Are “Guilty Pleasures” still Pleasures If They Aren’t Guilty?

Dear Polymaths, Happy Easter! But on this day when Easter happens you coincide with that other venerable tradition, Transgender Visibility Day, I have a serious question for you. Let me elaborate on my title.

I’ve always been fascinated by fetishism. Why do some people get turned on by feet, or by shoes, or by cross-dressing, or by anything not related to the sexual act? Why would someone get sexually aroused by being peed on? Or by anything to do with excrement?
When I first became aware of the phenomenon, sometime in my adolescence, I assumed there was an answer somewhere, and I would find it if I read enough. But the fact is, nobody really knows why (unless I missed sump’n? If so please advise).

I thought about this again when I read about those schools in Oklahoma having “fundraisers” (for what , pray tell?) —one in which students licked peanut butter off of each others’ toes , and then another, where they licked each other’s armpits.

(Why does this upset me, or anybody? I concluded, and I’ve written elsewhere, that it’s because these activities are deliberately and calculatedly de-humanizing, and I don’t think our schools should countenance de-humanization. This is the kinda stuff animals do, Humans in general shouldn’t be able to do them, or watch them, without gagging. We have a gag REFLEX. Mark my words: the next “fundraiser’ will involve students gorging themselves, then inducing vomiting so other students can gobble up the vomitus. Why not? It won’t kill them! Dogs do it with no ill effects! But that’s a digression from my inquiry here,)

Activities like that, if people find them exciting or fascinating (and evidently people in Oklahoma do, or they wouldn’t be paying to see ‘em) used to be “guilty pleasures”, you’d go to Thailand (I have it on good authority :innocent:) or at least to some whorehouse you discovered by whispered word of mouth, not by explicit advertisement.

THAT leads me to my point: The secrecy, the concealment, the feeling that one is “transgressing”: doing something ordinary people (“normals”) would never do, probably COULDN’T do without gagging, and that they would never imagine the ostensibly unremarkable actor is capable of—isn’t that the thrill, the “heiliger Schauer” ?
The fetishist, or “pervert” (a word, btw, which has no exact culture-free antonym that I can discover ) has broken down a barrier which mere “normals” would never dream of surmounting, they wouldn’t have the courage to do it! (I’ve read that this is also the way people who cut themselves feel, they take pleasure in the thought that nobody knows what they are capable of.)

So here’s my question:
Now that we all must openly and joyfully acknowledge—lo, we cannot chose but see: happy “Transgender Visibility Sunday” !—and must even celebrate formerly “perverse” pleasures, like cross-dressing, pedophilia, oral engagement with unsanitary and unsavory body parts à la Oklahoma—

Will those activities, no longer “guilty”, remain “pleasures” at all?


Thank you for this thought-provoking piece, Hypatia. I lead a sheltered life, and had not heard about the Great Oklahoman Toe Licking episode:
Ryan Walters investigates Deer Creek toe licking video: What we know (

It seems that the beneficiary of the fund-raising, the Not Your Average Joe chain of coffee shops (they hire people with disabilities – same as most other coffee shops, one suspects), denies any responsibility for the event, which presumably means the students thought this one up themselves. Maybe it is helpful to look back at other “guilty pleasures”.

An obvious one would be Epstein’s Island, where wealthy older male Democrats paid to have consensual sex with willing enthusiastic good-looking teenage girls. That is quite understandable … and also understandable that the public figures involved would want to keep it secret, secure in the knowledge that no mainstream publication would ever publish the details. A “guilty pleasure” indeed!

Then there is the classic “guilty pleasure” of homosexuality. Everyone in the right circles knew that upper-class English “Public” Schools were hotbeds of homosexuality, but they kept quiet about it. When the homosexual acts became public, as with Oscar Wilde, there were negative consequences. Even today, Democrat staffers can besmirch the People’s House by having homosexual sex in the workplace, and it is only a problem if they are foolish enough to release the video. That might suggest the participants’ pleasure was increased by making the act public – they certainly did not feel guilty. This implies that their pleasure came from pushing the boundaries of acceptable behavior, not from the homosexual act itself.

And then there is drug use in modern times and the speak-easies of the Prohibition Era. The enjoyment of the chemicals was apparently enhanced by the knowledge that the behavior was outside of societal norms. Now that no-one is surprised by others’ use of drugs & alcohol, the thrill has definitely diminished.

So, yes! Take away the guilt of transgressing social norms and the pleasures seem to decline. Does this mean that if we abolish all societal norms, we would also be abolishing much human pleasure?


I don’t think Epstein’s Island was transgressive. It’s just mala prohibita. Who ( or who among men) would not like to have sex with young women? And these all were women in the biological sense, as far as I know. Younger than they are happy mothers made, as the Bard put it. No, at least this is a natural human desire, which we criminalize for the common good.
As for “the love that dare not speak its name” now being bruited about…I don’t know, it musta been more exciting as a man when you might fall in love with another man, and you didn’t know his propensity…? But it was dangerous, so that musta been a frisson: “feasting with panthers” as Wilde said (although the more I read, the more it seems most Englishmen DO or then did have that propensity; the only question, as Jo Walton put it, is whether a particular gent is Spartan, or Athenian.)

And what about the pleasures of voyeurism? People used to pay, at “freak shows” to see a bearded lady. Now,I personally would pay never to have to see one, especially not (as I recently did) on the cover of my Bryn Mawr College Alumni magazine….


Thinking about this some more – is the underlying issue that “guilty pleasures” are possible only for people who can feel shame, where they would not like the rest of the world to know how they are getting their jollies?

Or at least are “guily pleasures” restricted to people who are justifiably concerned about possible negative outcomes. “My dad will kill me if he finds out that I sneaked behind the neighbor’s shed to smoke a cigarette”.

Perhaps if we now live in a world in which there is no shame and there are no negative consequences, then “guilty pleasures” have become a historical artefact. Does this make the human race as a whole happier or less happy?


Isn’t it simply done “pour epater la bourgeoisie”? And once transgression is accomplished, hedonic adaptation sets in, so for the next round one needs to up the ante even more?

It feeds on itself as we live in a very public society in which our so-called mass media is constantly looking to titillate and surprise.

Hence the flywheel effect in play, constantly pushing for even more transgressive behavior.

The good news - such as they are - is that these behaviors are still outside the norms and self limiting. The toe and armpit lickers are - hopefully - not going to procreate and this too shall pass… One hopes.


You’re missing the point. It’s not pleasurable - it’s disgusting - and that’s the point!

This is mostly about collecting “kompromat” as a part of an initiation into certain networks - maybe a little bit more civil than drive-by shooting initiations used by gangs:

Game-theoretically, it makes it very costly for a member of the network to defect.


I don’t understand your comment. Are you saying videos of these students will be harvested and kept (by whom?) to blackmail them with if they ever get into a position of power or influence?
If so, I can only hope the zeitgeist of our country does change back to the point where most people would feel “disgusted” enough that they’d be disinclined to vote for or hire someone who had sucked toes or armpits or had his toes or armpits sucked as a teen. But right now, we seem to be on the upward surge of the dehumanizing trajectory; it will be a looooong wait till the arc bends again.


It often turns out that it’s easier for a ganglord to develop an army of toe-sucking goons - than it is for the refusers to organize themselves to contest the ganglord.


It is, IMHO, now a guilty pleasure to think that living, individual voters actually vote and/or decide the winner of elections. In fact, mail-in ballots traverse an arcane pathway by which the completed, “unassisted”, signed (or not), dated (or not), ballot previously mailed (or not) to a citizen (or not) finds its way back to the county Democrat functionaries to be “counted”. Actually, this is no pleasure - like many of those non-pleasures described. This one is so disgusting that it is killing our once decent and improving experiment in self-governance.


I’d call these beliefs “fond delusions” rather than guilty pleasures…


Surely these beliefs are “fond delusions” for the mere citizens who still believe that their votes count in a functioning “democracy” – and simultaneously a “guilty pleasure” for the Democrat bosses who enjoy messing with the vote tallies, secure in the knowledge that no DC Swamp Republican will ever do anything about it!


Gay lesbian and transgender activists are degenerates and their goal is to decriminalize their deviant behavior

1 Like

Fixed it for you. They’ve completely succeeded in decriminalization.


I have a few thoughts about homosexuality: first, closest to my theme about loss of pleasure when the forbidden becomes mainstream, I remember reading quite a few articles when the Obergefel decision came down, by gay people whose theme was, “Wait, no, it CAN’T be over!” Thru seemed to be lamenting loss of their victim status. Now they actually WILL have to get married—and divorced! As a family law practitioner, my personal feeling was, they shoulda been careful what they wished for……but that’s won and done.

But think how central male homosexuality, or at least deep passionate love between men, is to “Western Civ”. Enkidu and Gilgamesh, David and Jonathan, Alexander and Hephaestion, the Greeks’ institutionalization of man-boy love. Homosexuality per se IS kinda…mainstream. (As for lesbianism, who cares, really: ladies were usually bundled off to separate quarters and nobody bothered about what went on “down among the women” as long as the weaving and cheese-making were done on time.)

Of course though, you can be gay and also crazy, and the gents who put candlesticks and live gerbils up their butts are crazy.
As are “transgender” men who use suppositories to simulate menstruation, and who go around in hideous varieties of drag, daring people to stare at or “misgender” them so they can make a scene, claim victimhood. I don’t think these poor chaps are attempting to sexually attract other men. I think they’re just interested in attracting the public gaze, for good or ill—preferably ill, because that will get them more attention and in certain quarters, sympathy. I remember learning in Psych 101 that attention, any attention even punishment, is a reward.


Lesbianism, who cares? I agree

If a woman wants to transition to a man, mostly harmless, sometimes hilarious.

I still laugh about college women swimming event two years ago. Biological female defeated biological male. Both are transgender. I confused myself 5 times trying to explain what happened.

Different story if a man pretends to be female: not funny and not safe


I think you’re spot on here. It’s a pathetic attempt to garner any attention, stand out from the crowd, side benefit of ‘victimhood’.

That said, i do know ‘gay’ (hate losing that word!) men who tell me that they were born that way, and given genetic errors and variability, this could well be true. Still no reason for parades.


Yes, indeed! For so-called “activists”, mere silence or placid acceptance of what was, until recently widely regarded as “deviant” is grossly insufficient. It is now required that everyone not only accept whatever anyone of any sexual (or self-defined gender) stripe says they are (the grammar here used to be easier), but we must stop what we are doing and publicly voice/demonstrate our zealous approval upon demand - on pain of doxing, job loss, criminal prosecution (see Scotland). I don’t see how this is any different from loyalty oaths of old.

It has become a guiltless pleasure to recognize the delusions at work here and a distinct non-pleasure to watch society corrupt and corrode at an alarming rate before my eyes. I say that as one who has no interest or care what anyone believes about him/her/it - self or what they do in private. In my understanding of adult self actualization, the overriding demand that everyone and society at large accept and applaud me as I (variably) see myself - betrays a deep insecurity and childish dependency. Once, freedom from puerile dependencies was a sign of personal growth into adulthood. Now, this dependency can only be fulfilled by bullying all of society to share in my self - image - which may, in some cases, be delusional. Even if not a delusion, the incessant demand for universal approbation is a sure symptom of severe psychopathology. “I’m OK, you’re OK” has been pathologically “re-imagined” to “I’m OK only if everyone in the world not only believes it, but advertises that belief loudly and frequently - or else”.


When I worked in a drug & alcohol rehab, we often told the patients - “It is easier to put on slippers than to carpet the entire planet.” Applies here, no?


Agreed! “Gay”, properly used, conjures the image of a pretty pre-school girl running through a sunny field of wild flowers, laughing as she goes – an image about as far from anal intercourse as one could imagine.

It seems our nomenklatura missed an opportunity. When they decided that homosexuality was no longer criminal (and who among us would disagree that private acts between consenting adults should be no concern of the law?), they should have imposed a price on the homosexual “community” – give us “gay” back; choose a different word … “stinky”, for example.


“Gay folk” also caused the closing of many rest areas on our roads.