Foot fetishism, foot partialism, foot worship, or podophilia is a pronounced sexual interest in feet. It is the most common form of sexual fetishism for otherwise non-sexual objects or body parts.
Foot 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, polished toenails, high arches, soles etc.), jewelry (toe rings, ankle bracelets, etc.), treatments (such as pedicures or massaging), state of dress (barefoot, flip flops, etc.), odor, and/or sensory interaction (e.g., smelling the foot, licking, kissing, tickling, biting, etc.).
To estimate the relative frequency of fetishes, 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 (mostly males) preferring objects related to body parts, footwear (shoes, boots, etc.) was most preferred (64%).
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.[unreliable source?]
Health and disease
Some researchers have hypothesized that foot fetishism increases as a response to epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases. In one study, conducted by Dr. A James Giannini at Ohio State University an increased interest in feet as sexual objects was observed during the great gonorrhea epidemic of twelfth-century Europe, and the syphilis epidemics of the 16th and 19th centuries in Europe. In the same study, the frequency of foot-fetish depictions in pornographic literature was measured over a 30 year interval. An exponential increase was noted during the period of the current AIDS epidemic. In these cases, sexual foot play was viewed as a safe-sex alternative. However, the researchers noted that these epidemics overlapped periods of relative female emancipation. Sexual focus on female feet was also hypothesized to have been a reflection of a more dominant posture of the woman in sexual-social relations. (The first surviving mention of foot fetish is by Bertold of Regensburg in 1220.)
Neurologist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran proposed that foot fetishism is caused by the feet and the genitals occupying adjacent areas of the somatosensory cortex, possibly entailing some neural crosstalk between the two.
Freud's reading of foot-fetishism also involved early imprinting; but he considered the smell of feet significant in this, as well as the foot as penis-symbol/surrogate (castration complex, especially when encountered while voyeuristic exploring the female body from below. Otto Fenichel similarly saw castration fear as significant in foot fetishism, citing a future fetishist who as an adolescent said to himself “You must remember this throughout life – that girls, too, have legs”, to protect himself from the fear. Where fear of the (castrated) female body is too great, desire is felt not for shoes on female feet but for women's shoes alone, without women.
- In Thomas Pynchon's Bleeding Edge, the MILF private eye heroine absent-mindedly “footles” the condom-clad geek whose psychosexual profile and stiletto fetish she is investigating.
- The jester Feste, the main character in Alan Gordon's Fools' Guild series of historical mysteries, is a foot fetishist.
Notable foot fetishists from the past
- Hickey, Eric W. (2006). Sex Crimes and Paraphilia. Pearson Education. p. 165. ISBN 9780131703506.
- Dobson, R. (25 February 2007). "Heels are the world's No 1 fetish." The Independent
- Cameron Kippen (November 2004). [dead link] "The History of Footwear – Foot Sex". Retrieved 8 June 2007.
- Scorolli C et al.(2007) "Relative prevalence of different fetishes" in: International Journal of Impotence Research advance online publication 15 February 2007; doi:10.1038/sj.ijir.3901547. http://www.nature.com/ijir/journal/v19/n4/abs/3901547a.html retrieved March 2007
- Dobson, Roger (2007) "Heels are the World's No. 1 Fetish." The Independent, http://news.independent.co.uk/sci_tech/article2303022.ece, accessed 29 October 2007
- "Rex Ryan's Apparent Foot Fetish Not Necessarily Unhealthy - ABC News". Abcnews.go.com. 2010-12-23. Retrieved 2013-03-14.
- http://www.chaimedia.com/list/197.html[dead link]
- AOL's Accidental Release of Search Data – The Sexmind of America.aphrodisiology.com, accessed June 2007[dead link]
- AJ Giannini et al., op. cit.
- Giannini, AJ; Colapietro, G; Slaby, AE; Melemis, SM; Bowman, RK (1998). "Sexualization of the female foot as a response to sexually transmitted epidemics: a preliminary study". Psychological reports 83 (2): 491–8. doi:10.2466/pr0.83.6.491-498. PMID 9819924.
- Coulton, G. C. (1923) Life in the Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
- Kringelbach, Morten. Bodily Illusions. kringelbach.dk last accessed Sept 2006.
- Desmond Morris, The Naked Ape Trilogy (1994) p. 279-80
- Sigmund Freud, On Sexuality (PFL 7) p. 68n
- Quoted in O. Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (1946) p. 327
- O. Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (1946) p. 343
- Georges Bataille, Visions of Excess (1985) p. 23
- Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge (2013) p. 225-6
- Gordon, Alan (2010). The Parisian Prodigal. Minotaur Books. pp. 58, 86–87.
- "Feet first". The Times (London). 20 May 2007. Retrieved 2 April 2010.[dead link]
- Beitiks, Edvins (3 August 1997). "Elvis". SFGate. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
- "Pumped Up Perfume". Elle. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
- Alastair Sooke (30 July 2007). "Lifting the lid on Warhol's Time Capsules". The Daily Telegraph (London, England). Retrieved 29 November 2008. "Warhol had a serious foot fetish..."
- Havelock Ellis (1936), Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Vol. II, New York: Random House
- William Rossi (1989), The Sex Life of the Foot and Shoe, Malabar: Krieger Publishing Company. ISBN 0894645730
- Sheila Jeffreys (2005), Beauty and Misogyny: Harmful Cultural Practices in the West, New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415351820
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