Money, power and sex in the big flip


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In Pew’s Research Report on Breadwinner Moms, they point out that many people believe that it’s harder for marriage to succeed when women are the main financial provider in the family.

But why?

That’s one of the central questions we want to understand in The Big Flip.

For some answers, I want to share the following two articles from New York Magazine and the Atlantic. To this day, they are still two of the most thought-provoking, well-researched, and masterfully-orchestrated pieces of writing I’ve read on the issue. Unlike many other reactionary opinion pundits, these writers dive in below the surface, and attempt to answer the messy question of why big flip relationships are harder.

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Money, power and sex in the big flip

  1. 1. Money, Power and Sex in the Big FlipBackground research on the dynamics of money, power and sexual attractionwhen wives win the bread and husbands man the houseIzzy ChanStrategist and director of documentary film“THE BIG FLIP—STORIES FROM THE MODERN HOME FRONT”
  2. 2. Having researched the rise of breadwinner wives for the last fewyears, I’ve read a fair share of studies and articles documentingthe trend. Here are some of the most thought-provoking pieces ofwriting and information on the complex issues of money, powerand sexual attraction that affect Big Flip families.
  3. 3. ALPHA WOMEN,BETA MEN11.23.03Sexuality is based on respect andadmiration and desire. If you’ve lostrespect for somebody, it’s very hardto have it work.
  4. 4. “Women need to admire their partner,” says psychologist Harriette Podhoretz. “They need tofind something that doesn’t interfere with their passionate glue, that keeps the marriagecharged up and alive.”Sometimes it’s the Alpha woman who needs reassurance that she’s still feminine.“When you’re a big money earner and your husband isn’t, it makes you question how feminineyou are,” says Barbara Corcoran, the ubiquitous real-estate broker. “I felt I was less femininethan if I was a supporting wife, or a second fiddle, or ‘Mrs. Higgins.’ The struggle was as muchmine as Bill’s.”When Emily comes home, she doesn’t always want to be the boss. But she says her husband nolonger has the authority to take over. “I want somebody to take that power role away from me,”she explains. “Ultimately, it gets down to pretty basic stuff. It’s hard to be the power brokerevery day and then be the femme fatale. I’m not going to pay the bills—I feel like his mother—and then come home and suck his dick.”[Jami Flehinger] She also balks each time someone tells her how lucky she is to be married to“a saint.” “While I applaud Kurt’s forward-thinking and out-of-the-box approach to his life, noone ever comes up to a woman who has two children and says, ‘You’re a saint.’ She’s just amom doing what’s expected of her.”Excerpts from New York Magazine’s “Alpha Women, Beta Men”
  5. 5. ALL THE SINGLE LADIESAs women have climbed ever higher, men have been fallingbehind. We’ve arrived at the top of the staircase, finally ready tostart our lives, only to discover a cavernous room at the tail end ofa party, most of the men gone already, some having never shownup—and those who remain are leering by the cheese table, or are,you know, the ones you don’t want to go out with.NOV 2011
  6. 6. American women as a whole have never been confronted with such a radically shrinking poolof what are traditionally considered to be “marriageable” men—those who are better educatedand earn more than they do. So women are now contending with what we might call the newscarcity...In societies where men heavily outnumber women... women are valued and treated withdeference and respect and use their high dyadic power to create loving, committed bonds withtheir partners and raise families. Rates of illegitimacy and divorce are low. Women’straditional roles as mothers and homemakers are held in high esteem. In such situations,however, men also use the power of their greater numbers to limit women’s economic andpolitical strength, and female literacy and labor-force participation drop.One might hope that in low-sex-ratio societies—where women outnumber men—women wouldhave the social and sexual advantage... But that’s not what happens: instead, when confrontedwith a surplus of women, men become promiscuous and unwilling to commit to amonogamous relationship... fewer people marry, and those who do marry do so later in life.Because men take advantage of the variety of potential partners available to them, women’straditional roles are not valued, and because these women can’t rely on their partners to stickaround, more turn to extrafamilial ambitions like education and career.Excerpt from the Atlantic’s “All the Single Ladies”
  7. 7. THE ACCIDENTAL BREADWINNER12.12.08The Cuddle Bum [author’s ex-husband]’s idea of his role as househusband involved pouring a bowl of cereal for each child beforeschool, playing videogames for 10 hours, and then grudginglymaking dinner at 6. For almost a year, I told him that wasn’tworking for me, that if he wasn’t going to care for the entirehousehold the way a wife would (vacuum on Mondays, dust onTuesdays ...) then he needed to go back to work.
  8. 8. I DIDN’T set out to be the breadwinner. I assumed that one day a guy would come along and Iwould marry him and, well, he’d take care of it.This is one of the fundamental ways in whichmen differ from women. Growing up, boys assume they’re going to make the money, or at leasthalf the money. Rare is the boy who imagines that marriage will spell a free economic ride andso nurtures his incredible hotness to that end.... within our first year, the Cuddle Bum [ex-husband] quit his job on a whim. The CuddleBum hated his job — and who could blame him? He wanted to get into another field, perhapsone that required his going back to school.When we divorced, he wanted alimony, child support and the house — the house that waspurchased with my money, in my name. During one of our last conversations, I wept withincomprehension. He wanted my house?[Author’s new partner Jim] He’s a computer consultant who pays his own way and buys methe occasional unexpected present. Once I admired a fountain pen in the window of a shopthat sold only fountain pens; while I was waiting at the corner for the light to change, heducked in and bought it for me. I swooned.Sometimes he buys the groceries, and sometimes I do. But he always pays for both of us whenwe go to the movies, and spends lavishly on buttered popcorn and Milk Duds. I am alwaystouched by this.Excerpt from The New York Times’ “The Accidental Breadwinner”
  9. 9. HUSBANDS WHO DOHOUSEWORK HAVE LESS SEX1.21.13Husbands who do a lot of cooking, cleaning, laundry and othertraditionally female forms of housework may do their marriagessome good—but, contrary to popular belief, they are not rewardedwith more sex, a new study finds.Instead, its the guys who do the most lawn work, car repair,driving and bill-paying – traditional mens jobs – who have themost sex in marriage, the study suggests.
  10. 10. The same is true for women who do the most traditional female housework, according to thestudy published in the February issue of American Sociological Review.For better or worse, the authors say, heterosexual married couples may still be reading fromtraditional "sexual scripts" when it comes to both housework and sex.In other words, the study concludes: "Men or women may, in essence, be turned on (howeverindirectly) when partners in a marriage do more gender-traditional work."The study comes with one major caveat: It is based on data collected two decades ago. Whilethe researchers say little has likely changed since then, some other experts disagree."Some women may find a guy more sexy when hes fixing something around the house thanwhen hes doing the ironing," says Stephanie Coontz, director of research and public educationfor the Council on Contemporary Families. "Im not surprised that there are many women andmen who still find the old ways more sexy. But there also are couples who now find egalitarianrelationships more sexy and a better prescription for long-term happiness in marriage."A survey conducted today likely would find more couples in the latter category, says Coontz,who teaches history and family studies at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.Excerpt from USA Today’s “Husbands who do housework have less sex”
  12. 12. Husbands whose wives make more moneyare 61% LESS HAPPY.The National Marriage Project, University of Virginia, 2010
  13. 13. WIVES who are primary breadwinnersare significantly LESS HAPPYabout family life than other women.The Impact of Relative Earnings Among Dual-Earner Couples onCareer Satisfaction and Family Satisfaction, Cornell University, 2009
  14. 14. Men are5 TIMESMORE LIKELY TO CHEATwhen they’re completely dependenton their wives’ incomes.American Sociological Association, 2010
  15. 15. DIVORCE IS40% MORE LIKELYwhen a woman makes over 60% of thefamily’s income.Journal of Family Issues, Western Washington University, 2010