Emma Dowling on Love’s Labour’s Cost: The Political Economy of Intimacy

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By Emma Dowling

Taking care in order to be taken care of. That was the deal of heteronormative love. Underpinning the romantic ideal was the domestic contract between the two parties of the heterosexual couple. Each partner entered into the relationship on the basis of a gendered agreement, a reproductive deal: she would cook, clean, have sex, bear children and care for him, while he was to pay the bills and fulfil his role as care-taker – then he could expect to be taken care of. Since the sexual revolution and tide of social change in the 1960s, feminist and queer struggles challenged the inequality and desirability of this set-up – that women’s housework was seen as the ‘labour of love’ undeserving of remuneration, whereas men’s work outside the home, brought both social agency and power in the home thanks to his wage.

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