Why putting out the garbage may damage your sex life

Guys – forget the sentiment that doing the dishes is like foreplay. Contrary to previous studies and relationship advice, helping your wife cook and clean will not increase your chances of sex.

New research from sociologists at the University of Washington has found married men and women who divide household chores in traditional ways report having more sex than couples who share so-called men’s and women’s work.

The findings come from a national survey of about 4,500 heterosexual married U.S. couples participating in the National Survey of Families and Households. The data were collected from 1992 to 1994, the most recent large-scale survey available that measured sexual frequency in married couples. The research debunks the common perception that men who share the domestic bliss will be rewarded in the bedroom.

Relationship experts and studies have often maintained that the more household work a man performs, the better the chance of 'marital satisfaction' (Read: more sex). Previous studies have suggested that we negotiate and ‘trade’ housework for sex. However those studies did not factor in which types of chores the husbands were doing. A new study published in the February issue of the journal American Sociological Review, shows that sex isn't a bargaining chip.

Julie Brines, Associate Professor at the University of Washington and co-author of the study, told ABC radio that married men and women who perform traditional chores report having more sex than couples who share so-called men's and women's work. She said that sex is linked to what types of chores each spouse completes.

Her research showed that in marriages where the wife did all the traditionally ‘female tasks’ they reported having had sex about 1.6 times more per month than those where the husband did all the “feminine” jobs. The results, she said, suggest that the gender identities husbands and wives express through the chores they do also help structure sexual behaviour.


So ladies – is it a turn-on or a turn-off to watch your husband cleaning the shower or unpacking the groceries?

When it comes to chores, equality between the sexes doesn't necessarily turn on either the man or the woman, Brines said. So, even though women may say they like having their husband help around the house, his well-intentioned efforts may see him perceived as a helpmate rather than an object of desire.

In my case, a mop or rake in my husband’s hands has no impact on our ‘marital satisfaction’. The only barriers to more bedroom activity are three kids under the age of four, a prolonged sleep deficit and the wiggles on endless loop in my head. There’s nothing sexy about that!

So, if you're one of those husbands who thinks getting the vacuum cleaner out or mopping the floors will translate into having sex more often, maybe you should think again. You might be better off raking the leaves and taking out the rubbish; but I reckon a shoulder rub will always earn extra points!

How does it work in your household? Do you divide the chores according to gender stereotypes? Do you ever trade domestic chores for sex?

Michaela Fox is a freelance writer and event manager. She is mother to three beautiful daughters. You can follow Michaela on Twitter here or read her musings on motherhood at

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