Family Matters

Why Husbands Who Share Household Chores Miss Out on Sex

Splitting household duties may not be the way to more sex for couples

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In what feels like a blow to egalitarianism, new research finds that husbands and wives who assign housework along traditional gender lines have more sex than those who split the chores more equitably.

After reviewing data on how married couples in the U.S. tackle housework, as well as self-reports of how often they enjoyed intercourse, sociologists at the University of Washington (UW) say that couples who shared the burden of chores — cooking, cleaning and caring for the lawn — tend to have the least active sex lives.

The couples reported having sex about five times in the month before the survey began. But if the husband did no stereotypically female tasks (making meals, perhaps, or scrubbing floors), couples had sex 1.6 times more per month than couples in which husbands were responsible for doing all of those chores. Couples where the husband contributed to household chores, but stuck to the more stereotypically male tasks (car maintenance, bill paying, yard work) had sex .7 times more than those where the wife did all the male work.

That means that couples where husbands do no traditionally female tasks have sex the most: 4.85 times a month. Conversely, couples where men do all the female work have sex the least: 3.3 times a month.

The couples where husbands pitch in but do only the male tasks, fall somewhere in between; they’re sliding between the sheets 4.7 times a month. Meanwhile, couples where wives do all the male tasks have sex just under four times a month.

(MORE: Why Men in Female-Centric Professions Spend More Time on ‘Guy’ Chores)

Overall, couples put in a combined 34 hours a week on traditionally female tasks compared to 17 hours on manly chores. Husbands performed about a fifth of classic women’s work and more than half of men’s work.

The findings, drawn from 4,500 heterosexual married U.S. couples participating in the National Survey of Families and Households, add some context to other studies that have found that husbands get more sex when they do more housework — a kind of domestic quid pro quo. But those conclusions didn’t quite ring true for Julie Brines, a co-author of the new study published in the American Sociological Review. She and her colleagues have done work suggesting that the division of housework doesn’t align with an “exchange model” where chores are traded for a share of income, for example, or sex.

Instead, Brines surmised that the relationship between sex and housework is actually far more complex. In actuality, it’s tied to stereotypical views of what qualifies as women’s — or men’s — work. And despite progress toward gender equality, “These are residues of sexual scripts that have been in place in our culture for a long time,” she says.

(MOREWorking Moms Multitask More Than Dads — and Like It Less)

And what about the more important responsibility for couples with a family? This study did not take into account childcare as a household chore — most commonly performed by women but increasingly embraced by men — because the data used did not contain useful information about who cares for the kids. No one, notes Brines, has yet looked at whether dads who do more childcare get more sex.

It’s also worth pointing out that the national survey data was collected between 1992 and 1994, but Brines and her co-authors saythat the relationship between sex and housework has changed little since then. Research reveals only a modest evolution in the division of household labor over the past 18 years — mainly in the realm of childcare, with more dads stepping up.

Still, for the husbands who might be feeling smug about the results of her study, Brines has a bit of advice. “Don’t walk away from this research thinking, I should stay away from cooking or cleaning because I’ll benefit from it,” she cautions. “There may be costs associated with doing that.”

After all, a great sex life isn’t everything. Other research has found that neglecting to pitch in with dinner prep may create conflict in your marriage around the division of household labor. Men who shun cooking and cleaning can actually engender marital conflict which could also result in less sex. “There are trade-offs,” says Brines. And that’s putting it mildly.

MOREArgue Much? Conflict Levels in Marriage Don’t Change Over Time

168 comments
AngelZillion
AngelZillion



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a20018
a20018

I work full time and watch our son when his mom is in school, I also do the lions share of the housework.  I have no use for sex most of the time .   The modern woman is the equivalent to the Pill.  

laughlovelive22
laughlovelive22

Interesting to speculate as to the reasons for such findings, and a useful topic to explore, but in the middle of an article that seems to provide an objective view of the issue, I find the curious sentence "...some context to other studies that have found that husbands GET MORE SEX when they do more housework...", suggesting that sex is something "bestowed" upon men what, when they behave properly??  Please, you're a writer, can you be a little more careful?

realitychk
realitychk

I think they made a typo in the article. It should be per year not months. 

ac_2000
ac_2000

"dads who do more childcare get more sex" - in articles like this why is it always assumed that it's men chasing women for sex, even when it's a woman writing. I think what she means is "when dads do more childcare couples have more sex". Small slip of the tongue but really irritates me, why not even "women who do less childcare get more sex".... Why is it always assumed that men get sex, women give it.

cyr3n
cyr3n

what sad sack is having sex less than 3 times a month and thinking there's no problem in their relationship?

An unemployed man who doesn't help out around the house is a useless slob. There's no genetic programming that makes a woman's hormones go "oh, hes a viable mate! no resources and no action to take care of the nest. We've got ourselves a winner!" This study is crap because there are other quantitative factors which aren't being considered beyond "traditional female vs nontraditional female".  Sounds like a study that was done to make a dig at career women more than anything.

DrTom
DrTom

I find the term "enjoy intercourse" interesting and not supported by the article. Perhaps the women who feel obligated to do all the traditional household chores see intercourse as just one more of them.

DrTom
DrTom

Correlation does not indicate causation.

lukoba
lukoba

The study should have been frequency of sex in correlation to husbands whose spouses earn more or less than them.

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FreeRyderGang

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HenryCameron
HenryCameron

Did this study include couples who have hired servants?

Because if that were the case, then the couple would be 100% free of doing ANY chores, right?

How about dem apples. 

lemieuxm
lemieuxm

It seems a bit presumptuous to say nothing has changed since 1992.  I'm 29 and I think my generation has significantly different views on gender issues than those who are 20+ years older (who would have been my age back in 1992).

pdx
pdx

What is wrong with the accompanying picture? 

In any successful partnership, when one person is sitting around or contributing in a lackadaisical fashion while there is work to be done, the partnership is going to fail and that includes the bedroom. 

I was reminded of a study done years ago which stated that the higher the level of education that a man has, the more willing he is to help with housework.

I was also reminded of something an old man once told me, "No woman wants to be her partner's mother, if for no other reason than it would seem like she would be sleeping with her son." 

mymom51
mymom51

What a crock of BS! If a man is helping out around the house, chances are both are working a full time job which makes them too busy and tired for the extra 8.4 times a year. These sort of bogus studies do nothing but waste time. The header says why husbands to do their share miss out on sex. There is no why here only snarky innuendos about quantity being better that quality. After 25 years of marriage, I would prefer 48 quality sessions to 55 so so experiences a year. And personally, nothing turns me on more than my husband helping out around the house.

ryanleej
ryanleej

Gender roles are still a thing?

jamesf161
jamesf161

correlation does not imply causation. And, the couples are likely happy with the amount they have sex; this just seems like some weirdo psychological tidbit.

TylerDurdin
TylerDurdin

It appears that the attitude of the Woman is the key in everything.

Women who expect their man to share the work are not interested in any submission to a man, which includes sex.

The traditional woman accepts that sex is part of that Role, the non traditional woman uses Sex as a Weapon.

Been there , lived that for 14 years.

Mary-Celeste
Mary-Celeste

All I can really say is the sexiest thing I've ever seen is a man who rolls up his sleeves and starts washing my dishes. 

I think that all of the claims in this article are shoddy and that there is no arguable correlation of the kind they're asserting. There are LOTS of factors that are not being accounted for here. It's a weak correlation, if a real one even exists.

Snert
Snert

If there are gender roles present in the division of household chores, there are probably other underpinnings of gender roles in the bedroom, too. In more traditional marriages, the woman tends to be more submissive, the husband is "head of the household," etc. Meaning if he wants to have sex, she's going to go along with it even if she'd rather not. In more equitable marriages, there's a lot more give and take. I'll bet sex is *better* when both partners are doing their share. I'll take quality over quantity any day. (But still, after 16 years married to a guy who helps around the house, those numbers seem low.)

Snert
Snert

If there are gender roles present in the division of household chores, there are probably other underpinnings of gender roles in the bedroom, too. In more traditional marriages, the woman tends to be more submissive, the husband is "head of the household," etc. Meaning if he wants to have sex, she's going to go along with it even if she'd rather not. In more equitable marriages, there's a lot more give and take. I'll bet sex is *better* when both partners are doing their share. I'll take quality over quantity any day. (But still, after 16 years married to a guy who helps around the house, those numbers seem low.)

grs
grs

Lack of critical thinking?

If a couple is sharing household chores evenly, then it's probably safe to assume that both people are working full time. Two full time jobs + household chores = busier people = Less sex.


I can't imagine a house wife requiring the husband to take on half the household chores as well. How fair would that be? It's safe to assume a house wife takes care of the house, while the husband doesn't do much around the home. Fair enough. One full time job + household chores = much more free time = way more sex.

Add children to the mix and a stay home mom. Husband is required to take on more tasks, probably the "male" type ones: mowing the lawn, taking out the trash. Stay at home mom: household plus the child care. One full time job + household chores + children = moderately busy people = moderate amounts of sex. 


As a full time working mother, plus being a full time graduate student, if my husband expected me to take care of all the household chores, plus take care of our daughter full time and all he had to do was go to work. Lord knows we would NOT be having sex. We would probably be even worse than not having sex. We'd be fighting all the time. Luckily, he cooks, cleans, and cares for our child. Maybe a bit more than I do since I am also a full time student on top of my full time workload. And we have plenty of sex.

JaneAnderson
JaneAnderson

Sounds like Brines contradicts her own research right at the end of this article. Makes you wonder if she realized the sex lives of non-traditional couples likely suffers due to all of the extra work of being a professional couple, while Brines was personally engaged in university research (traditionally a man's job). Ever seen the movie Kalifornia? One of those couples is more traditional than the other and, yes, they also have the most sex. Quite accurate.

eduhsim
eduhsim

The difference (among the different groups of couples), if I may say so, is little. Everyone is still able to enjoy a healthy dosage of sex, whether it is 3 times or 5 times a month. It is not as if one type of couple only have sex once a month versus 5 times for another type. So, I think, while the survey is interesting, the interpretation of its data is far-fetched. 

VivianLi
VivianLi

Does the author of this article not know that "correlation does not equal causation"? They're presenting the data as though couples have less sex on average BECAUSE the husband does his fair share of housework, when that is highly unlikely to be the case.

What seems to be the case is that, the couples who are less sexist and more egalitarian are also the same couples in which the female member feels more empowered to say "no" to her male partner's advances whenever she does not want it.

Contrast this with more "traditional," sexist-gender-role-adhering couples wherein the male likely has more financial power than his partner, and where the female is thus more dependent on her male partner's approval and good graces. In such a case, the female member would not have much choice but to submit to the sexual advances of her partner, whenever, wherever. Hence the reason these "traditional" couples have more sex on average.

Ane
Ane

My initial thought was that if the couple is sharing tasks, they are likely to get tired and therefore not engage in sex. What if women are raised to believe that they must be available for sex whenever it is demanded and no matter how tired they are?

AVFin
AVFin

There is a lot of such "research".... Especially, based on polls and statistics. Remember Mark Twine? There are three kinds of lie: the usual one, the bold one and statistics. So, if the couple doesn't have the main substance - The Love, there is nothing to analyse. House chores shared, make the couple closer and sex live thrives, trust me!

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

I love how some women in threads about stories like these dismiss it as "garbage" or old information. People are conditioned by social roles thousands of years standing. There is going to be some psychological reaction to having males operate outside what they were taught were norms. They may just not feel sexy after the role change. I doubt most women would feel sexy after putting up drywall either. Establishing new norms is not going to happen overnight.

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

@mymom51 


How about you do the science yourself instead of farting out an opinion that reeks of ignorant people's farts.

morningcoffee
morningcoffee

@jamesf161 yes! And the two sample means are fairly close they could well be within each others standard deviation. The data provided doesn't say anything significant

RipperNeedler
RipperNeedler

@jamesf161 Yes...both groups are happy with the amount of sex they are getting and amount/type of chores they are doing.  Let's let both types of couples be themselves.

SaraTansey
SaraTansey

@TylerDurdin obvious troll is obvious? Why don't you go back to being a failed anarchic non-entity, Tyler?

RipperNeedler
RipperNeedler

@Mary-Celeste Then find your man and make love to him x amount of quality times a year.  Ain't nobody gonna stop you and I wish you well.  ...But just cuz you prefer it that way doesn't mean that other women don't prefer it another way.

My point...don't diss the research just cuz it doesn't reflect YOUR preferences.

PrettyEnRouge
PrettyEnRouge

@grs Exactly what I was thinking. This shoddy research is used in a misleading way to cast gender role assumptions, when the question can simply be answered by common sense.

TylerDurdin
TylerDurdin

@grs Yep, this is where modern Schience meets the Ministry of Truth.

Both have frail reason-abilities.

Neither have a complete thought that is carried by reason

daddynate77
daddynate77

@crichardscpa - If 3-4 times a month is all you give to your partner then your relationship is sad.  At least 3 times per week is necessary to maintain a certain level of harmony.

alkenny
alkenny

@SmoothEdward1

I feel proud after putting up drywall (or doing electrical or other "manly" things for that matter. Feeling happy about something I've accomplished can translate into me being in a good mood and feeling good about myself, which are two things I tend to be when I go looking for some action from my male partner. Even better, when we remember how well we work together if we are doing one of these tasks together!

programminghelporg
programminghelporg

@Hadrewsky

 Pft! Do you know who considers sociology/statistics a science? People that can't do real science.

- A computer science/electrical engineer.

TylerDurdin
TylerDurdin

@cyr3n @TylerDurdin Well...

Uh...

DUH!  That is how the Game is Played. Right?

It is Ok, I am not interested in the drug resistant strains that are going around.

TylerDurdin
TylerDurdin

@SaraTansey What do you mean go back?  As in Return?

Who said I ever departed?

All Hetero Men are slowly joining me.  Soon there will be none left to fix your electrical and plumbing systems when they break, as we are all being force out of this Feminized Society.

VivianLi
VivianLi

 @ohgodkillmenow Well he can screw himself if he's not going to do a fair share of housework/childcare.