Elia Winters Talks Consent Culture and BDSM

Playing Knotty_coverimageIn PLAYING KNOTTY by Elia Winters, small bookshop owner Emma suddenly finds herself the proprietress of a weekly bondage workshop that her old high school acquaintance (and one-time secret crush) Ian has asked to host in the back of her store. When Ian’s bondage model bails, Emma is left to fill her shoes–but will she be able to step into this new role and become the confident, sexy woman she knows is hiding somewhere inside? Keep reading for thoughts from Elia on BDSM and consent culture, and don’t forget to download a copy of the book, on sale exclusively from Pocket Star on March 16th!


As BDSM movies and books have entered mainstream popular culture, I’ve seen a lot of confusion about what constitutes consent. Does one just proceed until one’s partner says to stop? Is everything acceptable, as long as the participants have a safeword?

Consent is more than “not no” – it’s “yes.” It’s about making sure you and your partner are both enjoying what’s taking place. That’s frequent check-ins. It’s “do you like this?” and “would you like me to do this?” Even if you’re in a scene and using safe words, you still have a responsibility to ensure consent. Know your partner, know their likes and dislikes, establish them before the scene. Each person needs to be fully knowledgeable about what they’re consenting to and feel like they can safely withdraw consent at any time without repercussions. Play needs to be safe, too: a person in an altered state, such as intoxicated or high, cannot legally consent to sex and should certainly not take part in BDSM play. It’s just not safe, and it’s not true consent.

Consent is more than just about sex, though. As a culture, we may give lip service to consent, but our actions show that we don’t really value it. This problem starts in childhood: we make children hug and kiss people they don’t want to hug and kiss, all out of the sake of being “polite” and “not hurting feelings.” When tickling or play-fighting our children, we don’t stop when they say “stop.” Then we’re surprised when these children grow up into adults who don’t think their consent has any value. (Paige Lucas-Stannard has a great video on this topic.) It doesn’t stop at childhood, though. Think of how common it is to pressure a friend into something they say they don’t want to do, like going out when they’d rather stay home, or getting up to dance at a party.

Once I started to learn about all this, I was shocked and uncomfortable at the ways in which I ignored consent in all kinds of small ways, and I resolved to stop. When I wrote Playing Knotty, I wanted to make sure consent was explicit throughout Emma and Ian’s time together. I didn’t want Ian to proceed just because Emma seemed to be enjoying herself; I wanted him to ask her to confirm that she was enjoying herself and I wanted her to admit her pleasure. It isn’t necessarily just about consent being “sexy,” which is a buzz-phrase thrown around a lot – consent is mandatory. However, establishing consent can be sexy, and I wanted that in this book and in all my books yet to come.

Books are media, and it’s important not to downplay the impact media has on our culture. I believe we have a responsibility as authors to be aware of the message our books send in the characters we create and the way we have them interact. Ultimately, we all have a part in creating our world.

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Playing Knotty

Playing Knotty

Elia Winters

Bondage meets bookworm in this sizzling erotic romance about a shy bookshop owner who discovers an exciting new side to herself when an old friend--and onetime crush--opens a bondage workshop in the back of her store.

HEAT METER

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1 comment so far


  1. cldegraaff

    Excellent points! Thank you.

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