I want to talk about the term “guilty pleasure” and feeling ashamed of what one enjoys reading.
Thinking about Guilty pleasures (and reading other articles on the subject) made me think about guilty pleasures in regards to other things, like TV shows. I’ve seen so many people, celebrities and non-celebrities alike, talking about those “guilty pleasure” tv shows they love to watch…and no one bats an eye. Which is perfectly fine, nothing wrong with watching a tv show for some mindless entertainment, to laugh, to unwind, most of us have stressful lives and it’s healthy to take a break and de-stress. So why don’t we afford that same respect to books?
Books get called “trashy”, people look ashamed as they say “It’s a guilty pleasure read” about a book they enjoyed they didn’t want others to know about. It’s “fluffy” it’s “chick lit” it’s “smutty” it’s “trashy” people say either shamefully or pretentiously, like it’s beneath them as are those who enjoy those books.
I love all kinds of books. I’ve also read books that i’ve seen called “guilty pleasure trash” and just “basic chick-lit fluff, nothing deep” as if that’s a bad thing. It’s also made me want to mention just how some of those books have touched me. Some having rep i’d never seen before that I really related to, so much that I couldn’t stop crying, like anxiety rep in Queens of Geek. That’s just one example of many. But I also don’t want to defend the books even if I can because then it seems like i’m saying, if a book is just 100% pure entertainment, it’s truly trash, and that is simply not the case.
Every book tries to do something different, so when i’m reading I ask myself “what is this book trying to do?”. “Is it trying to be literary and thought-provoking? Is it trying to be deep and meaningful at all?” etc. And I love books like that too. But sometimes a book isn’t trying to be thought-provoking or deep. Some books only purpose is to be entertainment. To not be taken literally or as a road map for life. And that’s ok. There is something to be said for being able to be purely entertained or amused. To “turn off” the brain a little bit and let it relax and re-charge. We aren’t machines that can just go go go.
“But it has so many flaws!” Pretty much EVERYTHING has flaws. People make books, tv shows etc. People are flawed, people make the things, they aren’t going to be perfect. I’m not saying stuff can’t be harmful and by all means mention if something is, so people can continue to learn and grow. Something can be both flawed and still have merit and good parts to it. They don’t cancel each other out. There is also something to be said though of being able to separate fiction from reality.
Also it’s important to go into a book hopefully knowing what it’s trying to do. Is it ment to be thought-provoking? Taken literally? Or is it just ment to entertain, to not be taken literally, to be just an escape for a little bit? People can even like books that have to do with something they would be 100% against in real life. It all depends on the book and the person. Just because someone likes a book, doesn’t mean they approve of such and such action. It’s hard to get across what i’m trying to say, and i’d love to have a discussion if anyone wants to. For one example though, just because someone loves thriller books about serial killers doesn’t mean they are one. Granted that’s an example most people would agree with. There are other examples that people have a harder time with. Like rape fantasy erotica. Many rape victims, myself included, like those stories and it can be a means to cope, to take the power back in a way. Then there are examples that have nothing to do with coping but still don’t mean someone approves of it in real life. Fiction does not equal reality.
Another point I want to bring up, is people don’t often start reading the literary heavy-weights, they are freaking intimidating. A child or teen discovers the joy of reading finally after having trouble, but it’s say a Goosebumps book or a comic book, are you really going to tell them that isn’t what they should be reading? If so, congrats on making a child feel bad for reading, now they might just quit reading all-together. I say such things from stuff i’ve experienced and seen. An adult can discover the joy of reading too, whether re-finding their love for it or the first time.
People often start reading easier to read books and often later on tackling harder things. And just because something is “easier” to read doesn’t mean it’s any less worthy or isn’t helpful (though that does make me want to go back to the point of feeling like I have to defend certain types of books when I don’t believe that should be the case). Telling someone what they are reading is “too easy” and they “should be reading *insert books here*” instead, often doesn’t do anything other than make them feel bad and ashamed, and possibly lose their love of reading because they aren’t “reading correctly”.
We all read for different reasons, and one reason isn’t better than another. We all have different lives. Some reasons to read may be to gain knowledge on a subject, or to escape the stress of real life for a bit, to lose oneself in a story, to feel something: laugh, cry, to relate..If you read a story, I hope you get what you want out of it, regardless of what that thing is.
Read whatever makes you happy. Whether that’s YA, Horror, Middle Grade, Children’s picture books, Thrillers, Erotica. Whatever makes your heart happy or for whatever you are reading for. I don’t care if you’re an adult reading a children’s book, if it brings you joy OWN YOUR JOY. I’m 33 and love to read children’s books sometimes. I Also watch My Little Pony, un-ironically, and love those colorful ponies, having fun, going on adventures and learning valuable lessons about friendship. It makes me smile. Why is that seen as a bad thing?
Here are some articles I read to help me think of what I wanted to say here, and I higly recommend checking them all out too!
Why Are We Embarrassed To Have Guilty Pleasure Reads? by Huffpost
Why I’m calling time on “guilty pleasures” by newstatesman
In Defense of Guilty Pleasure Reading by levittownpl.org
5 reasons the idea of “guilty pleasures” is total bullsh*t by hellogiggles.com
Full disclosure, I wrote this years ago on my now not active blogger blog. I have slightly edited it but not much. It is still sadly relevant and I am still trying to battle the shame monster. But I am working on it!
So read what you want, for the reason you want. Own your happiness, be yourself, and realize we all have different tastes. We can enjoy many different things for different reasons.
What do you think about all this? I’d love to have a discussion! What are some books (or other things like shows, video games..) that you’ve felt ashamed to enjoy? If it helps any i’ve been amused by Cum for Bigfoot (which I need to reread the first volume so I can finish the series, yes, i’m serious) and tentacle porn. Trust me, I won’t judge you. 🙂
Also check out my friend Georga’s post about the same topic Here.
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3 thoughts on “Thinking about “Guilty Pleasures” and Reading Shame”
I agree. Take the pleasure and forget the guilt.
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I shall continue working on doing just that! Ty! 🙂
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There is nothing wrong with reading something just to be entertained. We need that downtime from the world we live in. I love B-Movies and I will read the book equivalent *cough*My Immortal*cough*. I’ve read everything from literary heavyweights to pure fluff. Actually, if there is nothing else around I’ll read a cereal box. Readers gonna read. Everyone has that one thing they read or watch or do that they won’t admit to for fear of being embarrassed by it. We need to normalize sharing these things because we aren’t the only ones that like those things.
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