Foot fetishes are trending, Soho House investigates
Why, in our day and age, are we still shocked by personal sexual preferences? Even when said preferences are feet-based…
Thursday 11 August 2022 By Anastasiia Fedorova
It’s been a wild couple of weeks for sex-related viral trends. First, a certain British royal’s alleged affinity for pegging, which sparked a far-reaching interest in the practice. Now, onto the foot fetish, which thanks to Love Island podcaster Murad Merali (who set the internet alight this week after apparently appearing in a series of foot fetish videos), finds itself under the microscope.
Both in real life and online, foot fetish is often met with aversion: deemed ‘weird’, ‘gross’ and ‘dirty’, suggesting that it’s offensive to sexualise this part of the body – or even saying that people known for their fetish should be ‘sacked and cast away’.
And although it’s easy to poke fun at sexual preferences, and, in turn, treat our coital idiosyncrasies like dirty little secrets, which would be better kept out of sight than aired in public, it seems to me that in today’s ultra-sexualised culture we shouldn’t really be shocked anymore. Every possible sexual act most likely already exists online in the form of a grainy X-rated video, steamy fanfic or CGI animation, so what is it that makes us perpetually offended by someone’s supposedly niche sexual preferences – especially when related to feet?
To start with, we must consider the nature of a foot fetish. To put it simply, a foot fetish is to have sexual interest in feet. It could be sensory: licking, rubbing, kissing, sucking and massaging any part of the foot, or enjoying giving or receiving foot jobs. Aesthetically driven: looking at feet, or being particularly interested in painted toenails and ankle bracelets. Under the BDSM umbrella, feet can be connected to power dynamics, becoming objects of worship for the submissive partner.
In a famous scene in From Dusk Till Dawn, a 1996 classic horror directed by Robert Rodriguez, Salma Hayek performs an erotic dance wrapped in a live python – before putting her foot into the mouth of Quentin Tarantino (who co-wrote the film). She proceeds pouring tequila down her leg and into his mouth. Hot? Very much. Tarantino is one of the best-known foot fetishists in the celebrity world (go and watch Death Proof again, now that you know, for numerous sequences of naked feet) – but he’s definitely not alone. Dita Von Teese, Britney Spears, Idris Elba and Tommy Lee are among those rumoured to share Tarantino’s affinity. In the UK – and beyond Merali’s antics – Love Island constantly sparks foot fetish conversations – both via the foot-lovers’ public confessions and the infamous toe-sucking challenge.
Celebrity world aside, feet are regarded widely as one of the most common fetishes. Indeed, Men’s Health magazine reports that 21% of gay and bisexual men have a foot fetish, followed by 18% of heterosexual men, 11% of lesbian and bisexual women, and 5% of heterosexual women. There’s even a scientific justification. Apparently, a foot fetish could result from some cross-wiring in the brain as the areas that control the genitalia and feet exist in close proximity in the somatosensory cortex (according to V.S. Ramachandran, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at UC San Diego, and his book Phantoms In The Brain).
So, is it OK to have a foot fetish? It is absolutely OK – as long as it’s practised with consent and safety. Sure, someone can see feet as weird – but they are certainly no weirder than any other bits of us. Eroticising any part of the human body can be joyful and pleasant. Moreover, these days we are accustomed to having sex via video calls and perfectly capable to eroticise expensive cars and handbags, so why not feet?
But more importantly, is anything in sex truly niche anymore? Over the past decade, how we consume and discover sexuality has shifted massively. For the younger generation, it is much more likely that they get to know their kinks, fetishes and preferences much earlier – and that they’ll be more willing to be open about it. You need only take a look through the most recent memes and TikTok trends for proof: calling your partner mummy or daddy, holding your partner’s penis when he pees, being ‘railed in a sundress’, identifying as a kitten or crawling around your house like a goblin. Honestly, whatever gets you off and gets you through while our world is on fire is OK – as long as it’s between consenting adults, of course.
Perhaps, as we continue to seek shock value in sexual practices that are supposedly strange and fringe, it’s worth asking ourselves whether so-called ‘normal’ sexuality could be merely a cultural construct. Or maybe that’s just me.