Friday Weird Science: In times of high STDs, it's best to get a foot festish

May 04 2012 Published by under Friday Weird Science

I don't know about you, but sometimes, when I hear about all of the scary STDs there are in the world, and all the ways you can get them, I think, you know, I should switch to...FEET.

Ah, beautiful feet. Gorgeous sexy feet. Nothing looks better or cleaner when faced with the specter of gonorrhea than feet.

Now, you might be thinking, what is she going on about? Who the heck would make a connection between STDs and foot fetish?

Well, apparently, these guys did.


(Yeah baby, yeah. Source)

Gianinni et al. "SEXUALIZATION OF THE FEMALE FOOT AS A RESPONSE TO SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED EPIDEMICS: A PRELIMINARY STUDY ' Psychological Reports, 1998.

These authors are worried about feet. Specifically, they are worried about foot fetishes. While some of us see a foot fetish and think that it's just a fetish, the best-known of many different kinds, these authors saw something else. They saw...a reaction to STDs.

To back this up, they relate many stories of historical foot fetishes. They claim the first European obsession with feet during the 13th century, and correlate it with the rise of gonnorhea. The authors then claim the foot fetish went underground, only to return in the 16th century, with the rise of syphillis.

In the Sixteenth Century, an outbreak of syphhs appeared in Europe (Guicciardini, 1837). Again, there was a near-simultaneous reappearance of the foot fetish. This seems to have originated in Spain, spread to Spanish- controlled Southern Italy and then to the rest of continental Europe. Just as the early Renaissance had painters specializing in breasts, so did this period have painters who specialized in the female foot (Burchard, 1863; Marle, 1930). Popular fashion was again designed to draw attention to the foot. At this time, an added sexual aspect of the semi-covered female foot was devel- oped: "toe-cleavage." The abbreviated ventral aspect of women's shoes dis- played the base of the first two-to-three toes (Windle, 1992).

And the foot rose again in the 19th century with another outbreak of syphillis, only to sink into obscurity when a cure for syphillis was discovered. There was even an aesthically pleasing description of the ideal foot:

It was to be narrow with high arches. The toes were to be somewhat long with no "webbing" or folds of skin in between. The great toe was longer than the second toe. The nails were to be elongated with large white moons and pale-pink nail-beds. The foot itself had to be white on both plantar and ventral aspects.

(Dang, ladies, we worry enough about faces and noses and breasts and thighs and butts and legs and tummies and skin and nails and lips and eyes and knees, and now you're going to tell me my second toe is too long?!)

In looking at the rise and fall of the foot fetish, the authors hypothesized that the idealization of the foot must be because of the increase in STDs. (I take it China had a one thousand year outbreak of genital warts, then?)

...and what about now? Or rather, 1998 (when this paper was published)? What about the AIDS epidemic. This is an STD on a deadly scale. And all around them, the authors begin to see signs of the return of the FOOT:

By 1990, all general pornographic magazines had at least one "swimsuit" issue and one "lingerie" issue which served as showcases for bare-foot and sheer stockinged-foot female models

)Yes...yes the feet are TOTALLY the focus of those issues. Absolutely. How could we not have seen it BEFORE!)

Magazine articles about media celebri- ties often show the women gratuitously in their bare feet.

(*gasp* GRATUITOUS BARE FEET?!?!! *fans self, clutches pearls*)

And so the authors set out to prove that times of high STDs promote foot fetishes. If you're going to do this, you need to do it right. And this means you need to buy a LOT of PORN. Yes, loads of porn. In fact, the back issues of the 8 largest porn magazines will do for a start (I'd love to see how they justified this one for funding). They looked at all the porn from 1965-1994. For science. Obviously.

And what they found was that the presence of feet in porn has increased exponentially from 1965 to 1994.

The authors conclude that the presence of feet reflects...well I'm not sure what. After talking about STDs in the 13th century, the discussion shifts abruptly to talking about female emancipation and power, and suggest that foot fetishes have a trend that goes with the rise of STDs. The authors even suggest that people might turn to feet in times of STDs, as a safer alternative to the genital regions (because...breasts are apparently SO 12th century).

I think we can all agree that this claim seems a little spurious.

I'm not going to deny that there are probably more bare feet in porn magazines in 1994 as compared to 1965. But I'm also willing to bet that there's a lot more bare everything in porn magazines in 1994. You could probably see an increase in 1) nipples 2) shaved genitals 3) genital presentation 4) anal presentation from 1965-1994. This is not because there's more STDs in the world. Rather, it's probably because society has become less sexually repressive. And you could claim the same for the 13th, 16th, and 19th centuries (relatively speaking). Of course, there were also increases in STDs during this period, but that could also be because of increased national and international trade, exposing people to other cultures and decreasing sexual repression.

Keep in mind, I'm not saying there's anything wrong or weird about a foot fetish. On the contrary, if that's what you're both into, go to it! But I don't think that the world suddenly rediscovers feet because the chlamydia's been particularly bad. Maybe there is a correlation between mentions of feet in erotic literature and STDs, but correlation is not causation. I'd be much more likely to go with the idea that STDs are the result of sexual activity with people over a wider geographical area, and the feet just reflect the relief of sexual repression also present at the time. But maybe that's just me. Maybe we are all, subconsciously, turning to feet in times of stress. But somehow I doubt it.

GIANNINI, A. (1998). SEXUALIZATION OF THE FEMALE FOOT AS A RESPONSE TO SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED EPIDEMICS: A PRELIMINARY STUDY Psychological Reports, 83 (6) DOI: 10.2466/PR0.83.6.491-498

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