Married men and women who divide household chores in traditional ways report having more sex than couples who share so-called men’s and women’s work, according to a new study co-authored by sociologists at the University of Washington.
Other studies have found that husbands got more sex if they did more housework, implying that sex was in exchange for housework. But those studies did not factor in what types of chores the husbands were doing.
The new study, published in the February issue of the journal American Sociological Review, shows that sex isn’t a bargaining chip. Instead, sex is linked to what types of chores each spouse completes.
Couples who follow traditional gender roles around the house – wives doing the cooking, cleaning and shopping; men doing yard work, paying bills and auto maintenance – reported greater sexual frequency.
“The results show that gender still organizes quite a bit of everyday life in marriage,” said co-author Julie Brines, a UW associate professor of sociology. “In particular, it seems that the gender identities husbands and wives express through the chores they do also help structure sexual behavior.”
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.”
The findings come from a national survey of about 4,500 heterosexual married U.S. couples participating in the National Survey of Families and Households. The data were collected from 1992 to 1994, the most recent large-scale survey available that measured sexual frequency in married couples. Brines says that it is unlikely that the division of housework – which did not include child care in this study – and sex have changed much since then.
The researchers found that husbands, average age 46, and wives, average age 44, spent a combined 34 hours a week on traditionally female chores. Couples spent an additional 17 hours a week on chores usually thought of as men’s work.
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