Sex up your sales

SISTERS, has your man declared that he won’t be stacking the dishwasher this festive season, or mopping the kitchen floor – in the interests of his sex life?

“Men who do domestic chores have less sex than men who don’t,” they may have told you, referring vaguely to “some research that was in the newspaper". Or he might give you his best heavy-lidded Ryan Gosling look and explain that “men doing ‘feminine’ jobs are less sexually attractive to women”.

Blame it on the news media, where a rash of stories have popped up – the Times of India, the Daily Mail in the UK, our own Times, the news pages at Yahoo – all sharing much the same story. “A study published in the American Sociological Review, done by scientists from the Juan March Institute in Madrid, reveals that men who share in the domestic chores get less sex than men who don’t.”

In the silly season, you have to keep your scepticism meter on High. In between all the traditional end-of-year lists (Top Celebrity Marriages, Worst Twitter Wars, Best Movies and zillions more), you’ll find some of these stories – things that sound scientific and titillating start whizzing round the world and are picked up by a publication desperate to fill a small space in an empty page.

This is not news! The paper referenced was published in early 2013, almost two years ago. This matters in science, because it’s possible more recent research into this or a related subject could have altered the perspective and enhanced our understanding. It’s bad reporting to just skip mention of the dating.

It’s also obvious that it’s lifted (originally, in February 2013) from an institutional press release, and no one that I can see has bothered to look at the original research. If they had, they might have asked:

• Hey, this just looked at data someone else acquired, in the USA in 1992-1996! Is it still valid? After all, the paper was written some 20 years later.
• The paper’s authors didn’t do a lick of interviewing real people in the flesh – or observing and measuring their behaviour. All they had to work with were the answers a bunch of husbands and wives gave to some questions.

I can’t find the data itself, but in this paper, it’s all about numbers: how much time did hubby spend on ‘core’ (that is, feminine) vs non-core tasks: “Core tasks include preparing meals, washing dishes, cleaning house, shopping, and washing and ironing; non-core tasks include outdoor work, paying bills, auto maintenance, and driving”. (Seriaas? Driving is masculine? Not in 2014, surely?)

But here’s the big deal. I couldn’t find any mention of a vital question: what is the QUALITY of the sex you’re having?

Because good sex in a committed relationship is surely a function of a myriad things: how much trust there is between you, how much time you’ve spent alone together recently (they did have something about this: “… nearly 40% of respondents said they spent time alone with their spouse once a week or less during the previous month”), how stressed you are, how healthy you are, how tired you are… Yes, tired, sisters, does that sound familiar?

The paper makes much of the fact that there’s been a shift to a ‘more egalitarian’ marital relationship in the USA. Umm, I would have looked at Norway or Sweden if I was searching for a real shift towards shared domestic work. In the USA as recently as 2012, Time magazine was reporting that women do four hours of housework (on top of any other paid work they do) compared to men’s 2.7. I would suspect that in those more trad marriages where women do most if not all the housework and men get more sex, women are putting in six or more hours to his none.

So this is how the sex happens: flop into bed after a long day’s double duty, exhausted. Man, fresh from a little light bill-paying online and perhaps driving, gives you a ‘how-about-it’ nuzzle. Oh no, you groan inwardly, but, wanting to avoid a conflict, you roll over…

Meanwhile, in the sharing home, sex may even be planned for, anticipated, looked forward to, and when it happens, whammo! Even though it’s only three times a month, it’s of a high quality.

Finally, if your man tells you that women don’t find men who do domestic chores sexy, remind him that NO ONE is sexy wielding a worn-out mop. And if he insists, ask if his head’s full of some Playboy image of an hourglass-figured 20-year-old in a teeny apron with a feather-duster teasingly held in one manicured hand, not a raw-fingered 35-year-old sweating over the grouting in the shower.

If I had Anderson Davis slapping together the everyday salad in my kitchen, I might find rustling up the family’s main meal pretty steamy, too.

Maybe if we saw more ads like this – with playful gender-reversal – it would become easier for us to alter the internal gender scripts the original research talks about. 

Ads where the secretary getting coffee is a man; ads which reflect global research showing women make 80% or so of car-buying decisions and more than half the decisions on techy stuff; maybe an Anderson Davis-style ad for nappies. Hoo boy…

C’mon, ad agencies, lead the way – use less stereotypical bikini-clad women to sell, give us more of a gender-twist! That would be a lovely festive present.

*Mandi Smallhorne is a versatile journalist and editor. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on twitter.

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