Noise to Signal Ratio

© Liubirong | Dreamstime.comThis 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.

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6 Comments on “Noise to Signal Ratio

  1. Very well said! I have been practicing this for 6 years now. I have found that no matter what flaws my wife has or thinks she has, I become more and more turned on by her, the more I turn away from all the sexual “noise”. And, as I continue to practice looking away it becomes easier to look away. And, easier to look at her and become aroused.

    At first I wasn’t completely convinced it would work. But now when I look at her I think about everything she is, not just her awesome appearance. Both her beauty and who she is, turns me on so much that sometimes I have to catch my breath and leave the room and try to think about something else. SHE IS SO HOT!

  2. Excellent post. Because I’ve been largely refused in my marriage, I certainly want to reduce the “noise” from outside. The problem is, I also want to reduce the “signal” from my wife. A strong signal from her but without much “reception” from her in the other direction makes the “noise” all the more difficult to ignore. I’ve asked God to please reduce my receptivity to ALL of it. I don’t WANT to desire my wife more. That may be wrong but it’s the truth. I want to desire her less. My wife IS one to “tease” slightly. She’ll show me a hiney(sp?)or undress right in front of me and see if I’m watching (she likes my attention) but sex could still be weeks away so I usually don’t look anymore.

    Please don’t get me wrong. I think your post is right on the money. Especially for marriages wherein both partners are interested in pursuing a healthy sex life. For refusal situations, the “noise” needs to be avoided as well, but I guess in some way, the “legitimate signal” from a refusing wife is really “noise” too?

  3. Great post–so very, very true! I think this is an area where Christian men as a whole can and need to be a lot better. What many don’t realize is that the standard you set affects the other men around you–the movies you invite friends over to watch, the comments made drawing attention to the cheerleaders at a football game, things that in the minds of some Christian men may seem totally innocent, but to those who are trying to lower the noise, it makes it so much harder.

    Landschooner, I can get your desire to reduce the “legitimate signal”, but I’d caution you in how much you try to reduce what is in fact good. Perhaps, to carry the analogy a bit farther, you would be better off in working on processing the good signal differently, given the circumstances? Rather than shut it out and/or allowing the frustration to build to bitterness, perhaps you could funnel that into a greater effort to pray for your wife, especially on this issue? I would also seek ways and help to make the situation better (getting help as necessary), and not give up–I’d imagine you’ve seen some of the resources on this site that touch situations like yours. I hope I’m not out of line–just wanted to share some thoughts, pray that you have some hope on this issue.

  4. This is an awesome post. I can also say that it does work. I had a porn addiction for years. The more I looked at it the more I wanted it and the less I desired my wife – it was a vicious cycle. When I was finally delivered from it I went to a great Christian counselor who gave me some great strategies to avoid falling into the temptation of looking at porn again, or for that matter any image that could possibly ‘turn me on’ (such as the ones Paul listed). It’s easy to distinguish what porn is but not so much the other stuff sometimes (again, the things Paul listed). When I made a conscientious effort to avoid ‘looking-at-the-menu’ I started to realize that my desire for my wife began to increase. It’s now been over 2 years since God freed me from lust/pornography and I have to say that my desire for my wife is greater now than when we first married.

  5. landschooner, I would be very careful about asking God to reduce your desire for your wife. I doubt that he will, by the way, but you will regret it if he does!! Perhaps pray that her desires will come closer to yours?

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