Foot fetishism

Foot fetishismFoot fetishism has been defined as a pronounced sexual interest in the feet or footwear. Sigmund Freud considered foot binding as a form of fetishism. For a foot fetishist, points of attraction include the shape and size of the foot and toes (e.g., long toes, short toes, painted toenails, high arches, soles etc.), jewelry (e.g., toe rings, anklets, etc.), treatments (such as pedicures or massaging), state of dress (barefoot, sandals, flip flops, high heels, socked feet, hosiery, etc.), odor, and/or sensory interaction (e.g., smelling the foot, licking, kissing, tickling, biting, sucking toes, etc.).
To estimate the relative frequency of fetishes, in 2006 researchers at the University of Bologna examined 381 internet discussions of fetish groups, in which at least 5,000 people had been participating. Researchers estimated the prevalences of different fetishes based on the following elements:

(a) the number of discussion groups devoted to a particular fetish
(b) the number of individuals participating in the groups; and
(c) the number of messages exchanged.
It was concluded that the most common fetishes were for body parts or for objects usually associated with body parts (33% and 30% respectively). Among those people preferring body parts, feet and toes were preferred by the greatest number, with 47% of those sampled preferring them. Among those people preferring objects related to body parts, 32% were in groups related to footwear (shoes, boots, etc.).

Foot fetishism is the most common form of sexual fetish related to the body.

In August 2006, AOL released a database of the search terms submitted by their subscribers. In ranking only those phrases that included the word “fetish”, it was found that the most common search was for feet.

Thigh-high boots

Thigh-high bootsThigh boots as articles of fetish clothing date back to at least the 1950s when Irving Klaw used them in the costuming of the women in his erotic photography. Since that time, they have been a staple of fetish and adult photography. For instance, Bob Guccione photographed the 1982 Penthouse Pet of the Year, Corinne Alphen, in a pair of black leather thigh boots for her feature layout. Similarly, Dwight Hooker photographed the Playboy 25th Anniversary Playmate, Candy Loving, in white leather over-the-knee boots for her layout.

Until the 2000s, fetish thigh boots were generally distinguished from fashion boots by being more extreme in many design dimensions, particularly heel height and platform height. In the late 2000s, this trend began to change as couture designers, particularly Christian Louboutin, began to experiment with more extreme designs in their shoes. Consequently, the difference between the two now is more a function of the materials used. In particular, fetish thigh boots tend to be constructed of polyurethane (PU) or vinyl (often incorrectly referred to as patent leather). In addition, they are generally produced in China and sold at low cost. An example line of inexpensive fetish thigh boots is sold under the brand name Pleaser.

A select group of European cobblers have specialized in higher-priced thigh boots for the fetish market. Legendary among these was the London-based Little Shoe Box, which crafted both ready-to-wear and custom thigh boots in leather and real patent leather. The Little Shoe Box, however, ceased operations in 2005 after 40 years of operation. Three other cobblers, Leatherworks Ltd. (London), Biondini (Italy) and Jean Gaborit of Paris have continued the tradition of producing higher quality fetish thigh boots. Jean Gaborit also specializes in boots and made-to-measure boots.

Jean Gaborit maintains its own online shop, but most other fetish boots sold online are commonly sourced from either Pleaser or Biondini—the latter more in Europe.

Boot fetishism

Boot fetishismOne of the earliest descriptions of boots as a fetishistic object can be found in Émile Zola’s 1868 novel Thérèse Raquin. Actual boot fetishism is described in the diaries of 19th Century British woman Hannah Cullwick, of which parts have been published.

Hermine Hug-Hellmuth described boot fetishism scientifically in 1915. This article has also been published in English with comments by Arlene K. Richards in 1990, as Female fetishes and female perversions: Hermine Hug-Hellmuth’s “A case of female foot or more properly boot fetishism” reconsidered.

Boots were used by S. Rachman as a subject for research on conditioning as a cause for fetishism in the 1960s, making men sexually aroused by seeing pictures of boots, but the results have been put into question later, as boots already were very much en vogue for sexually attractive women at the time.

Unlike shoes, boot styles have often appeared as street wear before they inspire fashion designers. Boots are usually seen as a sign of empowerment for the wearer, especially when worn by women. This may be a reason for the connection to BDSM, where boots usually are seen as a statement of dominance. So called boot worship became a common subcultural practice among sadomasochists and related fetishists in the early 20th Century.

High-heeled boots help to elongate the calf, creating a longer-legged appearance which is generally considered to be more sexually attractive. The length of the boot shafts also adds to this impression. Boots have been displayed in magazines such as Leg Show and there are also magazines and websites aimed directly at this fetish. The fetish of the boot may be accompanied by a fetish for the material which it is made from, like leather, rubber, or latex. Boot fetishism is often targeted at fashion boots and riding boots but there are also boots expressly made for fetish purposes, like ballet boots and some forms of thigh-high boots (see these respective words for references).

There is also a very prominent subsection of mostly gay men who fetishize men’s boots. “boot worship” is a common practice in this group, to the point where there is a yearly contest to see who is the best bootblack. The types of boots favored by men differ from those worn by women, with men typically preferring more sturdy, rugged boots, such as combat boots, jump boots, motorcycle boots, or riding boots. These boots feature prominently in outfits worn by leather enthusiasts in competitions such as International Mr. Leather.

Shoe fetishism in popular culture

Shoe fetishismIn the 19th century, Central European students drank wine or Champagne from their lady’s shoe or bootlet as a sign of devotion. The custom is noted in the 1882 opera, Der Bettelstudent, where Symon drinks Champagne from Laura’s shoe at their wedding. In commemoration of this romantic tradition, the French shoe manufacturer Louboutin issued in 2009, a glass shaped like a woman’s shoe, which was reviewed critically by the German daily, Die Welt.

The Sex and the City episode, “La Douleur Exquise!”, featured a shoe salesman with a shoe and foot fetish, who allowed Charlotte York to have expensive shoes for free, simply for allowing him to assist her in trying on various pairs of open shoes whilst he openly complimented her on the state of her feet and offered reflexology. The relationship came to an end when Charlotte figured out she had been getting discounts because she was letting him hold her feet, and was further discomforted by the salesman obviously climaxing while assisting her with the sixth pair of the day.

The movie There’s Something About Mary featured a former boyfriend of Mary, Dom “Woogie” Wooganowski, played by Chris Elliott, with a shoe fetish. He tried to steal her shoes.

In the animated comedy show Family Guy the character Glenn Quagmire has a foot and shoe fetish, among other fetishes.

In the 1993 Spanish movie, The Bilingual Lover written and directed by Vicente Aranda and adapted from a novel by Juan Marsé, shoe fetishism pervades the whole story.

In the 1995 movie, While You Were Sleeping starring Sandra Bullock, the main character’s landlord played by Michael Rispoli has a shoe fetish.

In the 2000 Japanese television series, Bus Stop the main character, Musashi, has a strong interest in high heels, and at one point repairs a broken high heel for the woman he is pursuing.

Prevalence of shoe fetishism

Shoe fetishismIn order to determine the relative prevalences of different types of fetishes, scientists obtained a sample of at least 5000 individuals worldwide from 381 Internet discussion groups. The relative prevalences were estimated based on (a) the number of groups devoted to a particular fetish, (b) the number of individuals participating in the groups and (c) the number of messages exchanged. Using these measures, feet and shoes were found to be the most common target of preferences. This is consistent with an analysis of millions of search queries by users from the USA that were accidentally released during the AOL search data scandal. Sixty-four (64) percent of the sampled population that had a preference for an object associated with the body had a preference for shoes, boots, and other footwear.

Shoe fetishism

Shoe fetishismShoe fetishism is the attribution of attractive sexual qualities to shoes or other footwear as a matter of sexual preference, or an alternative or complement to a relationship with a partner. It has also been known as retifism, after the French novelist Nicolas-Edme Rétif (October 23, 1734–February 2, 1806), also known as Rétif de la Bretonne. Individuals with shoe fetishism can be erotically interested in women’s shoes. Although shoes may appear to carry sexual connotations in mainstream culture (for example, women’s shoes are commonly sold as being “sexy”) this opinion refers to an ethnographic or cultural context, and is likely not intended to be taken literally. Another fetishism, which sometimes is seen as related to shoe fetishism, is boot fetishism.