In regard to LDS men’s attraction or curiosity to profane erotica or looking at other women, I’m still concerned about the rhetoric I’m hearing from wives that their immediate solution is “well, instead of looking at other naked women (or other women in general), he should only be looking at his wife.”
This is an ancient Victorian romantic ideal, but a fallacy in human biological and spiritual realty.
Many women have the romantic idea that if a man truly loves you, he will only be attracted to you and no one else. If he ever looks at another woman, then that must mean he never really loved you in the first place. On just a biological basis, this is untrue, and it may be a hard thing for women to let go of, but I ask that we consider the following:
Men (which produce less oxytocin than a woman produces[i]) does not experience the same emotional bonding that a woman experiences when entering an intimate relationship. This is because a man is designed biologically to have sex more often and reproduce with more women than the reverse. A man is also capable of developing self- control but must consciously choose to practice fidelity each and every day.
So why does a man look at other women? One reason is because the human subconscious brain has a negativity bias mechanism built in by God. In other words, it’s attracted to disaster scenarios because it’s always looking for ways to defend against disaster or danger.
Hara Estroff Marano in her article “Our Brain’s Negative Bias said:
“Our capacity to weigh negative input so heavily most likely evolved for a good reason—to keep us out of harm's way. From the dawn of human history, our very survival depended on our skill at dodging danger. The brain developed systems that would make it unavoidable for us not to notice danger and thus, hopefully, respond to it.”[ii]
Husbands look at other women because they are not blind to the reality that their wives are mortal. You may even hear this idea subtly stated in TV shows or even in a sacrament talk when a spouse says, “You’re not allowed to die before I do” or “Our plan is to both die at the same time.”
Occasionally you hear this point of view on TV when a scene is played where a man flirts with his wife or another woman flirts with him and he turns to his wife to say, “I’ve still got it”.
The reality we live in is that we are constantly reminded that a wife could die of cancer, a freak aneurism, a car accident or some other disaster. We men are not blind to the fact that our wives are mortal. When I was a young newlywed, I came uncomfortably close to this reality when a dear friend of ours (married only three years and madly in love) suddenly found himself a widower, his wife struck down with ovarian cancer in her mid-20s. It shook me to my core.
While lust can be a factor for some (the Coolidge effect does still apply and psychologically still creates a concern for many husbands’ libido), it is not always or the only reason a good husband looks at other women or is drawn to profane erotica.
While he may not want to admit it consciously, a husband’s subconscious is concerned with his wife’s mortality or her commitment to the relationship. He looks at other women because his brain may be wondering “Should she die, would I be able to marry again? In an eternal perspective, would she be someone my wife would approve of? Do I have what it takes spiritually and physically to attract another wife should I lose my first wife?”
These are concerns that husbands carry with them and it affects them on a deep emotional level. Sex is a motivating factor in his looking, because (should his wife die) he would also lose his marital intimacy partner and only lawful outlet. This can be a very strong motivator for concern in a man.
Conversely, this could be a motivating factor for wives to look at other men as well. “Should he die, would another man want me? Have I still got it?”
By recognizing our brain’s natural “negative bias”, husbands and wives can not only be a strength to each other, but also strengthen their intimate connection by not judging, seeing to understand and by being sensitive and open with each other about these fears and concerns. Not neglecting dates, reassuring each other of the other’s attractiveness (or helping with their ability to feel attractive), making “what if” scenarios in case the other spouse dies a matter of discussion can help alleviate (at least this part of the “attraction to profane erotica” concern) feeling the pull to look at the opposite sex.
“…If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” D&C 38:30