Jan. 30, 2013 at 4:59 AM ET
Hey, fellas, put down those vacuum cleaners and pull out the lawn mowers.
Married men may think helping around the house may up their hotness quotient in the bedroom, but what really matters is the type of chore. Heterosexual married men who spend their time doing yard work, paying bills and changing the oil have more sex than husbands who spend their time cooking, cleaning and shopping, according to a new study on the subject of housework and sex.
"Households with a more traditional gender division of labor report higher sexual frequency than households with less traditional gender divisions of labor," says Sabino Kornrich, lead author of a study that appears in the February issue of the American Sociological Review. "Housework is something that people use as a very important way to express gender, masculinity and femininity. We weren't surprised to think that sex might be more tied to this type of gender expression."
Other studies have found that men who make the bed also get to romp around in it more often. But Kornrich and his research team from the Center for Advanced Studies at the Juan March Institute in Madrid wanted to test claims that women might “exchange” sex for men’s participation in housework.
As it turned out, they found a statistically significant difference between men who did no "core housework" -- that is, chores that are typically identified with women -- and men who regularly handled the cooking, cleaning and laundry. Their findings came from data collected from Wave II of the National Survey of Families and Households, or NSFH, a 1996 national survey conducted by James Sweet and Larry Bumpass. Although the comprehensive study is almost 20 years old, Kornrich believes the household division of labor hasn't changed much and the data still apply.
"For couples in which men did no 'core' housework, sexual frequency was 4.8 times per month," says Kornrich. "For couples in which men did all of the 'core' housework, sexual frequency was 3.2 times per month."
Kornrich says he actually used the same data source as previous research which found that both men and women who did more chores enjoyed more sex, but this time broke down the type of housework participants were doing.
"You end up with a more nuanced pattern," he says. "Men who do a greater share of male-typed housework and women who do a greater share of female-typed housework report more frequent sex."
Allison Ellis, a 42-year-old Seattle writer, says she and her husband divvy up the household chores, but not along gender lines.
"He wants to clean and doesn't want to cook ever," she says. "Our deal is I cook and he cleans. I'm not allowed to touch the dishwasher."
Ellis doesn’t quite agree with the findings from the new study, admitting that she "swoons" every time she sees her husband get out the vacuum cleaner.
"It's more of a turn-on when he's doing the vacuuming than when he's doing the traditional stereotypical tasks," she says. "I wouldn't say there's a direct correlation but it's definitely something that keeps us in sync."
Julie Brines, associate professor of sociology at the University of Washington and coauthor of the study, says the deep-seated views that some behaviors are more masculine or feminine affect “whether or not we find them sexy or whether we define a situation as a sexual situation."
Jeff Friedrich, the 38-year-old plastic surgeon who makes his wife's heart go pitter-pat when he takes out the vacuum cleaner, says he doesn't see any kind of correlation between their sex life and any kind of household chores.
"In my mind, that seems to be a little overly simplistic, that doing some chores around the house will earn you a trip to the bedroom," he says. "I've always done the kitchen and done the vacuuming and we've always had what I think is a good sex life. But I haven't tested it. I haven't stopped vacuuming and cleaning the kitchen to see what happens."
Which is perhaps a good thing, says Kornrich.
"Men who refuse to do housework, including both traditionally male and female tasks, could increase conflict in their marriage and lower their wives' marital satisfaction, he says. "Earlier research has found that women's marital satisfaction is linked to men's participation in the household."