Thanks to Donna Pledger who (first) asked me to respond to the report on a study by sociologists at The University of Washington that found couples had more sex when they divided household chores in traditional ways i.e. men fix the car and take out the garbage, women cook and clean and change nappies. (Full article here).
At first I found it hard to get past the numbers quoted in the article:
Men and women reported having sex about five times, on average, in the month prior to the survey. But marriages in which the wife does all the traditionally female tasks reported having had sex about 1.6 times more per month than those where the husband does all the traditionally female chores.
So at best these couples had sex 6.6 times a month! When I first saw that pitiful number I imagined a little child researcher rolling over on his pillow and whispering, ‘I survey dead people’ because the deceased are the only people I can think of who’d be happy with that number of sexual encounters per month.
You think that's crazy? Have a look at this little gem hidden in amongst all the words –
The data were collected from 1992 to 1994.
Hey! That sounds a lot like twenty years ago, researcher. Any chance you could offer us something a little more current? Oh, and hang on…
The researchers found that husbands, average age 46, and wives, average age 44…
What? I can’t be sure but those ages suggest to me that the participants in this twenty year old survey were forming their attitudes and expectations on gender roles back in the 1950s and 1960s when the traditional roles, that many see as restrictive and sexist today, were well established. When female meant growing into the caregiver, homemaker, obedient wife and male meant growing into the financial provider, emotionally regressed, head of the household.
So, I’d imagine the majority of the couples participating in this survey had some fairly established beliefs on how a man and woman should be, making their opinions on sex, marriage and balancing work and home life even less relevant and applicable to couples who are currently in their 30s and 40s.
A least the journalist leaked a more modern opinion into the article to add some balance and perspective to this archaic survey -
Husbands shouldn’t take these findings as justification for not cooking, cleaning, shopping or performing other traditionally female household tasks, warned lead author Sabino Kornrich, a former UW graduate student who is now a researcher at the Juan March Institute in Madrid. “Men who refuse to help around the house could increase conflict in their marriage and lower their wives’ marital satisfaction.”
Yeah. Be careful. The household chore divide has been a constant source of public debate for a very long time and is usually instigated by very frustrated, tired and undervalued women (the kind that don’t have sex very often). They don’t like being lumped with all the household and child rearing chores because it’s never ending and exhausting and depressing to do that round the clock job on your own. So, let’s counter this survey with a more recent study (2010):
Barbara Pocock, the director of the Centre for Work and Life at the University of South Australia, in a study of Australian working women found resentment over housework killed libido.
''Women's feelings about their husband were shaped by perceptions of fairness around housework,'' she said.
''If the resentment factor was high that's when their sex life was not great. The best sex aid a man could use was a vacuum cleaner.''
She also wondered about the sex lives of those women - about one-third - who say they feel ''almost always rushed and pressed for time'', especially mothers who did more than 20 hours a week of paid work.
That vacuum cleaner quote kicked of The Most Mentally Sexy Contest which challenged gender role stereotypes and celebrated Dads who take on a broader view of masculinity by taking on household chores and child rearing activities. It ran for two years (2010, 2011) and drew strong, emotionally aware, family focused men (who could also have a laugh at themselves) from all over Australia and from many different demographics. The majority of men were entered by their partners who talked of feeling understood, appreciated and supported (the kind of women who have sex more often).
Here’s some more articles on the subject (some of mine, and some by others)
Okay, I think I’ve said enough on this subject and so now I’ll hand it over to you. What’s true in your household? Because in the end that’s the only kind of relevant that matters isn’t it? And whatever your truth is I want you to know that I hope – for your own sake – that you’re having sex more than six times a month. I mean, I’m pretty sure I accidentally trip over and have sex with myself more than six times a month.
So, my outrageously pretentious advice for anyone who is still reading is to continue to keep negotiating the work/home balance with your partner but at the same time have sex more often. Sex is fun. It keeps you healthy. It maintains a strong and joyful bond with the one you love best.
And it can even make doing the household chores less of a pain in the arse.
(Anyone want a pair of those jocks? I still have some left. Email me.)