Apparently unprompted and apropos of absolutely nothing, a male teacher in Oregon decided to share his thoughts on rape culture, a concept he finds “dubious,” with the student body and staff. As the Oregonianreported, these thoughts did not go over well.
On May 2, history teacher David Lickey drafted a three-page opinion essay on the “theoretical construct” that is rape culture and subsequently circulated it throughout Portland’s Grant High School. Naturally, the document landed on Facebook.
“The very wording of ‘rape culture’ seems to me a bit hysterical,” Lickey wrote.
“‘Rape culture’ is a theoretical construct that is ill defined,” he continued, in a remarkable replication of pretentious high school prose. “What exactly is ‘rape culture’? I don’t see it in my life or the lives of any of the men and women I have known. I have never met a person who believes rape is anything other than a heinous crime.”
Whatever universal agreement might exist on the subject of rape being heinous, however, doesn’t keep the crime from happening. According to RAINN, one in six women will experience attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, while one in 33 men will be able to say the same. But the frequency with which rape occurs doesn’t answer Lickey’s question.
Rape culture is the normalization of sexual violence such that society excuses it and, often, blames the victim. It’s perpetuated by objectifying depictions of women and their bodies, by misogynistic language and, actually, by the kinds of assertions Lickey makes in his essay. Dismissing the role of a “patriarchal male ‘culture,'” as Lickey does,minimizes the gravity of the actions of perpetrators of sexual assault, often brushing them off as unsurprising male behavior. It is exemplified in the judge that calls a convicted rapist “an extraordinarily good man” who simply did a bad thing, or the judge who lets an accused rapist off the hook because he didn’t enjoy the nonconsensual sex.
Lickey did not see “anything even remotely chauvinistic or misogynistic” about the opinions expressed in his essay, but the school’s principal seemed to disagree. According to the Oregonian, Carol Campbell followed Lickey’s document with an apology on Friday night, noting that the op-ed had been presented “with very little context” and that some of its contents “[ran] counter to the way we approach this important subject.”
“The perspective of the teacher does not reflect nor support our approach to educating students on sexual assault,” Campbell wrote, also citing a rule that anyone who teaches a writing-intensive subject should know: “A strong contradictory argument should be accompanied by counter-arguments from credible sources.”