are You an Angel or a Slut, What came to mind? Which one did you choose? How about this: why do we have to choose at all? Why can’t we be both? I’m not talking about in a man-pleasing-slutty-nurse-Halloween-costume kind of a way. I am thinking more on our own terms like Wonder Woman (who most men have fantasized about at some point in their lives) and the stately Diana Prince. Now that’s a strong woman.

And yes, there is the old adage of men wanting an angel in the street and a slut between the sheets. This might not happen where and when they want, but we can be good wives, partners, and mothers because it is fulfilling for us. It is also freeing us to be in control of our sexuality and comfortable with our bodies.

We are both nurturing and sexual and there is also a wide spectrum between the angel and the slut that graduates widely with outside stressors, like family and work, and internally how you feel about yourself on any given day. In short, sometimes you feel like baking a pie, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you’re horny, sometimes you’re not, but it doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy both.

The most powerful stance we can take is to explore and define these roles for ourselves. The good news is, as we mature the more we continue to take control of our sexuality and the easier this becomes. And as men mature they get it; like Phil in the Modern Family episode. The reason I found this so hot is that the roles were inside of a healthy relationship. And that is a win-win for everyone.

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