Mother, Madonna, Whore: The Idealization and Denigration of Motherhood

Author(s) : Estela V. Welldon

Mother, Madonna, Whore: The Idealization and Denigration of Motherhood

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To Freud, female sexuality remained something of a mystery: a riddle and a dark continent. He urged his female colleagues to enlighten him. Many have since done so - and this book is a most vivid and illuminating contribution to the field.

Welldon explores why the quality of their bodies is fundamental to women's psychology; how this may lead to self-mutilation; and how such perverse behavior may also be aimed at objects which women see as their own creations, specifically, their babies. The potential causes and consequences of these conditions, including maternal and paternal incest and its frequent aftermath, prostitution, are also discussed.

Reviews and Endorsements

'The balance of Freud's original phallocentric theories, with the emphasis on the importance of father and the fear of castration, needed to be redressed and due weight given to the importance of the earlier mother-infant interaction. The apparent greater incidence of perversions in men was classically related to the concept of castration anxiety. Welldon broadens this perspective and suggests that the reproductive functions and organs are used by both sexes to express perversion. If in man it is more localized and focused through his penis, in woman it will be expressed through her reproductive organs and her whole body. She includes her syndromes of self-injury, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, self-mutilation and prostitution, all of which occur more in women. Above all, "motherhood provides an excellent vehicle for some women to exercise perverse and perverting attitudes toward their offspring, and to retaliate against their own mothers."…The book is well written and is easy and engaging to read; altogether it sheds a most welcome light on the route to the heart of the dark continent.'
- Johnathan Pedder, Institute of Psychoanalysis, London

'Courageous and provocative…This book is remarkable not only for its revelation of a little acknowledged truth, but also for the very humane quality of understanding perverse and pathological motherhood that Welldon displays.'
- Joyce McDougall, author of Theatres of the Mind

'Dr Welldon's remarkable book uncovers the hidden area of female sexual perversion, relatively unrecognized in the past…The book is an extremely important one, and should be read by all who work therapeutically with women.'
- Joseph Sandler, Freud Memorial Professor, University of London

About the Author(s)

Dr Estela V. Welldon, MD, HonDSc, FRCPsych, is an Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist in Psychotherapy at Tavistock and Portman NHS Clinics. She is the Founder and the Honorary Life President of the International Association for Forensic Psychotherapy. In 1997, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Science by Oxford Brookes University. Welldon works privately as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist and organizational consultant. She is a Member of the British Association for Psychotherapy, the British Psychoanalytic Council, the Institute of Group Analysis, the American Group Psychotherapy Association and the International Association for Group Psychotherapy. She is the author of Mother, Madonna, Whore: The Idealization and Denigration of Motherhood (1988) and Sadomasochism (2002) and is the main editor of A Practical Guide to Forensic Psychotherapy (1997).

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