In February I watched 12 Years A Slave. If you’re not familiar with the film, as you’ve been living under a greasy, slimy rock, I’ll just say that this film dramatizes the real life story of a free black man tricked and sold into slavery in the 1800s. He spends 12 years as a slave (eeeyup, clue is in the title) until escaping with a bit of luck and help from a decent man he meets towards the end. A truly brilliant film.
I watched that film in the cinema, got up from my seat and asked the Funk Master for a hug. He wrapped his arms around me and, I won’t lie, I burst into tears. All over his shoulder. He had to steer me out of the aisle and into a corner so people could get by, because I couldn’t handle what I’d just watched. I cried for five minutes.
…don’t tell anybody.
The next day I sat down, opened up the Slippers & Chains Scrivener file and tried to decide if I could keep working on it. For the first time I wasn’t sure if I could.
Slippers & Chains is a bit of a comedy drama, but it documents the lives of Daniel Scotney and Karen Owusu a couple (just slightly older than me) who have a D/s relationship. For those unfamiliar, this is the DS part of the acronym BDSM. Dominance and submission.
Karen, a black woman, is the submissive ‘slave’ of Daniel, who is a white man.
Until watching that film I had never considered how that might look to some people. How strange. How potentially racist. How much of a parallel it forms to the plight of black slaves in that time. And let’s not kid ourselves, even if you’re not hot on the subject, you must know that black slave women were often raped by their white masters. There is an element of that to consider and I know full well that some folk in the BDSM community and (out of it), have fantasies about exploring that black/white divide through roleplay.
While editing some of the later chapters of the novella I found myself typing ‘Yes Sir’ and actually wincing. As if I could hear the whip cracking. As if Karen was genuinely terrified for her life and had no choice but to accept what her master wanted lest she be beaten.
Now.. I know full well that this isn’t that type of story. I know that Karen and Daniel have a loving relationship just like any other ‘normal/vanilla/traditional’ relationship. But I think this is a lesson that I need to take heed of:
Not that I should stop writing the story I have in me, but I should be mindful that for me, a story about simply about those two people and their relationship, may not be that for someone else. There may be triggers within them that I don’t intend.
I’m sure there are many other potential triggers with a story like Slippers & Chains. Domestic abuse. Homophobia. Racisim. Sexism.
I suppose this post is just a nod and an acknowledgement. Just my way of letting you know that I know what I’ve done and the potential issues and saying that I hope I don’t cause anybody pain.
I don’t normally apologise for my writing – why the hell should I, it’s fiction – But after watching that film and feeling the way I did, the least I can do is acknowledge it. Steve McQueen didn’t mean to make me sob in the cinema, but he did. I don’t mean to upset any of you, but I’m sure I will, eventually.