Friday, February 14, 2014

Sex and Men in Aprons

Some potential pleasure reading for those women fresh off dinner-laundry-reading log duty. Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex? in the NY Times. Read it and weep, though, my feminist, husband-at-food-market friends. If you can't stomach reading it, let me break it to you gently.  Clinical psychologist and auteur, Lori Gottlieb argues men who routinely pitch in on the more traditional girly chores kill the sex life. In a surprise to no one here, this critically important sociological phenomenon landed on the cover of the Sunday magazine cover. All the hullabaloo revolved around this research finding:
A study called “Egalitarianism, Housework and Sexual Frequency in Marriage,” which appeared in The American Sociological Review last year, surprised many, precisely because it went against the logical assumption that as marriages improve by becoming more equal, the sex in these marriages will improve, too. Instead, it found that when men did certain kinds of chores around the house, couples had less sex. Specifically, if men did all of what the researchers characterized as feminine chores like folding laundry, cooking or vacuuming — the kinds of things many women say they want their husbands to do — then couples had sex 1.5 fewer times per month than those with husbands who did what were considered masculine chores, like taking out the trash or fixing the car. It wasn’t just the frequency that was affected, either — at least for the wives. The more traditional the division of labor, meaning the greater the husband’s share of masculine chores compared with feminine ones, the greater his wife’s reported sexual satisfaction.
The bad news: ladies, you aren't hot for your feminist husband. You are still to blame (again and again) because basically you don't find your bok-choy-chopping man manly enough. At least that's how Ms. Gottlieb and her sources mostly portray the problem and she knows, because she thinks about the sex lives of her clients and I'm sorry to report, her dinner party companions who she mentions in the intro. Note to self: just say no to next dinner party that involves a therapist/writer.

The good news: this article and thesis is based on a single study from 2012. Gottlieb had the sense to mention it might not be the best empirical evidence:

Granted, some might view a study like this with skepticism. Correlations don’t establish causation, and especially when it comes to sex, there’s always a risk of reporting bias and selective sampling, not to mention the mood of a subject at the time of the survey. (Was she answering the questions while standing next to a big pile of garbage that hadn’t been taken out?) What’s more, while this study used the most recent nationally representative data that included measures of sexual frequency and a couple’s division of labor, it was drawn from information collected in the 1990s. 
So older data scavenged from another study. Always dicey. 

As it turns out there was a previous study that claimed just the opposite - the more equal the marriage (e.g., the more the man helped out in the house), the more sex. Props for the current study authors who performed a bit of media fact-busting themselves on that original study: 



The claim that couples who share house- work have more sex has captured substantial public attention. In the popular imagination, husbands’ contributions to housework seem decisive, the implications of which were recently spun in a headline: “Men: Want More Sex? Do the Laundry!” This claim appears to have originated in an unpublished survey con- ducted by Chethik (2006). It so captured the popular imagination (or at least that of report- ers) that it led to an Associated Press story subsequently featured online by media giants ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and smaller sites like the Huffington Post and China Daily. 
China Daily? Anyhow, why did they come up with different results? Well, it appears the first study didn't ask about which chores in particular spurred sexy times. The second set of researchers, however found that the more typically masculine chores (think tool belt) a guy did, the more sex. The more feminine ones, kaboom, less sex. 

Did I mention the evidence then involves one published study and one unpublished one finding the opposite. So naturally the issue is resolved. Don't forget, it's your fault too, if you're woman and you want your man to put that next load in the wash machine.


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