09262017Headline:

Myth & Movie: The Virgin, The Whore, and The Devil Wears Prada

When I was a sweet little virginal Catholic girl, I moved from Kentucky to the big scary city of Chicago.

There, I landed a job as a personal assistant to a woman who worked as an upscale escort.

Yes, I was the Virgin employed by the Whore. (She used this term for herself. As long as it wasn’t used to insult her, she didn’t mind.)

I was determined to prove to my street-smart, worldly boss that—although I was naïve—I was smart and capable. I wanted her to respect me and like me. I wanted her to say, “Damn, that precious little miss really gets things done.”

In order to accomplish this, I bent over backwards. I worked 12 hour days, even though I felt erased at the end of the day. I harassed lingerie store employees (okay—I ATTEMPTED to harass them; lingerie store employees do not put up with crap), even though it made me uncomfortable. I tried to act as back-up when a john became violent, even though I was scared and in danger.

I disregarded my own safety, my own well-being, and my own needs. It wasn’t the job that did it to me, or even my boss that did it to me. It was me. I could have put my foot down and said HELL TO THE NO to anything my boss asked.

But I didn’t. Partly because I needed the job. Partly because I wanted to impress my boss. I had a desperate, gnawing need for approval.

We all do, really. And our need for approval can cause us to compromise ourselves.

Which is why the archetype of the Virgin and the Whore is so persistent.

*

 

The Virgin and the Whore are both archetypes in and of themselves.

But they have an interesting relationship.

That goes something like this*: The Virgin is naïve and sheltered and she has no sense of personal power. She does, however, have big dreams. She goes out into the big scary world, intending to prove her worth and accomplish her dreams, and this is where she meets the Whore. The Whore is in the position of a gatekeeper, and the Virgin must win her approval in order to prove her worth. The Virgin bends over backwards to impress the Whore, but the Whore is so beyond being impressed by anything in life. The Whore demands the sacrifices of the Virgin’s deepest, most sacred values.

Eventually, the Virgin realizes that winning the Whore’s approval will mean selling her soul . . . by which point she will have become another Whore herself. She decides she won’t do it. She learns to stand up for herself, stops putting her power in the service of others, and stops trying to win approval. No more sacrificing the Virgin. She finds her power.

Each one of us has to go through this journey if we’re going to find personal fulfillment. (Yes, even men have to go through the Virgin’s journey. The Hero’s journey is a totally different thing. Both men and women need both the Virgin and the Hero journeys.)

 *

Let’s look at it in the context of The Devil Wears Prada, because that movie is right on point.

The Virgin—that would be Andrea Sachs—goes to the big city, innocent and naïve, stepping out into the wild world humming Cat Stevens songs. And wearing bad clothes, because she believes she has value that goes deeper than appearance.

She’s inexperienced and genuinely kind. She’s been pretty sheltered all her life, which has led her to believe she’s precious. She just wants a chance to prove her worth to the world, and become a journalist.

In the big city, the Virgin meets the Whore, and winds up working for her as a personal assistant.

Okay, Miranda wasn’t technically a Whore, but we’re talking archetypes here.

Miranda demands everything of Andy. She wants her dog walked and her dry cleaning picked up and her steak lunch on her desk at the same time. She wants a flight during a hurricane. She wants the unpublished Harry Potter manuscript. She actually says, “Find me that piece of paper I had in my hand yesterday morning.” (All this sounds so familiar. My boss the high class escort was a dragon!)

Andy bends over backward trying to accomplish all this. She’s ALWAYS working. She can’t have dinner with her father because Miranda demands that time for herself. Andy’s relationship with her boyfriend falls apart. She doesn’t have free time in the evenings because she’s working on Miranda’s kids’ science fair project. She loses her friends. She loses herself.

Miranda doesn’t think she’s making unreasonable demands. The Whore archetype thinks nothing of sacrificing personal relationships and values because she doesn’t respect those things—including her own pain when she loses them. That’s just par for the course. All Miranda’s marriages have failed. (I think she’s had three?) Miranda runs a fashion magazine. She’s more into images and fitting in than being true to her heart.

So she expects others to sacrifice what’s important to their hearts, too.

The Whore wants the Virgin’s resources—her time, her effort, her goodness, her heart.

The Virgin will give all of this, up to a point. Andy achieves a level of real competence working for Miranda.

But if the archetypal relationship fulfills its function, the Virgin eventually realizes something that’s pretty horrifying: she and the Whore are the same person.

The Whore has sacrificed everything of real importance.

The Virgin has been doing exactly the same thing.

Up to this point, these two archetypes have really been the same archetype at different points in her life. The Virgin has been dealing with a future version of herself. Given time—given a lifetime of sacrificing herself—the Virgin will inevitably become the Whore.

Miranda even says to Andy, “I really see a great deal of myself in you. You can see beyond what people want, and what they need, and you can choose for yourself.”

But Andy does not want to be like Miranda. And she has not been choosing for herself.

And when she realizes that she has not been choosing for herself—she has not been putting herself first—she changes that. She lays down some boundaries, claims what’s important to her, and takes herself out of that exploitative situation. She values herself.

And when you value yourself, you don’t have to bend over backward to get approval. You know you rock.

*

That is what the Whore has to teach the Virgin. The Whore puts the Virgin in touch with her wisdom.

This story is about learning to define, and defend, your own values. You learn this by encountering a future version of yourself. You see what you will turn into if you do not live according to your heart.

We become the Whore anytime we give ourselves to things that don’t fulfill us:

  • Work jobs we hate.

  • Help others build their dreams while neglecting our own.

  • Place our gifts in service of unworthy causes.

  • Bend over backwards for people who exploit us

  • Are enchanted by glamour instead of staying true to our hearts.

 *

We are the Virgin—after the journey, that is, the Wise Virgin—when we prioritize ourselves:

  • Refuse to compromise our values.

  • Engage in self care before caring for others.

  • Can say no to things that go against our intuition or our hearts.

  • Conserve our energy and resources for what’s most important to us, instead of giving them away.

*

It’s interesting that these two archetypes are so important to one another, but they’re literally defined by their relationship to sex.

A Virgin is only a virgin because she hasn’t had sex. A Whore is only a whore because she has sex for money.

But these archetypes aren’t really about sex, per se. They’re about your sense of self, your treasure, and your personal power. One holds it all close, the other sells it. Look at it again through symbolic terms: Sex is life, and the power to give life. Sex is pleasure and deep connection.

Don’t exploit or squander your own power to feel bliss and bring life to the world.

This is your power.

Not theirs.

They will want it. They will try to take it from you.

All you have to do is say No (when it’s not right).

All you have to do is say Yes (when it’s right).

*

You guys, it is so weird that this literally happened to me.

People, hear me: What the hell is the world made of—what the hell are these things we call “archetypes”—that this story happened to me? With a literal Virgin and Whore?

It’s spooky. It’s probably ghosts.

*

* Writer Kim Hudson has done a lot of work with the Virgin archetype—much more than I have. Her interpretation goes deeper than mine. For the purposes of this post, I’m sticking with this interpetation.

***

L. Marrick is an author, ghostwriter, and suitcase entrepreneur—which is a hipster way of saying she travels and works from her laptop. Her blog, LMarrick.com, is where she writes about history and myth. Her memoir, “Working Girl: 132 Somewhat Moral Values I Learned from a Sex Worker,” tells about when she answered a shady classified ad and wound up working as a sex worker’s personal assistant. Follow her on Twitter at @LMarrick.

© L. Marrick 2015. The content of this article, except for quoted or linked source materials, is protected by copyright. Please contact the author at the above links to request usage.


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