A Psychological Look into Gender, Housework, and Sex
Let’s be honest, traditional gender roles are dated, arbitrary, and just not working anymore.
Gender is reinforced through interactions with others, and couples project “gender roles” through union progression, expressions of sexuality and sexual pleasure, and decision making. Research has shown that men have been increasingly adding to their share of housework and women have reduced theirs which has narrowed the perceived gender gap when it comes to household chores.
Traditional roles have shifted, women have started to earn more, and attitudes have changed with the majority of people in the US are in agreement that “men should participate in domestic labor; the vast majority of both sexes reject the notion of separate spheres.” Though it seems we’re all aware that we need equality in terms of household responsibility, women are still doing way more chores than men. Bummer, right?
We know that the division of household labor and sexual intimacy are closely intertwined because they involve the enactment of gender norms, desire, and power. There’s a strong argument that gender expression in the performance of household chores can create sexual desire. “Traditionally masculine and feminine behaviors consciously or unconsciously serve as turn-ons for individuals by enacting the sexual scripts necessary to produce arousal.” –Simon & Gagnon.
Let’s Talk About Today: 2017
We as non-babyboomers want equality, at work and at home. If a couple perceives their housework division as “fair” is can have a serious effect on their sexual intimacy, relationship quality, and stability. Sex has value not only as a gender performance but also as a means of demonstrating love and affection. And further, couples have more and higher quality sex when they are satisfied with their relationships.
Sharing Chores = Better Sex
For the purpose of the study, parents were grouped into three child-care categories:
- relationships in which women did most or all (at least 60%) of the childcare
- relationships in which men did most or all (at least 60%) of the childcare
- relationships in which men and women split the childcare (each partner did somewhere between 40-60%)
They also looked at each couple’s relationship quality which was measured by relationship satisfaction/conflict, sexual frequency, and quality of sex life. Carlson and his associates found when women were responsible for most or all of the childcare, both men and women reported lower quality relationships and sex lives versus couples that split childcare responsibilities.
Unlike mothers, fathers in a heterosexual relationship could take on most or all of the childcare responsibilities without negative effects on the quality of the couple’s relationship. In addition, couples in which men did most or all of the childcare had just as much sex as couples with equal arrangements and were just as satisfied with the amount of sex they were having.
Funny enough, Carlson reported that men who did most or all of the childcare reported having the lowest quality sex lives, but their female partners reported having the highest quality.
In their study, they looked at different types of caregiving including physical/emotional childcare, interactive childcare, and passive child care (which includes supervising and monitoring). They also examined which parent was responsible for making the rules for the children, who enforced the rules and punished the children, who praised the children for doing good, and who played with the children.
We know that both mothers and fathers are expected to play an equal role in child rearing but we don’t know very much about how childcare responsibilities can affect couples’ sexual intimacy and relationship quality. Previous research has focused mainly on the division of the household when it comes to who makes the money or how the housework affects the relationship to the children. From prior research done decades ago, we have seen that sharing everything equally can cause issues in sexual intimacy, relationship quality, and relationship stability.
New data shows that men’s performance of child care is generally associated with more satisfaction with the division of child care, more satisfying sexual relationships, and higher quality relationships. The new research indicates that equal division of child care arrangements has positive consequences for both men and women. Couples who help each other out appear to have flourishing relationships, especially in comparison to those who think in terms of more “traditional gender arrangements” like it’s the woman’s job to take care of the babies and stay at home.
So, let’s let go of those dated views on gender roles and help each other out! Good sex could be on the line here, folks!