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Foot kinks vs. foot fetishism: a history of prejudice
Seeing the foot as an appealing - and erogenous - body part is an extremely ancient notion, present in human civilizations that can be traced back to the Bronze Age. As pointed out by Zwipp H. in a peer-reviewed scientific paper published in 2019 (see sources at the end): in many human societies throughout history, the feet were associated with eroticism and sexuality. They were also a symbol of respect, reverence and subservience. Feet washing and anointing were seen as acts of humility and love. In Zwipp's words, "the foot is an ambassador of our emotions in non-verbal communication". With the help of our feet, we can stand (thus freeing our hands to other uses), we can walk, run, hunt, but also approach each other, not only symbolically, but also in fact.
It was only during the 19th century (barely more than a century ago) that the notion of "podophilia" began to be constructed (foot fetishism as a "paraphilia", prescribing to it a bad connotation as an undesirable "sexual deviation"). This notion was both created and expanded by speculative philosophy, and prescribed as absolute truth, rather than a scientific approach of analyzing empirical evidence and coming up with consistent theoretical models before reaching more definitive conclusions. It began when the Austro-German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing published his work Psychopathia Sexualis, one of the first texts about "sexual pathologies" (composed mostly of what would presently be called kink shaming). The Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud later expanded on those notions, not only coining the term "sadomasochism" as a unified block (and prescribing that sadism and masochism were part of a same thing, which is presently known by neuroscience to be a false statement), but also further speculating about his questionable understanding of foot kinks.
During the second half of the 20th century, even when a more scientific approach started to be applied, a heavy selection bias in mostly studying foot kinks in the context of convicted criminals (such as serial killers) has only furthered the stigma around the topic.
We hope to help clarify that this was not always the case, and it definitely doesn't need to be - foot kinks can be healthy and rewarding, leading to very desirable and intimate exchanges, when there is proper understanding and adequate communication of the underlying context.
While both "foot kinks" and "foot fetishes" are often used interchangeably, we avoid using the word "fetishism" here because of its ambiguity with the meaning of this word in a clinical setting, where it is meant to imply something is undesirable or "abnormal". While every kink (as a form of pleasure-seeking behavior) can indeed be taken to unhealthy extremes sometimes, there is no evidence to endorse the notion that foot kinks present a higher risk of that. The modern-day hesitance with this kink is purely cultural, a social construct - while those can, sometimes, have their merit, in this case there is not really any justifiable reason behind it; it's just the left-over prejudice stemming from the recent historical biases explained above.
Our feet can represent the ability to stand up - independence.
The ability to walk or run, allowing for hunts and chases - mobility.
The ability to step on and even walk over something - dominance.
These are just a few examples of the reasoning that may have led to why the human foot has always been seen as such a noteworthy part of our bodies, since our very first civilizations, as mentioned by Zwipp H.
Until the (fairly recent) invention and global availability of the first mechanized vehicles, human beings have always had to walk or run everywhere, all the time. Even after the domestication of horses, humans still had to physically walk during most of their lives. This means the feet were always exposed and vulnerable, to some extent, and often required care and attention. This understanding makes it very simple to see why acts such as feet washing and anointing were seen as very intimate or meaningful gestures. To take care of one's feet meant, in reality, to take care of what was likely to be that person's most worn out body part.
The feet have also historically been associated with a symbol of dominance and submission. To worship one's feet, such as kneeling down to kiss the feet of a King or Emperor, is a well-known way to convey submission to that authority.
In a modern-day context, it is still entirely plausible to perceive the feet as a symbol of dominance, for example, in the context of stepping on someone who is laying down, intentionally and consensually, as a way to convey the ongoing power dynamic.
Variations of foot kinks
Foot kinks can manifest in many different ways. To say someone has a foot kink is not necessarily implying that person enjoys all of them. This is a common misconception: people with a foot kink do not necessarily see the foot as an attractive body part by itself, but rather its usage within a context that implies a dynamic, such as domination/submission. Of course some people do see the foot as an attractive body part, and that is also completely valid. It's just a good idea to clarify what a person means by saying they have a foot kink, during the negotiations of a dynamic.
- Foot teasing: the usage of a foot to tease someone, such as pressing against their inner thighs or around genital areas, can be very arousing. This act can imply many possible non-verbal layers of communication, such as domination (to arouse someone merely with your feet, without requiring the use of your hands, can be perceived as a position of dominance, considering how easy it is for the dominant to arouse its submissive), subtletly (feet can be used in discrete ways to arouse someone, such as the classic example of extending one's foot under the table to touch a partner's genital area) or versatility (by arousing someone with a foot, the hands are still free to perform additional acts of arousal).
- Footjobs: the name used for the act of actually masturbating someone with one's feet, for direct sexual pleasure (either leading to an orgasm or just as a form of edging - click here for more information about orgasm control).
- Foot worship: to those who perceive the feet as an attractive body part itself (without necessarily requiring the contexts described in the examples above), the mere act of worshipping their partner's feet may be arousing. This includes merely seeing their feet or actually performing something with them, such as kissing or caressing them. Sometimes this may extend to shoes, socks, stockings and so on — anything that wraps around the foot. Some people are also aroused by the smell of used shoes or socks, possibly as a type of desired degradation/humiliation, which goes into an aspect of psychological masochism (meaning this is likely an instance of intersection between foot kinks and masochism). Moreover, it's also an instance of sensation play using the sense of smell, so it can be an interesection of three things: foot kinks, masochism and sensation play.
- Stepping and trampling [trigger warning for severe injuries]: Erotic stepping is not always the same as erotic trampling, which means to actually walk over someone - a riskier activity. You can step on a partner just as a way of teasing and implying domination, without necessarily putting your body weight on them. To trample someone, on the other hand, means to actually use your body weight to sustain yourself with your feet on their body, either standing still or walking over them. Keep in mind this is a very dangerous activity, with a high risk of causing moderate to severe injuries, so be very careful during negotiations to clearly communicate and go over the risks together before doing it. You should never (literally) jump while trampling, because this increases the risk of injury dramatically. If trampling by standing on someone's chest, you should keep in mind this is going to restrict their thoracic cavity expansion, impairing their ability to breathe (see breath play). There is also an inherent risk of unintentional bone breaking (for essentially any body part) when trampling, which may vary a lot depending on the weight difference of those involved. There is no golden rule for guaranteeing the safety of trampling, so this should be discussed within the confines of each relationship, as a high risk, advanced kink. We highly encourage you to start by just stepping without using your body weight, as a way to convey domination through non-verbal communication. If you do wish to go further than that, having previously communicated using proper safety protocols [see RACK and FRIES], it is ideal to proceed gradually, being very attentive of your partner's reactions. Bone breaking is, however, a sudden occurrence, so both must be aware of that risk beforehand - if there is a sudden onset of intense pain, the scene should be interrupted and medical assistance sought immediately. Trampling over the abdomen should not be seen as "safer" because of the lack of bone-breaking risk, as it can still lead to severe injuries of abdominal organs, potentially even lethal ones. We highly discourage trampling on someone's abdomen and head (especially on the sides of the head, where the temporal bone of the skull is thinner and may break more easily), based on the risks addressed by the sources below regarding blunt abdominal trauma and traumatic brain injuries, both of which can be lethal even in cases of blunt injuries with a relatively low kinetic energy (such as trampling a person with one's body weight).