My husband is the better housekeeper. I don’t even know how to work our vacuum, but he can change a full bag in a flash of domestic prowess.
So, do I reward him with a quickie in the sack for tidying up the house? Um, no. There is no "choreplay" in our house. My husband needs to be in a tidy environment or he can’t relax, so in the spirit of his own mental health he does what needs to be done. Which makes a recent Business Insider article quoting Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on the idea that men should do more chores in order to get lucky a little confusing to me.
In the The New York Times op-ed section Sandberg and co-author Adam Grant write: “On the home front, couples that share responsibility 50/50 are happier, lower divorce, more sex. Choreplay is real… Don’t buy flowers. Do laundry.”
There's an alarming preoccupation with the subject of sex and chores lately—there have been numerous studies on this topic and each share contradicting results. I wonder if it's because people tend to lie about their household tasks and sex lives? A study in the American Sociological Review said that men who do housework have a more active sex life than those who don’t—the caveat being that this is only true when men do more “blue” tasks (like taking out the garbage) and women stick to the more “pink” tasks (like washing the dishes).
However, research from the Council on Contemporary Families refutes that study, stating that modern marriage is becoming more egalitarian and couples who split the housework evenly have slightly higher rates of sexual activity and satisfaction. Despite this, women still tend to do the majority of the work around the home. According to the Pew Research Centre, women spend 33 hours a week on home and child care duties, while men spend 17 hours.
We also know that men and women have slightly different needs when it comes to being sexually fulfilled. Women need to be able to relax and turn off their brain to focus on the activity, while men's needs a are a little more up front (for lack of a better term). So it stands to reason that if the house is a disaster, the to-do list is long and women are still thinking about their laundry list of things that need to be conquered at work, they may not be interested in a night of nookie.
So if your just-as-capable husband helps around the house and understands that housework is not just the domain of the person with a vagina, then that probably does wonders for the relationship—in and out of bed. Women have sexual needs, men can empty dishwashers—it doesn’t have to be a transactional agreement. But if you want to use a little “choreplay” as foreplay then that’s up to you. Obviously, trading work for sex should not be the basis of either a clean house, or a healthy sexual relationship. I admit that I'm not above some bartering of sexual favours myself. But my husband and I do so in the spirit of equality... and fun... and greed. There is nothing innately sexual about my husband wielding the vacuum or doing the dishes (despite what the hot guys in Porn for Women wants me to believe).
Sandberg once said that who you choose to marry is one of the most important career decisions that you can make, and I agree with her. A marriage is a partnership; you support each other in and out of the house and if that means sometimes one person does more housework while the other picks up the slack elsewhere so be it. But the idea that chores are some kind of sexual carrot to be waved around is hardly an idea that is going to further the cause of feminism. But I have it easy with my neat-freak husband. Perhaps I should ask him if he wants "choreplay" and see what he says. But I'd better figure out how that vacuum cleaner works.
Originally published May 2015.
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