coraa: (carmen sandiego)
[personal profile] coraa
This was the panel that I had the most sheer fun at. It was also the panel that was most different than my expectations: I had kind of expected (I'm not sure why) discussion of actual guilty pleasures, but the panel was about why we use the term 'guilty' to refer to pleasures, the difference between guilt and shame, the difference between embarrassment and guilt, and what pleasures actually are harmful and people should feel guilty about.

It was fascinating.

Moderator: Vito Excalibur ([ profile] vito_excalibur)
Other Panelist: Lesley Hall, Sumana Harihareswara, John O'Neill

...and let me just say that if those four did a panel next year on washing machine repair, I would TOTALLY go. They were that good: funny, smart, thoughtful, funny, well-informed, opinionated, well-spoken, and did I mention funny? Seriously.

Notes behind the cut. People are attributed by initials; Q/C indicates an audience comment or question. As always, transcribed fast and edited only glancingly, misattributions and errors are my own, assume everything outside of quote marks is a paraphrase. This is especially true for this panel, which moved very quickly, with lots of ping-ponging discussion between panelists (which was a good thing).

LH: why do people describe even very mild things as "guilty" pleasures, why do we see pleasure as a bad thing, why does Literature have to have a bad ending (and "literary SFF" is always dystopias?

SH: Loves TNG, AOOO, spontaneous filk. Sings a hilarious song about 2009 being the official UN year of natural fibers. [Seriously. I would pay money for an MP3 of this filk.]

VE: Why does filking embarrass you?

SH: Part of it is embarrassment about personal talents, part of it is embarrassment of being derivative, part of it is the embarrassment of feeling like fishing for compliments.

JO: briefly discusses the tension of the whole "SOME [whatever] is good" thing, and recognizing that what you like actually isn't in that SOME

SH: "Let Us Now Praise Awesome Dinosaurs"

A digression(?) about reading consenting sentient dinosaur bestiality on the bus that un-digressed into the question of the difference between a guilty pleasure and a soically-unacceptable pleasure. Getting fired for writing Harry Potter porn, etc. Is acknowledging that certain pleasures are socially unacceptable the same as feeling guilty.

SH: we all live in different communities: what might be a guilty/shameful pleasure in one culture (family, work) might not be in another (Dreamwidth), and in fact in the alternate communities it might be more embarrassing to NOT have certain 'guilty' pleasures.

VE: what about the difference between a guilty pleasure and a shameful pleasure?

LH: shame is about community standards, guilt is an internal feeling

Q/C: shame is "what is THAT that you're READING?", vs. guilt, "I ought to be reading something improving but I'll go reread fanfic"

VE: So guilt is about devaluing pleasure?

LH: The idea that we're not here to enjoy things, we're here to do important things

JO: The protestant work ethic

LH: the idea that the things you do should be effortless, that striving should be invisible. That contrasts with the feeling that we should be accomplishing a lot--we are supposed to be working rather than enjoying ourselves, but we're also not supposed to LOOK like it

SH: Mary Anne Mohanraj's post about sprezzatura and acknowledging that things take time.

VE: Also, with fanfic, there's the chest-beating about writing "just" for fun rather than in a way that can be profitable

VE: The question of guilty pleasures in terms of finance: is there guilt associated with giving money to, say, John Ringo instead of a more 'worthy' author?

JO: justification/rationalization: buying a "good" book at the same time as a "bad book"

LH: like a literary carbon offset!

SH: or like buying indulgences.

Q/C: externally-imposed guilt, "why are you spending money to go to a con?"

SH: community differences: for some communities, that's a positive good, for others, a guilty pleasure

VE: difference between harmless "guilty pleasures" and things that have a genuine negative impact on someone else

JO: different perspectives make things different: since he's a publisher he feels guilty buying from major publishers rather than small presses, most people don't know or care

SH: Same thing with buying technology. "More knowledge brings more complicity"

VE: one guilty pleasure: Real Person Slash (RPS), which can be argued is harmful to real people.

SH: the complexities of warnings and disclaimers on RPS, "no disrespect is intended"

VE: can you really say "no disrespect is intended" when you're writing about a real person being sodomized by dinosaurs?

LH: different communities and things that cross boundaries, liminality and guilty pleasures

VE: class and guilty pleasures, whose pleasures are guilty?

LH: "the pleasures of the poor have always been seen as guilty", pleasures of lower classes tend to be more public, pleasures of the upper classes tend to be more private

Q/C: contrast Mary Sue vs James Bond, gendered pleasures as guilty vs. less so

Q/C: and female food pleasures (chocolate) and male (steak)

Q/C: public vs. private is important: the common social idea that everyone HAS guilty pleasures, but, like masturbation, you don't talk about it

Q/C: guilty pleasures and the idea that you should be spending your time on things that are important

JO: the idea that every time you indulge/acknowledge that guilty pleasure, you are taking a step towards normalizing that pleasure

SH: the idea that, say, fanfic is "okay" as long as you don't do it in public, because then you're just "looking for attention"

SH: "Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women's Lives"

SH: Ambition as necessary to accomplishing things: ambition has two sides, mastery of something and public acknowledgment. The idea that "that would just be seeking attention" when doing things, common among women, is counterproductive because it clobbers the ambition, and makes the dream unattainable (more of a child's dream of what i will be when I grow up).

SH: public vs. Private pleasures: the fact that the idea of the ideal life of the city is a very walkable, social place with lots of community, and yet the places where that actually does happen (inner cities) scare middle-class white people.

LH: the way women who are notable are constructed as unambitious (Florence Nightingale)

VE: what pleasures should people be guilty about?

JO: gets bothered by people who enjoy watching serial killers

SH: is very hesitant to label a pleasure as guilty unless it's directly harmful to someone. Might feel a judgment about something but holds it tentatively.

LH: dislikes the pleasure of self-righteousness.

VE: what about things that do harm people? Trolling.

*very funny interlude where SH describes different forms of trolling and so on, with VE giving helpful examples, ie: passive-aggressive trolling: "It's so brave of you to wear your hair like that" or concern trolling, "You know, people would listen to you a lot more if you'd just shut the fuck up"*

SH: "Are you never enthusiastic in a way that makes you vulnerable?"

JO: Communities have to be defended. they only survive by having a distinct identity.

SH: that ties in: when people mock certain pleasures that are central to a community, you want/need to defend

JO: do you have an obligation to defend your community?

Q/C: the pleasures that are least defensible are the ones that poison the well of other pleasures. Insincerity, mockery, etc., things that people do in order to make people feel rotten. Taking something that's good and putting a sting in it.

VE: unpacks that: it's three things: insincerity, hurting other people, and destroying pleasures

LH: there's a whole list of things that people try to convince us are pleasures. advertising. sometimes you feel guilty for NOT feeling pleasure: if you don't enjoy a blockbuster, you might think there's something wrong with you

VE: the idea of approved pleasures that you SHOULD like, and unapproved pleasures that you should feel guilty about

Q/C: the question of sincerity and commercialization, the insincerity of doing something "for the money"

SH: The idea of working to improve what other people want. Endcap displays to influence what you want. Defending your community and standing up for your pleasures is a form of activism.

*some stuff I missed*

Q/C: blogging to normalize guilty pleasures. are there behaviors that cannot be normalized? Can very dangerous behaviors be normalized?

JO: Absolutely yes.

Q/C: What about pleasures where the guilt is part of the pleasure? Do you get a situation where you have to move on to something more extreme to get the same pleasure?

LH: Yes, the problem of losing your pleasure in something because it's no longer transgressive. And the inverse: making a pleasure seem guilty to enhance it. (Chocolate-eating in ads as a "sinful" thing, whereas in reality it's not sinful, it's just food.)

SH: Community response: one person says "this is my guilty pleasure" and others say "that's not guilty, I love that too!" (Discussion of whether that kind of response is insincere or sincere, and when.)

LH and VE: Confessional as community ritual.

The inspiration for the panel came from here and here.

Date: 2010-06-03 10:57 pm (UTC)
jesse_the_k: Slings & Arrows' Anna offers up "Virtual Timbits" (Anna brings doughnuts)
From: [personal profile] jesse_the_k
Thank you for these excellent notes! You've contributed to the con-wide project of member cloning, so we can virtually attend all the panels we couldn't go to at the moment!

Date: 2010-06-01 10:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I LOVE the idea of a literary carbon offset--that made me laugh. And of course, that's what people do with diets, too.

"I shouldn't have a cookie; I should have an apple."

[eats apple]

"okay, I had an apple, so now I can have a cookie."

Date: 2010-06-02 03:24 am (UTC)
ext_3386: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
That is exactly what we do! I do that! Oh man. /o\

Date: 2010-06-04 03:08 am (UTC)

Date: 2010-06-02 02:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Interesting stuff--thank you for typing it up!

Date: 2010-06-02 06:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Quite welcome! I'm glad it was useful.

Date: 2010-06-02 03:24 am (UTC)
ext_3386: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you for awesome writeup!

Here, have an mp3. :D

Date: 2010-06-02 06:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, awesome! Thank you for the link, that just made my night.

Date: 2010-06-02 03:39 am (UTC)
ext_3386: (emoticons)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, and I think the only thing you left out was John and Sumana's discussion of the redemptive power of violence. :)

Date: 2010-06-02 06:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ha, yes! By the end I was intermittently laughing too hard to take good notes.

Date: 2010-06-03 02:16 pm (UTC)
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
From: [personal profile] brainwane (from
I think this is the best review I've ever gotten.

Thank you so much for the writeup! You probably already know about the additional writeup from VE. I just posted some resource links in comments there.

Date: 2010-06-03 05:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you for the links! Yay for more reading material.

And thank you very much for the recommendation of Necessary Dreams. I picked up a copy and started reading it last night, and it is well, well worth it.
(screened comment)

Date: 2010-06-02 05:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks for the info! LH actually asked me not to publicly link her LJ to her real name, though, so I'm going to screen this comment. :)


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