Sex difference in hygiene

A friend of mine recently showed me a blog of one of her friends. Since it has an absurd amount of posts (like my blogs, but even more!), i tried just looking at posts tagged with something that interests me and began reading there (chose “Academia”, yes, im a dirt elitist). Here is the post in question.

“Besides possible comparative advantage in doing housework (a suggestion that, bizarrely but predictably, got denounced as “deeply misandrist”), another reason that might explain why women do more housework than men is that they are more fastidious, or have higher standards of hygiene. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find studies on this (note: studies, not rhetoric, or baseless popular magazine articles).”

I actually wrote something about this recently, altho i didnt publish it. It was meant for my autobiografy for the year 2012. I have never done any research on this, but here were my thoughts: It is a problem with co-operation that i call frequency/threshold disagreement. When people live together they almost always share some chores, typically cleaning. If they agree to take turns, for instance, with the condition that it must be done whenever “it is necessary” (“empty the trash can when it is full” etc.). This opens up problems with different opinions about when it is necessary (i.e. a threshold disagreement). Alternatively, one can agree that the kitchen floor needs cleaning but disagree about how often (frequency disagreement).

If there is a sex difference in hygiene (and that is not restricted to personal hygiene)/fastidiousness, then there will be more of such frequency/threshold disagreements when the sexes try to co-operate about household chores, i.e. in heterosexual relationships where they live together. Eventually, the women may just get tired of the man ‘not doing his part’, and then simply do it herself. Alternatively, they can simply choose to do it themselves because in that way they can avoid confrontation (i think there is a sex difference there as well!) and do it so that it suits their thresholds for dirtiness. Then they can tell the man to do something else becus of fairness (like doing the lawn/car reparation).

So, are there any studies about sex differences in hygiene? Yes. I did a quick google search and found a couple. (As a side note: even tho it is probably not statistically significant, notice how the sign made men LESS likely to wash their hands. :P Defiant to the end, huh?)

Here is a sample study (not mentioned in the above link). Gender and ethnic differences in hand hygiene practices among college students It has a dodgy method but the difference is so large that i dont think it is a result of a bad method. It is also consistent with other similar studies.

Proposal for an internet based study – very cheap – needs a programmer

I have also come up with another way to do a huge study on this without having to ask people. It only requires some spider-scripting/coding. Dating sites such as OKCupid ask users to answer all kinds of questions, some of which are about hygiene (and most people do so publicly making it possible to collect their answers). There is both a question about how often one bathes and how often one brushes one’s teeth. There are probably some more. I wud bet that these are good proxies for general fastidiousness. Since the data are publicly available, all one needs to do is make a script that pulls the data along with other relevant info from the profile such as gender, age and location.

It is actually possible to do much a more sofisticated analysis becus there are so many other personal info available. I think someone shud definitely do a study like this. I wud also guess that the owners of OKCupid are willing to help out, since they like to analyze their own data and share their analyses. And ofc, for great science!

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