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.

Fuck-me shoes

fuck-me bootsThe phrase possibly originated in America, where two similar terms are used: “‘fuck-you shoes’ implying a disregard for convention or propriety, or ‘fuck-off shoes’ where ‘fuck-off’ means both outsize and aggressive”. Tight trousers were called “come fuck-me’s” as listed in a 1972 British dictionary of slang, while a 1974 book is cited as making a reference to a person wearing “a pair of fabulous 1940s-Joan-Crawford-fuck-me’s”. The song “We are the Dead” from David Bowie’s 1974 Diamond Dogs album mentions “fuck-me pumps.”

Prominent feminist Germaine Greer brought what had been an “obscure” term to more mainstream notoriety when she used it in 1995. Greer used the term in referring to British journalist Suzanne Moore’s alleged “hair bird’s-nested all over the place, fuck-me shoes and three fat inches of cleavage”. Greer made the remark in response to a column Moore had written about Greer in The Guardian, where Moore had mistakenly repeated an incorrect rumor that Greer had a hysterectomy as a voluntary decision to have herself sterilized.

Greer was also quoted during the 1990s as criticizing a number of women writers that she termed “lifestyle feminists” who were, in her view, espousing feminism at nothing more than a superficial level. Moore’s response was that her fashion choices were dictated by her own tastes and not to please men: “as someone who grew up with punk and Madonna, I take it for granted that women dress to please themselves and not men…” Moore has said her footwear is “not worn just for the benefit of men”, implying that the intention is twofold, to please both her and observers, although she also says “Most of the pleasure [of buying shoes] involves a private fantasy that begins with me and ends at my feet. Men don’t get a look in”.

The incident, and the term, received coverage in British media and beyond, and the term has become associated with Greer in popular culture. Greer had been denouncing stiletto shoes as symbols of women’s subordination as early as 1971. She continues to use the phrase “fuck me shoes” in public speaking when discussing gender and clothing styles society deems appropriate.

The expression was further popularized when British jazz singer Amy Winehouse released the single “Pumps” (originally titled “Fuck Me Pumps” on her 2003 album Frank), a song about gold diggers.

In January 2011, in an forum with teenaged students in Cartagena, Colombia, Greer noticed the popularity of silicone breast implants in the audience. She asked students why they thought women tennis players wore skirts, and asked why a young woman would choose to wear stiletto shoes: “So you think the shoes are her fetish? […] I call them fuck-me shoes,” she said, “because you can’t walk in them but you can wear them in bed.”

Boot worship

Boot worshipBoot worship is a term for the practice of extreme adulation of boots in BDSM, usually carried out while the footwear is being worn by the dominant partner.

It is related to foot worship in a derivative way, in that the adulation may really be attributable to the proximity of the boots to their master/mistress. The foot is usually considered one of the “lowest” and least appreciated parts of the body, and it is a kind of humiliation to be kissing and licking someone’s foot.

In Boot worship, the humiliation goes one step further. The submissive willingly worships the dominant partner’s shoes, and often without even being asked to. This reverence for the footwear that encloses the dominant partner’s foot is sometimes an expression of extreme devotion or loyalty, sometimes a concrete admission of inferiority or defeat, and sometimes both.

Thus boot worship may include sniffing or inhaling from worn boots, as well as licking, kissing or cleaning their exteriors by licking. Sometimes polishing of the boot can also be done. Chewing and eating of leather shoes can also be done.

It may also consist, more passively, of the submissive lying prone and being “trampled” by the dominant partner. Heeled boots may lend themselves to sucking, in an approximation of fellatio, anal and urethra insertion. The dominant partner can also sometimes beat the sub or slave with the footwear while wearing it. They can also have the submissive lying down in front of them and then place their boots over the submissive’s mouth, face, or body instead of the floor.

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.

The psychology of stockings

Stockings and heelsMatthew’s whole complex persona centred around the unquenchable quest for the stocking. Shocking? (Easy pun. Sorry, couldn’t resist it) Not really – many men have fantasies about girlfriends in stockings and suspenders. It’s just that Matthew thought about very little else. He was, as I stated long ago, completely obsessed.

We also ought to spend a minute or two looking at the situation from Matthew’s point of view. You see, there are other elements in this equation, and each has its part to play. And those elements are tights, shoes, hemlines, trousers (God forbid), tights again, denier, Lycra, hold-ups, colour, summer, pop socks, and even ankles. With so much to blend into a perfect whole it’s hardly surprising it had become a life’s work.

Tights were the real killer, for a connoisseur like Matthew. On the lower leg they looked the same and yet they were not the same. And that, from Matthew’s perspective qualified as the first most frustrating thing in the world. Consequently it would be fair to clarify Matthew’s position as being the quest for the stocking top. Not, you understand, because he wanted to look up ladies’ skirts (he was far too polite, and too much of a gentleman for that). But because it was only with a glimpse of the stocking top (perhaps when the wearer would sit down, and her short skirt would ride up that tempting inch, showing a fraction of lace or – the ecstasy! – a suspender) that he could have unarguable proof that stockings were on the agenda.
Now, take a step back. What was the secret of the stocking, and why did it hold so much power? Was it, perhaps, the inherent femininity? Was it, as Matthew would enthusiastically describe, the delightful shadow it gave to the calf as the nylon hugged itself around? The delightful “swish-swish” of stocking-clad thighs? Was it a fascination with clothing that Matthew, as a man, was denied? Maybe, on a baser level, it was years of conditioning, from looking at pornography, and the association of stockings with sex. Maybe it was all of these, (and sex certainly creeps in there somewhere along the line) but maybe, for Matthew it was none.
Tights, then. Big problem. Not sexy. Matthew of course, enjoyed looking at legs in tights, until, paradoxically, he knew that he was looking at legs in tights. If the wearer should sit down and show an expanse of thigh, but not reveal even a hint of a top (technically called a welt, I believe, but that sounds like the after-effects of a good, stern whipping session, and bondage has no part to play here), he could be heard to give an audible sigh of frustration. Hopes built high were cruelly dashed on the rocks of Cape Gusset. Matthew’s eyes would move on. You see, he fundamentally didn’t understand why women wore tights. If you ladder one you have to replace the pair, you have to take them off when you need the toilet, and the proximity of nylon to such a sensitive area, could not, he assumed, be good for your health. Above all though, tights were despised because they were the enemy, and an enemy with a majority rule.
Matthew saw his role as a vigilante – a mercenary in the tights versus stockings war. And it was a war, no doubt about that. Complete with casualties. His crusade had had notable successes. You no doubt remember, early in 1999 (around the time of the genetically modified food scare) how there was a health warning about how tights could cause “feminine itching” and make women infertile while fresh air to the genitals (pants permitted) could help prevent all sorts of nasties like tuberculosis and cancer? That was one of Matthew’s. Dreamt up in his office back in adland, backed by spurious research from a fictitious healthcare company, and covered by all of the major broadcasters and the press. A simple idea, but devastatingly effective and yet still there was a lot to do. If you had been standing in the queue that day in the airport, you may have been able to catch a glimpse of an article entitled “Why New Women are returning to suspenders” in the magazine in Matthew’s grip. He had written it six weeks earlier – one of his many contributions as freelance fashion correspondent Marcel Bellamy. A charade, but seemingly a remarkable – and he hoped, influential – success.
Back to the list: shoes. A very important factor. Matthew was conventional in this respect. Heels were good, stilettos the best, and black suede court stilettos best of all. (For stilettos you could substitute other heels of a similarly tottering nature, although nothing too clumpy please.) Ankle boots were okay, but espadrilles were most definitely not. “Sensible” shoes (that great contradiction – what, after all, as Matthew often reasoned, was “sensible” about footwear designed solely (another pun!) to cool the ardour of a gender?) were likely to gain instant rejection. But remember that Matthew was not a foot fetishist, and even the most perfect pair of shoes (and by perfect we mean high enough to give shape to the leg, smart enough to demand legwear of some description) could be ruined if the rest of the equation was wrong.
Hemlines. Vital again. Remember, Matthew was not a pervert in the classic sense, and he had no real desire to see up a skirt or to know the colour of a lady’s underwear. But hemlines were crucial because if too long, he would never catch a glimpse of the “top”, and if too short, the wearer would sacrifice stockings at the grim altar of decency. Mini skirts were okay in the bedroom, where tartiness could be encouraged, but he knew well enough, that women were unlikely to want the attention fostered by wearing stockings and a mini in the street. And who could blame them when so many men less sensitive than Matthew were around to make unsophisticated leers of lust?
Trousers (God forbid). Another big enemy, right up there alongside the massed regiments of the army Tight. Women, he knew, were unlikely to wear stockings with trousers, and even though there was always a chance, a glimpse of nylon-clad ankle was rarely enough, on its own, to raise either his pulse or his expectations.
Tights again. Before moving onto the exotica of Denier (a word right up there with Aristoc) it’s actually worth reconsidering the position of tights. “So soon?” you cry. “Haven’t we just dismissed them?” Well, yes, but it’s not exactly as cut and dry as I may have led you to believe. Matthew thought tights were okay under one very specific circumstance: when they offered the only practical alternative to bare legs or trousers. And obviously only as long as the wearer went for those suspender tights you get in Sock Shop and the like, and when the woman concerned would choose stockings whenever she possibly could. He couldn’t think when such a circumstance would ever arise, but the get-out clause was there just in case.
Denier. Matthew, you have to remember, was first and foremost a man. The murky world of denier is not a man’s domain. If you ever find yourself being chatted up on the Internet by somebody who claims to be a woman, ask her the denier of her hosiery. It is a question guaranteed to sort out real women from the wannabes. How, then, was he to know the difference between seven and 10, or even between 15 and 20? Of course he knew what he liked – and had worked out that, in general, the lower the number the better. Opacity was not a property to admire. But having said that, he actually liked dark, black, stockings, and had to admit that the finest mesh could not contain that much tone alone. He assumed (with the benefit of some of his own experimentation in the field) that 10 denier would be pretty much the ticket but he was not sure, and it was a constant source of frustration.
Lycra. Another lady word. Lycra, he had decided, was probably a good thing from a stretch point of view, but was it the Lycra that was responsible for the beautiful sheen on some legs that was so depressingly absent from others? The problem, you see, was that questions had to remain unasked. In keeping his obsession a private affair (and always sensitive not to appear a pervert or give women cause for alarm) he was unable to approach people on the train and ask them outright about brand, finish, Lycra, and of course the denier. He was learning, of course. The Marcel Bellamy disguise gave him some license to explore the subject, but nevertheless, the direct approach was out.
Hold-ups. A curiosity. Matthew liked hold-ups, but they did not hold quite the some frisson of excitement as their more refined cousin, the stocking proper. Part of the stocking’s appeal lay, quite naturally, in the suspender belt, and obviously hold-ups denied these their purpose. Yet hold-ups were infinitely better than tights. They could still look stylish and sexy. Okay, so there was something missing (and he could never quite come to terms with the lack of suspenders), but if stockings were unavailable, hold-ups would do just nicely.
Colour. A personal matter. You have to understand that even the most unflattering colour could be overlooked, but Matthew did have his favourites. Black, obviously, for general purpose wear – the classic combination of smart and sexy. Nearly black? (Or even barely black?) He was not quite sure about those. (Hey girls, why not go the whole hog? You’ve already made it this far!) Blue – the least favourite perhaps, but it depended on the shade. White: yes! The virginal look was a guaranteed winner. Red: perhaps in the bedroom but not really during the day. Nude, or any of those other skin-type shades (Honey? Mink?): a good result, Matthew decided, on the basis that the wearer was obviously the secretive type, but that was okay with him. Within the realm of colour came the welt – or top – itself: lace tops were obviously the best, and if the lace contained the initial of the manufacturer (the intertwined PP now sadly dropped by Pretty Polly or an elegant A for Aristoc) then so much the better. Plain tops were less exciting, but he understood that they were also less expensive, and so they could happily be forgiven. Either way, the welt had to be reasonably deep for maximum appeal.

As you may have realised by now, fishnets did not enter the equation. They were okay in their own particular way, but just too obvious for a man of Matthew’s sophisticated taste.

Back to the list. Next comes Summer. This was a bad season as it gave women an excuse to go round with bare legs. He understood why. Tights must be uncomfortable in all that heat, but in that case why not switch to stockings? His hit rate of sightings went down dramatically during the summer months, and he welcomed autumn like an old friend.

Pop socks aka knee highs. For heaven’s sake, why? If anything looked less sexy than tights or the bare leg, it had to be the pop sock. Pop socks were for old people, and they had no part to play in Matthew’s obsession. But the fact that the great hosiery factories could turn out pop socks on lines not unadjacent to the ultimate lace top stocking perplexed him on many a lonely night.

Ankles. The final factor. If all else was right, the ultimate high came from a finely turned ankle. The ankle, perhaps, has a lesser role in this narrative than Lycra, say, or the hemline. But a good ankle was the final factor that could make Matthew fall in love.