“Guys who do more housework get less sex”

Sometimes I have a few minutes where I can work, but I don’t feel like working. So I follow the blogroll, this time from here to here:

Sabino Kornrich, Julie Brines, Katrina Leupp. Egalitarianism, Housework, and Sexual Frequency in Marriage American Sociological Review February 2013 vol. 78 no. 1 26-50 doi: 10.1177/0003122412472340


Data are from Wave II of the National Survey of Families and Households published in 1996, interviews from 1992-1994.

The division of labor:

Core tasks include preparing meals, washing dishes, cleaning house, shopping, and washing and ironing; non-core tasks include outdoor work, paying bills, auto maintenance, and driving.

As you can see in the graph, the more of the “core” tasks a man completes, the less sex he gets.

The covariates for overall marital happiness and specific happiness with spouses’ contribution to housework did not change this relationship. The covariate for gender-traditional ideology on household labor likewise did not change this relationship. Thus, none of these factors explains the relationship between sex frequency and the participation of the man in “core” chores.

As a commenter pointed out, if he’s getting less sex, so is she. (I think the above graph is in units of orgasms per year.) So maybe the title should be, “If your husband does more housework you get less sex.”

As a statistician, of course I’m most amused by the above graph with those amazingly straight lines. I can’t laugh too much, though, as I’ve been guilty of similar abominations myself (see figure 3 in this paper, for example).

Oh well. As the saying goes, what’s the point of living in a glass house if you can’t throw stones?

21 thoughts on ““Guys who do more housework get less sex”

  1. “if he’s getting less sex, so is she.”

    Not necessarily. She could be out having sex with her secretary while her house husband does the dishes and scrubs the floor. This is relatively frequent when gender roles are reversed.

    • And what about same-sex married couples? Is the observed phenomenon specific to heterosexual couples?

      Also, I’m impressed by the how smooth trend line is through the data. That and there’s zero variation about the trend. That’s impressive. Perhaps even (Ig) Nobel material.

  2. Whenever one encounters strange correlations which morph into putative causations, always think of “reverse causality,” whereby axes are interchanged. Instead of:

    “As you can see in the graph, the more of the ‘core’ tasks a man completes, the less sex he gets,”

    reformulation via reverse causality yields

    The less sex he gets results in his completing more “core” tasks in order to obtain more sex.

  3. Am I the only one who is confused by the plot? If we look at all of the men who do 50% of the core housework and 50% of the non-core housework, what’s the average sexual frequency for that group?

    And there’s probably a trade-off on average: men who do larger shore of the core housework probably do a smaller share of the non-core housework.

    An obvious potential confounder here is employment, for both men and women. Maybe “there’s less sex in households with employed women and unemployed men” is the real story. Perhaps this is covered in the article, which I haven’t read.

    Someone should point out that this is another “one-way street” example; the plot, headline, etc. could all be couched in terms of women rather than men.

  4. It seems to me the obvious variable begging to be controlled is testosterone level. I don’t do research in this area but I remember that testosterone levels are highly correlated with aggression and frequency of sex. As a form of post-rationalization(pun not intended) it may be likely that high testosterone males may find it convenient to self conceptualize in a more traditional modality.

  5. Well here is the truth that I found. Men who do more housework get less sex…the reason is because the wife has become such a slob and lazy and hasn’t been doing anything around the home. When the man comes home from being at work, he is disgusted on how messy his house is, so he cleans it. He’s so mad that the wife hasn’t done anything productive but freeload off his money. Once he finishes cleaning he is either too tired for sex and/or he is still disgusted by her lack of doing anything productive that he isn’t attracted to her and doesn’t even want to have sex with her. Yall can write what you want with the filler sentences that don’t mean anything, but it all boils down to this. The question the men should also be asked is “why does he do more housework?”

  6. I think there is a connection with the amount of child labour that the couple can co-opt. Kids can’t do non-core tasks (driving, paying bills, and auto-maintenance) but can do core tasks (preparing (simple) meals, washing dishes, cleaning house, and washing). As the kids get older they can help with more core tasks – in response, I would surmise, Dads do less core tasks but substitute more non-core tasks. And as the paper shows, as kids get older (and more able to provide labour) parents report higher sexual frequency.

    It would be very interesting to see the raw data plotted – the mean and sd for the proportion of male core work done is 0.25 and 0.19 which suggests that there are very few men doing 90% or 100% of the core work. It means that the man with the disabled wife, the man whose wife is on active service overseas, are going to be highly influential.

  7. Ok let’s imagine the lines where that straight, or well for any regression in general… why is that not interpreted as “Guys who get less sex do more housework” instead? And obviously the two situationy imply entirely different set inclusions (“deprived \subset houseworking” in this latter case, opposed to “houseworking \subset deprived”)… how many people are aware of this “added information” when reporting such relations? For me it’s a strong gut feeling when reading such titles, kinda disturbing.
    But what’s the set-inclusion-neutral spelling of the situation one should strive for? Plain language tends to implicitly favour regression-like implications, whereas we should actually be after PCA (forgive my bad wording). Even “less sex correlates with housework” is not fully inclusion neutral… there’s still a hint of conditioning for sex frequency first.

  8. i was very skeptical of this research when i skimmed the article in the recent NY times sunday mag – was fairly certain i’d seen studies that come to different conclusions. found this 2009 article: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748704500604574485351638147312

    which says “A new study shows that for husbands and wives alike, the more housework you do, the more often you are likely to have sex with your spouse”

    skimmed for lack of time, but interestingly – they used the *same* data source (“National Survey of Families and Households). curious to see how that works. i can see that this earlier study (in the WSJ)’s doesn’t do a “core/non-core” breakdown of housework – one diff.

    i found this article because i read in an old women’s mag article that a 2006 study (still can’t find a name/ref) said that more equal housework –> more sexual satisfaction (what i read says it was a survey of 360 married men). whether or not that study is flawed or not, it brings up another question regarding this (2013) study – is it assuming that frequency means more sexual satisfaction?

    so many dangers in this kind of statistical “analysis” and conclusion-making.

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