I first met Erica, a 20 year old podophile, online, through a mutual friend. We chatted a bit before meeting in person and I was amazed at how much she told me, a virtual stranger, about herself. She is a 21 year old undergraduate who is in a long term relationship with another student and is a tall, well-dressed, and somewhat intellectual woman who has a huge range of interests and otherwise a fairly normal university lifestyle apart from the fact that she is a foot fetishist. When I told people I was interviewing a foot fetishist, I was astonished at how many people at least know, or know of, a foot fetishist. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since foot fetishism is one of the most common fetishes but it isn’t a huge part of mainstream dialogue about BDSM, despite foot-licking and toe sucking being in the 50 Shades of Grey novels and the fact that lots of famous people, including Elvis and Pharell, have openly admitted to having foot fetishes. However, no one I spoke to would admit to being a foot fetishist and there were quite a few jokes about dirty old men, so I guess people aren’t so liberal about fetishes and BDSM as one tends to think they are.
Erica was almost the exact antithesis of a dirty old man. The only unusual aspect of Erica’s life is the fact that she is aroused by touching, smelling, and generally interacting with feet and feet-related things, like shoes and socks. Erica and her girlfriend often spend hours looking at shoes and Erica often enjoys giving Maddie (her girlfriend) foot massages. She also, like many of the stereotypes suggest, enjoys sweaty tennis shoes and used socks. She also told me about how she enjoys having her back massaged with feet instead of hands.
The fact that foot fetishism is considered so subversive does seem odd to me, especially since it has a long history in literature and doesn’t generally involve violence. After having explained that to her, Erica said that she still wanted to be anonymous (Erica is a pseudonym and some of the details in this piece have been altered so that she can remain unidentifiable) and I have to say, I really did wonder why.
Apparently even close friends do not know and she said she would never try to explain it to her parents. I ask if she would ever tell her friends and she says that she may one day but that she is currently still uncomfortable with the idea. I am interested in this fact because Erica is openly lesbian and has been since she was thirteen and so it seemed odd that she wouldn’t tell her friends about what she considers a fundamental aspect of her sexuality.
Next, I asked if she felt that coming out as a lesbian woman was comparable to coming out as a foot fetishist and she explained that it was because she was a lesbian woman that she was not open about her foot fetish.
According to Erica, both the LGBTQIA+ and the BDSM communities are extremely accepting of the other but because mainstream depictions of BDSM are so often heteronormative, she feels that the larger society of straight, vanilla people would absolutely not accept her. She felt that it was far easier to hide her foot fetishism than her sexuality so she doesn’t discuss it with anyone apart from her girlfriend. Basically, she said that being a foot fetishist and a lesbian means that people are twice as likely to discriminate against her, so it is possible that coming out as a foot fetishist and coming out as a lesbian are analogous but, in her case, they aren’t at all.
A lot of time has been spent attempting to understand the psychology of fetish with people like Freud weighing in on why people have fetishes. And, it is important to say that psychology has said that people who practise BDSM are not mentally ill.
But still, because I am not a psychoanalyser or even close to one, I really didn’t want to attempt trying to psychoanalyse Erica and I felt (and feel) that it would be entirely inappropriate and offensive to do so.
Erica feels that she works through some of her own personal past experiences through kink and since it helps her feel better, and be more confident it seems ridiculous to judge her.
Erica enjoys sex and the way she has sex does not hurt, bother, or annoy anyone else, so why should I, or anyone else, have any say in how she has sex?
In my opinion, this is a fairly mild kink but it is very interesting that it is so stigmatized by society