By Joseph Hall/Torstar News Service
Joe Six Packs take heart.
Married men who shirk traditional “female” housework have more sex with their wives than those who willingly pitch in with the cooking or cleaning, a new study says.
The research, out of the University of Washington, shows that couples who keep to traditional household chores – where men rake leaves or fix the car and women tidy up or shop – have significantly more carnal encounters than their more egalitarian counterparts.
“Where the male is doing the male tasks and the female is doing the female tasks, those are the couples (who) are having more sex,” says Julie Brines, a sociologist at the Seattle school and a study co-author.
The study was released Wednesday by the journal American Sociological Review.
It found that couples spend an average of 34 hours a week on so-called “female” chores and 17 hours on more traditional male tasks. It also found that couples overall reported about five sexual encounters a month.
But households where Dagwood-like dreamboats preformed none of the “women’s work” reported 1.6 times more sexual encounters than those in which men took on the bulk of cooking and cleaning chores.
That increase in sexual frequency went down in an inverse proportion to the amount of traditional “women’s work” a husband took on.
Households where husbands claimed 40 per cent of that housework reported almost one less sexual encounter a month than those in which the males took on none of those chores.
One of the study’s drawbacks is its reliance on data that is now two decades old.
The study looked at 4,500 heterosexual couples polled as part of the U.S. National Survey of Families and Households, conducted between 1992 and 1994.
But Brines argues that the conception and division of male and female chores – not including child care duties which are much more evenly split today -- has changed little in 20 years.
“It’s not what it was 50 years ago, there was a lot of change in the division of household labor in the ‘70s,” she says.
“But the pace of change started to slow down in the ‘80s and by the mid 1990s it kind of remained stuck and you’re pretty much at the same point.”
That housework evaluation may not be entirely accurate, says Cornell University sociologist Sharon Sassler, who has studied household labor issues.
On top of child care, Sassler says there’s evidence that other household duties are now more unisexual in their perceived nature.
This is especially true amongst more educated couples where both spouses are liable to be working.
“I do not think that men's household roles have remained the same,” she said in an email interview.
“I'm not so sure about their uptick in cleaning, but I think they have increased their share in cooking and perhaps even laundry (thanks to years of living on their own, they now know how to do it).”
Still, Brines says her study assumes that the relationship between sexual activity and gender based chore divisions has remained static over the decades.
But just why keeping to traditional roles leads to more sex is unclear, she says.
Past research, Brines says, suggests that mundane, gender-linked chores may be much more sexually charged than has been imagined.
“If the activity is coded as masculine or feminine and it expresses ideas about what makes the opposite sex interesting, attractive, alluring mysterious…that seems to be related to sexual activity and possibly sexual desire,” Brines says.
Egalitarian marriages, where couples share everything, have common interests and express close friendships produce less sex on average than their more disparate counterparts, she says.
“Their sex lives are pretty lackluster, they’re not all that active,” Brines says.
“There’s a sibling-like tonality to the relationships. They’re really good best friends, but the sexual charge is missing from the relationship.”
Brines says the finding do not reflect a sexual coercion on the part of knuckle-dragging husbands as both male and female spouses reported satisfied sex lives among those couples who practiced gender-based chore divisions.
While their sex lives may be more robust, however, these couples might pay for that sexual pleasure with more confrontations outside the bedroom, she says.