The Sexy Husband With the Vacuum Cleaner

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Susan Harrison takes a closer look at a study that suggests men who do “her” household chores get less play.

At the end of January, many popular news websites were quick to report that men who do “women’s work” get less sex. Titles like, Want to Have More Sex? Men, Stop Helping with the ChoresDoes Female Housework Make Men Less Sexy? and Husbands Who Do ‘Her’ Chores Have Less Sex,” abounded, making it seem like men had better “put down their vacuums and pull out their lawn mowers,”and fast. However, as usual with any scientific study, there is more to look at than a provocative title suggests.

Most of these articles do mention that this study contradicts previous research with opposite outcomes. This is important because the data used in the February 2013 study is 20 years old. The authors of the study in the American Sociological Review acknowledge the importance of the age of the data, but conclude that “given the durability of some features of marriage, including the gendered division of labor” the researchers “suspect our results would still hold despite the time that has passed since the data were collected.” That is a big leap of faith for scientists.

The approach of the media is to turn even married sex into a commodity.

In fact, just one year earlier, yahoo.com reported this: Men Who Do Housework Have More Sex and quoted a 2008 study commissioned by the US Council of Contemporary Families that, in fact, men benefit in several ways, including sexually, from doing traditional household chores like cooking and cleaning.  Another article on the same 2008 study reported, “Psychologist Joshua Coleman, a senior Council fellow, said sharing household chores ‘is associated with higher levels of marital satisfaction—and sometimes more sex, too’. He said: ‘Wives report greater feelings of sexual interest and affection for husbands who participate in housework.’”

Neil Cheithik conducted a randomized national telephone survey of 288 men for his 2006 book, VoiceMail: What Husbands Really Think About Their Marriages, Their Wives, Sex, Housework and Commitment. He defined housework as “inside and outside responsibilities (not including paid work) that contribute to keeping up the home.” What he found was:  “…the actual frequency of sex tends to be higher when a woman feels that the housework is divided fairly.” His study can’t tell us how women perceive fairness. However, it has been noted in other recent studies that wives spend twice as much time on housework as husbands, on average. In Cheithik’s survey (taken in 2003-2004), housework was the third most contentious issue for married couples. Fairness in housework was under discussion, and when it was worked out, it mattered for a couple’s sex life. This is likely a more true-to-the-times message than “it turns women on when you change the oil but not when you sweep the kitchen.”

Beyond the fact that 20 year old data is likely irrelevant today, it is interesting there is an assumption that it matters whether or not men have sex 1.6 times more often in a month. Okay, maybe it matters to sociologists. But is sex really so important to the average married man that they would pull less of their weight around the house to get—maybe, on average—one and a half more rolls in the hay per month? (I would say something like “love-making sessions” but the approach of the media is to turn even married sex into a commodity). I’d hate to think that about men, but the popular media assumes this is true.

Another important question is the attitudes of the women who were engaging in more sex with the husbands who were doing only more of the traditionally male chores. Were the women more likely to submit to sexual pressure due to beliefs about women’s roles? Were the men pushier due to those same beliefs? The University of Washington researchers wondered about this too, but noticed that the women whose husbands did more traditionally male chores also had higher levels of sexual satisfaction. But did the women’s traditional values include an unquestioned assumption that “satisfying” sex means pleasing their husbands sexually, and rarely saying “No”? It’s quite possible, but the study didn’t ask.

A final question to ask is, does sexual satisfaction equal marital satisfaction for men and women? The study could not answer that question either. But what we do know is, sex sells, and so a study that added little to the public’s understanding of gender relations in 2013, and possibly did some harm, was exploited to its fullest by the popular media.

 

This article originally appeared on Gender Wise.

Photo by eblaser.

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About Susan Harrison

Susan McLeod-Harrison earned her Master of Divinity degree at Regent College (Vancouver, BC) and her Master of Clinical Psychology at George Fox University (Newberg, Oregon). She lives in Newberg where she continues her studies in clinical psychology at the doctoral level. She and her family love to spend time working in their organic garden and going to yard sales together.

Comments

  1. The other day I woke up to find my boyfriend doing the dishes.
    I started seducing him on the spot.

    There is no moral to this story.

  2. Love it when my husband either spontaneously does a household chore or does it without complaint when I ask him to. This doesn’t happen very often because he has a full-time job, while I usually work on a part-time basis, so I assume the cooking, cleaning and most of the grocery shopping as my other part-time job. This works well for us because I actually enjoy housework, and he enjoys his job, so we’re even-steven on that score. On occasion, though, my paid job will have me working full-time for a week or 2, and when this happens, my husband lends a hand with the housework so that I’m not left doing double-duty on my own. I love that he does this, and I show him my appreciation (if you know what I mean).

    • FlyingKal says:

      Most of the chores in our household used to get done when my efforts to seduce my girlfriend failed to get her interest away from the TV…

      • I’ve seen your comments around here… and assumed you were married. If you’re not, take it from one who is and run!

        • FlyingKal says:

          @ oh man?:
          Not married, never been. But some time ago I stepped out of a long-term relationship. My only one, so far. At the age of 40+, if that is relevant.

  3. as a single dad I do 100% of the chores and i rarely have sex with anyone. i can not be sure of a connection but i will try not doing any house work for a few years and see how that goes. will forward any relevant data.

  4. Well I do chores not for sex. I just do it because I love my wife and I want to help her. I think its sad if my wife want to have sex with me just because its a reward for me doing the chores, not because she desire me.

  5. FlyingKal says:

    Beyond the fact that 20 year old data is likely irrelevant today, it is interesting there is an assumption that it matters whether or not men have sex 1.6 times more often in a month. Okay, maybe it matters to sociologists. But is sex really so important to the average married man that they would pull less of their weight around the house to get—maybe, on average—one and a half more rolls in the hay per month? (I would say something like “love-making sessions” but the approach of the media is to turn even married sex into a commodity). I’d hate to think that about men, but the popular media assumes this is true.
    And I’d hate to think that the amount or “frequency” of love-making sessions within a marriage or romantic relationship is of no interest or importance to the average woman. But based on this article, its’ author seems to assume this is true.

  6. If you were a married man you’d never question that yes, it does matter if I’m having sex 1.6 more times per month. Most married men are not getting enough sexual activity from their wives as it is.

    My wife doesn’t bug me about household chores even though I rarely clean restrooms, vacuum, or hand wash dishes because she knows she’s never had to spend two hours mowing the yard in 90+ degree heat, never changed a light bulb, never cleaned out a clogged drain, never repaired the washer, dryer, or dishwasher, never replaced an AC filter, never checked tire air pressure, never makes sure (or worries) the house is secure at night, never changed a dead car battery, and never stressed or spent any mental energy worrying about how to budget for or plan household improvements.

    From what I can gather from a sports message board I frequent a lot of wives still consider any number of things their husbands do on a regular basis (similar to the list above) to be “you don’t do anything around here”.

  7. When I first saw the title, I was confused as it seemed to contradict previous data. In fact, I had written a blogpost a few years back about men who did housework having MORE sex.

    Thank you for clarifying as well as asking the more relevant question between sexual satisfaction and marital satisfaction. I would hypothesize or possibly project that the answer would be different between men and women, but that study is up to someone else to do..

    Thanks for sharing this,
    Adam Sheck

  8. What I have taken from this study’s discussion in media is this; if you want to make your partner happy, do something extra unasked for. If you always do a fair share of
    Housework, just keepin the status quo won’t make our partner more amorous. Something unexpected and above the “call of duty” might

  9. And yet the one thing you neglected to mention is that those other studies surveyed women about how much sex their husbands got. This study is the only one I’ve seen that surveys husbands.

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