By Aaron Traister, REDBOOK.
A study was released a while back, and through the magic of the Internet, the results were distilled into "Dudes who do house work have less sex." I thought about writing something when it came out, but honestly, it put me on the defensive as a dude who does a fair bit around the house, especially as a stay-at-home dad.
I didn't want to write something that was basically: "I vacuum the sh*t out of my house, and I'm knee deep in sex! I'm having sex while I write this!" I just didn't feel that was a constructive response to this study, which pulled most of its findings from data collected during the Clinton Administration.
I forgot about that study until I read this incredibly long and odd piece by Lori Gottlieb in this weekend's New York Times Magazine. You should read it. She takes the aforementioned study and matches it up with anecdotal evidence she's gleaned from her time as a therapist, a dinner party she went to, and a dude she knows in Brooklyn who is going through a divorce.
I'm gonna spare you the gruesome details, but the piece basically tries to re-sell the idea that when dudes pitch in around the house, we sacrifice some part of what makes us sexually desirable manly men. And when women join the workforce, they sacrifice some of their sexuality. All of this makes us want to get busy a lot less frequently.
I've made this point before, but I'll reiterate it again just for the sake of this article. A guy knowing how to do laundry, vacuum floors, and make dinner isn't more feminine or "gender neutral," he's self-sufficient. When you apply that knowledge to your domestic romantic partnership, it helps avoid another potentially libido-killing and common marital trap known as "living in squalor." If you think your dude wielding a vacuum is a turnoff, try making love on a rug covered in dust bunnies, dog hair, and some sort of unidentifiable gray grit.
Sex, marriage, and monogamy are all hard. There are lots of obstacles when it comes to connecting emotionally and physically with a long-term partner. And let's face it, Americans' strong suit is not discussing our sexual and emotional issues openly and honestly. We're also not very good about asking for, or accepting, help in situations where we need it.
In the absence of real discussions about sexuality--especially when it comes to monogamous relationships--we get articles like this. They're simplistic and counterintuitive, and they don't help anyone. The couple out there struggling to reconnect physically doesn't need to start worrying that some piece of the husband's manhood has been sacrificed because he mops the floor. The wife doesn't need more guilt heaped on her in a society that is already great at heaping it on for the decision (or need) to go back to work. And now on top of all the other sh*t, they have to worry about having some supposed expert telling them that by trying to help each other out and create balance in their romantic relationship, they've become a "gender-neutral and gender-neutered" couple. It's insulting.
Because here's the deal--and this is the real deal that every therapist worth their salt should acknowledge: Relationship problems and sexual issues in those relationships are like snowflakes. No two are alike. Sure, there might be similar symptoms in the form of things like porn addiction, technology, or work getting in the way of connecting emotionally, but what gets you to that point is always different and unique to the individuals involved. Getting your dude to stop folding laundry is not the silver bullet your sex life needed. It just leaves you in a room covered in laundry piles.
Play a little game with me. First, close your eyes, then imagine the following scenario: You walk into your house, and your partner is there with a bottle of wine and a bucket of fried chicken. The house is clean, everything is picked up, and the floors look great. The kids are away for the afternoon. He's clearly in the mood and looking to take advantage of an opportunity where the two of you are alone for a few hours. Do you:
A) Have sex immediately.
B) Politely decline because it's been a long week, and an empty quiet house means a chance to sleep.
C) Suggest that you eat the chicken, take a nap, and then have sex.
D) Get totally turned off because he clearly cleaned the floors before you got home.
Because, honestly, there is no wrong answer except D.
Regardless of who made the bed or or brought home the bacon, sex with your partner either is a priority or it isn't. It is either desired or it isn't. If it bothers you or is a stumbling block that sex isn't a priority in your relationship, or you or your partner don't desire it as much as you think you should, you should probably do some very personal, difficult, soul searching both individually and as a couple--perhaps with a real professional.