Choreplay is the idea that you can get a man to do more around the house by gifting him a little 'tang for his trouble—and I don't mean the juice product beloved by astronauts. Let me be clear: no matter if this idea is effective, it's nonetheless pretty gross.
Because I grew up with all women my entire life, I grew up thinking we just had to do all the chores that needed to be done around the house. No one promised me a rich husband or a lot of orgasms for knowing how to mop or organize some Tupperware. So, later on, when I went to college and met men and saw how they lived and noticed that they were often inside-chore-avoidant, I was like, hey, what's this all about? How come you don't understand how to like, wipe off counters and shit? And they were like, I dunno, I just don't think about it/didn't even notice/why does it matter/that's dumb shit.
And then I was like, ha, no, seriously, if everyone says men are like so much smarter than women, how come you don't know how to do this real dumb stuff that's like, so obvious/easy that even women can do it? Like there's a moldy piece of pizza right there on the counter, like how come you don't see it? And then they would act like I was kind of a bitch.
Later on, thanks to wimmin's studies, I would come to understand that this is partly because our society devalues the work that women tend to do, deeming it too menial for men to be bothered with. Chore-avoidance is also because of learned helplessness, a real thing people do every day to fake like they don't understand how something works or can't do it as well as you in order to get out of having to do it at all. It's also because of simple socialization: some men just weren't required to do chores growing up, or have some unexamined bias or expectation that a wife does this stuff, so they don't see why they should.
Both things result in the same situation: Women do more and are still very pissed about it.
We've written here frequently about the fact that men still do less housework than women and what to do about it. Unfortunately, in many relationships, this is one of those issues that requires ongoing discussion and negotiation, and depends on the first place on an understanding of how essential it is, in most modern situations, to share this work.
But still, in so many chore conversations, we seem to still hit on a tired old stereotype about incentivizing cleaning for men. If you would just clean more, we say, your wife will think it's sexy and repay you with a bulk coupon set for unlimited hot BJs 4 life.
This comes up in an op-ed from Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant at the NYT called "How Men Can Succeed in the Boardroom and the Bedroom." Previously, the duo had lamented the fact that women do more office housework; in this one, they continue to tackle corporate inequality by showing men how it benefits them economically to think of women as fully human.
Studies reveal that women bring new knowledge, skills and networks to the table, take fewer unnecessary risks, and are more inclined to contribute in ways that make their teams and organizations better. Successful venture-backed start-ups have more than double the median proportion of female executives of failed ones. And an analysis of the 1,500 Standard & Poor's companies over 15 years demonstrated that, when firms pursued innovation, the more women they had in top management, the more market value they generated.
That is all very persuasive, but this wouldn't be a sophisticated negotiation if it didn't also address the real elephant in the room: Will men have to give anything up by letting women in?
Some men might wonder whether these benefits for the organization, and for women, might come at their individual expense, and ask, will I end up lower on the corporate ladder?
This sentence is a tacit acknowledgment of the fact that quite a few men would find it harder to agree to treat women as equal if it hurts their own prospects in anyway, or if these women get too far ahead of them. The illusion that equality is a zero-sum game is common, but Sandberg and Grant both insist it's not and speak the language of people who often think it is: other men who are very important and rich, who also think women should be included more at the executive level.
Having appealed to the white man's wallet, they then move to his heart:
Research shows that when men do their share of chores, their partners are happier and less depressed, conflicts are fewer, and divorce rates are lower. They live longer, too; studies demonstrate that there's a longevity boost for men (and women) who provide care and emotional support to their partners later in life.
Be a decent person and you'll live longer!
In case all of this hasn't worked on their audience, they go straight for the boner:
If that isn't exciting enough, 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 no. Let's get one thing straight: If you have some kind of arrangement at home with your man where he changes the oil for a handie and you scrub the kitchen floor for a tit massage, more power to you. Have at. Live, love and do it in a clean, well-serviced home and bed.
But it's also OK if you don't. It's OK if you simply think your partner should do his shit because he understands you're in an equal partnership and agrees that it needs to be done. It's okay if you find the linking of domestic equality and sex favors a bit unsavory. They always say nothing is sexier than a man who does the dishes, but I would amend that to say nothing is sexier than a man who does the dishes without having to be asked or bribed—a man with whom dishes don't factor into his sexiness, to whom chores don't stand out as special or gender-bending. But that's not as catchy as "choreplay," huh?
Framing pitching in around the house as to a man's sexual advantage continues to emphasize that is out of the ordinary; it frames it as unexpected or innately incongruous and therefore rebellious—to the point that it's hot. No.
Maybe we have to sex everything up to make it seem worthwhile: Pay women equally! They will take one look at their big, hard, paycheck and get so wet 4 u. But in my experience, seeing a man run a vacuum isn't sexy per se. It's the mindset that's sexy—not that he can't wait to be rewarded for his troubles, but that he doesn't want someone he loves to be overburdened with extra bullshit (bullshit that is just as much his responsibility to begin with).
And maybe it's not even that sexy. Maybe it's just a matter of having more free time, less resentment, and the space and autonomy and support to feel turned on and attracted to a mate who is all in. Those factors are incredibly important, but they're not going to guarantee sexual bliss. That's a different list of chores altogether.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.