What you do in the kitchen might have an effect on what you get in the bedroom.
Want to know my favourite sex toy? My wooden spoon. I use it to cook lamb stir-fry, sweet potato soup and Mediterranean vegetable frittata. Another bedroom aid? The duster, broom or nappy wipes.
No, this isn’t some quirky fetish. US research suggests that ‘go-getter’ couples who share more housework have more sex. As Barbara Pocock from the Centre for Work and Life at the University of South Australia put it: “The best sex aid a man could use was a vacuum cleaner.”
You can imagine the dream scenario: as I approach 35, my life is part Voltaire, part Viagra. When I’m not cooking three dinners, wiping snot out of my daughter’s eyes, or impaling my foot on Lego starships, my wife and I are enjoying tender hours of lovemaking.
I jest, but the ‘Mentally Sexy Dad’ is a real phenomenon. The brainchild of blogger Clint Greagen at Reservoir Dad, the competition celebrates men who’re committed to a more balanced family life. It’s a reminder: men who clean, cook, and parent are hot stuff.
How does this work? Most obviously, if a woman’s less tired, she’s more interested in sleeping with her husband than just plain sleeping. By scrubbing, cooking, and nappy-changing, husbands offer their wives a chance to conserve their energy for whatever’s important to them. Sometimes this ‘whatever’ is their sexy husbands.
More importantly, they’re offering their wives commitment: demonstrating their dedication to shared life. There’s nothing sexy about fishing poo out of a child’s skin folds. There’s nothing arousing about midnight milk feeds. But these labours reveal love, in a tangible way.
Obviously 12-hour days can also demonstrate this: all spouses make sacrifices for their family’s well-being. But this can lead to a distance in the relationship: a divide between minds, born of two separate days, roles and expectations. After a day of mucus, tantrums and crap, the routines of the office can seem remote. Similarly, it can be hard to identify with the grocery choices and Barbie band-aids when you’ve been smashing your head up against the deadline wall. Typical gender roles are efficient, but not always effective in the long run.
This is the logic behind Reservoir Dad’s competition. In an irreverent way, Clint is trying to highlight the attractiveness of alternative masculine domesticity.
Of course this involves a little beefcake: bulging guns or tight bums in little undies. But this is only the most obvious allure. More than anything else, these are men who refuse to be bound by traditional gender roles. They can be tough, brawny, and probably boozy—but they also wash, cook, clean, and kid-wrangle.
In this, the competition (also running in the United States) is a celebration of today’s real new age man: not stereotypically emasculated or wimpy, but caring, careful, and committed. It’s not a denial of what most men in Western societies do. It’s an expansion of it: showing how their energy and perseverance can be broadened and enriched, how they can be bigger men, not in waistline, but in spirit. They’re ‘mentally sexy’ because they’ve given their responsibilities and ideals thought, and demonstrated will, intelligence and foresight. It’s an allure of the soul, not just the biceps.
This is valuable in itself, as a celebration of the human enterprise—everyday people, freely shaping their lives. It is healthy for children, who get to see their parents as equals—in responsibility, if not in every little chore. It is good for parents, who perhaps understand one another a little better.
But it is also a matter of sex appeal. There is the tendency to make domesticity into something perfectly dull and uninspiring—and often it is, let’s face it. Yet the choice to take up this mantle without public reward or remuneration deserves recognition.
This needn’t be formal. It might be the warm kiss of a wife in love with a man wearing pink washing-up gloves, with his daughter’s snot on his shoulder. Maybe it’s a kiss, and then more, after the kids’ dinner and books. It’s not porn for women—its erotica for couples, whose rhythms and duties are in sync (and in sink). It’s not ‘chores for sex’—it’s a re-evaluation of what ‘sexy’ means.
Ultimately one competition won’t change the habits of generations, particularly as many are happy with traditional arrangements. And this isn’t a means-end decision: more housework equals more nookie equals happiness. It’s simply about relearning what a real man looks like.
But enough talk. Time to wipe the snot off my shoulder, wash my hands, and grab my wooden spoon.
Originally posted at abc.net.au
—Photo neil alejandro/Flickr