Partner not doing enough housework? The science says your libido will suffer. - My Sexual Health

Partner not doing enough housework? The science says your libido will suffer.

Many studies on low sexual desire in women have focused on biological and relationship factors, but little research has been done on the impact of social factors, such as expectations based on gender.


Researchers from the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences in Australia and Queen’s University in Canada wanted to address this gap. They conducted a study testing the theory that social factors associated with “heteronormativity” may provide insight into low desire in women partnered with men.

What is heteronormativity?

Heteronormativity is the assumption that heterosexuality is the norm and that there are only two sexes, men and women. One result of this belief is that it creates a framework around how men and women are expected to behave in relationships, for example, that women are expected to do more household labor.


Several research studies over the past 30 years have shown that indeed, women tend to do a larger share of household, emotional and mental labor compared to men in heterosexual relationships. These imbalances in housework are even more apparent for heterosexual couples with children.

What was tested, and who participated?

The researchers tested whether managing the majority of the housework would decrease a women’s desire for her partner. Two studies were done, one with 677 women and the other with 396 women from various countries, although predominantly from the UK, the United States, and South Africa. The average age of the participants was mid-30s.


Criteria for inclusion were that the women were:

  • in a relationship with a man for at least six months
  • living with their partner
  • and they had one or more children under 12 years old who lived with them at least part-time (because childcare makes up a substantial proportion of household labor)


The length of the relationships in the study were on average more than 10 years.


Participants completed questionnaires addressing sexual desire, division of household labor, perceptions of unfairness regarding the division of labor, perceptions of their partner as a dependent, as well as sex and relationship history.

Inequality in household roles affects women's desire

Not surprisingly, both studies found that when women took on a greater proportion of housework, they had significantly lower desire for their partners. In addition, perceiving their partner as being dependent on them also decreased their sexual desire. This dependency comes from the imbalance in housework leading to the woman feeling like her partner’s mother, and blurring this feeling with her role as his partner. There was also evidence that the lowering of desire was caused by the feeling of “unfairness” in the imbalance of housework.

Desire is affected both by internal and external factors

These findings challenge the idea that low desire is only a problem in and of itself. It can also be a symptom of heteronormative culture that puts pressure on women to manage more than their fair share at home. This is especially problematic now that women and men are both in the workforce in equal numbers. The study findings also challenge the assumption that low sexual desire in women is only located in their bodies or minds – social factors should be considered as well.

Reference article:


Harris EA, Gormezano AM and van Anders SM (2022) Gender inequities in household labor predict lower sexual desire in women partnered with men. Arch Sex Behav 51(8): 3847-3870.