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“Mr. Mom” is not so much Mr. Bedroom, study suggests

Jan. 30, 2013
Courtesy of the American Sociological Association
and World Science staff

Mar­ried men who spend more time do­ing tra­di­tion­ally fe­male house­hold tasks, such as clean­ing, re­port hav­ing less sex than oth­er hus­bands, a new study sug­gests.

But sci­en­tists warn men against us­ing the find­ings as an ex­cuse to ref­use to help around the house. That in­ci­den­tally might in­crease their bed­room woes, es­pe­cially if the man is­n’t do­ing a fair share of the over­all work, they ar­gue.

Still, “our find­ings sug­gest the im­por­tance of so­cial­ized gen­der roles for sex­u­al fre­quen­cy in heterosex­u­al mar­riage,” said Sabino Ko­rn­rich, the stu­dy’s lead au­thor and a jun­ior re­search­er at the Cen­ter for Ad­vanced Stud­ies at the Juan March In­sti­tute in Ma­drid. 

It would seem ma­ny of us fol­low “sex­u­al scripts, in which the tra­di­tion­al performa­nce and dis­play of gen­der is im­por­tant for crea­t­ion of sex­u­al de­sire and performa­nce of sex­u­al ac­ti­vity,” he added. “Cou­ples in which men par­ti­ci­pate more in tra­di­tion­ally mas­cu­line tasks—such as yard work, pay­ing bills, and au­to maintenance—re­port high­er sex­u­al fre­quen­cy.”

“Female-typical” work was de­fined as in­clud­ing cook­ing, clean­ing, and shop­ping. 

Pub­lished in the Feb­ru­ary is­sue of the Amer­i­can So­ci­o­lo­g­i­cal Re­view, the study fo­cused on heterosex­u­al mar­ried cou­ples in the Un­ited States, us­ing what the re­search­ers called na­t­ionally rep­re­sent­a­tive da­ta from the Na­t­ional Sur­vey of Fam­i­lies and House­holds. 

Men re­ported hav­ing had sex an av­er­age of 5.2 times in the month pri­or to the sur­vey while wom­en re­ported 5.6 times on av­er­age. But both men and wom­en in cou­ples with more gen­der-tra­di­tion­al di­vi­sions of house­hold la­bor re­ported hav­ing had more sex than those with more egal­i­tar­ian di­vi­sions.

The re­search­ers in­ves­t­i­gated, but then ruled out, a num­ber of oth­er pos­si­ble ex­plana­t­ions for their find­ings. For ex­am­ple, they ex­plored wheth­er cou­ples with more tra­di­tion­al roles had more sex be­cause the hus­bands were sex­u­ally co­er­cive. “Had [wives’] sat­is­fac­tion with sex been low, but fre­quen­cy high, it might have sug­gested co­er­cion. How­ev­er, we did­n’t find that,” Ko­r­nich said.

The re­search­ers al­so ruled out hap­pi­ness, re­li­gion, gen­der ide­ol­o­gy, and a range of oth­er vari­ables as con­tri­but­ing to the iden­ti­fied ef­fects.

“The im­por­tance of gen­der has de­clined over time, but it con­tin­ues to ex­ert a strong in­flu­ence over in­di­vid­ual be­hav­iors, in­clud­ing sex­u­al fre­quen­cy with­in mar­riage,” Ko­rn­rich said.

For hus­bands who might see the study as jus­tifica­t­ion for not cook­ing, clean­ing, shop­ping, or per­form­ing oth­er tra­di­tion­ally fe­male house­hold tasks, Ko­rn­rich is­sued a warn­ing. “Men who ref­use to help around the house could in­crease con­flict in their mar­riage and low­er their wives’ mar­i­tal sat­is­fac­tion,” he said. “Ear­lier re­search has found that wom­en’s mar­i­tal sat­is­fac­tion is in­deed linked to men’s par­ticipa­t­ion in over­all house­hold la­bor, which en­com­passes tasks tra­di­tion­ally done by both men and wom­en.”


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Married men who spend more time doing traditionally female household tasks, such as cleaning, report having less sex than other husbands, a new study suggests. But scientists warn men against using the findings as an excuse to refuse to help around the house. That incidentally might increase their bedroom woes, especially if the man isn’t doing a fair share of the overall work, they argue. Still, “our findings suggest the importance of socialized gender roles for sexual frequency in heterosexual marriage,” said Sabino Kornrich, the study’s lead author and a junior researcher at the Center for Advanced Studies at the Juan March Institute in Madrid. It would seem many of us follow “sexual scripts, in which the traditional performance and display of gender is important for creation of sexual desire and performance of sexual activity,” he added. “Couples in which men participate more in traditionally masculine tasks—such as yard work, paying bills, and auto maintenance—report higher sexual frequency.” “Female-typical” work was defined as including cooking, cleaning, and shopping. Published in the February issue of the American Sociological Review, the study focused on heterosexual married couples in the United States, using what the researchers called a nationally representative data from the National Survey of Families and Households. Men reported having had sex an average of 5.2 times in the month prior to the survey while women reported 5.6 times on average. But both men and women in couples with more gender-traditional divisions of household labor reported having had more sex than those with more egalitarian divisions. The researchers investigated, and ultimately ruled out, a number of other possible explanations for their findings. For example, they explored whether couples with more traditional roles had more sex because the husbands were sexually coercive. “Had [wives’] satisfaction with sex been low, but frequency high, it might have suggested coercion. However, we didn’t find that,” Kornich said. The researchers also ruled out happiness, religion, gender ideology, and a range of other variables as contributing to the identified effects. “The importance of gender has declined over time, but it continues to exert a strong influence over individual behaviors, including sexual frequency within marriage,” Kornrich said. For husbands who might see the study as justification for not cooking, cleaning, shopping, or performing other traditionally female household tasks, Kornrich issued a warning. “Men who refuse to help around the house could increase conflict in their marriage and lower their wives’ marital satisfaction,” he said. “Earlier research has found that women’s marital satisfaction is indeed linked to men’s participation in overall household labor, which encompasses tasks traditionally done by both men and women.”