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This New York Times Sex Story Has One of the Best 'To Be Sure' Paragraphs Ever


This Sunday's cover story in The New York Times magazine, alluringly titled 'Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex?', is indeed fun and compelling, even though it is also completely ridiculous. The piece, written by Lori Gottlieb, essentially argues that egalitarian heterosexual marriages in which men do lots of housework are relatively sexless.

The evidence that supports this thesis comes from one study, which, in Gottlieb's words, reported that "The more traditional the division of labor, meaning the greater the husband’s share of masculine chores compared with feminine ones, the greater his wife’s reported sexual satisfaction." Is this study believable?

The hilarious thing is that Gottlieb herself seems somewhat uncertain of its believability. In fact, her article is notable because it has one of the great "to be sure" paragraphs ever written. A "to be sure" paragraph is one where the writer lays out the opposing case, as a way of supposedly being fair. Here is Gottlieb's:

Granted, some might view a study like this with skepticism. Correlations don’t establish causation, and especially when it comes to sex, there’s always a risk of reporting bias and selective sampling, not to mention the mood of a subject at the time of the survey. (Was she answering the questions while standing next to a big pile of garbage that hadn’t been taken out?) What’s more, while this study used the most recent nationally representative data that included measures of sexual frequency and a couple’s division of labor, it was drawn from information collected in the 1990s. 

Translation: I am not even certain I put faith in the one study I am relying upon. And yet the rest of the piece just moves on merrily despite not containing a shred of evidence!

To be sure, however, the piece is enjoyable.