No good deed goes unpunished.
That famous phrase from Clare Booth Luce apparently applies to married men, according to a new study that finds men who help with the housework tend to have less sex.
The University of Washington research, published Wednesday in the American Sociological Review, suggests that heterosexual couples have more “sexual encounters” when each partner takes on traditional gender roles.
“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,” UW Associate Professor of Sociology and study co-author Julia Brines said in an interview with the Toronto Star.
You can find a PDF copy of the study at the bottom of Brines’ UW page.
The study had some other interesting findings. For instance, twice as much time is spent on “female” chores (34 hours) each week than on tasks more typically considered “male” (17 hours).
Couples who participated in the study, most of whom split some of the "female" chores, reported having about five “sexual encounters” each month on average. But in those homes where the man stuck to his 17 hours of dude duties, the couples had 1.6 more sexual encounters per month.
Do the math: The female in the relationship is taking on 68 more hours of housework per month than the male is in exchange for about two sexual encounters.
“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 tells the Star.
The data was based on information taken from 4,500 couples polled as part of the U.S. National Survey of Families and Households, conducted between 1992 and 1994.
More recent studies on married couples and sexuality roughly match up in terms of the number of sexual encounters. A 2005 study by NORC at the University of Chicago found that married couples have sex on average about 66 times per year, slightly more than once per week. Interestingly, the survey’s director, Tom Smith, points out that despite all the humorous anecdotes suggesting otherwise, married couples have sex more frequently than their single counterparts.
But with all of the changes in gender roles, and presumably gender equality, over the past two decades, does the UW study’s information still hold up?
It does, according to Brines.
“It’s not what it was 50 years ago; there was a lot of change in the division of household labor in the '70s,” Brines tells the Star. “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.”