The meaning of debauchery

Last week, one of you commented asking me to elaborate on the term “debauchery”, which I used in a previous post ( I’ve been struggling intermittently today, trying to think about what I would say about this. The celebration of my friend’s wedding reception in East Germany certainly contained an element of this, along with a spectacular dinner and an evening of dancing.  Instead of providing a detailed account of this, I thought it would be more interesting to discuss the meaning of the word and the nuances that I believe make it far more interesting than the superficial definition.

In most contexts, debauchery is considered a negative term. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary describes it as “bad or immoral behavior that involves sex, drugs, alcohol, etc.” While I do not believe that ‘regular’ encounters with debauchery are a good idea, I would have to disagree with the largely negative connotations that the dictionary brings to light. Debauchery, like all things, can be a blessing if kept in moderation. Who hasn’t enjoyed an evening where they really let loose and had a few extra drinks? Drugs are a little more murky because of the immediate effects that some of them can have but I believe that most drugs fall outside the bounds of moderation.

With every technological invention from the computer to the smartphone, the world around us has started to move faster and faster. The confines and the pressure that this atmosphere creates can often use an outlet. For some people, that outlet is extremely productive — they focus on the gym or some other form of exercise. Taken to excess though, even that can lead to injury. Given all of this pressure, why does relaxing into a bit of debauchery have such a negative connotation? Perhaps the answer is that we are afraid of what we might do under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Certainly, the filter that protects us from succumbing to our each and every whim goes away, but that in itself may be the answer. The best part of debauchery is pushing a little past your limits. Maybe that means a few extra crazy dance moves or a hangover in the morning but as long as the release does not occur all the time, I believe that the debauchery itself is healthy for the mind, the spirit and the soul. Last night I went out for a glass of wine instead of spending my evening working. I arrived in Cincinnati for a new project and there was most certainly work left to be done when I stepped out to enjoy the music playing on Fountain Square. I had to wake up early to finish up what I had planned and I was a bit groggy as a result, but I needed that break. Obviously a glass of wine is a fairly mild engagement with debauchery but for a lightweight on a Sunday night, you would be surprised how giggly I felt afterward! I kicked myself a couple of times for it today since I’ve been running behind, but in reality I know that going out and being social last night was exactly what I needed. Since the only price I am paying for it is going to bed a little bit later today, that isn’t much compared to the emotional release that I got from enjoying the last part of my Sunday night. I intend to keep enjoying occasional moments of debauchery to feed my soul. So long as they aren’t in excess, I am not really worried about the negative connotations of the term.

Please post your thoughts into the comments below or email me at I would love to hear about your own experiences and am happy to share more details about my own if you would like.


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One thought on “The meaning of debauchery”

  1. Kya baat! Kya baat! Very brave struggle. All power to you and your kind of debauchery! But, are you not sanitizing the word? Do “…drugs and alcohol etc.,” debauchery make? Bachanalia in the Renaissance sense, may be?

    The struggle needs to continue, me thinks. Back to the writer’s desk! Your fans want you to! Relive the “debauchery” at the German wedding, or revise the reference? may be? After all the blog is public.


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