It took a shoe for me to realize the sexiness of feet. Growing up as a teen in the suburbs of LA, I spent years painting my toenails. Not because I thought my feet were pretty but more because I thought all feet were gross. I dreaded sandal-weather (any month but January basically), when everyone would paddle around in flip-flops with their hammertoes, fungus nails, dry cuticles, cracked skin, flaky feet, callouses, corns, bunions, missing pinky toenails, chipped polish, and monkey toes that hung over the edge of too-small sandals. I never really understood the draw of sandals, even in the 95-degree heat that made me angry my family couldn’t rent a house with a pool for once.
But back to this shoe. Maybe it was the sky-high heel I had never tried before. The six-inch heel is so tall that it demands attention. Something about this type of shoe is made to entice, arouse, or titillate. It is a sex object in and of itself. And there, by association, are my feet. Stepping into high heels thrusts the butt out and defines the calves. Of course, they can also shorten your legs over time, but for those few minutes I strutted around in the store…and then in my room…and then in my boy’s apartment…I knew my feet — not my ass or my legs even — were on display. FOR SEX.
For some, there is no divider between fashion and fetish. I grew into my adolescence on the tail end of Sex and the City, and you hardly need to argue that Carrie has a fashion obsession that borders on shoe fetish…or at least the appreciation of and hopeful recipient of a shoe fetishist. For me, though, the cheap flashy shoes I scavenged for were part of my “unique style” and lived in the same world as my big dangly, glimmering earrings. This was not about sex or someone appreciating my feet in a sexual way. This was about kicking the mundane hallways of Converse and Nikes. And flip-flops.
A foot fetish is the most common “non-sexual” fetish…that is, if you consider feet to be a non-sexual body part. I don’t quite understand the whys of it…not that many people understand the whys of fetishes anyhow. But I certainly don’t judge it or consider it abnormal. We all have our fetishes.
Some will say that feet offer a body part unlikely to spread STIs…but that still doesn’t explain why feet. Why not hands, bellies, calves, armpits? Others say it can be a sort of D/s fetish: the feet, because they touch the ground, are the lowest body part a supplicant can and is worthy enough to worship.
The shoes that made me see my feet as sexy were out of my comfort zone. As a 5’7″ woman who consistently dates men who claim to be 5’10” or 5’11” but are actually two inches shorter than that, I tend not to wear big heels. Also, I lived on top of a behemoth hill for three years. And I like walking without feeling hobbled.
The shoes were peep-toe, and I remember swearing off peep-toed shoes. They made my first two toes look like fat, overstuffed, and squished sausages sweating next to one another. They also required nail polish, and once I graduated from high school, I no longer had the time to crouch like a hunchback, apply a base coat, dry, apply a second coat, dry, apply a top coat, dry some more, and then go over all my mistakes with nail-polish remover and a Q-tip.
But then, a few months back, when one date practically begged to see my naked foot, I reconsidered the ugliness of at least my own feet. A good-looking foot can be quite sensuous and preserved in a Victorian-women-don’t-work sort of way: smooth skin, with the look that they’ve been a priority for this woman. Cared for, fussed over.
And not that I’m any expert at all in reflexology, but there is something powerful and luxurious about getting a foot massage or caring for someone else’s feet. Not to say that all Christians are foot-fetishists, but you know, they got at least one thing right. Because I finally found beauty in my own feet and knew I could appreciate a good spa pedicure complete with suds and foot rubs, I came to understand the fetish without really understanding the fetish.
Being on the receiving end of a foot fetish is a decadence. So if I can understand the appeal of receiving feet attention, I can start to understand the desiring of feet. That’s not to say I still don’t find most feet ugly. I do. I also find socks with sandals even uglier. But at least I can see the beauty of my own feet (and select others) and allow myself to share them with people who may appreciate them. My feet are sexy! Flip-flops, on the other hand, are still gross.
Image from Daisy Gold.
The Sexual Manifesto is Christine Borden’s weekly column on sex in the city, sex and culture, and, well, sex. Got a tip for Christine (and it’s not in your pants)? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.