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NSFW: The Alternative Thanksgiving Feast in Bushwick Where Guests Ate Off Naked Bodies — Arts & Culture on Bushwick Daily

NSFW: The Alternative Thanksgiving Feast in Bushwick Where Guests Ate Off Naked Bodies

Where flogging, Thanksgiving food, and consent combine to make an interesting production.

Olivia Perry

liv.bperry@gmail.com

For most Americans, the concept of Thanksgiving elicits thoughts of turkey, football games, and spending time with family. It probably doesn’t involve eating roasted vegetables off a naked body, being handcuffed to a cross in a dungeon, and discovering your partiality for being flogged. Sound like something you want to experience with your relatives?

I’m glad I didn’t invite mine either.

Bushwick-based artist and producer Abby Hertz has been producing LUST events since throwing her first event  almost three years ago. In the past, she’s hosted three full-scale dinners annually, including the original Valentine’s Day event and a summer edition, along with more intimate speakeasy cabaret shows and meetups. Hertz describes her events as “immersive erotic parties” or “sensual parties.” While there’s no sex allowed (guests have gotten the boot for doing it in the past), approaching with an open mind and a sense of curiosity is essential to maximizing your experience.

Last Friday, Hertz and a cast of 78 performers, models, musicians, and interactive servants gave guests something to really be thankful for with their autumnal production of LUST: An Alternative Thanksgiving Feast.

I arrived at Lot 45 velvet-clad and ready to get my hands dirty (because there’s no cutlery of course). Each extravagant room accommodated four models on pedestals, garnished with strategically-placed edibles and surrounded by cushions. One platter offered roasted turkey with citrus gravy (not as messy as it sounds), another, cranberry and pumpkin pastries, and on my favorite platter, roasted squash and potatoes (we were friends by the time I’d cleared off her arm and right boob).

After checking my coat, I claimed an open cushion next to the nether half of the spinach pastry platter. The gentleman next to me was a returning LUST guest and after a few minutes of chatting, he offered to scratch my back. A couple of blissful moments later, he offered to feed me a pastry (which I also accepted graciously), but I drew the line when he asked if I’d like him to feed me an oyster...from his mouth. Enjoy that visual the next time you eat seafood.

At 9.30, the evening transitioned from dinner into a full-on playground of performances and interactive installations. While the dancing and musical stage acts were great, I spent most of the night talking to guests and floating between stations, which included everything from an electrified flogging experience (bless Alesha and her electric current) to aerial performances and a human candelabra. Have hot wax dripped up your forearm and you will never look at a candle the same way again.

I was briefly let down that the dungeon promised in the event description wasn’t a stone-walled room in the Lot 45 basement. Instead, couples disappeared into the mysterious VIP tent to reappear a few minutes later. I was neither VIP nor part of a couple but a man whose majestic beard I’d admired earlier offered to get me in and show me the ropes (on a literal level). All I can say is, there are few more authentic ways to start a friendship than hiking your skirt up and being tied to a wooden cross whilst being flogged from behind by your new acquaintance.

Don’t worry if you feel ill prepared for that last bit. The entire basis of LUST is grounded on consent. The first thing guests are told by staff when they arrive is “If it’s not a fuck yes, it’s a fuck no.” In fact, changing the perception of consent is one of the reasons why Hertz started throwing LUST parties in the first place.

“I wanted to model consent being sexy because when I was a teenager, growing up in the ‘90s and the early 2000s, affirmative consent meant yes means yes and no means no, and I think it was really confusing for a lot of people,” she said.

“Enthusiastic consent, it’s a full body enthusiastic response. If it’s anything less than that, more communication is probably needed....Enthusiastic consent means you have to be a little bit more emotionally intelligent and be able to read body language and tone of voice and eye contact and facial expressions and a lot more than that,” she explained. “It’s sort of like educating people about enthusiastic and continuing consent through a party and through actions and not just through a lecture.”

Regardless of your bedroom antics, a safe environment to explore your boundaries is something we can all be thankful for. Unfortunately, the future of Hertz’ LUST parties is uncertain due to the introduction of the controversial FOSTA-STESTA Law. The bill package places responsibility on website publishers if third-parties are found posting ads for sex work. As a result, social media websites like Facebook have blacklisted certain trigger words (including ‘lust’) and shadowbans posts that include them from the news feed.

With an overhead of $30K per event, selling out tickets is crucial to the survival of these productions and the FOSTA-STESTA bill has had a crippling impact on ticket sales.

“My email campaigns mostly go to people’s spam folders automatically, so I’ve had to really try to find my way around those trigger words. I used to sell half my tickets, about 150-200, through Facebook and now I sell zero,” she says. “It’s been a nightmare because everybody lives on Facebook so losing the place I used to do half my sales has been really difficult for me.”

Tragically, this year’s Thanksgiving Feast was the last of its kind due to the drop in sales. Luckily, you still have a chance to play at this year’s Valentine’s Day party on February 15th! Snap up your tickets and I’ll see you at the potato platter.

All photos by our sex columnist Niki Davis

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