At a secret location in Bushwick this Saturday the Iron Lotus collective will make its public debut with an event where attendees can expect everything from your basic DJ-fueled dance floor, to an erotic playspace for exploring consensual pleasure, to immersive theater and installation art. “Body (un)Bound: An Invitation” reflects the broad interests and skills of the collective, which is comprised of 14 artists, activists, and healers who have come together around the common mission of eradicating shame and promoting authentic pleasure.
I met with event coordinators Jeremy Friedman and Kat Sto at the Honey House — their Bed Stuy apartment that often serves as the meeting place and launch pad for Iron Lotus initiatives. Along with collective member Andromeda of Earth, they were gearing up for a slumber party later that night, when the third event coordinator, Sarah Ashley, would join them along with some other collective members to work on art for the event space.
“Honey House is like the cottage for cottage industries,” Friedman explained, showing me one of his roommate’s latest ventures: cuddly “cock” pillows that are shaped like the appendage and have prints of the bird on the back. Out of their apartment they also offer services such as healing work, vaginal steaming and costuming.
The living room was beginning to pile up with supplies for Body (un)Bound — a bag full of condoms, latex gloves, and dental dams; a range of arts and crafts supplies; a pile of full black garbage bags. Their bookshelves were stocked with poetry and environmental theory. The mantle over their fireplace held an impressive collection of healing crystals. We sat upstairs in the air conditioning of Sto’s room, where she was making flower sculptures out of dyed egg cartons while Andromeda worked on papier-mâché lanterns and Friedman lounged on the bed, occasionally answering texts about the event, which is meant to be a fundraiser for the collective’s community space.
“The community space isn’t something we’re at the point of talking about, because it’s uncertain and in the future,” Friedman said. He also pointed out that this is the first and only guaranteed event that Iron Lotus may do.
The other two laughed. “We’re so in the present,” Andromeda said in a fake-hippie drawl, the sentiment instantaneously echoed by Sto.
Friedman and Sto explained Body (un)Bound to be a way bring together different subcultures including various queer communities, Burning Man communities, healing communities, and kink and BDSM communities — all of which have a shared ethos of empowering individuals to confidently live their lives in a way that’s best for them while rejecting the rules, expectations, and perspective of the status quo.
The way this manifests is different for each community, which is reflected in the event. It’s not a sex party, but there will be an erotic play space and a BDSM workshop. It’s not a spiritual gathering, but there will be yoga and a Bliss Bar serving cacao (which is used ceremonially in some shamanic practices and can be slightly psychoactive in strong enough doses). It’s not an art show, but there will be a Butoh performance and video installations. It’s not a burner dance party, but attendees are encouraged to come in costume and there will be music all night. It’s all of those things and more (check out the full programming on their here), presented in a space where everything is separated into different rooms and buildings so that people can find what they want and need in the moment.
Sto brought up the event’s cuddle lounge, saying that they wanted everyone at all comfort levels to feel welcome. While adding that the event is not just a sex party, she said, “My first sex party — and I consider myself to be a fairly open human — I was just so overwhelmed by all these people having sex everywhere… I was really shocked by how overwhelmed I was. Honestly at parties in general I’m a fairly introverted human that really likes space to retreat to and be comfortable. So that became a big priority for our event, to have that space where you can go create your nest and also maybe have a really authentic conversation with someone which can’t necessarily happen on the dance floor in the same way. Some of my favorite parties are ones where I have spent ten hours in a cuddle puddle.”
“I’ll travel hundreds of miles just to get to a good cuddle puddle,” Friedman affirmed.
Iron Lotus began four years ago with Sto and Sara Ashley. “We were talking about the differences we had in life around kink,” Sto said. Whereas Sto was exploring tantra, Ashley was studying BDSM techniques. They began to realize that both ways of having sex shared key tenets, even though one was often seen as “very light and airy and this beautiful thing to explore” and the other was seen as being more dark.
Friedman joined them early on, bringing with him his healing practice and shamanic work, which often uses sexuality as a tool for healing. Andromeda joined the collective after she had already come to a similar view of tantra and BDSM and was beginning to incorporate it into her art with her project partner. “Pleasure is all about beauty and expression of creativity,” she said, explaining her take on the collective’s mission.
Though Iron Lotus started as being sex-focused, as it broadened beyond Ashley, Friedman, and Sto, there became more of a focus on eradicating shame, pursuing pleasure, and living in the present moment. What Friedman calls the “long incubation period” that led up to Body (un)Bound allowed the group to figure out who they were and what values they shared. Friedman pointed out that the event is a great way to share the collective’s work with the public, but it can also be seen as a way of serving the community.
“People are going to come to this party and most of them are going to have a great time,” he said. “But somebody’s going to come to this party thinking, ‘There’s something in me that’s unlovable and there’s—’”
Sto turned from her hot glue gun to look back at him. “Everyone’s going to come to this party thinking that,” she interrupted.
“No, but, someone’s going to come to the party thinking that and is going to move through an experience that is going to result in them feeling like they can love that part of themselves.”
She turned away, added a squirt of glue to the egg carton she was attaching to flower wire. “I’m not gonna make that claim.”
“I’m gonna make that claim right now.”
She looked up at me. “Do not put that on the Iron Lotus claim, put that on the Jeremy claim.”
Friedman continued, confident: “And somebody else is going to come to this party feeling sure that the way they feel about their own sexuality isn’t something that they could ever talk about, show, or communicate in a public space, and they’re going to find a place where they can do that.”
Tickets are available here and are expected to sell out before the event.