Household chores are mundane, tedious, and routine—basically, everything we dread our sex lives will become in monogamous relationships.
Sure, your partner may rub up against you while you’re bent over the sink, scrubbing burnt rice from a saucepan, and lure you into the bedroom. But the saucepan will still be there after whatever sweaty interregnum.
Be it taking out the trash, dish-duty, folding laundry, or replacing light bulbs, these are not sexy activities. And yet, in a New York Times op-ed yesterday, Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg introduced “choreplay” to the fight for gender equality and her “Lean In” feminist manifesto.
Writing with Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, Sandberg cites research that says men who put as much effort into household chores as women have happier partners and more successful relationships.
This is common sense for most couples today. We hardly need a study to show us that cohabitating couples are more likely to have domestic spats if one partner nags the other to pitch in more around the apartment. But there’s more…
“If that isn’t exciting enough,” Sandberg and Grant write, “try this: Couples who share chores equally have more sex. As the researchers Constance T. Gager and Scott T. Yabiku put it, men and women who work hard play hard.”
“One of us, Sheryl, has advised men that if they want to do something nice for their partners, instead of buying flowers, they should do laundry. A man who heard this was asked by his wife one night to do a load of laundry. He picked up the basket and asked hopefully, ‘Is this Lean In laundry?’ Choreplay is real.”
Oh dear. Have we really failed so miserably at equality that we have to sexualize household chores? Sandberg’s “Lean In” philosophy is at least a nuanced and compelling feminist rallying cry. Less compelling is the idea that splitting domestic responsibilities is revolutionary because it could, for lucky participants, potentially correlate with increased sexual activity.
As Sandberg elaborated in an interview with Megyn Kelly on Fox, the message is really directed at men: if you pitch in more, you’ll get laid more.
Debatable. And two adults shouldn’t have to make taking out the trash sexy to get the job done.
“Choreplay,” despite its zeitgeisty aspiration to become as much a thing as “leaning in,” is gimmicky nonsense. Despite the ennobling glow of a New York Times opinion piece, it’s the stuff of hackneyed “How to Spice Up Your Sex Life” articles in women’s magazines.
Do we really think that bending over while dusting will ignite a fire in our partner’s loins, so that he can’t help but grab the duster and take over? The image is reminiscent of a bad porno in which the duster is used--for all practical purposes—as a feather tickler.
And the study Sandberg cites doesn’t fully support her argument. Indeed, the authors conclude that gender politics have little influence on the link between chores and sex: “Whether an individual holds a more traditional or a more liberal ideology about the appropriate roles of women or men, such beliefs have little effect on the positive relationship between household labor time and sexual frequency.”
The authors write that their findings “add to the growing body of body of research suggesting that gender differences have been overinflated and that women’s and men’s roles are becoming more similar.”
As for the unrealness of “choreplay,” let it be rightly consigned to fodder for a “Saturday Night Live” skit, with Taran Killam leaning in as Sandberg’s husband, moaning and caressing his wife with one hand and ironing his underwear with the other.