Couples Who Split Chores Have Less Sex (We Cry Foul)

By Erin Cassin

do couple who split chores have less sex? Research shows that husbands who take on chores traditionally associated with women – such as cooking, cleaning and laundry – have sex less often than married men who focus on household duties like yard work, car maintenance and paying bills that are typically perceived as masculine.

Both men and women in marriages with a more equal division of household labor reported having less sex than those couples with more gender-traditional roles. “Our findings suggest the importance of socialized gender roles for sexual frequency in heterosexual marriage,” noted Sabino Kornrich, a junior researcher at the Center for Advanced Studies at the Juan March Institute in Madrid, Spain and the study’s lead author. “The results suggest the existence of a gendered set of sexual scripts, in which the traditional performance and display of gender is important for creation of sexual desire and performance of sexual activity,” she adds.

related: Men Often Misread Women’s Sex Cues

Married men: Before you decide to hang up your spatulas or boycott laundry duty, consider this important detail: While the study was published in the February 2013 issue of the American Sociological Review, the results were based on interviews done from 1992 to 1994. This included feedback from 23,075 heterosexual couples living in the U.S., in response to the National Survey of Families and Households. “This is 20-year-old data…so it may not be terribly accurate for where people are right now since society is always shifting” says Dr. Ruth Neustifter, PhD, a clinical fellow at the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and an assistant professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.

“I would hate for people to see this study and immediately jump to the conclusion that men who participate in housework that used to be considered more feminine are less sexy or less desirable or bad partners.” Though the study’s researchers ruled out a number of other possibilities for their findings, including being pressured to have sex, not all marriage counselors agree that this was accounted for in the responses.

“I think coercion is probably more of an issue than they make it out to be,” says David Kaplan, PhD, former president of the International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors and current chief professional officer of the American Counseling Association, a not-for-profit professional and educational organization representing professional counselors.

Kaplan noted that in some cases, couples with less egalitarian relationships may be having more sex because those wives are being pressured into it by their husbands. “When the stereotyped ‘traditional’ man wants sex, he may demand it, whether the woman wants it or not.

In a more egalitarian relationship, the man may be more sensitive and back off,” Dr. Kaplan explained. And for couples who do feel like splitting up the more traditionally female chores among both partners is putting a damper on their sex life, Dr. Neustifter advises taking time out to appreciate each other’s sexuality on a regular basis. “Nobody feels sexy with a dirty diaper in their hand, so it’s really important for both of you to prioritize your sexual identity, too,” she said.

“I see this [study] as an exciting invitation for couples to dive back into re-exploring their sexuality in the relationship and to learn new ways to initiate and enjoy all different kinds of sex, not just intercourse,” she adds. Making sex a priority and “mixing it up by trying to be more creative takes some work, some forethought and some planning, but can certainly be worthwhile.”

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