Sunday, March 8, 2015

From Choreplay to Choregasm

How does she do it?

How does Sheryl Sandberg hold down a major corporate job and still function as a wife and a mother. And how does she do all that while leading the next wave of feminism.

If anyone has it all, it’s Sheryl Sandberg. Perhaps, she’s stretched thin (or should I say stretched lean) and that she is not a world-beater in every aspect of her life, but Sheryl Sandberg is a great American success story and she wants everyone to have a life like hers.

Even if her life is the way it appears—one would be remiss if one did not express some doubts—far too many women have crashed and burned while trying to have it all.

Sandberg is exceptional and is an exception. She is more like a celebrity than like an everyday corporate executive. Women should be very cautious about trying to emulate her example.

A woman has as much chance of becoming Sheryl Sandberg as she does becoming Taylor Swift.

After all, Sandberg is a billionaire. One does not need to use too much imagination to know that she has a staff doing most of what the rest of the world would consider to be chores. It is impossible to be a major corporate executive and to be an active and engaged wife and mother. You certainly cannot do it while you are travelling around the country spreading the gospel of Leaning In.

Still, Sandberg is very, very successful. Thus, people have good reason to follow her example. And she is also good looking. If you think that looks do not matter, especially to women, it’s time for a rethink.

Now, Sandberg wants to tell people how to live their lives. She wants to entice them to follow the feminist life script. And she wants to dupe men into playing their appointed roles in the feminist life script, by promising them more sex.

I am sure that Sandberg is not alone in thinking it, but men are not all led around by their genitalia. It’s insulting to suggest as much. If anyone offered a similar commentary about women he would be run out of town on a rail.

One recalls a dictum from famed management consultant Peter Drucker. Different people have different skills. Some people are very good at managing people or directing companies. Other people are very good at giving advice to managers and directors. Rarely does one individual possess the skills required to manage and to counsel.

If you don’t believe me, ask Jill Abramson. The former executive editor of the New York Times leaned in to her boss and lost the most powerful job in American journalism.

Having moved on from telling women how not to get raises to telling them how to trade sex for chores, Sandberg is nothing if not bossy.

She believes that businesses with more women in positions of power do better than do those who have fewer women. In some cases this might very well be true. Of course, it depends on what kinds of businesses we are talking about and what kinds of jobs.

At the least, we know that this is not true of the giants of Silicon Valley. But why quibble.

Now, Sandberg wants to tell couples how to conduct their marriages. She wants to show them the royal road from choreplay to choregasm.

According to Sandberg, women are turned on by men who do the laundry. It’s a gambit, like another. It might even work in some cases. Still and all, after four decades of second-wave feminism women still do nearly all the laundry.

It is fair to mention, because no one else does, that if men who do not do the laundry are getting less sex at home, they might be getting more sex outside of the home.

As I have occasionally noted, a man whose wife hassles him about the laundry is likely to have a female colleague who will one day blurt out: If you were my husband, I’d never let you do the laundry.

In the world of aphrodisiacs, how well does that one work?

It is also fair to ask whether the wives in question are ideologically committed to feminism, and thus, tend to reward their husbands when their husbands pretend to be feminists, too.

Sandberg and the surveys do not seem to address these issues, but they are certainly germane.

Writing with Adam Grant, Sandberg says:

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….

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.

Next Valentine’s Day, men who have married feminists should not buy flowers or chocolates or jewelry. They should do the laundry. Not because they want to do the laundry, but because it’s cheaper than going out for dinner or hiring an escort.

Maybe I missed something, but how many women would prefer romance to a self-interested quid pro quo? In the latter case a woman might feel obligated to reciprocate. It's not very romantic.

In her ideological zeal Sandberg has failed to notice that she is writing conjugal coitus into a demeaning and degrading exchange. Trading household chores for blowjobs does not feel like true love.

A lot of women do not like to think of sex as a commodity that they dole out in exchange for ideological conformity.

Now, Claire Hannum has examined the relevant sociological research and has found out that Sandberg has misinterpreted it. She has discovered that fixed gender roles generate far more fire in the female loins than does gender confusion:

Men who do domestic chores get laid more often, according to a study published in the American Sociological Review.

However, it comes with a strangely sexist caveat: only doing “manly” chores leads to more bedroom action.

The study, “Egalitarianism, Housework and Sexual Frequency in Marriage,” found men who do so-called “traditionally female labor” like washing dishes and doing laundry got less nookie than those who do more allegedly masculine chores. Personally, I think there is nothing sexier than coming home to my man doing the dishes (AKA choreplay), and I’d venture that lots of ladies would feel the same way. Clean houses are sexy! Apparently psychology says otherwise. The study found:

“’A couple’s sex life is governed by a gendered set of sexual scripts,’ meaning that men who do typical ‘guy’ chores, such as mowing the grass, do, in fact, get lucky more often.”

The study theorizes that while women may love seeing their guy vacuuming or making dinner, something may shift in their subconscious. When they see men doing “feminine” chores, the primitive part of their brains might be telling them that something isn’t quite right, and they’re less turned on. I hope that’s not the case, because the idea of us being programmed on such an primal level is kind of a bummer.

And, of course, no one considers the possibility that a man who does more womanly household chores will feel demoralized to the point that he does not want to have more sex.

And yes, I am willing to recognize that some men get turned on by dressing up like chambermaids, but still, this is a small minority. I hope that it's not relevant here.

Finally, Sandberg and Grant make this point:

A powerful study led by the University of British Columbia psychologist Alyssa Croft showed that when fathers shouldered an equal share of housework, their daughters were less likely to limit their aspirations to stereotypically female occupations. What mattered most was what fathers did, not what they said. For a girl to believe she has the same opportunities as boys, it makes a big difference to see Dad doing the dishes….

When children see their mothers pursuing careers and their fathers doing housework, they’re more likely to carry gender equality forward to the next generation.

Even if we accept that a girl who sees her father doing more housework will aspire to a career that is not “stereotypically female” we should also note that a boy who sees his father doing more housework knows that his father does not put in very much time at work. Since boys naturally emulate their fathers, this makes it more likely that they do less schoolwork.

There many reasons why so many boys are underachievers. These must include fatherless households, but they might also might include fathers who are not gainfully employed.

It might also be the case that a girl who sees her father doing the dishes will conclude that she cannot count on a man to support her and that therefore she will have to learn how to provide for herself.

When your reasoning is driven by ideology you are likely to choose the data that support your fiction and to ignore data that tends to refute it. Moreover, you will also ignore any interpretations that discredit it.


Ares Olympus said...

It is curious to wonder why an uber-successful woman like Sheryl Sandberg wants to expand her expertise to relationship advice.

Is it her own desire, or maybe she is so admired that she's surrounded by women looking to emulator her, and so hang on her every word, until she starts believing she really does have all the answers?

I saw this article recently: We Are All Confident Idiots
The trouble with ignorance is that it feels so much like expertise. A leading researcher on the psychology of human wrongness sets us straight. David Dunning · Oct 27, 2014
The American author and aphorist William Feather once wrote that being educated means “being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don’t.” As it turns out, this simple ideal is extremely hard to achieve. Although what we know is often perceptible to us, even the broad outlines of what we don’t know are all too often completely invisible. To a great degree, we fail to recognize the frequency and scope of our ignorance.

In 1999, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, my then graduate student Justin Kruger and I published a paper that documented how, in many areas of life, incompetent people do not recognize—scratch that, cannot recognize—just how incompetent they are, a phenomenon that has come to be known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Logic itself almost demands this lack of self-insight: For poor performers to recognize their ineptitude would require them to possess the very expertise they lack. To know how skilled or unskilled you are at using the rules of grammar, for instance, you must have a good working knowledge of those rules, an impossibility among the incompetent. Poor performers—and we are all poor performers at some things—fail to see the flaws in their thinking or the answers they lack.

What’s curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.


I don't need to put Sandberg in the class of incompetent, but it makes sense that we all take our success and run with it, until something stops us, like failure, but when you're giving advice, you can never see the results of your meddling.

And perhaps when you're a billionaire, if things are not working, you can just fire someone, and pretend everything that didn't work.

I see from her Wiki bio, she had a short marriage in 1993-94, and has been married since 2004, so 10+ years is a good start, but maybe a surprise divorce is what it'll take to stir up her self-doubt?

But until then, or some other crisis, she's got George Carlin's American gift of glorious ignorance on her side:
"America can be counted on to do one of two things: take a good idea and run it completely into the ground, or take a bad idea and run it completely into the ground."

n.n said...

Women want men. Men want women. The exceptions are few and far between. While there is overlap between the two sexes, and perhaps even convergence, the notable differences are in the physiological, mental, and perceptive contrasts. It is those contrasts that have a natural basis and reciprocal allure.

priss rules said...

It's precious, these billionaires thinking they understand real people in the real world.

Btw, she knew little about technology. She made her fortune by knowing the right kind of people and shmoozing them. She oughta shut up.

Dennis said...

"pries rules" gets it right. In an earlier comment on Sandberg I pointed out an article from "Fortune" magazine that expressly states that it was her relationship with a male that got her the job. The other 5 individuals that actually created, innovated, developed and made "Facebook" what it is today are the ones making orders of magnitude more than Sandberg. Notwithstanding that Sandberg is a glorified Management Assistant who deals with daily operations.
I think it was Chelsea Clinton who stated that it will take the leadership of men to crete real gender equality.