The day after Christmas a friend posted an article on her Facebook profile*, entitled “Men Who Help Clean Get More Sex”, from Limelife.com. It’s a subject I’ve seen many times online – another study that reports, in effect, that a relationship with a more egalitarian share of household responsibilities often enjoys more sex (although this study in particular – link below – seems to be talking specifically about high-energy couples – high-energy in work together and in sexual activity).
The way this relatively lightweight Limelife piece presents the information is typical of the many articles I’ve seen on the topic (and that you will see if you do a simple Google search). It contains the following assumptions and implicit assertions:
1. In a heterosexually-partnered relationship, housework is a woman’s responsibility. A man can choose to “help” if he wishes.
2. Sex isn’t a mutual act: men are the pursuant party and women the pursued (or withholding). It makes sense for men to use “brownie points” to get sex, because:
3. Women don’t want sex for sex’s sake. It’s something they dole out as a reward; or, to use the headline, something men “get” out of their women if they play their cards right.
4. Women find the sight of their male partner doing housework a “turn on” in and of itself – as opposed to male partners doing their share of housework being an element of a healthier relationship that helps heterosexual women stay happier, healthier, and sexually vigorous.
Several studies from diverse sources show that as a group heterosexually-partnered males do half of the work in the home that women do, regardless of paid or outside employment. In my own observances, well – let’s just say by example one of the many myriad and minor reasons I left Facebook were the handful of female acquaintances who’d post status messages like, “My husband is doing the dishes! I am the LUCKIEST LADY ALIVE!” without a trace of irony. As far as amorous relations, I don’t have much of a window into my friends’ sex lives – and they don’t have much into mine. But I do know a dismaying number of married-to-men women who heap all kinds of grateful praise and “rescuing” on their partner for considerably less effort and performance than they, as females, perform daily, day in, day out, over and over.
This hits home, too. My own husband is often the recipient of a glorified pedestaling for the kind of work I regularly do without much comment from outside parties; he has countless times been called “Superdad” for – I kid you not – taking care of his own kids and sometimes other people’s. And just so you know – in case you, dear reader are childfree and/or unaware – women do stuff like arrange playdates and take care of kids All. The. Time.** I’ll let my husband speak for himself more eloquently on his oft-prescribed moniker of “Superdad!” but suffice to say: he finds it demeaning and insulting to himself, and unfair to his wife.
Obviously, in any individual relationship there are mitigating factors, and my intention here is not to personally weigh in on any particular couple or couple’s habits. For instance: perhaps in the case of the abovementioned Facebook status the husband had done a bunch of OTHER awesome stuff earlier in the day. However, taken as a sum the truth is: we expect less out of our men and they are only too happy to deliver (or, as I like to more charitably believe, won’t decide to deliver unless we educate them on the necessity that they do so).
The sad thing is, ultimately, all this seems to point to a cultural devaluation of heterosexually-partnered women’s health and happiness. Concomitant to this (not-very) mind-blowing concept that dudes should maybe pick it up at home I saw recently, on a web medical information site, an absolute glut of queries regarding a low sex-drive in women and wives – and many, many medications, remedies, and long lists of nutritional do’s and don’ts to “fix” the problem. I’m left wondering: do the mojo-draining twin forces of overwork and deep resentment perhaps have anything at all to do with women’s libido and desire? Naaaah. Let’s keep to that whole, “What do women want? Ah, who knows! Let’s give ’em a pill to get ’em horny for us.” It’s just easier that way.
As for me? I actually do have a husband who does his share. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need reminders and re-education because, yeah, there is a right way to put away the dishes, bro. In fact, in our case – with one partner working at home and the other in paid employment – he’s at a bit of a disadvantage when he comes home and is thrust into the house ins and outs. But he knows it’s his job to do figure it out and do his share, and so do I. He’s a really, really fabulous guy (he’s also great in the sack, so I guess – bonus?), and I’m grateful to have such a partner. But I think I’m pretty cool too; I’ve been doing the hard, hard work of casting off the expectation I should do most (if not all) of the work en casa, and expect very little of – or be inordinately grateful for – his “help”.
* I don’t actually have a Facebook account, but I sometimes check my husband’s.
** Another thing people do? A lot? When a father of an infant is taking care of his own child, they call it “babysitting” (as opposed to, you know, parenting).