A recent piece of research found that men who do laundry don’t get as much sex. I found this really surprising because modern wisdom suggests that helping with non-traditional housework improves relationships – in every area. This is the experience of many men. It seems clear that doing the dishes covers a multitude of sins and this can only be good for your love life, right?
Men who do more dishes and laundry actually have less sex, according to the results from a recent article in the American Sociological Review. It was only a few years ago that the message “Men: Want more sex? Do the laundry!” was so captivating it made its circuit through most major media channels. Could this advice actually be the opposite of what men should be doing? This wasn’t the only surprise this study had in store.
Men who do more traditionally gendered chores have more sex. So men who like to mow the lawn, fix the car, and take out the garbage are in relationships with more sexual activity. These differences weren’t small. Households that divided chores traditionally had about 30% more sexual activity than couples that were egalitarian in their chore delegation.
These results are hard to believe and you might try to explain them away. Maybe these traditional couples have more sex because they have different masculine/feminine ideologies. Perhaps it is because these couples are more extreme in their masculinity/femininity. Another theory might be that traditional couples are more likely to have specific religious beliefs, which can be associated with different sexual activity. The researchers actually considered these factors and they did not explain the findings.
The authors suggest that doing traditional chores gets men and women into “sexual scripts” that “organize” sexual desire. This basically means that men raking the lawn and women doing the dishes gets couples in the mood. Men and women make gendered displays during dating, perhaps it is no different after the wedding day. Maybe taking out the garbage is the marital equivalent of a single man driving a fast car to impress his girlfriend.
If these results are what they appear, I wonder if couples will be having less sex in the future. Over time, couples are becoming more egalitarian in their chore distribution. Women are doing more traditionally male chores and vice versa.
I think it is important to note that this article is not advocating that men do less housework. In fact, doing more chores is associated with more sexual activity overall. It is is encouraging to report that men are actually doing twice as much as they used to. In the 1960s they were doing about 15% of the chores, and that has risen to about 30%.
So, men should keep doing more of their fair share, but they might want to think about whether they should mow the lawn or vacuum the floor
Kornrich, S., Brines, J., Leupp, K. (2013). Egalitarianism, housework, and sexual frequency in marriage. American Sociological Review, 78, 26-50.
Dr. Syras Derksen, C.Psych.