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A Discovery About Women's Sexual Desire That Will Make Conservative Heads Spin

The conservative media need not worry about women's libidos in equal relationships after all.
 
 
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Ever since the second wave of feminism kicked off, women—straight women, anyway—have been darkly warned that embracing sexual liberation and demanding equality in their relationships would only bring them misery and doom. We’re told that unless we marry young and try not to be picky about our partners, we will face certain lifelong loneliness. We’re told men will never accept us as equals and that if we get too much education or make too much money, we’ll be left on the shelf while men pursue women who aren’t too threatening.

We’ve even been told it’s fatal to the sexual health of a marriage to allow the husband to do his chores, with conservative gender warrior Lori Gottlieb arguing in the New York Times that women don’t really want men to do their share, and you can tell because our libidos supposedly dry up at the image of a man holding a broom. You may think you want feminism in your personal relationships, the dour reactionaries of mainstream media warn, but you’ll be sorry if you try it, ladies.

Well, it’s all nonsense, as a new series of reports from the fine folks at the Council on Contemporary Families (CCF) demonstrates. Collectively titled “After a Puzzling Pause, the Gender Revolution Continues,” the reports find that Americans are growing fonder of egalitarian relationships, both in theory and in practice. Conservatives have long held out hope that Americans would taste equality and find it bitter, electing instead to run back to traditional gender roles. Instead, researchers find that while there is some ebb and flow in American attitudes about equality, the general trend has been toward more equality, with an uptick in recent years. Oh, and our sex lives are not actually sadder because men have learned how the vacuum cleaner works.

The sexiest finding by far was recorded by researcher Sharon Sassler, who, along with her colleagues, put to bed the myth that women’s libidos dry up at the sight of their husbands pulling their fair share of the housework. Sassler found that while earlier research did show a correlation between men doing more housework and couples having less sex, that study “was focused on the sexual behaviors of married couples in the late 1980s, many of whom had met and married in the 1960s and 1970s.”  Wondering if people who actually grew up and married after the second wave of feminism might feel differently, Sassler looked at couples who had met and married mostly in the '90s and later. The finding was that “Couples who shared domestic labor had sex at least as often, and were at least as satisfied with the frequency and quality of their sex, as couples where the woman did the bulk of the housework.” In fact, they had slightly more sexual satisfaction, though it wasn’t considered statistically significant.

All of which makes perfect sense. Many reactionaries would like you to believe that people’s attitudes about gender and sex are hardwired and therefore “tinkering” with the machinery by asking men to do more housework is bound to backfire and create sexual dysfunction. But in reality, our sexuality, like our lives generally, is shaped by the culture around us. For women of an older generation who grew up in an era when the idea of a man doing housework was portrayed as humiliating and emasculating, it makes sense that it might be a turn-off. But for younger women who were raised in a more egalitarian society—and who were much more likely to see their own fathers doing housework—those associations are much dimmer or may not even exist at all. There’s no inherent reason to believe that a man doing the dishes is any more or less sexy than a woman doing dishes, and the data from the younger generations shows how true that is.

 
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