EDMONTON – A new study shows married men who do more traditionally female housework – including cooking, cleaning and shopping – report having less sex than husbands who don’t do as much.
Men in the study reported having sex an average of 5.2 times in the month prior to the survey while women reported having sex an average of 5.6 times a month.
“Couples in which men participate more in housework typically done by women report having sex less frequently,” says Sabino Kornrich, the lead author in the study and a junior researcher at the Centre for Advanced Studies at the Juan March Institute in Madrid. “Similarly, couples in which men participate more in traditionally masculine tasks-such as yard work, paying bills, and auto maintenance-report higher sexual frequency.”
“Our findings suggest the importance of socialized gender roles for sexual frequency in heterosexual marriage,” said Kornrich.
“The results suggest the existence of a gendered set of sexual scripts, in which the traditional performance and display of gender is important for creation of sexual desire and performance of sexual activity.”
The study used data from the National Survey of Families and Households and looked at heterosexual married couples in the United States.
North of the border, some married men aren’t convinced of the study’s findings.
“Generalized studies mean nothing,” says Greg Donnelly, an Edmonton father who recently left his career to take care of his two young daughters.
“I was never a housework person, and now it’s kind of my job, so it’s a big learning curve,” he admits. “I’m doing more of it, but I probably should be doing more of it.”
Donnelly says he vacuums, dusts, washes and dries, tidies, does laundry, cleans the floors, and washes the walls. However, he doesn’t feel his work falls under a specific gendered category.
“I don’t know if traditional female/male roles matter really,” he says. “It’s the individuals. My wife and I have always split different things, and other people feel one way or the other. I don’t think gender really comes into play … it’s just chores, it’s a chores list. You do the different chores of the day.”
“When we were both working, it was tough to find that time, so you’ve got to make the time and it doesn’t matter what the gender is, you’ve got to keep your household up… it’s about being a team.”
When asked about the study’s link between traditionally female chores and less sex, Donnelly is not convinced.
“I guess my reaction is I shake my head and I ignore it.”
“If it’s true, then it just points to something deeper,” he explains. “Marriage is a thousand different things that go into it, so to pick one out, and to say, this must be the reason why, is just ridiculous.”
The researchers found that happiness, religion, gender ideology, and a range of other variables did not affect the relationship between more traditional divisions of labor and more frequent sexual activity.
While many would argue society’s perception of gender roles has progressed in many areas, the researchers say the study shows the bedroom is not one of them.
“The importance of gender has declined over time, but it continues to exert a strong influence over individual behaviors, including sexual frequency within marriage,” Kornrich said.
“I think it’s very important for females to see males to be masculine because there’s a need for females to feel like they’re being taken care of,” explains Melinda Banszky Le Fevre. She’s a psychologist with the Loussa Counselling Centre in Edmonton.
However, when it comes to this study, she has a few questions.
“Does that mean that the wife is not available because she’s working longer hours herself and she’s not coming home? Is it the availability of sex? Is it the desire? Who’s not desiring it? Is it the male who’s not desiring it? The female not desiring it? Or is it both not desiring it?”
Banszky Le Fevre says taking care of children brings out the nurturing – or typically feminine – side of the personality, which doesn’t usually align with the primal – or sexual – side of the personality.
“You’re so focused on nurturing that somehow sexuality does not mix,” she says. “It’s oil and water.”
No matter how people react to the results, the researchers advise against using it as an excuse to avoid cooking, cleaning, and shopping.
“Men who refuse to help around the house could increase conflict in their marriage and lower their wives’ marital satisfaction,” said Kornrich. “Earlier research has found that women’s marital satisfaction is indeed linked to men’s participation in overall household labor, which encompasses tasks traditionally done by both men and women.”
Kornrich co-authored the study with two University of Washington researchers, Julie Brines and Katrina Leupp. The study, “Egalitarianism, Housework, and Sexual Frequency in Marriage,” will be published in the February issue of the American Sociological Review.