Dr. James Emery White

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

The Playboy Grave

Playboy magazine has decided to end printing the pictures of fully naked women. So as many have been joking, if you really did read it just for the articles you’re in luck.

It’s hard for younger generations to realize the cultural weight Playboy threw around. During the 1970s, it was estimated that one out of every four college males was reading it. It “was there at the start of the American sexual revolution in the early 1950s – and drove it wildly through the 1960s and 1970s spanning continents.”

Yet the greater cultural headline is why they will no longer feature nudity.

The rise of internet pornography.

The magazine’s circulation began to drop off in the early 1990s, from a record 7.2 million for the November 1972 edition to just 800,000 today. So the libertarian views of its founder, Hugh Hefner, the “leader of the revolution that helped take sex in America from furtive to ubiquitous,” have won. Or as Scott Flanders, Playboy’s chief executive told the New York Times, “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. It’s just passé at this juncture.”

Yes, it sadly is.

And because we live in such a pornified world, we can forget how damaging that world is.

Let’s not.

It is sexual sin. Jesus made it clear that when we give in to lust, it is akin to the act itself. It makes no difference whether you know the person or not; lust is not tied to relationship.

It is addictive. The ubiquitous nature of porn is new to our culture, and to human sexuality, but it is becoming increasingly clear that it is highly addictive in nature. As a result, it can not only begin to dominate a life, but can demand ever-increasing levels of exposure and ever-increasing degrees of experience to continue to stimulate.

It is degrading to women. In pornography, women are treated as objects. They are not fulfilling God’s dream for their life as His precious daughter, nor are they fulfilling His design for sexual expression and fulfillment. You are watching a woman who is being sinned against, treated in a way that is contemptible to her heavenly Father (whether she sees it or not – and the fact that many may not only adds to its tragic nature). And if you are a woman watching it for the men, it is equally degrading to them.

It leads to other sins. Studies are beginning to show that the effects of porn on men are more than temporary sexual stimulation: as they see women treated as objects, they begin to treat women that way. They become more sexually aggressive, leading to date rapes and expected “hook-ups.” 

It harms your relationship with your current, or future, spouse. It is absolutely ridiculous to say that watching porn enhances a sexual life. Instead, it cheapens it. Those caught in its web testify to how porn quickly becomes a substitute for sexual intimacy with your spouse. 

It desensitizes your soul. Sin of any kind desensitizes your spiritual life. Continued exposure to a sin such as pornography is like shooting Novocain into your soul. It deadens you and grieves the Holy Spirit in your life, forcing Him to withdraw His utmost filling in a way that diminishes His power and presence in your life.

It distorts sex. Nothing reduces sex to lust more than pornography. Yielding to such images is overwhelmingly addictive, like a narcotic that delivers a quick hit to the emotions or senses, but ravages you from within. It destroys real relationships, real intimacy, real sexuality.

So Playboy magazine finds its nudity irrelevant in a Playboy world. By helping create a sexualized world, it dug its own grave.

Unfortunately, it dug a grave for much more than itself. 

James Emery White



“Playboy Magazine abandons nudity,” by Barney Henderson, The Telegraph, October 13, 2015, read online.

“Nudes Are Old News at Playboy,” by Ravi Somaiya, The New York Times, October 12, 2015, read online.

See also James Emery White, A Traveler’s Guide to the Kingdom (InterVarsity Press).


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