A Dom, a vacuum and cleaning

Division of Labor



Ahh the age old dilemma, who does the housework? And doesn’t D/s make the division of labor easy? Surely Molly as the Twue sub she is handles all that stuff while waiting on me hand and foot?

That would be a resounding NO!

This post was inspired in part by GotN and her rant on chores and how the penile equipped among us don’t do our share and expect the women folk to pick up after us, that the claim of not noticing the mess is in and of itself a symptom of having someone else just sigh and do it for us. So as we often do, we had a conversation about this and discussed our difference on cleaning.

A bit of background for context, while I am a gentleman of advancing years this does not mean my childhood was that of Father Knows Best. I am the oldest of four children, I have two brothers and a baby sister. My sister is just over ten years younger than I am and her arrival caused a great change in my life. By the time she came along my parents had given up on ever having a daughter (all of her older siblings were supposed to be girls) and both my parents had fulltime day jobs There was no way the family could get by on just one income. So what was the solution? Well, that would be me. My mom would drop my sister off at the neighbors house and head off to work, I would herd my brothers to the school bus and we would all go to school. Once school ended I would take the bus home and pick up the baby and go home to watch my brothers and take complete care of a ten month old child, and make dinner, and do laundry, and clean the house. This continued until I got a job at fourteen that started directly after school. Once I was employed it got me out of making dinner but that was about it. I still did the laundry and general cleaning. What an exciting time it was for me when I finally graduated High School and left home for Boston and College. Most of the excitement centered around the fact that I would only doing chores for one!

Flash forward a few years and I am married and very quickly a father of two. My wife had many admirable traits but she was not one who cared all that much about cleaning and so once again I found myself taking on most of those tasks. It wasn’t any big deal, just what needed to be done.

I never ever expected anyone to “do” for me. I had spent my whole life not just doing for me, but for those I cared about around me.

Molly and I are partners in all things, she is not someone who I would ever expect to wait on me (we do sometime wonder about looking for a service sub). We both work from home and she works every bit as hard as I do (often harder) and since I don’t drive here in the UK she has the added burden of trucking the kids all over hell and gone. She does do all the laundry and cleans the bathroom. But I work hard to let her know how much I appreciate that and try my hardest to do my fair share, to listen when something isn’t quite the way she would like it to be and to do my part to show that this is joint effort.

What, you may be asking yourself, has this got to do with GotN?

It is the notion that somehow (notallmen) we have spent out lives with someone picking up after us and so our differences in what needs to be clean and when it needs to be clean and how could we not notice the giant cobweb that hangs down just above the kitchen table is a result of Patriarchy. It certainly isn’t true of any of my peers that I grew up with. I don’t know a single one of them that expects cleaning to be done for them and in our discussions on the topic really the only person that Molly and I could identify as someone who did expect that was her ex and well, really, I hope that the people like me outnumber the people like him by a great margin.

But here is my dirty little secret. I don’t care about cleaning. In those rare moments in my life that I have lived on my own-ish I would happily fall into the dirt blind stereotype that is manhood. I, in fact, need a bit of chaos and mess in my life to function properly.

So maybe the difference isn’t down to gender or what we have been taught to expect but just down to what we do to compromise to make the people we love happy.

After all the messiest most dirt blind people I have ever known in my life, were all women.


P.S. I am a great fan of GotN, I admire her boldness and honesty, and even when we do not agree on an issue it never is because she doesn’t have a well thought out argument or that she wont hear an opposing respectful view so I hope she takes this in the spirit it offered, just another possibility.

Also, I love her new book! More on that soon 😀


6 responses to “Division of Labor”

  1. The difficulty is while ‘not all men’,and you as exception, is true in general statistics demonstrate that the majority of household labour and the most difficult or time consuming chores are left to women. That you are exceptional and note this proves that a) stuff changes but slowly in society b) we’re not all structurally determined. Thus to comment on structures of patriarchy is not to blame ‘all men’. Indeed patriarchy harms men too. But ‘not all men’ doesn’t get over the fact that the double burden the majority of women face worldwide still exists. You are being awesome in noting the privilege of structure and doing something positive. I say this as a woman who has less tidy/clean standards than her Dom, and I really want a cleaner when we get our own place – coz middle class privilege means I can shift that burden onto another woman… 😉

    Anyway here’s a fun look at the (non) link between sex and house work:

    1. I am so totally buried in that study now and I have to put it aside if I’m going to get any work done today. Totally agree with you, and I’m intrigued by the shagging/housework link because it’s so often reported on in the news in a ridiculously skewed way (“Guys: pick up a dishcloth if you want her to shag you”) so it’s really interesting to read through the source. I’m going to have to bookmark it and come back because, as I say, getting no work done right now =)

  2. Volunteers to be your service sub!

    1. Hmmm a lovely offer, but the commute might be a bit difficult 🙂

  3. Morning! OK so now that I am sober I can respond properly =)

    Basically I think your interpretation of my position is off, so broadly I agree with you that: “maybe the difference isn’t down to gender or what we have been taught to expect but just down to what we do to compromise to make the people we love happy.” I’m sure that’s what happens with you + Molly, and with loads of individual relationships. I’d like that to be the case for… well… basically everyone, including me. But I think the conflation of individual situations with the broader cultural narrative confuses things a bit.

    So… saying my position is ” how the penile equipped among us don’t do our share and expect the women folk to pick up after us, that the claim of not noticing the mess is in and of itself a symptom of having someone else just sigh and do it for us.” It isn’t that, really – and it’s certainly not that conscious or direct in terms of what men think. I don’t think men deliberately decide not to do their share of housework, or consciously choose to let women do things. But it’s incredibly common, when I say ‘patriarchy’, for people to interpret that to mean ‘men choosing to be dicks to women in one way or another.’ If that were what I was saying you’d be absolutely right to smack me down with a ‘not all men’ or what have you =)

    That’s not what patriarchy is though, and I feel like at some point I want to write a post entitled ‘When I say ‘Patriarchy’ I am not telling men that they are arseholes.’ I’m not saying that *individual guys all choose not to do chores*, and it’s more than possible that when you zoom in to the microcosm (an individual relationship, or friendship group), the men in that group do more chores than the women. However, zoom out and you’ll find that it’s not the case in UK society (and almost certainly US as well although I don’t have stats to hand). The vast majority of household labour is still done by women. That’s just a fact – women do more of the household labour. Even when they’re working the same number of hours as male partners. I don’t want to be one of those knobheads who dumps loads of links in the comments, so I will restrain myself to two.

    Here’s a thing that talks about domestic labour split – even when both partners are working full-time, women still tend to do more housework (again – I don’t mean this personally, and it’s not me saying ‘so you are WRONG about your own domestic situation – obviously you’re right about your domestic situation, because you know it and it’s yours. I’m saying that it isn’t representative of the broader whole, as I suspect mine isn’t either): http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/mar/10/housework-gender-equality-women

    And this second link is totally fascinating not because of the stats (although again – it still shows that women do the majority of the housework), but because of the *tone*: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/mother-tongue/8673420/British-men-sharing-the-burden-of-household-chores.html The quote at the end by the academic:

    “The idea of what it is to be a man is changing. It wouldn’t surprise me if man overtakes woman in total hours worked.”

    Which is fascinating, in how it equates ‘what it is to be a man’ with ‘not doing household labour’ – so ingrained in our cultural make-up is the idea that men don’t/shouldn’t do household labour, that the expert is saying we need to change our definition of ‘man’ when men do it! It ‘wouldn’t surprise him’ if men overtake women in total hours worked (meaning housework on top of hours worked in a job etc). Which, again, points to the fact that in general women are simply expected to take on the lion’s (lionesses – ha!) share of this household work, whether they’re employed or not.

    So. In the face of the fact that men do less housework in general than women, I think there are a couple of possible conclusions:

    1. that men choose not to do housework, and consciously decide to put the burden on women because they know/have observed that women will do it anyway (which I think is what you think my view is, but it’s not).
    2. that we live in a society that’s heavily structured towards viewing household labour, care for kids, etc as ‘women’s work’, and that it takes effort to break out of that (which is my view).

    It’s the same with things like encouraging women into STEM subjects. You and I (I think?) would probably agree that there are certain areas of work where women are discouraged (again, not consciously – by myriad cultural hints and putting toolboxes in the ‘boys toys’ sections, etc etc). It’s not just that women are, en masse, choosing not to take on roles that are considered ‘men’s work’ – girls at a young age are as interested in STEM subjects as boys are. It’s when they get older and see little representation at tech/sci conferences, read countless things that describe teams of guys, get subtle or direct hints that this particular subject or career might not be for them, etc etc. Again, most of this isn’t deliberate. There’ll be a few arseholes who say ‘women can’t do tech’ or what have you, but patriarchy isn’t loads of individual people deciding to uphold the status quo – it’s the status quo shaping us in ways we don’t realise until we consciously break out of them. One person saying ‘girls don’t do that’ would matter less if it weren’t for the fact that much of our culture is still geared towards telling women they can’t, or shouldn’t.

    And so too with housework. I don’t think men are sat down and given a literal lesson that ‘you don’t have to do this – women will!’ or that they all individually think ‘I won’t do this because I’m a man.’ They’re given subtle and not-so-subtle messages from the day they’re born. Most ads on the TV for cleaning products will show ‘Mum’ choosing brands of detergent, or doing household chores. Maternity leave, while it’s morphing into better shared parental leave, still massively favours women as the stay-at-home child carers. Jobs like teaching young children are still usually seen as jobs for women, blah blah etc.

    So, to one of your later points: “It is the notion that somehow (notallmen) we have spent out lives with someone picking up after us and so our differences in what needs to be clean and when it needs to be clean and how could we not notice the giant cobweb that hangs down just above the kitchen table is a result of Patriarchy. It certainly isn’t true of any of my peers that I grew up with.”

    That gets to the nub of the issue I think. It may not be true of your peers – and to be frank I don’t think it’s true of all my peers, although there are absolutely men I know who are super-feminist and yet somehow don’t see it as ‘their job’ to contribute to housework. BUT given that the facts tell us men in the macro *do* do less housework than women, there are, again, two options:

    1. Your peers are normal, and most other men are arseholes
    2. Your peers are an exception, and most other men are simply responding to societal cues, and we need to actively challenge those societal cues in order to make things more equal (my view)

    It’s not that loads of men got together one day and decided this was the case – all of us (me, and other women included) are part of this system. It’s not that individual men are choosing not to do housework, it’s that we live in a society that pats men on the back if they do choose to do it, and simply expects women to get on with it. That’s not to say it’s going to be reflected in your individual situation – there are loads of men who are awesome houseworkers, childcarers, etc, who won’t see themselves in this model at all. But that’s because on the micro (not all men) it’s more than possible to live in an equal way. However, the fact remains that in the UK women do far more housework than men.

    So yeah. Basically. I agree that in the micro it’s more than possible to be equal, and in an ideal world things would be way way way less influenced by gender markers than they are. If we still disagree after this frankly ridiculously long comment (sorry for waffling!) then we’ll have to have it out via the age-old tradition of hurling chocolate pudding at each other =)

  4. I definitely fall into the category of does most of the housework. It is a major thorn in my side for many reasons.

    I don’t think it’s because my fella feels that it’s my job, or thinks that if he doesn’t do it I will in a sneaky manner. I don’t think it’s because he’s been waited on and this cycle continues. I’m not sure what it IS… but it’s only after repeated arguments and constant reminders that our household division of labor approaches something that is not only fair, but feasible. I work longer hours than he does typically and even though I’m the sub, I physically cannot do it all. Some of it is the “it just didn’t occur to me” model – most of it is actually.

    There’s a lot of reasons for it, but whatever the reasons it makes me completely bat-shit insane. I tend to see it as a “typical man/woman” problem, because SO many couples I know experience this same thing.

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