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 sunspots. When the signal to noise ratio is high, meaning very little static, you have no problem listening to the program. As the ratio falls (more static) it is more and more difficult to hear what you want. It takes relatively little noise to make a signal useless – long before 1:1 you are getting nothing of use out of the signal.
I believe a similar signal to noise ratio exists for men concerning the sexual images we see. As I studied porn and its effects on men, I realized that the signal to noise ratio issue needs to be taken beyond just porn. A man’s 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 realize that one’s naked wife on the bed is a strong signal, and the noise may seem like nothing compared to it – but recall that it takes a relatively small amount of noise to interfere with the signal. You may not feel the effect of looking down the bank teller’s blouse or looking at the half-naked woman on a billboard, but it does affect you! Add it all up, and many of us have a signal to noise ratio that is impairing our ability to want and enjoy our wife as God intended.
When I realized how sensual images must be affecting me, I made some changes as to what I allow myself to see. I overcame my lust problem years before this change, but I was not guarding what I saw as well as I could have. I was not going out of my way to see sensuous images, but neither was I going out of my way to avoid them. The truth is the “noise” was affecting me, even if I could not quantify that effect. I decided I wanted my wife to have all of my desire, and I wanted to be aroused by her as completely as possible – and so I 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 do not lust over this girl in any way, but watching that commercial introduces some noise, and that noise would cheat both my wife and me; for this reason, I choose not to look.
I will admit that 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 (which He intended to be limited to our wife) and that means my body and mind are geared to watch. The good news is that the mind can overcome this if it chooses to. At first, it takes some effort, with time it becomes pretty automatic.
After a couple of months of avoiding sexual images, I began to notice a difference – I found my wife even more arousing than I had before. (Fortunately, she was pleased with this!) I also found sex even more enjoyable.
I came to see the sexual images all around me as attempted intrusions into something that should be just between my bride and me. These things did not add to my sex life with my wife, they stole away my attention and my enjoyment. As I eliminated the noise, I got a much better signal from the woman I love, and that was a good thing for both of us.
The original article on which this is based was written January 2004. Since then, the amount of noise offered by the internet has increased many times over. In less than an hour on-line, you could find more nude images than were contained in all the porn magazines produced before the advent of on-line porn. There are hundreds of thousands of women showing all on-line, many of them free for the looking. This is a new level of porn like nothing seen before the 21st century, and it is causing problems never before seen.
More and more men are finding that their on-line “sex life” is making it difficult, or impossible, to have sex with a real flesh and blood woman. Men in their twenties find they can’t get an erection with a real woman, or they get an erection but can’t climax, no matter what they do with her. Over the last couple of years, reports of this have gone from a trickle to a flood. A number of web sites dedicated to being porn free to be able to have real sex have sprung up. These sites are not founded by Christians or experts, but by the victims themselves. Some “experts” still say porn is harmless for most, but those who work with the victims are realizing that this is a huge and growing problem. Internet porn is not like what came before – it is much more powerful and can do far more harm. (For more on this, check out The Great Porn Experiment – a TEDx talk by Gary Wilson.)
Another change is that more and more women are using porn, and some are using it a lot of it. There are now women who struggle to keep clean of porn, and women who find porn interferes with their ability to be sexual with their husband. Women too have a noise to signal issue in their sexuality.
You have a part to play in your husband’s noise to signal issue. Given the world we live in, there is no way any man can avoid all sexual noise. This means 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 for his enjoyment), and fully naked. He needs to see you flashing, teasing, and tantalizing him with your body. I know, I know, you don’t like to do this because you are overweight, or your breasts are too small, or your belly button is ugly or your labia are uneven, or your butt is all wrong. I understand that the world makes it very difficult for a woman to have a good body image, and that’s just another intrusion into a couple’s sex life. You have been lied to, just as he has been lied to.
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 effect of your signal more than you can imagine. I once heard someone 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 with you, and that makes what you show him far more powerful than the noise can ever be. Give him a good strong signal and he will find it easier to ignore the noise.
man with TV head (static) © Sergey Nivens / Adobe Stock