Footsie, Anyone? A Sex Therapist Answers Our Titillating Questions About Foot Fetishism (Exclusive)

"Historically, we have worshipped people by touching [their] feet. It feels good to look and to touch."

Bianca Piazza - Author

May 23 2024, Published 9:48 a.m. ET

Still of Margaret Qualley and Brad Pitt in Quentin Tarantino's 'Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood'
Source: Columbia Pictures

As presented in Luke 7:36-50 in the Bible, Mary Magdalene — deemed a "sinful" woman — wept onto Jesus Christ's feet at the feast in the House of Simon the Pharisee. She let her tears wash over his skin, drying his feet with her hair, peppering them with kisses, and rubbing a perfumed ointment onto them. The Courtauld Institute of Art detailed that the sinner worshipped Christ by "kneeling in humility."

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Submission and glorification, a clear power imbalance, implications of a "dirty girl" — clearly teetering into fetish territory.

But we're not here to make anyone clutch their pearls. We simply want to get to the bottom of one of the most common and taboo fetishes: the foot fetish. So, why do people like feet in the bedroom? More specifically, why do guys like feet?

Two hands massage a woman's foot as the other soaks in a bowl of soapy water
Source: iStock
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It turns out people really like feet. A data study from FeetFinder — "the safest, largest, and easiest website to view, buy, and sell feet content" — analyzed all 50 U.S. states' Google searches concerning foot fetish-related keywords.

"Americans are searching for foot fetish-related search terms nearly 1.5 million times per month on average," a FeetFinder spokesperson said, as per an email shared with Green Matters.

Our burning questions paired with the uptick in erotic foot-centric scenes in mainstream entertainment — as seen in 2022's Bros, 2022's Talk to Me, and 2024's Love Lies Bleeding — led us to a sexpert.

In conversation with Green Matters, Moushumi Ghose, MFT — a licensed marriage and family therapist, author, filmmaker, and owner of Los Angeles Sex Therapy (LAST) — shared reasons people may eroticize this non-genital body part.

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What qualifies as a foot fetish?

Sexual acts in line with "footjobs," toe sucking, and lower phalanges placed in various orifices are associated with foot fetishism, also called podophilia.

"A foot fetish essentially is the eroticization of feet! It can be painted toe nails, or fishnet stockings, it can be feet in high heel pumps, or just incorporating feet during intimate and erotic touch," Moushumi Ghose explains via email.

Biology plays a role in foot fetishism. But why do people like feet pics?

While closed-minded individuals may abash those with a foot fetish, "kink-positive sex therapist" Ghose explains the natural appeal with zero judgment.

"There are so many nerve endings in our feet, which makes them highly sensitive," she states, referencing tickling.

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The Canadian Federation of Podiatric Medicine noted that there are more nerve endings per square centimeter in the foot than anywhere else on the body. There are over 200,000 nerve endings in each foot.

Not only that but Medical News Today wrote that neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran suggests the area of the brain that processes "sensory input" from feet neighbors the area that processes genital stimulation. This may explain a link between feet and sexual arousal.

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"Photos of feet are hugely popular on FeetFinder, OnlyFans, and way more," Ghose details.

As for why guys like photos of feet, FeetFinder noted that feet are usually covered, hidden even. The idea of a private reveal can be exciting. And because the sexualization of feet is customarily deemed a "forbidden desire," purchasing feet pics is thrilling to some.

"We also associate them with being stinky, smelly, they carry us around, and frankly, [they] are not the most attractive part on the body. [This] coupled with the actual way that it feels when our feet are touched, you've got the makings of an arousing but taboo fetish," Ghose continues.

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Status, submission, and safe sex: foot fetishism has historical roots.

Concerning straight men's fascination with tootsies, Ghose points to cultural beauty standards put on women.

"Men in our culture in particular historically have been obsessed with women's feet, as women go to great lengths to make their feet look attractive," she says.

And while Pleaser heels and thigh-high stockings are modern foot-enhancing accessories with kinky connotations, foot fetishism and fetishism-adjacent practices have historical significance.

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As per the Toronto Star, a 1998 article in the Psychological Reports peer-reviewed journal noted that the first recorded mention of foot fetishism in the Western world was by Franciscan Friar Bertold of Regensburg, born in 1220.

Historically, foot play sees a rise in popularity during STD scares, including Europe's 12th century gonorrhea epidemic, Europe's 16th and 19th century syphilis epidemics, and the more recent AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.

An on-the-nose historical reference is the female foot-binding practice of China, which began during the Song dynasty (circa the 10th century) and ended at the tail end of the Quin dynasty, as per the Australian Museum. Smithsonian Magazine even compared Chinese foot-binding to the super-cinched, corseted waists of Victorian England, observing that they both "represented the height of female refinement." Specifically, foot-binding "refinement" is closely tied to subordination and submission to men.

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Aside from its association with crushing bones, rotting flesh, and the elite, Smithsonian wrote that the foot-binding process created a stride that depended on thigh and buttock muscles. Because of this, the publication gathered that the custom was "imbued with erotic overtones."

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However, according to Sigmund Freud, foot fetishism isn't about submission, status, or safe sex. He unsurprisingly believed it's all about phallic symbolism. Professor Joanna Bourke of Gresham College wrote that this viewpoint (an arguably misogynistic one) stemmed from his early childhood castration complex theory. "The foot replaces the penis, which is so much missed in the woman," Freud proclaimed.

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Sexpert Moushumi Ghose on normalizing foot fetishism: "It's been around for ages."

Mainstream culture tends to view those with fetishes as unusual, promiscuous sexual deviants, as if all fetishists attend dungeon play parties and own latex bondage suits (more power to you).

In reality, the Connecticut Voice reported that a 2018 survey found that one in four American adults have a specific fetish.

"Foot fetishes are incredibly common. I believe it's because they are so commonplace," Ghose tells us. In view of the ordinariness of feet and the generally unproblematic nature of the fetish, she believes it's "high time we normalize foot fetishes."

"People of all genders and sexual orientations love to worship feet or to be worshipped. ... Let's let it all hang out!"

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