Male high school teacher says rape culture is a "dubious" "theoretical concept"

Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

A male teacher in Oregon put his thoughts on rape culture, a concept he finds "dubious," in a lengthy memo and decided to share it with students. As the Oregonian reported, the move 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. It subsequently circulated throughout Portland's Grant High School. 

The Oregonian reported the teacher's motive in writing the essay was unclear, but according to an email Mic received from a student at the school, Lickey wrote the memo in response to a discussion that took place in another teacher's English class. Lickey walked in to get documents from the photocopier, overheard a conversation he wasn't part of and decided to offer his opinion. Lacking the time to fully explain himself, he later elaborated on his position in writing. The students then used the paper as a counterpoint in their discussion of rape culture, and while Lickey's email stressed that his opinions were not meant to be shared with the entire school, they were still distributed.

In his paper, which has since landed on Facebook, he apologized for interrupting, because "one shouldn't barge into others' conversations and take over — or in this case — throw bombs." Citing alleged comments from the other English teacher, Lickey seemed to think his explanation would be welcome.

"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 explained, 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, as Lickey put it, a "patriarchal male 'culture'" in sexual assault minimizes the gravity of perpetrators' actions, brushing them off as unsurprising male behavior. Rape culture is exemplified in the judge who 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, for his part, wrote that he 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 the op-ed had been presented "with very little context" and 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."

May 7, 2017, 4:34 p.m.: This article has been updated to reflect information Mic received from a student at Grant High School.

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Claire Lampen

Claire is a staff writer at Mic who covers women's issues and reproductive rights. She is based in New York and can be reached at claire@mic.com.

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