Do the dishes, woman! (And get more sex?)

Studies have hinted that hubbies who do more housework have more sex -- but it turns out the same is true for wives

Published October 21, 2009 8:59PM (EDT)

Doing more housework gets married men more sex. Such is the wisdom to be gleaned from recent studies on such domestic dynamics -- as well as, you know, unscientific offerings like the picture book "Porn for Women," which features a vacuuming hunk on the cover. Until now, though, researchers and the world of pop culture kitsch alike have ignored the other side of the equation: The relationship between the amount of housework a woman does and how often she takes a roll in the sheets. Well, whaddaya know, a new study says the positive sex-housework relationship also holds true for wives.

The study, published in the Journal of Family Issues, uses the National Survey of Families and Households to evaluate the carnal activity and housekeeping habits of 6,877 married couples. The former was sized up according to how many times each couple reported having sex in the past month; the latter was classified in terms of hours spent cleaning the house, shopping, cooking meals, washing dishes, doing laundry, shuttling family members to and fro, maintaining the family car, keeping up the yard and paying bills. (Sheesh, I feel exhausted just writing out that list, let alone doing any of the chores.)

Researchers found that a 1 percent increase in the number of hours a husband spends on housework each week is associated with a .06 percent increase in sexual frequency, while the same increased effort on a wife's part results in a .11 percent nookie increase. The close proximity of those percentages is rather stunning when you consider that wives spend roughly twice as much time on housework compared to their husbands. And, while husbands spend more time doing paid work outside of the home (33.8 hours compared to 19.7 hours), the sex-housework link remains even after controlling for time spent doing paid labor. What's more, hours spent on paid work -- by both men and women -- also has a positive relationship with sexual frequency.

You might wonder, as I did, how ideas about appropriate sex roles come into play, but researchers controlled for "gender ideology" and found the positive link still holds. The researchers instead explain their findings as a result of the "work hard, play hard" mentality of some couples: "As life gets busier and time gets tighter, a select group of 'go getter' individuals can successfully balance multiple time commitments." I'm partial to a theory proposed by Sue Shellenbarger in the Wall Street Journal: Housework (and even paid work) may be "a proxy for a general willingness to invest in shared interests, a symbol of commitment to home and hearth." Maybe, just maybe teamwork is an aphrodisiac.

One thing the study doesn't analyze is the issue of sexual satisfaction, which certainly isn't guaranteed by sexual frequency. We don't know whether couples are having hours-long lovemaking sessions or time-pressed quickies -- and, in either case, just how satisfying these housework-fueled romps are.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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