Dear Readers, may I walk you through my evening tonight? I hope you'll allow me that self-indulgence, since I hope you find my every thought, word, and deed as endlessly fascinating as I apparently do. It's a lovely November evening as I write this and I cordially asked Husband if he wouldn't mind walking with me around the school jogging path by our house. Because Husband is the nicest person I know, he immediately said 'yes' and away we went. This is a near-exact transcript of our conversation at one point in the evening.
Ana: I love this walking path, but I wish they would light it better. It's just too dark out here. *upset*
[Triggery conversation ensues about things that many women think about on dark jogging paths and which many men do not think about on dark jogging paths.]
Husband: Um. Can we talk about something else now? I don't like to talk about rape. *sad*
And you know what struck me, Dear Readers? I don't like to talk about rape either!
No! It's true! You'd be forgiven for doubting me, considering that pretty much every post I've written this month deals with rape and almost every post on the site that isn't a review of Crafty McCrafterson's Book of Crafts has a trigger warning on it for rape, and I spend large portions of my day reading feminist blogs that all talk unceasingly about rape, and I'm actually in fact talking about rape this very moment, but even with all that I actually don't like to talk about rape! Huh. So, thanks to this momentary insight, I decided to go home, have a nice homemade pizza, play some computer games, and not think about rape. I felt so content with this resolution.
And then I checked my Twitter account.
The Twitter veterans among you already know where this is going (as do those of you who have experience with literary foreshadowing). You twitterers (tweeters?) are already saying, "No! Ana! You fool!" But! I am not a johnny-come-lately to the Twitter scene. I may only have 24 followers, but Dear Readers, I have even fewer Followeds. Yes, crafty fox that I am, I really only use Twitter to update my Blogger feed for those of you who don't use an RSS reader for whatever reason. This Twitter isolation approach -- born out of laziness and a deep distrust of 140 character limits -- has served me well.
Until today, when J.A. Konrath blew up my Twitter feed with Internet Drama. This was my first inclination that something was wrong:
Oh dear. Here is what I thought, Dear Reader, if my thoughts were as witty and alliterative as I'd dearly like them to be: An author I like has apparently been criticized for a rape metaphor and has decided that the best way to respond to the criticism is with 50+ tweet-flails full of tweet-fail. (My actual thoughts were less eloquent and also had some swears.)
So now it's time for some background.
Waaaaaaaaaay back in March, Famous Author Barry Eisler made the news for a few days because he announced that traditional publishing wasn't a good fit for him anymore and he was going the self-published route. Famous Author J.A. Konrath then interviewed Barry Eisler in a blog interview that was... well... a little rambly. Who am I to judge? But! In this rather rambly blog interview, we got to witness this exchange:
Joe: YouTube has proven that viewers are okay with having unlimited choices, and happy to surf to find things that interest them.Included in this exchange was a link to a video. I'm not going to link to the video, but if you follow the link to the interview, you should be able to find it easy enough. I'm not going to link to the video, because it made me cry, and I do not want to accidentally make you cry, Dear Readers.
Barry: Yes! I mean, which of the networks would have broadcast that monkey raping a helpless bullfrog?
Joe: It wasn't rape. It was consensual.
Barry: I don’t know. I don’t think the frog was conscious. I’m not sure it was even alive.
Barry: After the first five minutes, I mean.
Joe: I'm married. I see this all the time. The frog was conscious. Just not very active.
Barry: Yes, but he couldn’t speak.
Joe: So the frog croaked?
Barry: Aaaargh! I still think about that frog. I feel sorry for him. What happened... it just couldn’t have been in the lexicon of normal frog fears. Maybe he was worried the monkey would eat him. But then... he’s thinking, “Dude, don’t do this! You’re a monkey, I’m a frog, it’s not right, it’s against nature, it’s mmmmmmmpppphhhhh.”
Joe: It's not easy being green. How many people do you think followed that link and then, out of mistrust, never returned to our scintillating conversation?
Barry: Yeah, but the ones who returned will be our readers for life.
Joe: We're probably going to cut this entire section later.
Barry: A tear just rolled silently down my cheek.
Joe: You're twelve years old. I swear.
But if you're unclear from the context of the interview about the content of the video the shortest, least triggering description I can come up with is that the video features a monkey who uses a frog's mouth as a masturbatory aid. And J.A. Konrath quipped that he "see[s] this all the time" because he's married. It's... funny?
I don't really find it funny. The first time I read the interview, I felt a little queasy and sort of pushed past it. And actually, Dear Readers, I read this interview when it was published last spring. And I didn't blog about it! Why not? Well, for one thing, I can't remember that far back but I'm pretty sure I didn't actually have readers then. So there's that. But the biggest reason was that -- and here's a sentence I never thought I'd be writing, back when I was in college -- if I retired to my fainting couch every time a guy on the internet made a joke about rape and explicitly tied it to the context of his marriage, I'd leave the house much less than I already do.
And here's the thing: humor is subjective. I've laughed at a lot of dark stuff! Stuff I probably wouldn't share with you, Dear Reader! (Because there are many good things to take away from the interview above, but the main one is that it is probably not a good idea to publish every little thing that crosses your mind, even if you are a Famous Author.)
And I'll admit that I've laughed at a couple of rape jokes in my day, although now that I say that, I think they were all 8-Bit Theater jokes. But I laughed at them! And I hope that doesn't makes me a bad person! I hope it just means that I'm a complicated person capable of personal fail. And I hope that realization motivates me to edit my words carefully so that I don't make a jackass of myself online by bringing up trigger material in an online interview about self-publishing.
So! There was not a post on this blog about the Very Mature Interview Between Famous Authors because as much as I was Not Amused by LOL VIOLENT ANIMAL IMAGERY and LOL MARITAL SEX IS LIKE THAT TOO, I mentally filed the whole thing under "reasons not to blog an entire conversation without editing, particularly if it's possible that drinking has been involved" and moved on with life.
Which isn't to say I wasn't upset by all this! I really liked J.A. Konrath, if not as an author, then as a motivational speaker for self-publishing. I fully credit Konrath with convincing me to write my book and self-publish it when it's finally finished, and I owe him a debt of gratitude for that. But whereas before this interview, I would have definitely recommended "oh, check out Konrath's blog" to anyone interested in self-publishing, after the interview, I had to remember to add "...as long as you're not triggered by violent animal imagery and comparisons of same to marital sex." Kind of not the sort of thing I want to be typing, you know?
But here is the thing, Dear Reader! Here is why this is news! Here is why my nice, rape-free evening was spoiled! J.A. Konrath has recently released yet another book on his musings over the self-publishing process. And he has chosen to reproduce this interview in full in his book rather than possibly edit out some of the more disturbing bits. And he has decided that of all the titles in the world and all the cover images to choose from, to go with this:
You can't see that? Let me blow up the first page graphic:
It's a picture of a frog (top) and a monkey (bottom), with the title (and a helpful arrow!) saying "Be The Monkey".
Because if there is any good advice to be wrung from the Very Mature Interview Between Famous Authors, it is not advice about gatekeepers or fixed publishing costs or viral marketing. No, the gold worth highlighting from that excellent interview was that it's better to be the monkey raping the dead frog than the dead frog.
A dead frog who happens -- if I understand Konrath correctly and I really hope that I do not -- to remind him of his wife because it's really funny to imply that marital sex is characterized in any way by death, unconsciousness, or complete lack of enthusiasm because one partner does not want to be having the sex but feels compelled to do so anyway. And this is in no way a case of using sexually charged power metaphors in the name of your book because SHUT UP THAT'S WHY.
So then this happened:
|Four posts from Jane.|
|Seven posts from Konrath.|
|Four more posts.|
|Where we came in.|
What's the end result of this? Well, first of all, my rape-free evening was ruined. (Thank you, Internet.) Second of all, I unfollowed J.A. Konrath and replaced the follow with Jane. So there's that. And of course I wrote this post to inflict on you all. (Sorry about that.)
Someday I keep meaning to write a "how to respond if someone says something you said or wrote disagreed with them" guide, and maybe today is that day. Here's a first draft:
How To Respond If Someone Says Something You Said Or Wrote Disagreed With Them
1. Do not respond 50 times in 5 hours, and obsessively re-post everyone who leaps your your defense. This is tweet-flail. Do not do this. Respond once, and then let it rest for 24 hours. Your one response should be, "I'm sorry, I don't fully understand why you say that. Would you be willing to elaborate? I'll read what you write and I'll try to consider it with an open mind." You may have to edit this to fit Twitter character limits.
2. Do not compound your fail with new fail, like abelism by calling the other party "insane" or otherwise othering them. This is tweet-fail. Do not do this. Respond politely, and remember that being a jackass on the internet pays great in the short-term, but less so over the long-haul.
3. If the subject in question is rape, do not post elaborate, expansive statements about the evils of rape in an attempt to counteract accusations that you trivialized rape in the past. (Especially do not do this if you trivialized rape by talking about rape in an not-related-to-rape-at-all interview about self-publishing and then self-published that interview under a title taken from the rape discussion portion.) This creates the impression that you think rape is A Rare And Special Kind Of Evil, when it is actually a very common thing that a great many people have to live with. Additionally, anyone accusing you of trivializing rape is already on-board with the idea that Rape Is Bad, so you lecturing them about it is not actually helpful.
4. If the subject in question is rape as used in metaphor, do not post disingenuous statements about where the analogy began and ended in an attempt to counteract accusations that your rape metaphor could be construed to mean offensive things. (Especially do not do this if your rape metaphor was clearly about rape because you used the term 'rape' in your rape metaphor.) This creates the impression that you do not understand that analogies are powerful and slippery things which will plot to destroy you, and additionally that this is why you do not freaking use rape as a metaphor for things like self-publishing.
5. If you have, in fact, equated a frog-being-raped to a woman-to-whom-you-are-married, do not post that you "respect women too much to compare them to frogs". This creates the impression that you do not read your material before you throw it up on Amazon for sale. (Note to Readers: I know this looks like a special-case rule unique to this situation, but this actually applies in an awful lot of cases.)
There's probably more to add to this, but... I think I've thought about rape enough for one night. *sad*