Gender in Families

Today, I am working on revisions to a paper about game theory and division of labor in childcare. I’m really trying to beef up the sociological analysis, which is why I am today reading “Gender in Families: Women and Men in Marriage, Work, and Parenthood” by Linda Thompson and Alexis Walker. So far, it’s a good article. A few points I find interesting:

  • Overall, women seem to take charge of the intimacy in a marriage, and men are not as expressive or affectionate, to their wives’ dismay. However, we may not be giving men credit. We tend to define intimacy in ways that are feminine — emotional warmth and expressiveness, vulnerability, sensitivity. We overlook the types of intimacy that we associate with men: sex and providing practical help and economic support. Men tend to be pleased by practical help and women tend to be pleased by acts of affection. This lead the authors of one 1970’s study to speculate that in an opposite-gender marriage, partners must please their spouses by acting in gender-atypical ways that they also would not find pleasing themselves.
  • At least in a 1979 study, most women had faked orgasms at some point during their marriage. They did it because they want to keep their partners happy and orgasm isn’t really important to them. I wonder if that still holds true today. There was also discussion of an interesting study on niddah, Jewish laws of ritual cleanliness that enforce a separation during and after a woman’s period. A number of Orthodox Jewish women saw many ways in which these laws allow women to shape sexual intimacy to be more to their liking.

I’m really reading the paper for material on parenting, which comes later, but I’m sure I’ll have some more thoughts along the way!


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