The Art of “Chore-Play”

By: Ian Kerner

Want to get lucky tonight, Guys? Then perhaps you should reach for a bottle of Windex before you reach for her body. No, I’m not suggesting anything kinky. In fact, the concept of “choreplay”—that women are more likely to want to have sex when their male partner helps out around the house—is a hot topic in research circles:

* One recent study from the University of Western Ontario, for example, found that wives are happier when their husbands pitch in with housework.
* Another report from researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago even suggests men who help clean, take care of their kids, and do other domestic chores may see the benefits of their labor pay off in the bedroom.

Our experts at Good in Bed agree: “When we first started talking about the sex–chore connection, my husband was offended,” admits Heidi Raykeil. “To him, it felt a little as if I was withholding sex unless he was a ‘good boy’ and did his chores. But if I’m in the mood and the kitchen’s a mess—Errrt! Mental brake screech. My head is suddenly filled with dirty dishes and duties, instead of sex. For me, choreplay just helps a potentially hot situation stay that way.”

The “mental brake screech” Heidi describes is actually backed by science: Researchers in the Netherlands found that “the key to female arousal seems to be deep relaxation and a lack of anxiety.” In a study in which the brains of men and women were scanned during the process of sexual response using a technique called positron emission tomography (PET), the results showed that the parts of the female brain responsible for processing fear, anxiety and emotion reduce during sexual activity.

Men showed far less change in these areas of the brain. Says Dr. Gert Holstege,  “What this means is that deactivation, letting go of all fear and anxiety, might be the most important thing, even necessary, to have an orgasm.” So what’s the lesson? If you want to turn a woman on, the key is to help her turn off—turn off her brain, that is—and that means helping her not worry: like about all the chores that still need to be done.

Of course, it’s tough for a woman to chill out when she comes home from one job, only to be burdened by a “second shift” of cleaning, cooking, and chaos. In that scenario, sex is just one more task on her to-do list. The goal of choreplay: to move sex to the top of that list by helping her cross off some of the less scintillating items.

Men aren’t mind readers, but most of us are aware enough to notice when the sink is full of dirty dishes or the garbage is overflowing. Once guys start carrying our weight around the house, we’re apt to find that women have more energy in the bedroom. There’s no motivation like sex! And for all of you guys out there who are already doing your share of the housework, more power to you.

But choreplay isn’t just about chores, says Debby Herbenick, a research scientist at Indiana University and sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute. “It’s very important not to get into a ‘bartering’ system or even to see it as a man ‘helping his wife’ with chores,” she warns. “Household chores and parenting are shared responsibilities that researchers have generally found women spend more time on than men. When couples have a more equal partnership, they do tend to have  more satisfying sex lives.”

In my own life, I’ve noticed that when I take the time to really play with my kids, my wife finds me sexier—and my chances of sex improve. Of course, playing with my kids isn’t a chore, but it’s interesting how all the stuff outside the bedroom can make or break what happens inside.

Says Good in Bed expert, Kristen Mark, “ One of the reasons many women get turned on by these out-of-bedroom acts is because they demonstrate caring in a different way. If it becomes clear that the act is being done as a means to get sex, it can become a turn OFF. So, do these things as a way to help out, not as a way to get sex….and sex just might end up being a bonus!”

That said, time to go clean up my house and play with the kids.