Sharing Household Chores Can Enhance Your Sex Life, According To Research

What do women find sexy? A man who does his chores, for one.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | March 23, 2023

A new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior suggests that an unequal division of household labor can explain low sexual desire in women.

“The onus to fix women’s low sexual desire with things like medication, testosterone, stress-reduction, or mindfulness therapy can be unhelpful because it ignores bigger picture causes that include gender inequities,” say the authors of the study, led by Emily Harris of the University of Melbourne and Sari van Anders of Queen's University in Canada.

In the past, researchers have focused on three factors that influence sexual desire. They are:

  • Individual factors (such as stress or hormonal imbalances)
  • Interpersonal factors (relationship or family issues)
  • Societal factors (access to information about sexuality, gender role stereotypes, etc.)

Interestingly, individual and interpersonal factors are commonly cited as an explanation for low sexual desire in women while societal factors have been largely ignored.

Therefore, to test whether societal factors such as an unequal division of household labor could explain low sexual desire in women, the researchers conducted two online surveys. In the surveys, they asked women to report (1) their sexual desire in their relationship, (2) the division of household labor (such as doing laundry and cooking meals) and how they felt about it, and (3) whether their partners were dependent on them or not.

The results showed that:

  • Women who did a larger proportion of the household labor relative to their partners experienced reduced sexual desire.
  • Women who did more household labor were more likely to perceive this to be unfair and perceived their partners as dependent on them – both of which were associated with lower sexual desire.

In other words, for a happy and (sexually) healthy relationship, couples should do their best to divide the household labor fairly. This, of course, is easier said than done in a world where traditional gender roles are still widely upheld.

To combat gender stereotypes, the authors advise women to talk to their partners about equally dividing housework. Men can also check in with their partners to decide on the chores they think they would be able to share.

The authors remind women that asking for an equal distribution of household responsibilities does not mean that they are asking for “help.” This only means that they are asking for a fair(er) distribution of work in the home.

If male partners seem uncooperative or unresponsive, seeking out professional relationship counseling can help. Counseling can also provide hesitant women with the tools they need to initiate what might be an uncomfortable conversation.

The authors offer three pieces of advice for men who want to address the issue proactively:

  • Be curious and open. See where inequities lie and how you can make changes that help your significant other feel more supported in the house.
  • Talk. Communication is essential in relationships. Let your partner know that you’d like to explore ways to lighten their load around the house.
  • Take action. In most cultures, women are expected to be the unpaid project managers of the household. By showing that you’d like to make chores a team effort, you’ll likely find that every aspect of your relationship improves, even your sex life.