Equal and Undersexed

A new study, published in the American Sociological Review finds that couples who break from the traditional gender roles in regard to housework report having less sex than those couples who don’t.  

The study is new, but unfortunately the research is old.  The data covers nearly 4,500 heterosexual couples from 1992-1994, and finds that couples who follow more typical gender scripts, have just over 1.5 times more sex than those who not only divide the housework more fairly (although women still account for more than half) but share in those duties which traditionally have not fallen to their own sex. 

The researchers comment on the dated data: 

“[the data] were collected roughly 20 years prior to the time of writing. Because these data are older, there is a possibility that the relationships we document have changed. In particular, the script that men exchange housework for sex is a relatively recent one and, as such, may not have been evident at the time of this research. However, given the durability of some features of marriage, including the gendered division of labor, we suspect our results would still hold despite the time that has passed since the data were collected.”

This research is purportedly in response to a recent article passed around by all the big networks and publications entitled, “Men: Want More Sex?  Do the Laundry,” which had done surveys asking about sexual satisfaction in marriage.  The researchers believed it dubious research for such a bold claim and dug around for some data from the National Survey of Families and Households that look at sexual frequency as it relates to household chores and deviation from/adherence to traditional sexual scripts.  

The article this study intends to test claimed that, “some research indicates that women have more sex with men who do more work around the house than with those who don’t do their share. Men doing housework is, evidently, a kind of aphrodisiac for women.”  Despite women’s aspiration to find vacuuming sexy, women (at least 90’s women), didn’t respond accordingly.  

Obviously there are many factors that go into marital dynamics, and the study makes clear that sexual satisfaction and overall marital satisfaction are beyond the scope of the study (although the study assumes that more sex equals more happiness in marriage), but clearly we’re more ethically committed to our egalitarianism than our libidos are, and that women in an aprons and men with wrenches still manages to evoke a much more potent sexual response from one another than the reverse situation.  

The problem may lie initially within ourselves, and that despite our desire to share the burden, many of us are much happier doing tasks that our genders have done traditionally.  

“Gender’s role in marital sex is less well documented, but Schwartz (1995, 2007:2) reports that egalitarianism in committed heterosexual adult relationships is associated with occasional boredom and a “sibling-like” tonality to the relationship that undermines sexual desire. Schwartz (2007:2) avers that “introducing more distance or difference, rather than connection and similarity, helps to resurrect passion in long-term, stable relationships.”

Nonetheless in large measure, what was sexy 40 years ago (or 30 years from then) is still sexy now (err… then), and that attraction is more difficult to learn than fairness, or rather more slowly acquired.  Increased sexual activity among couples that share household duties, is contingent upon their own barriers of sexual attraction, rather than a natural feature of a marital arrangement.  Women have to want to want to find dish washing men sexy and vice versa if they value the opportunity for sexual engagement as much as the shared workload.

In the most conclusive line in the study, the researchers say as much:

“The notion that sex within marriage is bound to traditional sexual scripts does not necessarily put egalitarianism at odds with sexual frequency. Rather, the salience of traditional sexual scripts suggests that if maintaining certain features of marriage, such as sexual frequency, is desired, increased egalitarianism in one area of marriage must be paired with comparable shifts away from traditional gender behaviors, attitudes, and scripts in others.”

In this vein, the FX show Louie, includes a scene in the first season where Louie is on a date and a bully coerces him into an apology in order not to ‘get his ass kicked.’  The date is turned off by Louie’s debasing apology and struggles with the ethical implications of her deflated sexual reaction.  

 You can follow Russell’s posts on his blog 22oftheday.blogspot.com, on Twitter @NeoKubrick, and on Facebook under Russell Winfrey or 22 of the Day.  

Author: The Blue Route

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