Guilty Pleasure or Just Guilty? by Navina Anand

If we are asked, what is your ‘Guilty’ pleasure, we can all come up with at least a few of them. The meaning of ‘Guilty’ is ‘blameworthy’ and ‘pleasure’ is of course enjoyment. So….. blameworthy enjoyment. I could list below my guilty pleasures and elaborate on them which would be very entertaining to you. For example, the chocolate munching at 1am, choosing to watch George Clooney on a useless romcom chick flick instead of that much touted documentary, that packet of chips stashed away at the work desk and a few others which I may not want to discuss on the internet  😊  Instead,  I want to explore why we call it so?

First, let’s call a spade a spade. When you are labeling something ‘Guilty pleasure’ you most probably have a sheepish grin on your face which means you are not proud of it. You are not proud of it either because it is considered unacceptable by society or by your own standards. But clearly it is not THAT unacceptable by your own standards which is why you are indulging in it in the first place.  So basically, it is something which you love to do but is considered bad by society – or it could be an addiction or something injurious to yourself which you are unable to control. But we sophisticated people are aware of that too. We would only label something a ‘Guilty pleasure’ on that precarious edge of sophistication that lies between what is acceptable and unacceptable by society.

Usually, we never openly declare our alcoholism, gluttony or debauchery to others. Sometimes we also test the waters by declaring something as a ‘Guilty pleasure’. Is the recipient of this information cringing, laughing or chipping in with a “me too! “?. We push the envelope a little bit by slowly revealing a peek of our true nature by calling it “Guilty pleasure” and not scaring them away with an outright declaration of indulgence. We want to give them a sneak peak or a trailer of our moral codes in a sophisticated way. Of course, sometimes we also stylishly declare something is a ‘Guilty pleasure’ almost as if to declare, I know those are the supposed rules, but I don’t care about the rules -only because we are fully aware that that transgression lies on the more acceptable side of things.

Today, as the world is burning with racial hatred even in the supposedly civilized, sophisticated, well developed countries of the world, it makes you question what is sophistication? At one point in time, we thought people were civilized because they seemed more polite, ready to stand patiently in line and were courteous and well-mannered compared to some uncivilized behavior we could be exposed to in certain cultures. But with time it has become very clear that sophistication is just how well you are capable of covering up your true nature and acting for society with supposed ‘manners’ and etiquette. The base coat is the same. When push comes to shove, when we say ‘Guilty pleasure’ it is just another name for being able to declare what you know may be unacceptable, openly, with a fancy bow on it.


  1. ‘To live is to be vulnerable.’ The humble can neither be guilty nor will judge anything with an eye for its blamesworthiness.


    One can be very polite but absolutely lacking in humility. While politeness is related to being courteous, etiquette, maaners etc as you have described, humility is related to the absence of any notion of self-importance. When the current Pope said ‘who am I to judge gay people’, he was being humble.

    In the absence of egotism (sense of self-importance) there is no ‘Guilty Pleasure’. And if egoism (selfishness) is also absent, there is nothing that is ‘Guilty’, least of all a mere ‘pleasure’. (Ramu)

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  2. I believe that your premise is that if society doesn’t accept it but you are OK with it, you term it as guilty pleasure. What if the conflict is not between society and you but within yourself? Your heart says go for it and your mind says no. Does that contribute to guilty pleasure or moral conflict :-).

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