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Dear Amy,

My name is Ellen Pember and I am a Fashion student in the final year of my degree at Wanganui Polytechnic, New Zealand. I am writing to you in hope that you can help answer a question which I have been trying to resolve for a while now. I am interested in looking at the virgin/whore complex - and the idea of women being damned if they do and damned if they don't - as the inspiration for a collection of garments I have to produce at the end of the year. I have looked at many different resources on these topics but am yet to find a concise definition of the virgin/whore complex. Do you have any ideas where this information could be found? Do you know the answer yourself? You are my last resort because I have researched under so many different terms already e.g. women's studies, gender, psychology, sexuality , and I am yet to find anything that has been overly beneficial. If you could help me with this and email back asap I would appreciate it very much.

Thank you for your time,

Dear Ellen,

I don't think that there is a specific definition for the virgin/whore complex - in fact, I think that your definition is the best you are going to find - damned if you do/damned it you don't. There are two books that challenge this:

  • Promiscuities by Noami Wolf
  • Slut by Leora Tannenbaum

Both talk about how women's sexuality has rarely been owned by themselves. Even when they are the aggressors - they are usually doing it to get the guy, not for themselves, that's the common denominator. Good luck with your project.