Two Contrasting Feminist Views On How To Address Pornography In Keeping With First Amendment Rights Eng 102 Compare And Contrast Essay

1063 words - 5 pages

The allowance of pornographic distribution has been a long disputed issue in the
United Sates. It has been brought into question whether or not pornography should be
protected under the First Amendment freedom of speech rights. The reason its protection
is in question is because the Supreme Court does not interpret freedom of speech to
include obscenity (“Centuries of Citizenship”). The main reason there has been a dispute
on the issue is because the courts have been unable to agree upon an absolute definition
of what obscenity really is. (Sunstein, 580) Some people can view certain material and
immediately be repulsed declaring it “obscene” while others feel that there is no problem
with it at all. Since a consistent consensus cannot be made, the distribution of
pornography needs to be combated by intelligent discussion in keeping with the
democratic process.
Comparing the essays of Susan Brownmiller and Susan Jacoby shows two opposing
stances on the topic of pornography and freedom of speech. Brownmiller and Jacoby are
two feminists that have had many years of writing experience and involvement in the
feminist rights community. Both women have very firm beliefs that the First Amendment
rights should be protected and both admit they do not personally appreciate pornographic
material. Despite these similar beliefs they came to different conclusions as to how the
distribution of pornography should be handled.
Susan Brownmiller believed it is important to protect a person’s rights to freedom of
speech but she did not believe that pornographic distribution was protected under the
First Amendment (68) Her thesis in Let’s Put Pornography Back in the Closet states, “To
equate the free and robust exchange of ideas and political debate with commercial
exploitation of obscene material demeans the grand conception of the First Amendment
and its high purposes in the historic struggle for freedom.”(68). On the other hand, In the

essay A First Amendment Junkie Susan Jacoby states in her thesis that, “The Federal
Government is without any power whatsoever under the Constitution to put any type of
burden on free speech and expression of ideas of any kind.”(57).

While Brownmiller seems quick to call certain pornographic material obscene the
Supreme Court has not been able to come up with an inclusive definition of the term
“obscene”. They therefore will not be able to set standards for criminal punishment of
pornographic material. (“First Amendment”, 613) The Supreme Court stated that that the
material in question must be judged by its impact on an average person, rather than a
particularly susceptible or sensitive person (“First Amendment”, 614).
Another argument that Bronmiller tries to make is that the intent of pornography is to
degrade and dehumanize the female body (69). Arguing intent is not a valid way to
address this issue since intent is subjective. While...

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