Why Egalitarian Marriages Are More Sexual

August 15, 2014

houseworkYou may recall the 2012 study Egalitarianism, Housework and Sexual Frequency. It found that the married couples with the best sex lives were those who followed traditional gender roles around the house:

Female Chores:

  1. Cooking
  2. Washing dishes
  3. Cleaning the house
  4. Shopping
  5. Washing and ironing

Male Chores:

  1. Outdoor work
  2. Paying bills
  3. Auto maintenance
  4. Driving

(Driving? Since when is driving a male chore? I’m the one who put 15K miles a year on a minivan for years. I also maintained it.)

As you can see, these responsibilities portray a one-income household where the husband works around the house on weekends, and the wife is a full-blown housewife throughout.

Lori Gottlieb, a never-married marriage therapist, wrote about the study in Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex? for the NYXs magazine. But Cornell professor Sharon Sassler found the findings a surprising throwback, and reviewed the study. What she found was that the data used in this recent study was collected at two points: 1987 and 1992. That’s a full generation ago, and women’s lives have changed dramatically in that period. Was there no more recent data that might shed light on this question?

Sassler and her colleagues identified a source of marital data of 600 couples from 2006 and took another look. What they found was very different. From the Washington Post:

Sexual frequency and housework

Interestingly, the study found that only 30% of married couples and 47% of cohabiting couples report sharing the housework equally. Men are more likely to report equal sharing than women are. In 63% of households, women do about 2/3 of the work.

As you can see, satisfaction drops pretty significantly when hubby is in charge of the housework. That represents only 5% of the households, and probably reflects the recession’s impact on male earners.

Naysayers will immediately claim that no woman ever got aroused watching her man scrub a toilet, and I daresay that’s true. Watching a man stand shirtless in the sun while spraying a hose at a sudsy car is undoubtedly more sexually appealing. But that’s really not the point.

The reason that couples in egalitarian marriages have slightly more sex and slightly better sex is because women feel respected and valued when their husbands share the responsibility. Especially if those women are contributing to household income.

When a man orders a woman to “make me a sammich” or otherwise treats his wife like chattel, he is showing his contempt for her as an inferior person. And we know that contempt is the #1 predictor of divorce.

In my own marriage, I’ve performed all the chores, both male and female, when I was not working outside the home. When I have worked, my husband and I have shared all those chores equally, give or take.

I do most of the cooking, he always cleans up afterwards. I do all the laundry. He frequently offers to do the food shopping. I do all the auto maintenance (I took Auto Shop in high school.) He handles the lawn, but I spend waaaay more time on the garden.

It works for us, and I can’t recall that we’ve ever discussed or negotiated these roles – they’ve emerged naturally.

Seeing my husband load the dishwasher doesn’t turn me on, but neither does seeing him clean the gutters. My attraction to him is not based on any particular assignment of tasks by gender. It thrives because we’re in it together – it’s us against the world, doing what needs to be done. And when our work is done we get to play.  🙂

I have found that one key to a successful marriage is focusing on how you can help out and pitch in, not concerning yourself with negotiating the division of labor. If your spouse is quite concerned with protecting their individual interests, you’ve got a boss, not a partner.

Sex and housework

housework and sexual frequency

housework and sexual frequency

housework and sexual frequency