Feminist sociologists led the development of research on the intimacies and emotional temperature of relationships, and the idea that there is ‘emotional’ work. Mansfield and Collard (1988) reporting a study of 60 newly wed couples found the women were disappointed that marriage had not produced emotional reciprocity, a close exchange of intimacy, a common life of empathy (ibid.: 178-9). The men refused to talk about love and intimacy at all, or reduced the whole agenda to sex. Lewis and O’Brien (1987) found a parallel lack of emotional intimacy with children. Duncombe and Marsden (1995) conducted interviews with 80 heterosexual couples, and their data are our main sociological source on this aspect of married life. They report that women told the interviewer they wanted their partner to signal intimacy, by ‘unprompted’ intimate or romantic gestures and actions, because these would make them feel emotionally ‘special’. The men in the study ‘appeared’ neither to understand nor accept their wife’s desires. They either reduced the issue to sex, or felt that they were working so hard to provide economically for their families that they had nothing left to give. Women wanted the emotional intimacy and romantic specialness before sexual intercourse, men wanted the sexual intercourse to serve as the intimacy and romance. Duncombe and Marsden entitled their 1995 paper ‘Workaholics and whingeing women’ to emphasise this gulf between the sexes.
Related to the research on intimacy is the investigation of such issues as gift giving (Cheal, 1987), sharing of clothes and the maintenance of social and familial ties by remembering birthdays, anniversaries and so on (Finch and Mason, 1990). Jacqueline Scott (1997) addresses a similar range of topics using data from the British Household Panel Study on 5,000 households. The popularity of Beck and Beck-Gernsheim (1995) and the turn towards intimacy as a sociological topic by Giddens (1992) can be seen as developments from a research agenda opened up by, originally, feminists in sociology.