No Such Thing as a ‘Guilty’ Pleasure

I was talking with my uncle. We were walking to the train station, and we passed by a cotton candy seller. I spontaneously decided to buy some cotton candy. My uncle was a little surprised.

As I made the purchase, we were chatting a little, and my uncle said something about cotton candy being a ‘guilty pleasure’, and I instantly replied ‘no, it’s a sweet pleasure. I feel no guilt’. I then said a few words about how I reject the notion of the ‘guilty pleasure’.

Now I feel like giving a full treatment to this topic.

The whole notion of a ‘guilty’ pleasure is that society at large has the right and power to arbitrarily judge people based on their feelings, as well private, harmless behavior. An example of the former is the way society judges people who don’t follow ‘healthy habits’; an example of the latter is the way (queerphobic) society judges people who have queer sex.

I want to deny society that power.

In my view, a pleasure is either ethical, or it is not, If it is an unethical pleasure, I should not feel guilty about it; instead, I should STOP. If a pleasure is ethical, then … why should I feel guilty about it? What, exactly, is wrong with eating cotton candy, or a chocolate bar (okay, I know there are issues around chocolate, but when most people describe feeling ‘guilty’ about eating chocolate, they’re usually not thinking about child slavery or any of the other serious problems in chocolate production).

There are some other dimensions. For example, I might need to do [task], but I instead watch Youtube videos. Failing at time management is not intrinsically unethical, but it’s still a reason I might feel down about myself. Yet even in this kind of situation, I think it’s better to step back and look at the situation rationally. Maybe I was too tired to do anything harder than watch YouTube videos. Maybe I hate doing [task] more than I realized. Maybe [task] is simply less important than YouTube videos after all (this is possible).

And I find feeling ‘guilty’ inhibits this kind of rational analysis.

I find myself being a little happier after having tried to discard the notion of the ‘guilty pleasure’. And this mental shift has even helped me in some of my friendships. People seem to be more comfortable with me once they realize I’m not going to judge them for doing harmless fun activities.