Ode to V

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Imagine for your first major television role as an actor being in full on kink gear: leather and chainmail bra covering nothing, cat-eye mask, and whip. You’re pegging your long-time, on-screen boyfriend who is also laced with a leather harness vest, spiked choker and a gag ball between his lips. As he regains composure his first line is, “that didn’t hurt half as much as I thought it would!”

When I started watching Shameless (U.S.) in 2017, the show was already a well-established hit TV series, beginning its 8th season, so I had a lot of catching up to do. Veronica, played by Shanola Hampton, was her first recurring acting role, and nine seasons later she’s still the one to watch on a show with a slew of talented, well-respected actors.

I wasn’t even 2 minutes into the pilot episode when I saw the title character, Frank Gallagher, describe his loveable neighbor-couple Kevin (Kev) and Veronica (V) pictured hugging by fireside, then pictured inside their home sex dungeon. I never forgot that scene, which sold me on the show entirely, because that was the first time I saw a brown-skinned Black woman perform dominance over a (white male) lover on-screen. While Shameless is a comedy, this lighthearted moment drew my eyes to V. She’s a sexy Black woman with dreadlocks, and a heart of gold. She is respected in the “hood” for her many hustles — one which include camming with Kev in a “slave owner versus slave” scene, and he’s not the one handing out lashings.

There’s more to see on TV than ever before, and decades pass but the stories and the people who bring these stories to life still look the same. BDSM/Kink storylines are typically unoriginal, singular episodes that predict the Dom(minant) is actually an evil psychotic capable of murdering their Sub(missive). In reality, healthy Dom/sub relationships require consensual negotiation, risk-awareness, and establishing hard limits before play begins. BDSM relationships that continue shared agreements outside of the play space are considered a “24/7 Total Power Exchange (TPE).” Kev and V do not explicitly establish TPE on Shameless, but their lives certainly reflect some form of BDSM lifestyle that allows them to effectively communicate and experience the fullness of sex without shame (the title is Shameless, afterall).

As Kev and V continue navigating life as a kinky couple, they explore the benefits and drawbacks of having kids, complicated pregnancies and a mother’s unconditional love. Legendary actress Vanessa Bell Calloway plays Veronica’s mom, and her relationship with Kevin takes a uniquely unusual turn when V has trouble conceiving. I won’t spoil it — but Kev and V are bonafide freaks!

This Ode to V comes at a time when my body is going through changes and my mind has been opened to a world of possibility within the Sexuality field. As a teen growing up in a sexually repressed home, I couldn’t even take the bus to the store by myself without parental suspicion that I was meeting a secret lover in the Frozen Food section. 

As an adult, the relearning of my body through kinky activity helps me understand that enthusiastic consent allows me to please myself however I want. V and Kev have many more wonderful sex scenes and introduce a polygamous storyline over the seasons, and it’s rare that a Black woman character is written to experience all pleasures without judgement or violence. Veronica showed up on my TV screen at the perfect moment, and has reclaimed and subverted a lot of sexist, queerphobic, and racist TV tropes by thriving in Southside Chicago. Her attitude is rightfully big, clothes colorfully raunchy, with a brain that’s undeniably resourceful. I honor all the Black and Brown femmes who dare to own all of them self and are supported because they do.