I was recently quoted in a Sunday Times article published on 17th February 2014 entitled: “Do women find equal partners less attractive?”. (Click here to read the article). The focus of the article was based on the question of whether sexual frequency decreases in heterosexual relationships where the man takes on roles which are traditionally considered to be feminine, including certain household chores. This was recently questioned in the New York Times in their article “Does a more equal marriage mean less sex?“. This was based on a study published by the American Sociological Association last year which claimed that sexual frequency decreases in egalitarian relationships.
Previous articles have claimed that men who participate in household tasks have more sex within their relationships as an “exchange” for their help around the house. Although this may seem rather un-romantic, I have seen many heterosexual couples in therapy where the presenting issue is “unexplained” low sexual desire on the part of the female, only for it to transpire that the woman has underlying anger issues based on feeling unsupported and “taken for granted” by her male partner when it comes to domestic chores and childcare. It would therefore seem logical that a woman feeling supported by her partner would lead to a more harmonious relationship and therefore more sex. So how might the study by the ASA be explained?
One theory could be that in heterosexual relationships, sexual attraction is based on the differences between male and female. Therefore, if men are taking on more traditionally feminine roles such as cooking, cleaning and childcare, and women are taking on more traditionally masculine roles (particularly in terms of their careers; many being the main earner within the family), the gender roles may be becoming more fluid and less defined. One question that I propose in the Sunday Times article, is that if, in heterosexual relationships, sexual attraction is based on sexual differences between men and women, does the merging of male and female gender roles between both sexes lessen this difference, resulting in less sexual chemistry? And if this is the case, how do we manage the demands of everyday life, careers, parenting and running a household as a team whilst maintaining this difference and therefore sexual attraction? Perhaps there are no easy answers to this question and this is something that clearly needs more personal and professional reflection, and more research. It would also be interesting to repeat this study in homosexual male and female relationships. Nonetheless this is something that I will be revisiting and considering in future blogs, so I will keep you posted!