Wednesday, May 06, 2015
The Marquis De Sade (1740-1814) and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836-1895) have both given their names to forms of eroticism in which pleasure and pain, voluptuousness and suffering are closely allied. De Sade took pleasure in the pain he inflicted whereas von Sacher-Masoch attained the same ends, by the pain he endured.
Freud thought within each of us there is both the sadist and masochist and these character traits for most, lay latent and repressed. Forms of sadism run the gambit from the fairly common carefully controlled play-acting with a willing partner, to the very rare aggressive behaviours that may include falanga, rape or even murder.
In the former mild pain may result from such acts as tickling and biting Likewise masochism can range from mild to extreme. High heel, bondage at one end of the spectrum to genuinely painful activities such as: whippings, semi strangulation, being trampled and self mutilation.
Richard von Krafft-Ebing considered the majority of shoe fetishists were masochists where the male is physically damaged by the women's high heel shoe. All this interest occurred at a time when the camera was invented which would herald the beginning of modern pornography. The growth of foot fetishism also mirrors the sexploitation of children and possibly for similar reasons. Although sexploitation of children has been with the human race since the beginning of time, fear of contracting a sexually transmitted disease may account for interests in virgins.
A patriarchal society totally devoted to wealth and the fear of bastard claims on material possessions further promoted interest in purity and chastity.
Tuesday, May 05, 2015
Podophobia describes an abnormal or persistent fear of feet. Not to be confused with ipod-phobia which is a fear of MP3s. Podophobia is reasonably common anxiety phobia which describes people with an acute aversion to the sight of feet, either their own or other peoples. Symptoms vary from a mild dislike to physiological changes such as breathlessness, dizziness, excessive sweating, nausea, dry mouth, feeling sick, shaking, heart palpitations, or even a complete anxiety attack. Further some people become quite angry and very upset at both sight and touch of their feet and in some cases even when others like the doctor or podiatrist, is talking about their feet. Podophobics receive little sympathy and are often made fun of by others who do not quite understand anxiety phobia.
Podophobia most often presents as a specific phobia triggered by feet or their association but can also be part of a social phobia which involves fear of other people and social relationships. Most podophobics cope by adopting abnormal behaviours which usually involve ornate rituals covering their feet from sight even when sleeping. Many avoid the company of others and usually demonstrate low self esteem. The symptoms manifest only when the person has to display their feet in the company of others.
Most specific phobias can be traced back to a triggering event, usually a traumatic experience at an early age but social phobias are more complex and the cause remains unknown. This most seriously affected by social anxiety suffer clinical depression with many resorting to alcohol and drug dependency. Podophobics are usually fully aware their reaction to feet is quite illogical and groundless but they have no control to stop the high anxiety cause by their presence.
Biochemically anxiety arises as part of the natural flight or fight mechanism when the hormone adrenalin is released. Once the danger has passed blood adrenalin level usually return to normal but in some people the high adrenalin levels continue causing the heart rate to continue to speed up matched with faster breathing. Temporary reduced blood supply to the brain may cause dizziness and other changes caused by high anxiety produce many sensations and thoughts that are mostly misinterpreted by the sufferer as being sinister or threatening. Podophobia is classified as an anxiety disorder and is neither a physical nor mental condition.
Anxiety is a natural response to fear and, like other bodily systems that can falter under stress podophobia is no different to nervous indigestion, palpitations or sensitive eyes. Phobias often occur after a stressful event such as bereavement, divorce or other anxiety-provoking situations. Anxiety sufferers need support, advice and reassurance during their high anxiety episodes and this may not be available which tends to make them rather reclusive. Severe specific and social phobias maybe treated in different ways usually involving a combination of counseling, systematic desensitisation including cognitive behavioural therapy as well as anti-anxiety medication. One method currently under research is Neuro Linguistic programming where the person learns to restructure their mental approach to better control their emotions and anxiety levels.
Podophila which describes a sexual attraction to feet may be the flip side and early incidents of high anxiety involving the feet may correspond to periods of significant sexual development which when reinforced leave the person particularly partial to intimate contact with feet.
Monday, May 04, 2015
The syphilis epidemics of the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries caused great consternation across Europe and beyond and may have ensured the foot became sexualised. The foot and shoe in both Occidental and Oriental Societies were used as sex toys in intimate frottage. When the STD epidemic moved from Spain to Italy before engulfing the whole of Europe painters began including the female foot with toe cleavage as an artistic interpretation for seduction. Partially covered feet became a common theme representing a voyeuristic mark of the times. In contemporary literature the foot was idealised and wandering troubadours extolled its virtues in poetry and song.
Apparently the long second toe was popular (aka the Greek Foot) and clothed prostitutes paraded before customers unshod. Preference for the small foot in the French and Italian courts meant foot binding European style was openly practiced. Occidental foot binding was less severe and usually restricted to young adults wearing ballet type pumps.
Great interest in the erotic works of the East was also evidenced during the Syphilis Epidemics and the fetish for feet remained popular until the discovery of mercury as a primitive cure for syphilis was found.
During the 18th century a genteel common practice at the time was to give small ornament gifts in the shape of feet or shoes and leather boots. In the nineteenth century a second epidemic of syphilis reappeared this again mirrored a flurry of interest in foot sex.
Brothels began to specialise in foot eroticism on a large scale. This may partly be because the use of the foot was seen as a safe sex alternative to genital intercourse. Victorian schools of painting included the idealised female foot.
The French painter Édouard Manet in 1886 presented a scandalous painting of a reclining nude entitled Olympia. He depicted the shoe as an erogenous zone and this brave metaphor was acknowledged by many art historians as pivotal to the development of modern art.
These reviewed sexual awakenings were also witnessed with the introduction of censorship where the female foot was excluded from respectable photographic tintypes. While contemporary portrayals showed men with their boots exposed, women's feet were covered by dresses or lap shawls or were mechanically cropped from the plate.
The Cinderella fairy tale was revived with fetishistic overtones. George du Maurier's "Trilby" became a bestselling novel (1894) and spurned the fashion for foot shaped objects from ice creams to sausages. At a time when the works of Freud were eagerly read by the same readership that would devour Trilby the swallowing of offal could not be divorced from the symbolism to fallatio.
Foot shaped jewelery became the fashion with men's tobacco pouches and hip flasks all the rage. Isadora Duncan revolutionised ballet by dancing in her bare feet. At this time the idea of a good girl was one which did not become involved in intercourse and the concept of a bad girl was one who did. Either way self abuse in youth would be a common experience albeit never spoken of in polite society. Here the foot and toes could be used to good purpose.
Sunday, May 03, 2015
By the end of the Middle Ages clothes had became important symbols of social status. They supplied a kind of social ritual, acknowledgement of which indicated breeding. France was the capital of fashion and the concept of the sartorial ideal beauty was depicted in art and literature. In Italy much greater attention was paid to the perfection of the female body.
Sometime during the 16th century, after the gothic period, there was a European movement which celebrated the Virgin Mary, known as the Cult of the Virgin Mary. Fashion lines changed from sharp peaks to more rounded and softer lines. The shoe fashion for poulaines (long sharp toed shoes) for men was replaced with Duck's Bills. These shoes were broad enough across the foot to accommodate each toe individually and the uppers were made from softest of leather.
As the fashion spread the breadth got wider and wider until the shoes measured 24’ across the forefoot. Like contemporary sleeves and leggings, shoe uppers were slashed with fine razor cuts to reveal glimpses of fine brightly coloured tights which were worn beneath. Courtiers had soft fur stitched to the side of the slashed leather to give the outward impression of pubic hair. Costume historians believe the fine slashing of clothing was a deliberate attempt to emulate the vagina opening and closing. The common belief is this fashion was originated by followers of the Cult of the Virgin Mary and was an outward celebration of the female form. The style lasted for just under a century until it was stopped by (Bloody) Queen Mary I (1516-1558) who issued sumptuary laws in England to restrict the breadth of a shoe.
The duck’s bill shoe was a style preferred by her father, Henry VIII who broke away from the Catholic Church to marry his second wife and divorce Mary’s mother. Mary subsequently wanted to marry a catholic and encouraged by Rome (keen to destroy the Cult of the Virgin Mary) she legislated against the Bears Paw as she returned England to Catholicism. Around about the same time the first recorded attempt to outlaw publication about sex was introduced. (Obscenity Bill, 1581).
In the affluent city states of sixteenth century Florence and Venice the ladies became infatuated with the exotic bath shoes of the Middle East as well as the Moorish influenced elevated footwear of Spain. The fashion fusion brought into existence the chopine or original platform shoe. Styles for higher and higher platforms up to 24 inches from the ground made walking unaided impossible and so many falls were reported and miscarriages recorded in women wearing chopines, laws were passed to ban them. To attract clients sex workers of the time took to wearing platforms in the street long after they were fashionable.
Clever shoemakers were encouraged by their patrons to device a safer shoe for ladies and hollowed out the chopine at the ball of the foot thus creating the first high heeled shoes for women. The new style gave women of small stature height as well as safely.
Catherine de Medici (1519-1589) is credited with being the first women to make this style fashionable and the style remained in vogue throughout her life time before becoming passé. Catherine married the King of France and took the style with her where Ironically men in the French Court began to wear high heeled shoes and continued to do so for another two centuries until after the French Revolution (1789-1799). By which time heeled shoes were a sign of affluence and a sure fire way to lose your head. Mens' style became conservative and high fashion women wore heelless pumps leaving only prostitutes wearing heeled footwear.
Friday, May 01, 2015
In less enlightened times wickedness, ugliness and illness were considered inseparable. During the Middle Ages flat feet were considered undesirable and people with them were marginalised from society as evil. Many old wives tales and superstitions relate to seeing flat feet as being a bad omen.
Meeting people with flat feet at the beginning of an important journey was considered extremely bad luck. During the Dark Ages, poor people went barefoot or wore rough leather covers to protect their feet. Peasants were suspicious of shoes and believed they carried the spirit of the previous owner.
Shoemakers or cordwainers in medievil times were frequently treated with suspicion because their shoes could cover, flat feet. By the seventeenth and eighteenth century this prolonged aversion of flat feet was given a medical name, the Jewish Foot. This related to the perceived inherent weakness in the largely nomadic and disliked population of Jewish people in Europe. Later this was replaced by the term weak foot in the medical literature of the nineteenth century and of course rebranded "pronated foot", in the late 20th century. We continue to despise flat feet yet are no further forward in understanding them than our ancestors were. Still we carry on the crusade by using the fetish curved plastic (foot orthosis) to magically cure the "Evil Fit".
The association between the foot and erotic pastime was clearly seen in the many delightful illustrations found within erotic literature and art from the East. The foot was considered a tactile and sensitive part of the anatomy which had been included in love making for many centuries, dating back to antiquity. Such behaviour may be seen improper or debased by today's standards but to make any sense of the practice it is important to see the phenomena within the original context and operating as a natural behaviour. Perhaps the most difficult to contemplate was the Chinese preoccupation with small feet.
The sado-ritualistic practice of footbinding lasted at least a 1000 years and was done intentionally to create a second, or quasi vagina. The plantar surface of the foot became hypersensitive, as did the genital area surrounding the vulva. Increased labial folds meant the vagina muscles remained toned. All this was achieved through changes to the musculature caused by gait adjustments relating to the smaller steps from bound feet. The irony is, of course, today the same principles are used to effect rehabilitation by taping and foot orthotic management.
In early Europe, the increased sexual focus on the female foot may have intensified in the thirteenth century as the first epidemic of sexually transmitted disease was brought back with the returning crusaders. With no means of preventing transmission, acceptance of alternative sexual intimacies was accepted. During this time contemporary romantic literature began to include strong reference to women's feet.
Troubadours waxed eloquent about their attractiveness and the literate, read about them in the few books of the time e.g. The Romance of the Rose. Attractive feet were white; narrow with high arches and long straight toes. Toe nails were worn long with large white moons on pink, pale nailbeds. To be really sexy there should be no syndactlism (webbed feet). Fashion for women was at least three hundred years away and those who could afford to wear shoes, had heelless pumps or slippers in the same style as those depicted in paintings of the Virgin Mary. All this interest in women's feet came at a time when long toed shoes were popular among male courtiers.
The churchmen did not miss the overt phallic connotations. Subsequent Popes attempted to ban them. However their protests were dismissed as the idealised aspect of medieval love disintegrated into the adulterous aspects of high gothic, courtly love. The fashion lasted three hundred years before it came to an abrupt end. Shoe extensions had grown, in that time, from a few inches beyond the toes, to twenty-four inches beyond the foot. Accepted as a privilege of affluence the extension were eventually legislated for and people who earned less than forty pounds per annum were prevented from wearing long toed shoes at all. Vittore Carpaccio (1450-1522) was a Venetian painter and according to Rossi (1971) depicted shoes as turreted instruments of torture designed to seduce. He probably was not that far wrong.
The end of the fashion was foretold by three events. An Austrian archduke was assassinated and could not flee his attackers because of the length of his shoes; King Charles V of Spain was born with polydactilism (six toes on each foot); and the consequence of the syphilis epidemic meant broad toed “orthopaedic” shoes became ever apparent.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
In Antiquity men of the middle east found corpulent women very sexy, but the Greeks (from about 2000BC) were less enamored and praised instead a more youthful, agile, lighter and graceful body. Their classic beauty was typified by the Egyptian dancing girl with broad shoulders delicate, bud type breasts, and a straight, over slender body springing from the cups of the thighs, without bulges or protuberances like a half opened blossom. She represented a more asexual and a general ideal of human beauty which related more to the spirit than desires of the flesh.
According to Lewinsohn (1958) even in the classical period when art was aiming at grandeur and pathos, the sexual element was neutralised to vanishing point. The representation of human beings, or gods in human form were not purposefully de-sexualised although elements were there, instead the idea was not to over excite the viewer in a vulgar manner. Bearing in mind art then was not held in public galleries but by private collectors. This style came later and was compensated for in the Middle Ages when images were purposefully de-sexualised. Distinction was placed in the pleasure of certain proportions, in the rhythm and movement all of which form a small part of what would generally be termed the laws of aesthetics.
As a metaphor for femininity, the foot was invariably depicted in Grecko art as small and curved. The perfect Christian foot was curved with arches. Small and delicate yet strong enough to bare weight a true miracle of engineering. Later artists experimented by elongating the female nude. Although divergent from the dominant classical convention, these proportions represented a kind of erotic ideal.
Throughout the Middle Ages artists and sculptors painted figures which were sexually ambiguous, this was in part because the "boy like figure" was considered pure and free from sin. Most of the major works of art depicted biblical scenes or the Holy Scriptures in one form or the other. So to depict figures displaying overtly primarily and secondary sexual characteristics would, at that time, have been considered tasteless. The foot became the key to sex the models. The female foot was small and curved and the male larger but with the same characteristics. This is described in the laws of art as the aesthetics of proportion. Often for the sake of decency the naked foot had to be covered and some believe the reason why angels were sometimes depicted with long wings to hide their secondary erogenous zone, their feet from uninvited gaze.
Lewinsohn R., Mayce A (translation) 1958 A history of sexual customs London: Longmans Green