Have you all heard “sex begins in the kitchen”–not meaning that we should do interesting things with whipping cream, but that doing the dishes is a good method to get women to warm up?
I hear this a lot–“Guys, if you want her to have sex with you, you had better pick up a tea towel!”
And I’ve heard women say this, too, that the sexiest thing a man can say is something like, “let me vacuum for you.” When I asked on Facebook a while ago about how men can get women in the mood, that was one of the biggest things mentioned.
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I’m worried, though, that we’re taking this too far and we’re missing the point, and the whole thing is feeling manipulative.
Here’s a video that was sent to me by a reader recently which shows how this can sometimes go awry:
“Run the dishwasher with no dishes in it” to make her think you’ve done housework? I know that was meant as a joke, but there’s an underlying problem here.
First, when we talk about how the way to get sex is for men to do housework, we assume that he has the higher sex drive.
Actually, in about 25% of cases it’s her with the higher libido. So speaking in gendered terms like this actually doesn’t work for a substantial portion of the population.
More importantly, though, it paints sex as something that he wants, but she really doesn’t.
It reinforces the message that she fundamentally doesn’t like sex, and so he has to bribe her somehow. Again, I think this message is part of the reason that women have no libido. When you’re told constantly something like, “well, of course she doesn’t want it, and so he’ll have to talk her into it”, it presents sex as something rather off-putting for wives, and suggests that she has to be ready to be constantly bothered and bugged into having sex.
People do respond to expectations. If this is what we expect from women, is it any wonder that women don’t want sex?
But more than that, it paints sex as transactional.
I was glad to see in this video that he did put in the caveat that men should be doing dishes even on nights when he doesn’t want sex, but I wish he could have gone further. It still sounded like he was saying, “do dishes anyway, even if you don’t get sex, so it’s not seen as being manipulative.”
Is this really what we want? He does dishes to get sex?
We’ve been talking this month about the emotional labor and mental load of managing the household, and how both spouses should take on some of that mental load. But it’s not to get sex. It’s to be a good person and to love your spouse.
I’d suggest re-framing it like this:
He does dishes because he’s a responsible, decent human being who wants to feel like a true partner in the marriage. Because she feels as if she has a true partner, and because she’s not exhausted, she is going to desire him more.
Do you see the difference? He isn’t doing dishes to get sex. He’s doing dishes because that’s what he should do. He’s an adult. He eats. He dirties dishes. It’s their house, together. So he does dishes because he’s a decent, mature, responsible human being.
And she isn’t giving sex to get him to do housework. No, sex is growing out of a relationship where they each feel valued and they feel like they’re partners.
Yes, women have a hard time with sex when they’re very exhausted and just want to sleep, and helping women not be exhausted is a big key to unlocking her libido for sure.
I talked about this a ton in my Boost your Libido course–about how if you’re going to have energy at the end of the day, you need to get some time to relax during the day, and you need to not have 1,000 things running through your head. And if you’re tired of always being too tired for sex, and you want to want it again, please check out the course!
But I’m uncomfortable portraying sex as something transactional–he does X so she will give sex. It makes sex into a reward. It makes sex seem like a chore for her. It makes sex into something that she gives him, rather than something that they experience together that grows out of their relationship.
Are you TIRED of always being too tired for sex?
Women, don’t use sex as a reward. Don’t withhold sex until he does dishes or until he mows the lawn. He needs to know that you love him and desire him, not just that you’re willing to give it to him if he behaves. Sex is an important part of marriage, and you vowed to have and to hold. This is what it means to hold. (of course, there are reasons to say no to sex, but on the whole, we should not be withholding sex.)
But at the same time, men, stop talking about sex like it’s something you deserve just because you did something which normal, mature, responsible human beings should be doing anyway.
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And all of us: Let’s start talking about sex as something which is intrinsic to marriage, where desire grows as we feel closer and closer, and that also fuels our connection to each other. If we talked more about how sexually responsive women can be, and how great women can feel, perhaps more women would enter marriage assuming that they would actually want sex.
And, please, can we stop with manipulation? It cheapens everything.
What do you think? Has sex been framed as a reward for you? How can we get out of this mindset? Let’s talk in the comments!