Foot fetishism

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The Countess with the whip, an illustration by Martin van Maele Martin van Maele - La Comtesse au fouet 01.jpg
The Countess with the whip, an illustration by Martin van Maële

Foot fetishism, foot partialism, foot worshipping [1] or podophilia, is a pronounced sexual interest in feet. [2] [3] It is the most common form of sexual fetishism for otherwise non-sexual objects or body parts. [4]


Foot fetishism has been defined as a pronounced sexual interest in feet. For a foot fetishist, points of attraction may include the shape and size of feet and toes (e.g. long toes, short toes, painted toenails, short or long toenail beds, high arches, soles, etc.), jewelry (e.g. toe rings, anklets, etc.), treatments (such as massaging, washing partner's feet or painting partner's toenails), state of dress (barefoot, flip flops, sandals, high heels, [5] hosiery, socked feet, etc.), foot odor or sensory interaction (e.g., rubbing the foot, tickling, smelling, kissing, biting, licking, sucking toes, rubbing genitals on foot, etc.). [6]

Extensions of this fetish include shoes, socks, odour fetishism and tickling. Sigmund Freud also considered foot binding as a form of fetishism, [7] [8] although this view was disputed. [9]

Odor fetishism (pertaining to the smell of feet) seems to play a major role in foot fetishism, and is closely related to it: in a 1994 study, 45% of those with a foot fetish were found to be aroused by smelly socks or feet, making it one of the most widespread forms of olfactophilia. [10]

In extreme cases, an individual with a pronounced sexual interest in feet could possibly be diagnosed with fetishism disorder (characterized by the eroticization of non-living objects and body parts) if they are in adherence with the following symptoms: [11]

Relative frequency

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 prevalence of different fetishes based on the following elements:

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.). [4]

Foot fetishism is the most common form of sexual fetish related to the body. [12]

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. [13]

Foot fetishism may be more common in men than in women. A survey of 1027 members of the general Belgian population in 2017 found 76 men (17%) and 23 women (4%) who answered "Agree" or "Strongly agree" to a fetish interest in feet. [14]


Similar to other forms of sexual fetishism, no consensus has yet been established about the specific causes of foot fetishism. While many works on the topic exist, their conclusions are often regarded as highly speculative.[ citation needed ]

Foot fetishism may be caused by the feet and the genitals occupying adjacent areas of the somatosensory cortex, possibly entailing some neural crosstalk between the two. [15] Neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran has noted amputees reporting orgasms in their feet. [16]

The cortical homunculus (also known as Penfield's Homunculus), a map of the human brain illustrating respective locations for where different parts of the body are processed, shows a possible link between the feet and toes to the genitalia. [17] [ failed verification ] There exists controversy regarding this neural crosslink, as some medical professionals have been known to question the simplicity of the map in comparison to reality.[ citation needed ]

Desmond Morris considered foot fetishism the result of mal-imprinting at an early age, the tactile pressure of a foot/shoe being important in this. [18]

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 voyeuristically exploring the female body from below). [19] 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. [20] 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. [21]

Georges Bataille saw the lure of the feet as linked to their anatomical baseness (abjection). [22]

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. [23] 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 footplay was viewed as a safe sex alternative. [24] However, the researchers noted that these epidemics overlapped periods of relative female emancipation. [25]

Society and culture

Some of the earliest recorded instances of foot fetishism occur in the erotic poems To a Barefoot Woman and To a Barefoot Boy attributed to the Ancient Greek writer Philostratus. [26] [27] Another reference to the fetish is made by Bertold of Regensburg in 1220. [28] F. Scott Fitzgerald was described by a mistress as a foot fetishist, [29] and himself referred to a "Freudian shame about his feet". [30]

Actor Idris Elba has confirmed in interviews since 2013 that he has a foot fetish, [31] [32] [33] for example in 2016 telling UK Esquire "I've got a foot fetish. Women's feet." [34] and answering in the affirmative to the question while connected to a polygraph for Vanity Fair in 2019. [35] Other contemporary celebrities who have told interviewers, "I have a foot fetish" (or a slight variation thereof) include Brooke Burke, [36] Enrique Iglesias, [37] Tommy Lee, [38] Ludacris, [39] Ricky Martin, [40] and Todd Phillips. [41]

In 2020 an artist collective released This Foot Does Not Exist, a project that uses generative adversarial networks to generate new "foot pics" by text message request. [42] [43]

See also

Related Research Articles

Fetish may refer to:

Fetish model

A fetish model is a model who models fetish clothing or devices that augment his or her body in a fetish-like manner or in fetishistic situations, though he or she may not work exclusively in that form of modeling.

Sexual fetishism or erotic fetishism is a sexual fixation on a nonliving object or nongenital body part. The object of interest is called the fetish; the person who has a fetish for that object is a fetishist. A sexual fetish may be regarded as a non-pathological aid to sexual excitement, or as a mental disorder if it causes significant psychosocial distress for the person or has detrimental effects on important areas of their life. Sexual arousal from a particular body part can be further classified as partialism.

Boot Type of footwear extending above the ankle joint

A boot, plural boots, is a type of specific footwear. Most boots mainly cover the foot and the ankle, while some also cover some part of the lower calf. Some boots extend up the leg, sometimes as far as the knee or even the hip. Most boots have a heel that is clearly distinguishable from the rest of the sole, even if the two are made of one piece. Traditionally made of leather or rubber, modern boots are made from a variety of materials. Boots are worn both for their functionality – protecting the foot and leg from water, extreme cold, mud or hazards or providing additional ankle support for strenuous activities with added traction requirements, or may have hobnails on their undersides to protect against wear and to get better grip; and for reasons of style and fashion.

Shoe fetishism

Shoe 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 (1734–1806), also known as Rétif de la Bretonne.

Medical fetishism refers to a number of sexual fetishes involving objects, practices, environments, and situations of a medical or clinical nature. In sexual roleplay a hospital or medical scene involves the sex partners assuming the roles of doctors, nurses, surgeons and patients to act out specific or general medical fetishes. Medical fantasy is a genre in pornography, though the fantasy may not necessarily involve pornography or sexual activity.

Footjob Sexual practice using feet

A footjob is a non-penetrative sexual practice with the feet that involves one's feet being rubbed on a partner in order to induce sexual excitement, stimulation or orgasm. In some cases it can be part of a foot fetish. Footjobs are most often performed on penises, with one partner using their feet or toes to stroke or rub the other partner's genital area. The term footjob may also refer to the practice of using one's feet or toes to caress a partner's breasts or vulva.

Elmer Batters

Elmer Albert Batters was a pioneer fetish photographer who specialized in capturing artful images of women with an emphasis on stockings, legs, and feet, placing him ahead of his time in popularizing foot fetishism imagery as erotic entertainment.

Glove fetishism

Glove fetishism is a sexual fetishism where an individual is sexually stimulated by another person or oneself wearing gloves on their hands. In some cases, the fetish is enhanced by the material of the glove. Often, the actions of a gloved hand are as arousing as the glove itself, because the glove provides a second skin, or in other words a fetishistic surrogate for the wearer's own skin. Medical gloves and rubber gloves provide not only a safer sex environment, but also give a latex glove fetishist great pleasure. Subtle movements by the gloved fingers or the hand as a whole can provide the individual with a great visual stimulus and ultimately sexual arousal. The act of putting gloves on, or slipping them off the hands, can also be a source of glove fetish fantasy. Smell is also a factor when it comes to latex, rubber, and leather gloves. This is also often an extension of hand fetishism.

Boot fetishism

Boot fetishism is a sexual fetish focused on boots. Boots have become the object of sexual attraction amounting to fetishism for some people and they have become a standard accessory in BDSM scenes and a fashion accessory in music videos. Boots are seen as perhaps the most fetishistic of all footwear and boots may be the most popular fetish clothing attire.

A crush fetish is a fetish and a paraphilia in which sexual arousal is associated with observing objects being crushed or being crushed oneself. The crushed objects vary from inanimate items, to injurious and/or fatal crushing of invertebrates, or vertebrates.

Tickle torture is the use of tickling to abuse, dominate, harass, humiliate, or interrogate an individual. While laughter is popularly thought of as a pleasure response, in tickle torture, the one being tickled may laugh whether or not they find the experience pleasant. In a tickling situation, laughter can indicate a panic reflex rather than a pleasure response. Tickle torture may be a consensual activity or one that is forced, depending on the circumstances. In a consensual form, tickle torture may be part of a mutually fulfilling, physically-intimate act between partners. However, forced tickle torture can cause real physical and mental distress in a victim, which is why it has been used as an interrogation method or to simply show dominance over another person.

Hair fetishism

Hair fetishism, also known as hair partialism and trichophilia, is a partialism in which a person sees hair – most commonly, head hair – as particularly erotic and sexually arousing. Arousal may occur from seeing or touching hair, whether head hair, armpit hair, chest hair or fur. Head-hair arousal may come from seeing or touching very long or short hair, wet hair, certain colors of hair or a particular hairstyle. Pubephilia is sexual arousal at the sight or feel of pubic hair.

Ballet boot

The ballet boot is a contemporary style of fetish footwear that merges the look of the pointe shoe with a high heel. The idea is to restrict the wearer's feet almost en pointe, like those of a ballerina, with the aid of long, slender heels. When upright, the feet are held nearly vertical by the shoe, thus putting nearly all of the body's weight on the tips of the toes. However, a properly tight fit will hold the shoe to the wearer's instep and heel, thereby reducing the weight on the wearer's toes.

Navel fetishism

Navel fetishism, belly button fetishism, or alvinophilia is a partialism in which an individual is attracted to the human navel.

Clothing fetish

Clothing fetishism or garment fetishism is a sexual fetish that revolves around a fixation upon a particular article or type of clothing, a particular fashion or uniform, or a person dressed in such a style.


Partialism is sexual interest with an exclusive focus on a specific part of the body other than genitals. Partialism is categorized as a fetishistic disorder in the DSM-5 of the American Psychiatric Association only if it causes significant psychosocial distress for the person or has detrimental effects on important areas of their life. In the DSM-IV, it was considered a separate paraphilia, but was merged into fetishistic disorder by the DSM-5. Individuals who exhibit partialism sometimes describe the anatomy of interest to them as having equal or greater erotic attraction for them as do the genitals.

Sock Item of clothing for the feet

A sock is a piece of clothing worn on the feet and often covering the ankle or some part of the calf. Some type of shoe or boot is typically worn over socks. In ancient times, socks were made from leather or matted animal hair. In the late 16th century, machine-knit socks were first produced. Until 1800 both hand knitting and machine knitting were used to produce socks, but after 1800, machine knitting became the predominant method.

Underwear fetishism Sexual fetishism relating to undergarments

Underwear fetishism is a sexual fetishism relating to undergarments, and refers to preoccupation with the sexual excitement of certain types of underwear, including panties, stockings, pantyhose, bras, or other items. Some people can experience sexual excitement from wearing, while others get their excitement when observing, handling, or smelling the underwear worn by another, or watching somebody putting underwear on or taking it off.

Foot odor is a type of body odor that affects the feet of humans. It is sometimes considered to be an unpleasant smell, but can also be the target of foot fetishism, more specifically as a form of olfactophilia.


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Further reading

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