Is it wrong to manifest a vice (or bad character trait) in transparently harmless ways? For example, consider the repressed racist, who reins in his ill-will towards people of other races so that he would never intentionally do harm or visibly express disrespect, but who secretly fantasizes about slavery and mouths racist epithets when nobody is around to hear him. He's clearly a worse person for his secret racism (though not as bad as a whole-hearted racist, assuming he's motivated to rein in his ill-will for moral and not just prudential reasons). But assuming this is a stable fact about his character, does it make any moral difference whether or not he goes ahead and secretly manifests his racism in these inconsequential ways? Does it make him more blameworthy, say, than having the exact same feelings but refraining from (even secretly) acting on them?
One can multiply examples: at the most despicable end of the spectrum, there's stuff like virtual child porn and virtual rape. For a more ordinary case, consider someone who fantasizes about punching someone they're angry with. Somewhere in between, perhaps, we find the fundamentalists who enjoy the torture-porn of Jesus boiling the blood of atheists in the Left Behind novels.
In all these cases we can imagine the agent deliberating about whether or not to secretly and harmlessly express their vicious feelings. They might acknowledge that it's bad (or at least morally imperfect) of them to have the desires that they do. But assuming that they can't change their desires, what should they conclude about the permissibility of harmlessly acting on them -- by daydreaming, simulating the vicious acts through video games, etc.?
I guess one thing to emphasize is the possibility of indirect harm: perhaps 'indulging' in such fantasies strengthens the vicious disposition of character in undesirable ways. (We are what we do?) Then again, for all we know the reverse might be true: perhaps expressing a vice this way serves as a kind of cathartic "release" that will help the agent behave better afterwards?
Either consideration, if true, could be morally decisive. But suppose neither is true, so that secretly manifesting vice in these ways would have no further consequences whatsoever. Is it bad just in itself, at least a little bit? Or is the badness exhausted by the vice itself -- which persists equally in either case -- so that it doesn't matter whether or not one secretly acts on it?
(Take care not to be confused by the merely epistemic factor that people's actions may serve as evidence about their underlying character. We may expect that a person who acts on a vicious desire likely has a stronger such desire than someone who doesn't, and so think worse of them for that reason. But to assess my question, we must hold the agent's character and desires fixed.)