Ira Glass on Guilty Pleasures and Pedophilia

From a Q&A in the Times Book Review, in response to a question about literary appetites and guilty pleasures:

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, I only believe in pleasures. People who call reading detective fiction or eating dessert a guilty pleasure make me want to puke. Pedophilia is a pleasure a person should have guilt about. Not chocolate.


Seems an overly-literal interpretation of "guilty pleasure". I'd call lots of things guilty pleasures without actually feeling any guilt over them. It just means I acknowledge that the activity is hedonistic. I like violent action movies, I read lots of low quality novels, and I spent 50 hours playing Plants vs Zombies. I don't feel guilty about any of that, but I'd still call them guilty pleasures because none of that activity provides any long term benefit.


The analysis here and in many of the comments seems like an overly-literal interpretation of a joke.

Ken Arromdee

That Times quote doesn't read like a joke to me. It reads like a reviewer being pretentious by "correcting" other people's supposed mistaken language use.


Hear, hear! I have always hated this mis-use of language, especially in the form of "guilt-free whatever", usually some kind of food, or shopping. Why should I feel guilty about eating food? If I knew that I would feel guilty about it, why would I do it in the first place?


In stating that pedophilia is a pleasure a person should have guilt about, he ironically contradicts himself. How else are you supposed to phrase such a concept besides "guilty pleasure"?

The meaning of guilty pleasure is obvious. It is a reference to pleasures which are short term in nature. This is a concept that has long been recongnized since the time of Plato, or of Epicurus who rebutted primitive hedonists with a more sophisticated philosophy. However, it seems with the ADD modern world we are suddenly getting a rash of people who seem to want to turn back towards this primitive hedonism, saying that if it feels good it's absolutely right and you should make no attempt to resist it. And thus, they bring us one step closer to the death of civilization.

Eric M. Jones

"Guilty pleasure...Pedophilia." does seem an odd use of the language. I think of "guilty pleasure" in the same way mattieshoes does--taking pleasure in movies like "Die Hard" (the most popular Christmas movie!), while publicly proclaiming that I abhor violence. I would avoid any argument that I am hypocritical just because...err...I couldn't really rally a defense to support my own actions and choices.

Hey, I like RuPaul, too. But I wouldn't want anyone to know.


My ex-boss was an intellectual poser who claimed he watched PBS, drinking a glass of fine wine, in the evening. His girlfriend told me he watched Wheel of Fortune in his underwear, drinking generic beer.

I KNEW it! Poser!

Ian M

For a 300 pound diabetic, chocolate pudding is perhaps a guilty pleasure.


I like how most of these comment don't realize that pleasure is just like pain. A sensation that u feel when doing something. So technically there is no such thing as pleasure that has long term benefits cause its just a response to something u do. Its not like it is an investment that grows over time, but more like a water balloon that burst immediately when anything u do occurs. So saying a guilty pleasure is only a guilty pleasure cause it detracts from what ur trying to do long term makes mean that technically in hindsight a lot of people's lives are loaded with guilty pleasure. Is it a guilty pleasure to sleep for 8 hrs when u can survive off 6hrs and make those other 2 productive, or to drive when u can save money on gas, car payments and insurance by taking public transit. Im just saying, reading to relax is not a guilty pleasure unless of course ur in the middle of doing brain surgery.



If your doctor insists that your diabetes is so bad that you need to pretty much remove sugars and carbs from your diet and you have a family with children and you decide to sit down and gorge on a chocolate cake, you damn sure should feel guilty.

I'm just saying that it's a legitimate term that is often used incorrectly, often as hyperbole