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Should you feel guilty if it is pleasurable?

By Nailantei Norari
Thursday, December 3rd, 2020
Should you feel guilty if it is pleasurable?
In summary

Nailantei Norari @artnorari

Guilty pleasures ran the gamut from the small harmless ones to the larger potentially harmful ones.

They are the things we do but are ashamed of, especially since we know better such as stalking others on Facebook, eating ice-cream and cake while dieting or on a workout regimen, drinking juice from the bottle, especially in a family set-up, watching children’s cartoons and enjoying them.

Others enjoy sleeping or watching television and ignoring important chores such as cleaning up, watching trash television such as the Housewives series and enjoying it, pulling a sick off while healthy, or even drinking at noon time. 

Many Kenyan men on Twitter have fessed up to watching soaps and enjoying them privately while still maintaining that they do not enjoy them to their girlfriends.

Others have taken to day drinking, but they go to clubs at noon using Uber since they do not want their friends to see their cars parked outside rave joints during the day.

“Guilty pleasures are associated with feelings of guilt, shame and secrecy. It is the things we do in hiding that we enjoy so much, but are unwilling to own up in public due to societal expectations of us and due to the fear that we might be judged unfavourably as a result,” Kenyatta University don and sociologist Dr Francis Kerre explains.

Set standards

He further explains that shame is one tool that societies use to maintain cohesive communities.

There are set laws and standards, which are enforced using fear, shame or pain.

This ensures that all community members adhere to the set standards, and when they do not, they try to hide it to avoid the aforementioned emotions.

This is also the reason why guilty pleasures evolve as cultures and societal expectations change.

In traditional African societies, a guilty pleasure would be something such as refusing to help out on a neighbour’s farm and claiming to be sick or refusing to share food with a visitor whom you do not like.

These would be the things one would do and feel happy about them inwardly, but never share with even their closest ally as they are behavior, which go against the communal values of kindness and sharing. 

These things today do not come with embarrassment, shame or guilt as people do not share as much.

People are more concerned today with setting boundaries and hence these habits would be applauded and even touted as someone knowing what they want and standing for it.

In the same vein, today’s guilty pleasure could be the side chick. This was not a guilty pleasure in traditional African societies where polygamy was widely practiced and siring children outside the marital unit was encouraged. 

“The Kenyan society communally think that it is wrong to have a side chick, yet not so secretly, the men continue to have a side chick who at times is even endorsed by the wife.

There are instances where a wife will call a side chick to find out whether her husband is with her just so she does not worry about him.

Of course, these people will not share this in public unless it is with like-minded individuals,” Dr Kerre further elaborates.

Engaging in private, denying in public

Many psychologists believe that guilt is adaptive in that it motivates people to follow social norms.

“Essentially, we feel bad when we break the rules, which then prevents us from breaking the rules as often,” he notes.

Kerre posits that guilty pleasures might after all not be a true reflection of societal standards, as the same shame and embarrassment associated with the guilty pleasure might be at play when deciding what is above board and what is not.

A good example is the bad reviews surrounding Nairobi Diaries and Bahati’s reality show while the shows rake in millions of views and high ratings.

This shows that some people may actually be enjoying the shows, yet they are forced to hide this since most of the public seem to be set against it.

Consequently, they will watch the shows in private and castigate the same in public due to social pressure and the inherent need to fit in.

“I do not think indulging in guilty pleasures is necessarily a wrong thing, especially when no one is being harm.

But it is important to find out where the guilt stems from and whether the societal construct or personal belief causing it is based on any facts at all.

If it is not, may be you can at least enjoy the pleasure without the associated guilt,” Kerre says in conclusion.

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