Last night I cooked dinner for my husband, Sam, lit a few Diptyques, changed into a strappy dress and ‘got in touch with my feminine side’. Because while we might be ‘leaning in’ at work, when it comes to getting laid, the current thinking is that we need to be leaning out.
So what is ‘leaning out’? Earlier this year, Miranda Kerr claimed that sticking to traditional gender roles helped keep the spark alive with her husband, Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel. 'At work, I'm like, "We need to do this!" and, "This needs to happen!"' she said. 'But at home, I slip into my feminine and empower Evan to be in his masculine. When [he] comes home, I make sure to have a nice dress on and the candles lit. We make time to have a nice dinner together.’
Last month, a study from the University of Southampton found that women were twice as likely to lose interest in sex as men, normally after just one year. So, could leaning out (or back) in our love lives prevent this? Michaela Boehm, Gwyneth Paltrow’s tantra teacher, thinks so. ‘For sexual tension to exist we need to cultivate the polarity between the masculine and feminine, like magnets,’ she says. ‘But a long-term relationship requires us to find things in common and become similar. So often the more you and your partner become the same, the less sexual attraction there is.'
The vast majority of couples I know have ‘egalitarian relationships’, meaning both partners work and take care of the house and children and cultivate a partnership based on equal power and shared interests. But it might not be doing our sex lives any favours. A 2014 study found that if men did ‘feminine’ chores, such as folding laundry or vacuuming, then couples had sex 1.5 fewer times per month than those with husbands who did ‘masculine’ chores, such as taking out the bins. At least one aspect of Theresa May’s life is going well, then.
But before we set feminism back a few decades, Michaela points out that this doesn’t mean women just need to get in touch with their inner Betty Draper. ‘Within every woman there is both feminine and masculine energy, and in every man too, so it’s about each of you picking one of those extremes to go towards in your sexual life. If you’ve been at work all day, you might have been channelling a more masculine energy, so if you’re going to get in touch with your feminine energy you might need to take the time to make space, relax and open up.’
As a freelance writer, I live in my yoga pants, so the thought of getting dressed up just to eat dinner had a weird novelty to it. Sam was definitely into it, and I was into him taking more control in the bedroom. But I also struggled with what this means for my gender politics, given that masculinity and femininity are not natural and immutable, but to a large extent culturally constructed. at said, I can totally see how introducing more distance and difference between you can lead to more excitement and, over the course of a week, we do have more sex than usual. I do, however, end up feeling annoyed that I’m always unloading the dishwasher. Maybe you really can’t have it all.