Sunday, 5 October 2014

Liberal Feminist Trope 2: Mind Your Own Business

I will confess that this post may seem a padded out. I wanted to make it roughly as long as the others on the site and I apologise for any repetition that may have been created as a result. I feel it was important for me to get this post out there since the "Mind Your Own Business" trope is used pretty frequently by liberals and I am curious about other people's experiences with it. If you have heard it used in a particularly obnoxious way, feel free to leave a comment describing the incident.
 “A few large cities have sex clubs and S/M bars for lesbians, while pornographic magazines and videos produced by lesbians for other women have proliferated across the United States. Our sexuality has become as public as our tattoos and our pierced bodies.” Karla Jay, a liberal feminist, in ‘Dyke Life’. Quoted in "How Orgasm Politics Has Hijacked the Women's Movement" by Shelia Jeffreys

Type: Argument trope / Rhetoric trope, Clearly Liberal

Definition and Uses

The Mind Your Own Business trope is committed when a person shouts “mind your own business” or some other statement that implicitly accuses their opponent of violating someone’s privacy, when clearly no such violation has occurred or is likely to occur in the near future. It can be used as a rhetorical phrase to express anger or it may be put forward as an argument.

Use of the phrase “mind your own business” is of course legitimate in situations where actual attempts at privacy violation have occurred. To commit the Mind Your Own Business trope is to use the phrase in an illegitimate way, to go after someone who has not committed a privacy violation and is in fact either responding to a public proclamation of some kind (e.g. an individual bragging about their sex life online) or discussing a phenomenon that everybody knows exists (e.g. prostitution) in general terms, without referring to any particular individual.

This trope is most often employed by defenders of pornography, prostitution and BDSM, right after they’ve spent a paragraph bragging about how awesome their work/sex life is, only to find that not everyone is totally in favour of what they are involved in. When the trope is employed by liberal feminists is it usually used in relation to sex, but it can also be used in relation to other controversial behaviours (e.g. smoking.)

Generic Examples

“How dare you criticise porn/sex work/BDSM/beauty practices. You should all just be quite and mind your own business. Stop shoving your noses into other people's bedrooms/homes.”

“What I do in my bedroom is my business, not anyone else's. It is certainly not the business of some nasty feminist/politician/conservative. Those people should just stick to fixing up their own lives instead of getting so worked up about what the couple next door does.”

Exception Examples

Anti-Abortionist: “Why are you so pro-abortion, you’ve had one, haven’t you?”
Abortion Rights Defender: “Whether or not I’ve had an abortion is beside the point. I’m not interested in talking to you about my personal life.”

The above is not an example of the Mind Your Own Business trope, because the anti-abortionist really was seeking to obtain private information that he/she had no right to and that the abortion rights defender had no interest in revealing. Though the anti-abortionist in this situation is not using force to extract private information out of the abortion rights defender, the latter might still feel pressured to give in to the demand for information. Personal questions of this nature should not be used in the context of a political discussion, unless one has a very good reason for asking them.


This trope is dishonest, because it contains an implied accusation that is not true. The right to privacy is of course very important, but when one uses this trope they often express a concern for their own privacy which borders on paranoia. Users of this trope seem to believe that mere criticisms of behaviours, which they or others publicly brag about, are morally equivalent to creating an Orwellian state in which cameras are placed in everyone’s bedrooms and everyone’s sex lives are closely monitored. Radical feminists have no intention of creating such a situation. They typically do not have much interest in learning the details of specific individuals' "empowered" sex lifes, either.

If one decides to speak publicly about their private life (remember, the internet counts as a public forum) they should understand that such a decision has consequences. Criticism is one such consequence. Those who cannot handle criticism should refrain from bragging about their “social boundary transgressing” sex lives in public. Those who think the entire world needs to know about how amazing their sex lives are should learn to deal with the fact that not everybody thinks about sex in the same orgasm-centric way they do.

The trope also ignores the way in which many of the behaviours defended by the trope are actually quite public (as illustrated by the above quote). Pornography is probably the clearest example of the “private” behaviour that actually has very public consequences. Then you have politically active groups, such as the BDSM community, who wish to transform mainstream culture in such a way so as to ensure that their sexual practices are promoted just as frequently as more conventional sexual behaviours. If political activists within the BDSM community had their way, depictions of (and imagery related to) their sexual practices would be almost unavoidable. I suspect that when the Fifty Shades of Grey film comes out next year we will have a hard time avoiding discussions of it and of BDSM. Opponents of BDSM and other supposedly "transgressive" sex acts cannot be expected to mind their own business, when other people's "business" is all over the place.

Proponents of such behaviours may contend that those who practice them are not responsible for what corporations decide to promote. Indeed it is true that not all people who practice a particular sex act want that sex to be promoted among the general public. Some BDSM practicers have even criticised Fifty Shades of Grey, but not on the grounds that it promotes violent, male-dominated sex (instead they take issue with the way in which BDSM is portrayed.) However, this does not change the fact that sex acts which are promoted in such a manner can no longer be considered "private" and thus the supposed privateness of a particular sex act cannot be used to defend it, regardless of whether those who practice it are responsible for making it public or not.

This is not to imply that violating the privacy of those who participate in BDSM is justified, though women who feel that their BDSM relationships have become abusive should be allowed to step forward and share their stories. In general, however, people have a right to keep their sexual behaviours to themselves. Opponents of BDSM focus on the practices themselves and not on trying to undercover the identities of those who practice them, because, frankly, the sex lifes of random strangers are not all that fascinating.


Use of this trope, by someone who claims to be a feminist, is a good indication that the person is a liberal (or fun) feminist and a paranoid one at that. Those who wish to challenge liberalism should uphold the right to privacy, while not falling into this trope by unfairly accusing people of commiting privacy violations. Before shouting, “mind your own business” or a similar phrase, one should ask themself whether their opponent is actually attempting to violate their privacy. If nobody's privacy is being violated then the phrase "mind your own business" is pointless, since the person in question is minding their own business, in the sense of not actively interfering with other people's private lives. Most of the time, the person simply has an opinion about a particular behaviour that they would like to express.

Since the trope does nothing to invalidate whatever criticism is being made, it should simply be regarded as a distraction or (as those familiar with logical fallacies might put it) a red herring. Even if a person was committing a genuine privacy violation that would not prove that their viewpoint was wrong, since the truthfulness of a viewpoint is not dependent on whether its proponents behave in an ethical manner. This trope is yet another attempt by liberals to silence dissent by making false appeals to genuine ethical principles.

Coming Soon: You Think Too Much (in which political analysis of “private” sex acts is seen as a bad thing)
Please remember that I do not allow defences of liberal feminism on trope pages. Constructive criticism is fine. So far I have only had a few commenters (a big thank you to those who have commented) and none of them have been from political opponents, so for the moment I do not think it is necessary to establish more commenting rules, this may change in the future.

Note that a link to a particular piece of writing, even if it is referenced in a positive manner, does not indicate complete agreement with it or its author 


  1. Your posts are too good for me to comment on. I don't have a dignified way to say "right on!", and there's no seams or mistakes I can see.

    Thanks for thinking, writing, and publishing this.

    1. Thanks for the support! Do you have any examples of or experiences with the trope that you would like to share?

  2. Goddamn delete options that don't tell you they leave an empty post up. All I did was add a comma!