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Sex and Housekeeping

Vivia Chen

January 30, 2013

June Cleaver & Ward Cleaver_Leave it to Beaver by ABC TelevisionUh-oh. I dread telling you about this latest study—but here goes: Married couples who abide by traditional gender roles in performing household duties have better love lives. Yup, the secret is out: Ward and June Cleaver had a hot sex life!

According to research by sociologists at the University of Washington, which looked at 4,500 heterosexual married couples in the United States who participated in the National Survey of Families and Households:

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.

So how much more sex, exactly? The research says "1.6 times more per month than those where the husband does all the traditionally female chores." (On average, the study finds that couples have sex five times a month.) Wow. Do the math—that can add up.

But before you make a mad dash to the thrift shop for those adorable Mad Men outfits to get into that retro mood, let me assure you that the study is not an indictment against women in the workforce. In fact, whether both husband and wife worked didn't seem to affect their sex lives:

Two-income households had comparable patterns of sexual frequency and division of household chores relative to households where a spouse did not work outside the home. Similarly, wives’ income was unrelated to how often the couple had sex.

The way I read it is that it comes down to how we play house. It seems both men and women can have careers (and a marvelous sex life) so long as the woman dons the apron and cooks dinner, and the man puts on the tool belt and fixes the leaky faucet. Easy—I can do that!

Ah—but here's the rub:

Husbands performed about one-fifth of traditionally female tasks and a little more than half of the male-type work. This suggests that wives help out with men’s chores more often than husbands help with female tasks.

So for everyone to be happy, the man shouldn't do any "female" chores, though the woman should take on some of the "male" duties like fixing that leaky faucet.

And it gets worse: The study omits child care in the household job equation. Just take a wild guess about who bears the brunt of that responsibility. Is it any wonder why women are so tired?

That they can think of sex at all is a small miracle, no?

Related post: Meet the Househubby.

Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? Email chief blogger Vivia Chen at vchen@alm.com. 

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Let's talk about sex baby! Why/When/How couples have sex is complex. I read that report too and thought it was a ploy by a man to do less housework and have more sex! Seriously, assuming the study was right, it probably has more to do with having clear roles than anything else. Most men perceive housework things as "women's work" and don't do it intuitively. I bet in the households (like mine) where the man is more involved he has to be REMINDED to participate. Given the article recently about the negative effect that nagging has on relationships that might be the cause of the sex disparity. I'm going to do a study that proves that happier women who get enthusiastic assistance at home are more likely to get it on and I'll post it in men's clubs, Esquire magazine and anywhere else I can.

Like my single female next door neighbor says, if you want something done right, call a woman!

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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