Every time I hear "the Madonna-Whore," my 1980s brain automatically goes to Madonna's "Like a Virgin." Not only is it a song that sticks with you for thirty-odd years, but Madonna's classic MTV Video Awards performance really gets at the meaning of it. She clearly had a ball mocking the hell out of such a patently patriarchal concept. She made it through the wilderness all right.
So did her namesake.
Leave it to a bunch of walking dipsticks so hasty to strip the powers of priestess leading competing faiths, they laid a foundation for a "modern" religion with all masculine protagonists. Oops. Little problem. The women weren't buying it. So, they took a tragic teenage pregnancy and made the victim into a vessel. ~insert angelic chorus here~ "Women, behold your purpose -- to walk a lot and pop out male messiahs."
Why yes, yes I am a lot of fun at fundamentalist gatherings.
If you're still with me on the bullet-train into Hell (named after a woman, btw), let's move up a few cars, shall we? Let's note the more probable tragic truth behind the Madonna myth and its appearance in contemporary female protagonists. The Urban Fantasy genre exemplifies female protagonists from non-idyllic backgrounds. Some of the protags are victims of sexual deviancy. Most are social pariahs. All have had their lives irrevocably changed by something mystical. The female protagonist is in someway broken and is determined to become more than that. Readers sign on for the journey. They're not interested in purity and light, pedestals, or the untouchable. They want the struggle. They prefer the truth behind the myth.
A broken Madonna is someone with whom an audience identifies.
I like to imagine the Madonna middle-aged and laughing her ass off whenever men extoll the virtues of virgin women. Touched for the first time, indeed.