Sin and Boredom




Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, As, to be hated, needs but to be seen; Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

Alexander Pope

Then get bored by.  That is what I take away from this interesting piece of news:

Opening a copy of Playboy magazine on an airplane or at a hair salon may no longer have people raising their eyebrows.

Playboy will no longer publish images of fully nude women in its magazine beginning this spring. The move comes as part of a redesign that will be unveiled next March, Playboy Enterprises, Inc., announced Tuesday. The magazine will still feature women in provocative poses, but they will no longer bare all when the March issue is released in February, according to a statement from Playboy.

The onslaught of Internet pornography has made the nude images in Playboy “passé,” Scott Flanders, the company’s chief executive, told the New York Times.


Go here to read the rest.  Hugh Hefner made pornography mainstream in the West, but his magazine has been losing money for quite some time.  When your trade is peddling images of female flesh, well, women can only get so naked.  Playboy, which started out with topless nudes, eventually went to pictures that would not be out of place in training manuals for gynecologists.  They usually did this after competitors would take some of their market share by breaching a new frontier of nudity.  This race to the bottom reached its nadir long ago.  With the internet, images of completely naked woman and men, often with some perversion tossed in, is only a click away.  In such a world why pay for Playboy?

Playboy initially succeeded because it was ably to sell itself as sin packaged in an alluring form.  Hefner, whose philosophical musings are almost always unintentionally hilarious, once opined that Playboy succeeded because it had the wholesome girl next girl strip naked.   Nothing could be further from the truth.  What success Playboy had was as a result of being initially taboo, which is the only real excitement that sin ever has.  The apple was only an apple in the Garden until Adam and Eve were told not to eat of it.  Once the taboo is gone the thrill of sin is usually replaced by ennui and the habit of sin.

No, the truth about sin is that it tends to be a boring process of repetition long after the thrill of the sin has vanished.  The Devil is a liar is a maxim that I wish more people took to heart.  In the baptismal vows we recite:


V. Do you reject Satan?
R. I do.

V. And all his works?
R. I do.

V. And all his empty promises?
R. I do.

Satan always takes something, our souls, for literally nothing, boring sins with which our lives are destroyed by us.


You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked”. The Christians describe the Enemy as one “without whom Nothing is strong”. And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.

CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Vice is its own boring punishment.

More to explorer


  1. I confess that when I was a submarine sailor long ago I maintained a deep and abiding interest in Playboy magazine. Of course I do not excuse my behavior as morally acceptable (on the contrary!), but nevertheless such “literature” was quite common to be found stowed in the bunks of sailors underneath the sea for months on end. I thought that Playboy’s chief competitors, Hustler and Penthouse at that time, to be several steps lower in overall quality than Playboy itself. In fact, the photography in those magazines never appealed to me in the way that the classical photography in Playboy excited me, and I rarely if ever wasted my money on them. Having seen pictures of Greek and Roman sculptures of women all through my youth, and having seen some actual sculptures at museums, I found the Playboy of the 1970s and 1980s to be similar in taste and not a substitute for gynecological photographs (though what may exist today I do not know but can imagine). Yet in the end the photographs in Playboy were a means towards self-gratification and an objectification of women as mere objects of sexual desire. Once the good Lord finally took the baseball bat of drug and alcohol withdrawals to my sick head and got me into a 12 step program, both my sponsor and my confessor (a Franciscan priest at a monestary in Graymoor, NY) would tell me that such self-gratification was simply another way to get high, and one cannot be high and sober at the same time.
    As for Hugh Hefner, Bob Guccione of Penthouse was worse I suppose. But more than his magazine, it was Hefner’s stylized life of wealth and “carefreeness” (is that a word?) in a harem glorified in all the popular news media that truly objectified women. Perhaps he was no different in having his harem than either King David or King Solomon were in having their hundreds of concubines. But while as a submarine sailor I liked his magazine, him I never did like. He could never remain loyal to one woman, and that is the whole point of his publication: why have any one woman when for a small paltry sum you may have a thousand women and be your own King Solomon. The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us how well that works out.

  2. “Reminds me a great deal of some thoughts by Reinhard Hutter in his excellent article here:


    “To comprehend the spiritual roots of this crisis, we need to recall an all-too-forgotten vice, acedia, usually called “sloth” but better rendered as “spiritual apathy.” It is the very forgoing of friendship with God—which is the fulfillment of the transcendent dignity and calling of the human person—and the embrace of the self-indulgent deception that there never was and never will be friendship with God, that there never was and never will be a transcendent calling and dignity of the human person. Nothing matters much, because the one thing that really matters, God’s love and friendship, does not exist and therefore cannot be attained.

    Acedia creates a void that we try to fill with transient rushes of pleasure—primarily venereal pleasure—to ward off the ennui of life bereft of its very center. But the simulacra that promise the rushes of pleasure we seek betray us. They cannot fill the void created by the loss of our transcendent calling to the love and friendship of God. Rather, they only increase the craving to fill the void we cannot fill, breeding compulsion and intensifying spiritual apathy, thereby encouraging acedia’s most dangerous shoot to spring forth: despair.

    Christian spiritual wisdom has always regarded acedia as a vice that, unchecked, will eventually prove deadly to the Christian life. For spiritual apathy first leads us to despair of God’s love and mercy and eventually issues in a sadness that will always cause problems. For, as St. Thomas Aquinas observes in On Evil, “No human being can long remain pleasureless and sad.” People engulfed by the sadness to which their indulgence in spiritual apathy led them tend to avoid such sadness first by shirking and then by resenting and scorning God’s love and mercy.”

    A good article Jonathan!

  3. Kevin,
    Hugh Hefner’s magazine is “innocuous” and “sedate” compared to what one may possibly obtained on the internet in graphic videos. Indeed, one time several years ago I was searching for the web site of NUPIC – the Nuclear Procurement Issues Committee – and I got an entirely unexpected nude picture / video of Pamela Anderson. Sadly, what is seen can never be unseen.
    That said, the photography of Hefner’s magazine is extolled as art reminiscent of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures of nude women (and men). But by making nudity readily and widely accessible for private use, he has as you indicated planted a seed whose wild roots have descended throughout everywhere in modern society. The walls of the buildings in ancient Pompeii would be green with envy. There is no artistry imaginable in the perversions of today’s internet.

  4. Paul, Exceedingly well stated. Also the sad reality that once seen, impossible to remain unseen. I was lucky to largely escape pornography as a teen but later travelling in Austria a magazine fell from where I retrieved a down blanket. The center page was one huge indescribably profane orgy scene that would compete with the dirtiest of filth, an yet, 30 years later I sadly can recall it with photographic memory. I don’t recall it often, but only when I try to describe how damaging porn can be.

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