Comparison of Susan Jacoby’s and Susan Brownmiller ‘s Essays

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“A First Amendment Junkie” by Susan Jacoby and “Let`s Put Pornography Back in the Closet” by Susan Brownmiller are both illustrative essays that present the subjective views of the stated authors on the issue of feminine depiction in pornography and constitutional rights of free speech and expression. Both writers have taken a different stance on the same issue and conclude their justification that originates from the same source i.e. the first amendments that protect the individual rights of freedom of expression. Both further provide various legal verdicts on the same issue but with different rulings to strengthen their claim.

Susan Jacoby believes in the “absolute interpretation” of the First Amendment that says; ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’ (U.S. Constitution)

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She is of the view that feminist writers and other feminist groups try to manipulate this amendment by interpreting it in various ways. She further asserts that these groups are prey to fictitious idealism that pornography and its various manifestations are different than a simple question of freedom of speech. For example, she says, “Many feminist arguments for control on pornography carry the implicit conviction that porn books, magazines, and movies pose a greater threat to women than similarly repulsive exercises of free speech pose to other offended groups.” (Susan Jacoby)

Susan Brownmiller, the celebrated writer of Against our Will; Men Women and Rape, also relies on First Amendment to guard the feminist point of view against pornography and says that “Free speech is one of the great foundations on which our democracy rests. (Susan Brownmiller). But unlike Susan Jacoby, she takes a different stance about the first amendment and its relationship with pornography. She asserts that “To equate the free and robust exchange of ideas and political debate with commercial exploitations of obscene material demeans the grand conception of Firs Amendments and its high purposes in the historic struggle for freedom. It is a misuse of the great guarantees of the free speech and free press.” (Susan Brownmiller).

So both writers have utilized the constitutional perspective to serve their interest and present an ambivalent interpretation of the First Amendment. Both writers are unable to answer certain other questions. Like Susan Jacoby says that “Kiddie porn is not a First Amendments issue”. She labels that as exploitation of power that adults have over children. Here she intentionally ignores these important issues and negates his arguments of absolute interpretations of the First Amendment. Whereas Brownmiller describes the Miller vs. California case to support her arguments whereas ruling of the case holds firmly that free expression of speech. Although it asked States to devise new laws about obscenity it strengthened free speech. (Miller vs. California)

Another element of comparison is the idea of obscenity. Both writers describe it from a different perspective with different thematic expressions.  Susan Brownmiller has explored the phenomenon from the historical perspective and says that although this phenomenon got changed according to the social-cultural changes but a constitutional amendment is unable to deal with it. Another important thing that Brownmillers points out is that superior courts are unable to define pornography.

Although both writers present the subjective view, for example, Susan Brownmiller uses the words; “I didn’t say that, although I wish I had, for I think the words are thrilling.” But Susan Brownmiller’s view is more valid due to her argumentative power and narration of her ideas with help of facts and figures. She does not draw our sentimental faculties to captivate our attention but rather invites our intellectual capabilities to conclude. She simply puts the facts in a captivating order and capacities those with facts and logical arguments.

Another distinction between both articles is their reliance on general assumptions and verifiable sources. Brownmiller mostly used authentic and verifiable sources. For example, when she compares constitutional theorists of opposing views on the First amendments and its relations to pornography, she provides the names of Justice Douglas and Justice Earl Warren to support the arguments (Brownmiller, 49) Whereas, Jacoby often used generalized assumptions without providing the source of these assumptions. For example, when she raised the question that “Are all pictures of Naked Women obscene? The answer is “Clearly not, says a friend.” We are not aware of the friend and authenticity and validity of this source.

The article written by Susan Jacob is based on converse logic where she manipulates every argument and idea to prove her point of invalidity of criticism by the feminist activists and groups. She has tried to patch up different pieces to create a motley of ideas. She has also quoted from Susan Brownmiller’s book Against Our Will: Men Women and Rape that describes pornography as “the undiluted essence of antifemale propaganda”. But here Susan Jacoby only picks the excerpts that suit her interests and also explains them according to her ideological necessities. In the end, she raises some odd questions about the parents’ efforts to take their children to watch movies like Looking for Mr. Goodbar as it has nothing to do with the First amendment.

Susan Jacob’s too much reliance on the first amendments for the freedom of explicit sexual material and women’s sexual exploitation negates the moral aspects of the problem. Similar views are expressed by Brownmiller that she does not avail the support of religious and moral ideas on the issue and illustrates that her agenda is based on feminist ideology and says that ‘pornography intends to humiliate, degrade and dehumanize the female body for the purpose of erotic stimulation and pleasure’. Both writers rely on the constitutional and legal aspects of the issue and do not take into account the other facets of the problem i.e. moral and socio-cultural.

Although both articles present the issue in a complex and intricate way and bring far-fetched arguments to support their claims, but Brownmiller’s article is more persuasive and is full of argumentative details whereas Susan Jacob’s article is full of sentimentality and only presents a one-sided view of the problem. Again Brwonmiller’s article is well arranged whereas Jacoby’s article is an amalgamation of different ideas patched together forcefully.


  1. Brownmiller, Susan. (1993) Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape. Valentine Books.
  2. Brownmiller, Susan. “Let`s Put Pornography Back in the Closet” in Barnet, Sylvan.
  3. Bedau, Hugo. (2005) Critical Thinking Reading and Writing: A Brief Guide to Argument (Fifth Edition). Bedford/St. Martin`s. Boston Jacoby, Susan. “A First Amendment Junkie” in Barnet, Sylvan. & Bedau, Hugo.
  4. (2005) Critical Thinking Reading and Writing: A Brief Guide to Argument (Fifth Edition). Bedford/St. Martin`s. Boston Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973).
  6. U.S. Constitution. First Amendment. The U.S. Constitution Online

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Comparison of Susan Jacoby’s and Susan Brownmiller ‘s Essays. (2016, Aug 14). Retrieved from

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