I’m Taking the “Guilty” Out of Pleasure And Here Is Why
By Summer Webb
Recently during one of my very exciting Friday nights at home I decided to read a romance book. ROOMIES by Christina Lauren had just released and I wanted to spend the entire night binging it. On this particular night, however, I received a message from a boy on tinder while reading. His profile mentioned that he indulged in many very specific guilty pleasures. As you can imagine, this had me very curious about what those “guilty pleasures “could be; especially since he had clearly included that in his bio so girls like me would ask about them. We had a brief conversation and eventually he told me that his guilty pleasures included Taylor Swift karaoke and getting pedicures with his sister.
When he asked what mine were, I instantly said that I liked reading romance books and early 2000s pop punk music. He scoffed at the mention of romance books and proceeded to tell me that he preferred Bukowski and Kerouac because they wrote “real books”; and while I also love to read both of those authors, I was struggling with why he would so easily dismiss romance novels as “real books.”
After I un-matched him on tinder (y’all didn’t think I was gonna let him shame me for reading what I WANT to read and still go out with him, did you?) I decided to examine what exactly constitutes a “Guilty Pleasure.” The first step in my investigation was to google the definition. Here’s what I found:
noun: guilty pleasure; plural noun: guilty pleasures
- something, such as a movie, television program, or piece of music, that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard.
Okay – so essentially a guilty pleasure is something that you love that you feel that other people will shame you for? UHM, WHAT? This is the point in my googling that I started to become super uncomfy with term “guilty pleasure” and why I considered romance novels something that I should feel ashamed of; so I decided to break that down a little.
I asked myself why romance books are considered less than or cringe worthy by most people? Why do so many of us feel the need to classify them as guilty pleasures? The deeper I dug, the more I realized just how many women feel ashamed of their romance obsession. I even found dedicated blog posts with tutorials on how to hide romance book covers in public. Here is an article from Barnes & Noble that offers alternative covers for romance books.
This seemed so extreme to me. I still can’t wrap my head around being so scared of judgement that I HIDE the cover of my book while in public. Is it because romance books are marketed towards women? Both of Tinder Boy’s guilty pleasures seemed to be of a more feminine nature so does that mean society thinks things geared towards women, specifically young women, are less than stellar?
This train of thought led me to think about how as a teenager, I had loved a specific trio of brothers with every fiber of my being and was relentlessly teased for it. So much so that when someone mentions my old obsession, I immediately jump to defend myself. Saying that my musical taste far exceeds just boy bands. But why? What is so terrible about loving pop music? Music is supposed to make you feel something and if you feel deliriously happy while jamming to pre-teen boys singing to upbeat music then so be it!
The same can be said about romance books. Women are trained from a young age to hide their sexuality. We are told not to wear short skirts or be seen with too many boys so no one gets the “wrong impression” of us. It has become a societal norm to shame women who express any sort of sexuality but I think it’s time for that to change. We aren’t hiding our Harry Potter or Stephen King covers, why should we hide our romance? It’s time for us to embrace our sensuality and read what makes us HAPPY. This world is full of anxieties and frustrations and Self Care is something that many of us rely on to balance out the negativity. So if reading the latest Colleen Hoover book while wearing a mud mask is how you recharge, why is that a bad thing? If binging romance books while wearing a sheet mask is wrong, I DON’T WANNA BE RIGHT!!! Seriously ladies, let’s OWN what we love. If a book cover with bare chested Nick Bateman makes boys a little squeamish, then let them deal with that. I am no longer letting outside opinions shape who I am and what I read.
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