Housework

Athol Kay — “MAN CLEAN. WOMAN LIKE. SEX NOW.”
CH — “This House is Clean (And Sex-Free)

The two posts above refer to a study in which they found couples who did their housework in a gendered way had more sex. Of course I’m going to be one of the ‘correlation-not-causation’ crowd because I do have a scientific background. In any case, I’d imagine the findings would be different depending on what cultural ideas of gendered work are — these do vary. There’s also the way I’ve experienced it personally. From the beginning of my relationship, I wanted to make sure that any kind of chore was rewarded in some way, preferably sexual. I found that this became conditioned; it didn’t matter what kind of work X was doing for me, I respond positively regardless!

It makes sense that tasks categorised as ‘masculine’ e.g. ones demonstrating strength, would be responded to in a positive way by a woman who has deeply internalised what masculinity means to her and society. I do think this is malleable however. So one way of getting around that is placing expectations on each other or yourselves with regards to rewards regardless of the nature of the chores.

There’s also something else this study may tell us, which is that men and women who become less gendered in the roles of their relationships still have the expectations of what these roles might mean embedded in their systems on an important level. For these couples, switching gendered roles isn’t activism against gender, it’s a distress signal with perhaps mutual disappointment in their relationship. This recalls for me my parents; despite acting in very non-traditional ways in terms of their gender, this was always a mark of how the other side of the couple has ‘failed’ them.

I suspect in couples who’re actively conscious about what gender means and where our expectations of gender come from, this isn’t so much of a problem.

In short, the easiest route would be to just conform to shared tasks in the expected traditional way. ¬†However, you can change this. Gendered behaviour and the reaction to it is something deeply embedded even in those conscious of it, but you can challenge this using conditioning. What nobody should tolerate is any one half of the couple taking you for granted and not doing their equal share of different tasks. That’s what’s worked well for me in my relationship so far; we try and do as much as we can of it together as a team, taking into account our strengths and weaknesses.

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