I get the joke. No, I really do.
It goes like this: There’s this video of a chimp raping a frog. It’s had over 11 million hits on YouTube. So Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler riffed on this viral video when they put out a free book called “Be the Monkey,” subtitled “A Conversation about the New World of Publishing.”
So yeah, I get it. The book is purporting to help authors avoid getting screwed. And given some of my experiences in the wild, crazy world of publishing, I have occasionally felt like I got bent over a barrel, metaphorically speaking.
The problem is that, even though I get the joke, I don’t find it very funny. But the reason I don’t find it funny ISN’T because I’m interpreting this as some kind of slur against women. I certainly don’t think Konrath and Eisler are advocating rape. I don’t think when they say “Be the Monkey,” they are addressing men and suggesting said men go out and rape women.
But Konrath apparently thinks that’s what I think, as his tweet to me suggests: “@jackiebarbosa “Be the Monkey” DOES NOT EQUAL “Rape women.” Shame on you for saying it is the same. Shame, shame, shame.”
So, here it is, in black-and-white and for the record:
Women aren’t the only ones who get raped. Men get raped, too. So do children (hello, Jerry Sandusky, in case we’ve already forgotten). Rape isn’t about gender. It’s not a women’s issue. It’s EVERYONE’S issue.
And the reason the “Be the Monkey” joke just isn’t funny (to me, anyway) is that there’s a big difference between not making yourself an easy target for victimization (i.e., doing smart things that help keep you safe) and actively victimizing other people. Even if the metaphor is supposed to be “take control and have power over your publishing career,” that’s a far cry from the actual message, which is “don’t just avoid getting screwed over, screw people over yourself.” I’m sorry, but it’s just not amusing to me, even outside the context of the actual, real-life problem of rape.
It’s also not true. You don’t have to actively harm others to succeed in publishing. Whatever route you take.
So please, let’s not advocate doing so, even as a metaphor. Or a joke.