Husbands who help out with household chores have less sex than men in so-called "traditional" marriages where housework is done exclusively by the wife, researchers from the USA and Spain reported in the journal American Sociological Review.
In faithful relationships, the wife whose husband is involved in housework obviously has less sex too, the authors added.
This latest study contradicts most previous ones, which tended to imply that married men generally have more sex in exchange for doing housework. However, those studies did not take into account which chores the husbands did.
The researchers, all sociologists, said that their study demonstrated that sex is not a bargaining chip in marriage. Rather, it is associated with the kinds of chores each partner completes.
Married couples reported greater sexual frequency if the women did the cooking, cleaning and shopping and the men did the gardening, electrics and plumbing, car maintenance and paid the bills.
Co-author Julie Brines, professor of sociology at the University of Washington, said:
"The results show that gender still organizes quite a bit of everyday life in marriage. In particular, it seems that the gender identities husbands and wives express through the chores they do also help structure sexual behavior."
Lead author, Sabino Kornrich, warned that men should not assume from these findings that they should not become involved in traditionally female household tasks, such as shopping, cleaning or cooking. "Men who refuse to help around the house could increase conflict in their marriage and lower their wives' marital satisfaction."
The researchers gathered and examined data from a national survey of approximately 4,500 heterosexual married couples in the USA who took part in the National Survey of Families and Households. The survey, the largest to measure sexual frequency among married couples, included data from 1992 to 1994.
Brines does not believe that the division of household chores - which in this study did not include child care - and sex have changed much since 1994.
According to the study, husbands and wives spent an average of 34 hours each week on traditionally female chores. The men's average age was 46, and the women's 44. The couples spent an extra 17 hours each week on "men's work".
On average, the males were involved in about one-fifth of traditionally female chores, and slightly more than half of male-type work. The researchers found that women tend to be more involved with helping out in traditionally male chores, than men do with female tasks.
The couples reported having sex approximately five times, on average, during the four weeks before the survey. In marriages where the woman carried out all the traditionally female tasks, the couples had sex 1.6 times as often, compared to couples where the man was involved in all the female chores.
Brines says she is not surprised that there was more sex among the traditional couples. "If anything surprised us, it was how robust the connection was between a traditional division of housework and sexual frequency." Brines is an expert in family and household dynamics.
The following possible explanations for their findings were ruled out by the researchers:
- Male coercive behavior played no role, because women reported similar satisfaction levels in their sex lives in both types of households (traditional or "modern")
- In two-income households, the difference in sexual frequency was still driven by male behavior regarding traditional female chores. Also, the wife's income had no impact on sexual frequency.
- The following had no impact on sexual frequency - gender ideology, religion, and happiness in marriage.
"Marriage today isn't what it was 30 or 40 years ago, but there are some things that remain important. Sex and housework are still key aspects of sharing a life, and both are related to marital satisfaction and how spouses express their gender identity."
A new study by researchers from the University of Alberta in Canada contradicts these findings, suggesting that men who do their fair share of the housework have better and more frequent sex with their partner.
Recovery from Workload Influenced by Housework and Leisure Activity BalanceHow rapidly and effectively male and female spouses recover from the burdens of work is probably influenced by a balance of housework time and leisure time, a study by experts from the University of Southern California reported in the Journal of Family Psychology.
Over half of all married couples in the USA are two-income households. The authors wondered whether the winner was the one who had the most help with the housework.
They found that what seems to be good for the male partner was bad for the female, but what is good for the female does not have enough of an impact on the male.
In another study involving 17,000 people in 28 countries, researchers from George Mason University found that married men did less housework than live-in boyfriends. The study was published in the Journal of Family Issues.
Written by Joseph Nordqvist