This is something I wrote several years ago that has been requested a number of times by folks here and on The Marriage Bed message boards.
Signal to noise ratio is an electronics term – let me explain it using AM radio. The signal is the program you want to listen to, the noise is the static caused by everything from power lines to lightning to sun spots. When the signal to noise ratio is high, you have no problem listening to the program, as the ratio falls it’s more and more difficult to hear what you want. It takes relatively little noise to make a signal useless – long before 1:1 you’re getting nothing of use from the signal.
I’m becoming convinced a similar signal to noise ratio exists for men with regards to the sexual images we see. As I’ve studied porn and it’s affects on men, I’ve realised the signal to noise ratio issue needs to be taken beyond just porn. Our wife is (supposed to be) the signal. Things like porn are clearly noise, but there are many other sources: lingerie ads in print and on TV, fake sex scenes in movies and on TV, women we pass daily who don’t wear enough, women in thong bikinis on prime-time broadcast TV, billboards, and on and on and on.
I realise one’s naked wife on the bed is a pretty strong signal, and the noise may seem like nothing compared to it – but recall it takes a relatively small amount of noise to interfere with the signal. You may not feel the affect of looking down the bank teller’s blouse or looking at the half naked woman on a billboard, but it is there. Add it all up, and many of us have a signal to noise ratio impairing our ability to want and enjoy our wife as God intended.
Because of what I’ve been learning, I’ve been making some changes in how, and what, I allow myself to see. I have not had a lust problem for a very long time, but I haven’t been guarding what I see as I now know I should. I haven’t been going out of my way to see sensuous images, but neither have I gone out of my way to avoid them. Now I realize the noise is affecting me, even if I can’t quantify the affect. I want my wife to have all of my desire, and I want to be aroused by her as completely as I can be. So I’ve been working to avoid sexual noise. For example – there is a commercial for a plasma TV screen that shows a woman in a blue swim suit surfing. A box is drawn around her as she moves to and fro, and her bent back side is offered for me to see. Now I have no interest in this girl – I don’t want to meet her, I don’t want to flirt with her, and I certainly don’t desire to have sex with her. I don’t lust over this girl in any way, but watching the commercial introduces some noise which would cheat both me and my wife; for this reason I choose to to look.
I will admit not looking at displays of female sexuality is contrary to the way men are created. God intended us to be interested in and aroused by such displays (He also intended us to only see our wife exposed in these ways), and that means my body and mind are geared to watch. The good news is the mind can overcome this if it chooses to. At first it takes some effort, with time it becomes pretty automatic.
Finally a word to wives – you have a part to play in this too. Given the world we live in there’s no way any man can avoid all sexual noise – so a good strong visual sexual signal from you is a great help. Your husband wants and needs to see you partially dressed, dressed with a few buttons open and bending over, and fully naked. He needs to see you flashing and teasing and tantalizing him with your body. I know, I know, you don’t like to do this because you’re overweight or too skinny, or your breasts are too small, or your belly button is ugly, or your labia are uneven, or your butt is too big or too small. Three words for you – GET OVER IT! You have things none of the noise has – you are his loving wife, his willing sex partner, the woman with whom he has great sex . These things multiply the affect of your signal more than you can imagine. I once heard Rush Limbauh say he does not look at porn for the same reason he does not look at travel brochures – why look at someplace you are not going to go. Every man knows he’s not going to “go” to where the noise is – but he is going to be where you are, which makes what you show him far more powerful than the noise can ever be. Give him a good strong signal and he’ll find it easier to ignore the noise.
And here is the follow up:
It’s now been about 10 months since I started making an all out effort to avoid all sexual stimuli not connected to my wife.
Within a couple of months I noticed a difference – I found my wife even more arousing than I had before. (Fortunately she was pleased with this :-P )
The other day I had an experience that showed me how much things have changed. We rented “Taking Lives” on DVD (directors cut). Good movie, but it includes a sex scene and some “upper frontal nudity.”
I did not watch most of that scene, and it was a lot milder than R rated sex scenes I have seen in the past – however, it had a rather strong impact on me – more of an impact than the same things would have had a year ago had I scrutinized the whole things closely. I’m sure that the reason for the difference is that I have had so little “non-wife” sexual stimulus for such a long time.
The result? Quite frankly I was offended at the “intrusion” into my life. It prompted me to redouble my efforts to avoid “non-wife” sexual stimulus, and made me glad that I made this choice last year.