Thursday, 31 January 2013
According to a study published in the American Sociological Review journal based on data collected between 1992 and 1994, traditional gender roles regarding household chores can influence a couple's sex life. In heterosexual married couples, it was found that there's an increase in the frequency of sex when the woman does the dishes, cleans, shops and cooks, and the man maintains the car and does yard work, for example.
Julie Brines, who co-authored the study and is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Washington states, "In particular, it seems that the gender identities husbands and wives express through the chores they do also help structure sexual behavior." Do men now have an excuse to avoid doing the dishes, choosing instead to help rescue imaginary princesses in castles and murder Middle Eastern men in war games? Why work when you can get laid, right?
It's not quite that easy, as lead author Sabino Kornrich explains. "Men who refuse to help around the house could increase conflict in their marriage and lower their wives' marital satisfaction." In households where gender identities were reversed, it was reported that sex occurred 1.6 times less often. Of course, the most glaringly obvious aspect of the study is that the data, which polled 4,500 heterosexual married couples, was gathered in the early 90's and the strive for gender equality has progressed substantially since then. So would the data tell a different tale if a new study were to be conducted today?
Not a chance, if you were to ask Brines. "Marriage today isn't what it was 30 or 40 years ago, but there are some things that remain important," she said. "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." Does this mean that it's easier to sustain a happy, more sexually active marriage if you conform to gender roles? In order to arrive at some sort of answer, it's necessary to look at the relationship between "femininity" and "masculinity," which are shaped socio-culturally. As both "feminine" and "masculine" characteristics are learned and molded by our observations as a culture, you can see why it would be impossible to come up with a "correct" answer. Since the study is U.S. based however, it narrows the field.
This particular study is backing its findings on the idea that gender identities and thus the differences present in heterosexual relationships, are complimentary and create attraction or sexual desire. It's basing its conclusion on the idea that "sexual scripts" govern the "when, why and how" of sex. A "sexual script" defines when a situation is sexual, and has three levels: the cultural/historical, the social/interactive and the personal/intra-psychic. This theory or concept was first introduced in the book Sexual Conduct by sociologists John H. Gagnon and William Simon in 1973.
To clarify, here's a passage taken from the study:
"Other recent research finds that men experience greater sexual dysfunction when their partners spend more time with the men’s friends than men do themselves, suggesting that behaviors that threaten men’s independence and masculinity lead to greater sexual dysfunction (Cornwell and Laumann 2011). Given the general importance of gender, we suspect that scripts continue to link sexual behavior to masculinity or femininity among heterosexual married couples. If so, expressions of gender difference should help to create sexual desire."
It seems like a fairly simple conclusion to make, but there are always arguments to the contrary stating that humans are complex and aren't always governed by their sexual desires. If our gender identities are a product of many outside factors and you flip the proverbial sexual script, are you left with the suggestion that these deviations are less successful or sexually fulfilling?
To nitpick, what of couples who don't have yards or vehicles? What if general maintenance of the kitchen sink for example, is handled by a plumber? Should the male help out and do some of the chores the female would otherwise be relegated to, or should he simply not do any chores in this case? How would that affect their sex life? I think the lives of married individuals vary too greatly, as do work schedules. I can't help but feel like this research was geared more towards middle-class, suburban couples living in the south.
Do you believe traditional gender identities are important to maintain in a marriage? Have you had more success in your relationships when your significant other was more traditionally 'masculine' or 'feminine'?
Nuñez Love Doctor.
Certified with a PhD in Gender-inauthenticity.