Thursday is the most important, manufactured holiday of the year: Valentine’s Day. Which means, on Wednesday, the Hallmark aisle at Kroger’s will be clogged with panicked men searching for just the right, over-priced card to show how much they love their spouse. And mother.
This seems like the perfect time to reflect on a sad, but tragically true aspect of our culture: American married couples are having sex less often than ever before. In fact, some social scientist coined the term “sexless marriage” to define those unions in which the couples have sexual relations no more than 10 times per year. It’s estimated that one in five marriages fall into this category.
But here’s what’s interesting: despite the decline in sexual frequency, these same couples report that their marriages are happier than ever before. How do we explain this paradox? We’ve been taught that a healthy sex life is essential to a strong marriage. So, how can we be happier with less sex? The answer is simple: laundry.
Several years ago, the American Sociological Review published a study called “Egalitarianism, Housework and Sexual Frequency in Marriage.” The study refuted the assumption that, as couples divide household chores evenly, their sex life would improve. Instead, it found that when men did certain kinds of chores around the house, couples had less sex. Specifically, if men did all of what the researchers characterized as feminine chores like folding laundry, cooking or vacuuming-the kinds of things many women say they want their husbands to do-then couples have sex 1.5 fewer times per month that those with husbands who did what were considered masculine chores: taking out the trash, dry-walling or changing the oil in the car. Here’s the kicker: sexual frequency wasn’t the only thing affected. The more traditional the division of household labor, the greater the wife’s reported sexual satisfaction.
Note: I need to pause here in order to load the dishwasher….
OK, where were we? Oh yes, wives are turned off when their husbands do non-traditional household chores. In my case, the situation is compounded because I do the laundry and, invariably, ruin an uber-expensive, Anne Taylor blouse that includes a label saying: HEY DOUG, YOU SCHMUCK, DON’T WASH THIS IN HOT WATER! Thus, she is both turned off AND apoplectic with anger; a combination that all but scuttles any chance of sexual intimacy beyond an occasional high five.
This study made me appreciate my dilemma. In my household, we have permanently and contractually divided the household chores. The breakdown is simple: I have them all. Now, that’s OK because, as was mentioned above, the egalitarian nature of our marriage ensures a greater degree of happiness (I’m assuming more for Kate, but let’s not split hairs). Still, I must face the reality that my wife is likely never to be aroused as long as I’m immersed in traditionally, non-male chores. Besides, even if she did get turned on, I’m too busy running a wet mop over the hardwood floors to simply stop and jump in the sack.
So, I’ve been thinking about what I can do to encourage a higher level of friskiness from my wife, realizing, of course that I will never be relieved of my non-traditional responsibilities. I’ve come up with a few ideas that might work to increase her libidinous urges (hopefully towards me, but I can’t be picky at this stage):
- I’m going to hunt elk as a means of providing food for our household. Various anthropological studies suggest that women become aroused by the scent of elk on their man (or is it female elk that are aroused?). Heaven knows, my lavender bath salts aren’t doing the trick. I haven’t checked, but I’m hoping that there is an abundant elk population near our Madisonville sub-division. And, unless I can find a Republican who will lend me an elk rifle, I’ll have to reason with the elk and hope they turn themselves in without a struggle.
- I’m going to re-wire our house. I caught my wife looking at me lasciviously a few days ago as I changed a light bulb (of course, it might have been a look of puzzlement as it took me 27 minutes to change the bulb). Which got me to thinking: how alluring would I be if I could re-wire an entire home? First off, I’ll get to wear a tool belt. I read in O! The Magazine, that women find guys in tool belts very sexy. Of course, I’ll have to borrow Kate’s tool belt, but hopefully she won’t notice.
- I’m going to join a motorcycle gang. It’s long been understood that women are turned on by dangerous men…outlaws, UPS delivery men, the greeters at Costco. So, a motorcycle gang is a perfect fit, despite the fact that I don’t drink or smoke and I’ve never been in a knife fight. Plus, there is the small issue of Kate refusing to let me have a motorcycle (in fairness, she did say I could have a Vespa, as long as I promised not to leave the neighborhood). But I think that once the brothers in the gang get to know me, they’ll be cool with me cruising along in my Honda FIT.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, I’m sensing a new era of passion coming to my marriage. But I can’t focus on that now. I have laundry to fold and another load to be washed. By the way, is it OK to throw a cashmere sweater in with the whites?