Studies on the Psychology of Sex, Volume 5 by Havelock Ellis. - HTML preview

PLEASE NOTE: This is an HTML preview only and some elements such as links or page numbers may be incorrect.
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.

received, Stanley Hall thus summarizes the main facts ascertained

with reference to the feet: "A special period of noticing the

feet comes somewhat later than that in which the hands are

discovered to consciousness. Our records afford nearly twice as

many cases for feet as for hands. The former are more remote from

the primary psychic focus or position, and are also more often

covered, so that the sight of them is a more marked and

exceptional event. Some children become greatly excited whenever

their feet are exposed. Some infants show signs of fear at the

movement of their own knees and feet covered, and still more

often fright is the first sensation which signalizes the child's

discovery of its feet.... Many are described as playing with them

as if fascinated by strange, newly-discovered toys.

They pick

them up and try to throw them away, or out of the cradle, or

bring them to the mouth, where all things tend to go.... Children

often handle their feet, pat and stroke them, offer them toys and

the bottle, as if they, too, had an independent hunger to

gratify, an _ego_ of their own.... Children often develop [later]

a special interest in the feet of others, and examine, feel them,

etc., sometimes expressing surprise that the pinch of the

mother's toe hurts her and not the child, or comparing their own

and the feet of others point by point. Curious, too, are the

intensifications of foot-consciousness throughout the early years

of childhood, whenever children have the exceptional privilege of

going barefoot, or have new shoes. The feet are often

apostrophized, punished, beaten sometimes to the point of pain

for breaking things, throwing the child down, etc.


children have habits, which reach great intensity, and then

vanish, of touching or tickling the feet, with gales of laughter,

and a few are described as showing an almost morbid reluctance to

wear anything upon the feet, or even to having them touched by

others.... Several almost fall in love with the great toe or the

little one, especially admiring some crease or dimple in it,

dressing it in some rag of silk or bit of ribbon, or cut-off

glove fingers, winding it with string, prolonging it by tying on

bits of wood. Stroking the feet of others, especially if they are

shapely, often becomes almost a passion with young children, and

several adults confess a survival of the same impulse which it is

an exquisite pleasure to gratify. The interest of some mothers in

babies' toes, the expressions of which are ecstatic and almost

incredible, is a factor of great importance." (G.

Stanley Hall,

"Some Aspects of the Early Sense of Self," _American Journal of

Psychology_, April, 1898.) In childhood, Stanley Hall remarks

elsewhere (_Adolescence_, vol. ii, p. 104), "a form of courtship

may consist solely in touching feet under the desk."

It would

seem that even animals have a certain amount of sexual

consciousness in the feet; I have noticed a male donkey, just

before coitus, bite the feet of his partner.

At the same time it is scarcely usual for the normal lover, in most

civilized countries to-day, to attach primary importance to the foot, such

as he very frequently attaches to the eyes, though the feet play a very

conspicuous part in the work of certain novelists.[15]

In a small but not inconsiderable minority of persons, however, the foot

or the boot becomes the most attractive part of a woman, and in some

morbid cases the woman herself is regarded as a comparatively unimportant

appendage to her feet or her boots. The boots under civilized conditions

much more frequently constitute the sexual symbol than do the feet

themselves; this is not surprising since in ordinary life the feet are not

often seen.

It is usually only under exceptionally favoring conditions that

foot-fetichism occurs, as in the case recorded by Marandon de

Montyel of a doctor who had been brought up in the West Indies.

His mother had been insane and he himself was subject to

obsessions, especially of being incapable of urinating; he had

had nocturnal incontinence of urine in childhood.

All the women

of the people in the West Indies go about with naked feet, which

are often beautiful. His puberty evolved under this influence,

and foot-fetichism developed. He especially admired large, fat,

arched feet, with delicate skin and large, regular toes. He

masturbated with images of feet. At 15 he had relations with a

colored chambermaid, but feared to mention his fetichism, though

it was the touch of her feet that chiefly excited him. He now

gave up masturbation, and had a succession of mistresses, but was

always ashamed to confess his fancies until, at the age of 33, in

Paris, a very intelligent woman who had become his mistress

discovered his mania and skillfully enabled him to yield to it

without shock to his modesty. He was devoted to this mistress,

who had very beautiful feet (he had been horrified by the feet of

Europeans generally), until she finally left him.

(_Archives de

Neurologie_, October, 1904.)

Probably the first case of shoe-fetichism ever recorded in any

detail is that of Restif de la Bretonne (1734-1806), publicist

and novelist, one of the most remarkable literary figures of the

later eighteenth century in France. Restif was a neurotic

subject, though not to an extreme degree, and his shoe-fetichism,

though distinctly pronounced, was not pathological; that is to

say, that the shoe was not itself an adequate gratification of

the sexual impulse, but simply a highly important aid to

tumescence, a prelude to the natural climax of detumescence; only

occasionally, and _faute de mieux_, in the absence of the beloved

person, was the shoe used as an adjunct to masturbation. In

Restif's stories and elsewhere the attraction of the shoe is

frequently discussed or used as a motive. His first decided

literary success, _Le Pied de Fanchette_, was suggested by a

vision of a girl with a charming foot, casually seen in the

street. While all such passages in his books are really founded

on his own personal feelings and experiences, in his elaborate

autobiography, _Monsieur Nicolas_, he has frankly set forth the

gradual evolution and cause of his idiosyncrasy. The first

remembered trace dated from the age of 4, when he was able to

recall having remarked the feet of a young girl in his native

place. Restif was a sexually precocious youth, and at the age of

9, though both delicate in health and shy in manners, his

thoughts were already absorbed in the girls around him. "While

little Monsieur Nicolas," he tells us, "passed for a Narcissus,

his thoughts, as soon as he was alone, by night or by day, had no

other object than that sex he seemed to flee from.

The girls most

careful of their persons were naturally those who pleased him

most, and as the part least easy to keep clean is that which

touches the earth it was to the foot-gear that he mechanically

gave his chief attention. Agathe, Reine, and especially

Madeleine, were the most elegant of the girls at that time; their

carefully selected and kept shoes, instead of laces or buckles,

which were not yet worn at Sacy, had blue or rose ribbon,

according to the color of the skirt. I thought of these girls

with emotion; I desired--I knew not what; but I desired

something, if it were only to subdue them." The origin Restif

here assigns to his shoe-fetichism may seem paradoxical; he

admired the girls who were most clean and neat in their dress, he

tells us, and, therefore, paid most attention to that part of

their clothing which was least clean and neat. But, however

paradoxical the remark may seem, it is psychologically sound. All

fetichism is a kind of not necessarily morbid obsession, and as

the careful work of Janet and others in that field has shown, an

obsession is a fascinated attraction to some object or idea

which gives the subject a kind of emotional shock by its

contrast to his habitual moods or ideas. The ordinary morbid

obsession cannot usually be harmoniously co-ordinated with the

other experiences of the subject's daily life, and shows,

therefore, no tendency to become pleasurable. Sexual fetichisms,

on the other hand, have a reservoir of agreeable emotion to draw

on, and are thus able to acquire both stability and harmony. It

will also be seen that no element of masochism is involved in

Restif's fetichism, though the mistake has been frequently made

of supposing that these two manifestations are usually or even

necessarily allied. Restif wishes to subject the girl who

attracts him, he has no wish to be subjected by her.

He was

especially dazzled by a young girl from another town, whose shoes

were of a fashionable cut, with buckles, "and who was a charming

person besides." She was delicate as a fairy, and rendered his

thoughts unfaithful to the robust beauties of his native Sacy.

"No doubt," he remarks, "because, being frail and weak myself, it

seemed to me that it would be easier to subdue her."

"This taste

for the beauty of the feet," he continues, "was so powerful in me

that it unfailingly aroused desire and would have made me

overlook ugliness. It is excessive in all those who have it." He

admired the foot as well as the shoe: "The factitious taste for

the shoe is only a reflection of that for pretty feet. When I

entered a house and saw the boots arranged in a row, as is the

custom, I would tremble with pleasure; I blushed and lowered my

eyes as if in the presence of the girls themselves.

With this

vivacity of feeling and a voluptuousness of ideas inconceivable

at the age of 10 I still fled, with an involuntary impulse of

modesty, from the girls I adored."

We may clearly see how this combination of sensitive and

precocious sexual ardor with extreme shyness, furnished the soil

on which the germ of shoe-fetichism was able to gain a firm root

and persist in some degree throughout a long life very largely

given up to a pursuit of women, abnormal rather by its

excessiveness than its perversity. A few years later, he tells

us, he happened to see a pretty pair of shoes in a bootmaker's

shop, and on hearing that they belonged to a girl whom at that

time he reverently adored at a distance he blushed and nearly


In 1749 he was for a time attracted to a young woman very much

older than himself; he secretly carried away one of her slippers

and kept it for a day; a little later he again took away a shoe

of the same woman which had fascinated him when on her foot, and,

he seems to imply, he used it to masturbate with.

Perhaps the chief passion of Restif's life was his love for

Colette Parangon. He was still a boy (1752), she was the young

and virtuous wife of the printer whose apprentice Restif was and

in whose house he lived. Madame Parangon, a charming woman, as

she is described, was not happily married, and she evidently

felt a tender affection for the boy whose excessive love and

reverence for her were not always successfully concealed.

"Madonna Parangon," he tells us, "possessed a charm which I could

never resist, a pretty little foot; it is a charm which arouses

more than tenderness. Her shoes, made in Paris, had that

voluptuous elegance which seems to communicate soul and life.

Sometimes Colette wore shoes of simple white drugget or with

silver flowers; sometimes rose-colored slippers with green heels,

or green with rose heels; her supple feet, far from deforming her

shoes, increased their grace and rendered the form more

exciting." One day, on entering the house, he saw Madame Parangon

elegantly dressed and wearing rose-colored shoes with tongues,

and with green heels and a pretty rosette. They were new and she

took them off to put on green slippers with rose heels and

borders which he thought equally exciting. As soon as she had

left the room, he continues, "carried away by the most impetuous

passion and idolizing Colette, I seemed to see her and touch her

in handling what she had just worn; my lips pressed one of these

jewels, while the other, deceiving the sacred end of nature, from

excess of exaltation replaced the object of sex (I cannot express

myself more clearly). The warmth which she had communicated to

the insensible object which had touched her still remained and

gave a soul to it; a voluptuous cloud covered my eyes." He adds

that he would kiss with rage and transport whatever had come in

close contact with the woman he adored, and on one occasion

eagerly pressed his lips to her cast-off underlinen, _vela

secretiora penetralium_.

At this period Restif's foot-fetichism reached its highest point

of development. It was the aberration of a highly sensitive and

very precocious boy. While the preoccupation with feet and shoes

persisted throughout life, it never became a complete perversion

and never replaced the normal end of sexual desire.

His love for

Madam Parangon, one of the deepest emotions in his whole life,

was also the climax of his shoe-fetichism. She represented his

ideal woman, an ethereal sylph with wasp-waist and a child's

feet; it was always his highest praise for a woman that she

resembled Madame Parangon, and he desired that her slipper should

be buried with him. (Restif de la Bretonne, _Monsieur Nicolas_,

vols. i-iv, vol. xiii, p. 5; id., _Mes Inscriptions_, pp. ci-cv.)

Shoe-fetichism, more especially if we include under this term all

the cases of real or pseudo-masochism in which an attraction to

the boots or slippers is the chief feature, is a not infrequent

phenomenon, and is certainly the most frequently occurring form

of fetichism. Many cases are brought together by Krafft-Ebing in

his _Psychopathia Sexualis_. Every prostitute of any experience

has known men who merely desire to gaze at her shoes, or possibly

to lick them, and who are quite willing to pay for this

privilege. In London such a person is known as a

"bootman," in

Germany as a "Stiefelfrier."

The predominance of the foot as a focus of sexual attraction, while among

us to-day it is a not uncommon phenomenon, is still not sufficiently

common to be called normal; the majority of even ardent lovers do not

experience this attraction in any marked degree. But these manifestations

of foot-fetichism which with us to-day are abnormal, even when they are

not so extreme as to be morbid, may perhaps become more intelligible to us

when we realize that in earlier periods of civilization, and even to-day

in some parts of the world, the foot is generally recognized as a focus of

sexual attraction, so that some degree of foot-fetichism becomes a normal


The most pronounced and the best known example of such normal

foot-fetichism at the present day is certainly to be found among the

Southern Chinese. For a Chinese husband his wife's foot is more

interesting than her face. A Chinese woman is as shy of showing her feet

to a man as a European woman her breasts; they are reserved for her

husband's eyes alone, and to look at a woman's feet in the street is

highly improper and indelicate. Chinese foot-fetichism is connected with

the custom of compressing the feet. This custom appears to rest on the

fact that Chinese women naturally possess a very small foot and is thus an

example of the universal tendency in the search for beauty to accentuate,

even by deformation, the racial characteristics. But there is more than

this. Beauty is largely a name for sexual attractiveness, and the energy

expended in the effort to make the Chinese woman's small foot still

smaller is a measure of the sexual fascination which it exerts. The

practice arose on the basis of the sexual attractiveness of the foot,

though it has doubtless served to heighten that attractiveness, just as

the small waist, which (if we may follow Stratz) is a characteristic

beauty of the European woman, becomes to the average European man still

more attractive when accentuated, even to the extent of deformity, by the

compression of the corset.

Referring to the sexual fascination exerted by the foot in China,

Matignon writes: "My attention has been drawn to this point by a

large number of pornographic engravings, of which the Chinese are

very fond. In all these lascivious scenes we see the male

voluptuously fondling the woman's foot. When a Celestial takes

into his hand a woman's foot, especially if it is very small, the

effect upon him is precisely the same as is provoked in a

European by the palpation of a young and firm bosom.

All the

Celestials whom I have interrogated on this point have replied

unanimously: 'Oh, a little foot! You Europeans cannot understand

how exquisite, how sweet, how exciting it is!' The contact of the

genital organ with the little foot produces in the male an

indescribable degree of voluptuous feeling, and women skilled in

love know that to arouse the ardor of their lovers a better

method than all Chinese aphrodisiacs--including

'giusen' and

swallows' nests--is to take the penis between their feet. It is

not rare to find Chinese Christians accusing themselves at

confession of having had 'evil thoughts on looking at a woman's

foot.'" (Dr. J. Matignon, "A propos d'un Pied de Chinoise,"

_Archives d'Anthropologie Criminelle_, 1898.) It is said that a Chinese Empress, noted for her vice and having

a congenital club foot, about the year 1100 B.C., desired all

women to resemble her, and that the practice of compressing the

foot thus arose. But this is only tradition, since, in 300 B.C.,

Chinese books were destroyed (Morache, Art. "Chine,"

_Dictionnaire Encyclopédique des Sciences Médicales_, p. 191). It

is also said that the practice owes its origin to the wish to

keep women indoors. But women are not secluded in China, nor does

foot compression usually render a woman unable to walk. Many

intelligent Chinese are of opinion that its object is to promote

the development of the sexual parts and of the thighs, and so to

aid both intercourse and parturition. There is no ground for

believing that it has any such influence, though Morache found

that the mons veneris and labia are largely developed in Chinese

women, and not in Tartar women living in Pekin (who do not

compress the foot). If there is any correlation between the feet

and the pelvic regions, it is more probably congenital than due

to the artificial compression of the feet. The ancients seem to

have believed that a small foot indicated a small vagina. Restif

de la Bretonne, who had ample opportunities for forming an

opinion on a matter in which he took so great an interest,

believed that a small foot, round and short, indicated a large

vagina (_Monsieur Nicolas_, vol. i, reprint of 1883, p. 92).

Even, however, if we admit that there is a real correlation

between the foot and the vagina, that would by no means suffice

to render the foot a focus of sexual attraction.

It remains the most reasonable view that the foot bandage must be

regarded as strictly analogous to the waist bandage or corset

which also tends to produce deformity of the constricted region.

Stratz has ingeniously remarked (_Frauenkleidung_, third edition,

p. 101) that the success of the Chinese in dwarfing trees may

have suggested a similar attempt in regard to women's feet, and

adds that in any case both dwarfed trees and bound feet bear

witness in the Mongolian to the same love for small and elegant,

not to say deformed, things. For a Chinaman the deformed foot is

a "golden water-lily."

Many facts (together with illustrations) bearing on Chinese

deformation of the foot will be found in Ploss, _Das Weib_, vol.

i, Section IV.

The significance of the sexual emotion aroused by the female foot in China

and the origin of its compression begin to become clear when we realize

that this foot-fetichism is merely an extreme development of a tendency

which is fairly well marked among nearly all the peoples of yellow race.

Jacoby, who has brought together a number of interesting facts bearing on

the sexual significance of the foot, states that a similar tendency is to

be found among the Mongol and Turk peoples of Siberia, and in the east and

central parts of European Russia, among the Permiaks, the Wotiaks, etc.

Here the woman, at all events when young, has always her feet, as well as

head, covered, however little clothing she may otherwise wear.

"On hot nights or on baking days," Jacoby states,

"you may see

these women with uncovered breasts, or even entirely naked

without embarrassment, but you will never see them with bare

feet, and no male relations, except the husband, will ever see

the feet and lower part of the legs of the women in the house.

These women have their modesty in their feet, and also their

coquetry; to unbind the feet of a woman is for a man a voluptuous

act, and the touch of the bands produces the same effect as a

corset still warm from a woman's body on a European man. A

woman's beauty, that which attracts and excites a man, lies in

her foot; in Mordvin love poems celebrating the beauty of women

there is much about her attire, especially her embroidered

chemise, but as regards the charms of her person the poet is

content to state that 'her feet are beautiful;' with that

everything is said. The young peasant woman of the central

provinces as part of her holiday raiment puts on great woolen

stockings which come up to the groin and are then folded over to

below the knee. To uncover the feet of a person of the opposite

sex is a sexual act, and has thus become the symbol of sexual

possession, so that the stocking or foot-gear became the emblem

of marriage, as later the ring. (It was so among the Jews, as we

see in the book of _Ruth_, Chapter III, v. 4, and Chapter IV, vv.

7 and 8). St. Vladimir the Great asked in marriage the daughter

of Prince Rogvold; as Vladimir's mother had been a serf, the

princess proudly replied that she 'would not uncover the feet of

a slave.' At the present time in the east of Russia when a young

girl tries to find out by divination whom she will have as a

husband the traditional formula is 'Come and take my stockings

off.' Among the populations of the north and east, it is

sometimes the bride who must do this for her husband on the

wedding night, and sometimes the bridegroom for his wife, not as

a token of love, but as a nuptial ceremony. Among the

professional classes and small nobility in Russia parents place

money in the stocking of their child at marriage as a present for

the other partner, it being supposed that the couple mutually

remove each other's foot raiment, as an act of sexual possession,

the emblem of coitus." (Paul Jacoby, _Archives d'Anthropologie

Criminelle_, December, 1903, p. 793.) The practice among

ourselves of children hanging up their stockings at night for

presents would seem to be a relic of the last-mentioned custom.

While we may witness the sexual symbolism of the foot, with or without an

associated foot-fetichism, most highly developed in Asia and Eastern

Europe, it has by no means been altogether unknown in some stages of

western civilization, and traces of it may be found here and there even

yet. Schinz refers to the connection between the feet and sexual pleasure

as existing not only among the Egyptians and the Arabs, but among the

ancient Germans and the modern Spaniards,[16] while Jacoby points out that

among the Greeks, the Romans, and especially the Etruscans, it was usual

to represent chaste and virgin goddesses with their feet covered, even

though they might be otherwise nude. Ovid, again, is never weary of

dwelling on the sexual charm of the feminine foot. He represents the

chaste matron as wearing a weighted _stola_ which always fell so as to

cover her feet; it was only the courtesan, or the nymph who is taking part

in an erotic festival, who appears with raised robes, revealing her

feet.[17] So grave a historian as Strabo, as well as Ælian, refers to the

story of the courtesan Rhodope whose sandal was carried off by an eagle

and dropped in the King of Egypt's lap as he was administering justice, so

that he could not rest until he had discovered to whom this delicately

small sandal belonged, and finally made her his queen.

Kleinpaul, who

repeats this story, has collected many European sayings and customs

(including Turkish), indicating that the slipper is a very ancient symbol

of a woman's sexual parts.[18]

In Rome, Dufour remarks, "Matrons having appropriated the use of

the shoe (_soccus_) prostitutes were not allowed to use it, and

were obliged to have their feet always naked in sandals or

slippers (_crepida_ and _solea_), which they fastened over the

instep with gilt bands. Tibullus delights to describe his

mistress's little foot, compressed by the band that imprisoned

it: _Ansaque compressos colligat arcta pedes_.

Nudity of the foot

in woman was a sign of prostitution, and their brilliant

whiteness acted afar as a pimp to attract looks and desires."

(Dufour, _Histoire de la Prostitution_, vol. II., ch. xviii.)

This feeling seems to have survived in a more or less vague and

unconscious form in mediæval Europe. "In the tenth century,"

according to Dufour (_Histoire de la Prostitution_, vol. VI., p.

11), "shoes _a la poulaine_, with a claw or beak, pursued for

more than four centuries by the anathemas of popes and the

invectives of preachers, were always regarded by mediæval

casuists as the most abominable emblems of immodesty. At a first

glance it is not easy to see why these shoes--

terminating in a

lion's claw, an eagle's beak, the prow of a ship, or other metal

appendage--should be so scandalous. The excommunication inflicted

on this kind of foot-gear preceded the impudent invention of some

libertine, who wore _poulaines_ in the shape of the phallus, a

custom adopted also by women. This kind of _poulaine_ was

denounced as _mandite de Dicu_ (Ducange's Glossary, at the word

Poulainia) and prohibited by royal ordinances (see letter of

Charles V., 17 October, 1367, regarding the garments of the women

of Montpellier). Great lords and ladies continued, however, to

wear _poulaines_." In Louis XL's court they were still worn of a

quarter of an ell in length.

Spain, ever tenacious of ancient ideas, appears to have preserved

longer than other countries the ancient classic traditions in

regard to the foot as a focus of modesty and an object of sexual

attraction. In Spanish religious pictures it was always necessary

that the Virgin's feet should be concealed, the clergy ordaining

that her robe should be long and flowing, so that the feet might

be covered with decent folds. Pacheco, the master and

father-in-law of Velasquez, writes in 1649 in his _Arte de la

Pintura_: "What can be more foreign from the respect which we owe

to the purity of Our Lady the Virgin than to paint her sitting

down with one of her knees placed over the other, and often with

her sacred feet uncovered and naked. Let thanks be given to the

Holy Inquisition which commands that this liberty should be

corrected!" It was Pacheco's duty in Seville to see that these

commands were obeyed. At the court of Philip IV. at this time the

princesses never showed their feet, as we may see in the pictures

of Velasquez. When a local manufacturer desired to present that

monarch's second bride, Mariana of Austria, with some silk

stockings the offer was indignantly rejected by the Court

Chamberlain: "The Queen of Spain has no legs!"

Philip V.'s, queen

was thrown from her horse and dragged by the feet; no one

ventured to interfere until two gentlemen bravely rescued her and

then fled, dreading punishment by the king: they were, however,

graciously pardoned. Reinach ("Pieds Pudiques,"

_Cultes, Mythes

et Religions_, pp. 105-110) brings together several passages from

the Countess D'Aulnoy's account of the Madrid Court in the

seventeenth century and from other sources, showing how careful

Spanish ladies were as regards their feet, and how jealous

Spanish husbands were in this matter. At this time, when Spanish

influence was considerable, the fashion of Spain seems to have

spread to other countries. One may note that in Vandyck's

pictures of English beauties the feet are not visible, though in

the more characteristically English painters of a somewhat later

age it became usual to display them conspicuously, while the

French custom in this matter is the farthest removed from the

Spanish. At the present day a well-bred Spanish woman shows as

little as possible of her feet in walking, and even in some of

the most characteristic Spanish dances there is little or no

kicking, and the feet may even be invisible throughout. It is

noteworthy that in numerous figures of Spanish women (probably

artists' models) reproduced in Ploss's _Das Weib_

the stockings

are worn, although the women are otherwise, in most cases, quite

naked. Max Dessoir mentions ("Psychologie der Vita Sexualis,"

_Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie_, 1894, p. 954) that in Spanish

pornographic photographs women always have their shoes on, and he

considers this an indication of perversity. I have seen the

statement (attributed to Gautier's _Voyage en Espagne_, where,

however, it does not occur) that Spanish prostitutes uncover

their feet in sign of assent, and Madame d'Aulnoy stated that in

her time to show her lover her feet was a Spanish woman's final


The tendency, which we thus find to be normal at some earlier periods of

civilization, to insist on the sexual symbolism of the feminine foot or

its coverings, and to regard them as a special sexual fascination, is not

without significance for the interpretation of the sporadic manifestations

of foot-fetichism among ourselves. Eccentric as foot-fetichism may appear

to us, it is simply the re-emergence, by a pseudo-atavism or arrest of

development, of a mental or emotional impulse which was probably

experienced by our forefathers, and is often traceable among young

children to-day.[19] The occasional reappearance of this bygone impulse

and the stability which it may acquire are thus conditioned by the

sensitive reaction of an abnormally nervous and usually precocious

organism to influences which, among the average and ordinary population of

Europe to-day, are either never felt, or quickly outgrown, or very

strictly subordinated in the highly complex crystallizations which the

course of love and the process of tumescence create within us.

It may be added that this is by no means true of foot-fetichism

only. In some other fetichisms a seemingly congenital

predisposition is even more marked. This is not only the case as

regards hair-fetichism and fur-fetichism (see, e.g., Krafft-Ebing, _Psychopathia Sexualis_, English translation of

tenth edition, pp. 233, 255, 262). In many cases of fetichisms of

all kinds not only is there no record of any commencement in a

definite episode (an absence which may be accounted for by the

supposition that the original incident has been forgotten), but

it would seem in some cases that the fetichism developed very


In this sense, it will be seen, although it is hazardous to speak of

foot-fetichism as strictly an atavism, it may certainly be said to arise

on a congenital basis. It represents the rare development of an inborn

germ, usually latent among ourselves, which in earlier stages of

civilization frequently reached a normal and general fruition.

It is of interest to emphasize this congenital element of foot symbolism,

because more than any other forms of sexual perversion the fetichisms are

those which are most vaguely conditioned by inborn states of the organism

and most definitely aroused by seemingly accidental associations or shocks

in early life. Inversion is sometimes so fundamentally ingrained in the

individual's constitution that it arises and develops in spite of the very

strongest influence in a contrary direction. But a fetichism, while it

tends to occur in sensitive, nervous, timid, precocious individuals--that

is to say, individuals of more or less neuropathic heredity--can usually,

though not always, be traced to a definite starting point in the shock of

some sexually emotional episode in early life.

A few examples of the influences of such association may here be

given, referring miscellaneously to various forms of erotic

symbolism. Magnan has recorded the case of a hair-fetichist,

living in a district where the women wore their hair done up, who

at the age of 15 experienced pleasurable feelings with erection

at the sight of a village beauty combing her hair; from that time

flowing hair became his fetich, and he could not resist the

temptation to touch it and if possible sever it, thus becoming a

hair-despoiler, for which he was arrested but not sentenced.

(_Archives de l'Anthropologie Criminelle_, vol. v, No. 28.)

I have elsewhere recorded the history of a boy of 14, having

already had imperfect connection with a grown-up woman, who

associated much with a young married lady; he had no sexual

relations with her, but one day she urinated in his presence, and

he saw that her mons veneris was covered by very thick hair; from

that time he worshiped this woman in secret and acquired a

life-long fetichistic attraction to women whose pubic hair was

similarly abundant (_Studies in the Psychology of Sex_, vol. iii,

Appendix B, History V).

Roubaud reported the case of a general's son, sexually initiated

at the age of 14 by a blonde young lady of 21 who, in order to

avoid detection, always retained her clothing: gaiters, a corset

and a silk dress; when the boy's studies were completed and he

was sent to a garrison where he could enjoy freedom he found that

his sexual desires could only be aroused by blonde women dressed

like the lady who had first aroused his sexual desires;

consequently he gave up all thoughts of matrimony, as a woman in

nightclothes produced impotence (_Traité de l'Impuissance_, p.

439). Krafft-Ebing records the somewhat similar case of a nervous

Polish boy of old family seduced at the age of 17 by a French

governess, who during several months practiced mutual

masturbation with him; in this way his attention became

attracted by her very elegant boots, and in the end he became a

confirmed boot-fetichist (_Psychopathia Sexualis_, English

translation, p. 249).

A boy of 7, of bad heredity, was taught to masturbate by a

servant girl; on one occasion she practiced this on him with her

foot without taking off her shoe; it was the first time the

manoeuvre gave him any pleasure, and an association was thus

established which led to shoe-fetichism (Hammond, _Sexual

Impotence_, p. 44). A government official whose first coitus in

youth took place on a staircase; the sound of his partner's

creaking shoes against the stairs, produced by her efforts to

accelerate orgasm, formed an association which developed into an

auditory shoe-fetichism; in the streets he was compelled to

follow ladies whose shoes creaked, ejaculation being thus

produced, while to obtain complete satisfaction he would make a

prostitute, otherwise naked, sit in front of him in her shoes,

moving her feet so that the shoes creaked.

(Moraglia, _Archivio

di Psichiatria_, vol. xiii, p. 568.)

Bechterew, in St. Petersburg, has recorded the case of a man who

when a child used to fall asleep at the knees of his nurse with

his head buried in the folds of her apron; in this position he

first experienced erection and voluptuous sensations; when a

youth he had no attraction to naked women, and in real life and

in dreams was only excited sexually under conditions recalling

his early experience; in his relations with women he preferred

them dressed, and was excited by the rustling sound of their

skirts; in this case there was no traceable neuropathic taint nor

any other personal peculiarity. (Summarized in _Journal de

Psychologie Normale et Pathologique_, January-February, 1904, p.


In a curious case recorded in detail by Moll, a philologist of

sensitive temperament but sound heredity, who had always been

fond of flowers, at the age of 21 became engaged to a young lady

who wore large roses fastened in her jacket; from this time roses

became to him a sexual fetich, to kiss them caused erection, and

his erotic dreams were accompanied by visions of roses and the

hallucination of their odor; the engagement was finally broken

off and the rose-fetichism disappeared (_Untersuchungen über

Libido Sexualis_, bd. i, p. 540).

Such associations may naturally occur in the early experiences of even the

most normal persons. The degree to which they will influence the

subsequent life and thought and feeling depends on the degree of the

individual's morbid emotional receptivity, on the extent to which he is

hereditarily susceptible of abnormal deviation.

Precocity is undoubtedly a

condition which favors such deviation; a child who is precociously and

abnormally sensitive to persons of the opposite sex before puberty has

established the normal channels of sexual desire, is peculiarly liable to

become the prey of a chance symbolism. All degrees of such symbolism are

possible. While the average insensitive person may fail to perceive them

at all, for the more alert and imaginative lover they are a fascinating

part of the highly charged crystallization of passion. A more nervously

exceptional person, when once such a symbolism has become firmly

implanted, may find it an absolutely essential element in the charm of a

beloved and charming person. Finally, for the individual who is thoroughly

unsound the symbol becomes generalized; a person is no longer desired at

all, being merely regarded as an appendage of the symbol, or being

dispensed with altogether; the symbol is alone desired, and is fully

adequate to impart by itself complete sexual gratification. While it must

be considered a morbid state to demand a symbol as an almost essential

part of the charm of a desired person, it is only in the final condition,

in which the symbol becomes all-sufficing, that we have a true and

complete perversion. In the less complete forms of symbolism it is still

the woman who is desired, and the ends of procreation may be served; when

the woman is ignored and the mere symbol is an adequate and even preferred

stimulus to detumescence the pathological condition becomes complete.

Krafft-Ebing regarded shoe-fetichism as, in large measure, a more or less

latent form of masochism, the foot or the shoe being the symbol of the

subjection and humiliation which the masochist feels in the presence of

the beloved object. Moll is also inclined to accept such a connection.

"The very numerous class of boot-and-shoe-fetichists,"

Krafft-Ebing wrote, "forms the transition to the manifestations

of another independent perversion, i.e., fetichism itself; but it

stands in closer relationship to the former.... It is highly

probable, and shown by a correct classification of the observed

cases, that the majority, and perhaps all of the cases of

shoe-fetichism, rest upon a basis of more or less conscious

masochistic desire for self-humiliation.... The majority or all

may be looked upon as instances of latent masochism (the motive

remaining unconscious) in which the _female foot or shoe, as the

masochist's fetich_, has acquired an independent significance."

(_Psychopathia Sexualis_, English translation of tenth edition,

pp. 159, et seq.) "Though Krafft-Ebing may not have cleared up

the whole matter," Moll remarks, "I regard his deductions

concerning the connection of foot-and-shoe fetichism to masochism

as the most important progress that has been made in the

theoretic study of sexual perversions.... In any case, the

connection is very frequent." (_Konträre Sexualempfindung_, third

edition, p. 306.)

It is quite easy to see that this supposed identity of masochism and

foot-fetichism forms a seductive theory. It is also undoubtedly true that

a masochist may very easily be inclined to find in his mistress's foot an

aid to the ecstatic self-abnegation which he desires to attain.[20] But

only confusion is attained by any general attempt to amalgamate masochism

and foot-fetichism. In the broad sense in which erotic symbolism is here

understood, both masochism and foot-fetichism may be coördinated as

symbolisms; for the masochist his self-humiliating impulses are the symbol

of ecstatic adoration; for the foot-fetichist his mistress's foot or shoe

is the concentrated symbol of all that is most beautiful and elegant and

feminine in her personality. But if in this sense they are coördinated,

they remain entirely distinct and have not even any necessary tendency to

become merged. Masochism merely simulates foot-fetichism; for the

masochist the boot is not strictly a symbol, it is only an instrument

which enables him to carry out his impulse; the true sexual symbol for him

is not the boot, but the emotion of self-subjection. For the

foot-fetichist, on the other hand, the foot or the shoe is not a mere

instrument, but a true symbol; the focus of his worship, an idealized

object which he is content to contemplate or reverently touch. He has no

necessary impulse to any self-degrading action, nor any constant emotion

of subjection. It may be noted that in the very typical case of

foot-fetichism which is presented to us in the person of Restif de la

Bretonne (_ante_, p. 18), he repeatedly speaks of

"subjecting" the woman

for whom he feels this fetichistic adoration, and mentions that even when

still a child he especially admired a delicate and fairy-like girl in this

respect because she seemed to him easier to subjugate.

Throughout life

Restif's attitude toward women was active and masculine, without the

slightest trace of masochism.[21]

To suppose that a fetichistic admiration of his mistress's foot is due to

a lover's latent desire to be kicked, is as unreasonable as it would be to

suppose that a fetichistic admiration for her hand indicated a latent

desire to have his ears boxed. In determining whether we are concerned

with a case of foot-fetichism or of masochism we must take into

consideration the whole of the subject's mental and emotional attitude. An

act, however definite, will not suffice as a criterion, for the same act

in different persons may have altogether different implications. To

amalgamate the two is the result of inadequate psychological analysis and

only leads to confusion.

It is, however, often very difficult to decide whether we are dealing with

a case which is predominantly one of masochism or of foot-fetichism. The

nature of the action desired, as we have seen, will not suffice to

determine the psychological character of the perversion.


believed that the desire to be trodden on, very frequently experienced by

masochists, is absolutely symptomatic of masochism.[22]

This is scarcely

the case. The desire to be trodden on may be fundamentally an erotic

symbolism, closely approaching foot-fetichism, and such slight indications

of masochism as appear may be merely a parasitic growth on the symbolism,

a growth perhaps more suggested by the circumstances involved in the

gratification of the abnormal desire than inherent in the innate impulse

of the subject. This may be illustrated by the interesting case of a very

intelligent man with whom I am well acquainted.

C.P., aged 38. Heredity good. Parents both healthy and normal.

Several children of the marriage, all sexually normal so far as

is known. C.P. is the youngest of the family and separated from

the others by an interval of many years. He was a seven-months'

child. He has always enjoyed good health and is active and

vigorous, both mentally and physically.

From the age of 9 or 10 to 14 he masturbated occasionally for the

sake of physical relief, having discovered the act for himself.

He was, however, quite innocent and knew nothing of sexual

matters, never having been initiated either by servants or by

other boys.

"When I encounter a woman who very strongly attracts me and whom

I very greatly admire," he writes, "my desire is never that I may

have sexual connection with her in the ordinary sense, but that I

may lie down upon the floor on my back and be trampled upon by

her. This curious desire is seldom present unless the object of

my admiration is really a lady, and of fine proportions. She must

be richly dressed--preferably in an evening gown, and wear dainty

high-heeled slippers, either quite open so as to show the curve

of the instep, or with only one strap or 'bar'

across. The skirts

should be raised sufficiently to afford me the pleasure of seeing

her feet and a liberal amount of ankle, but in no case above the

knee, or the effect is greatly reduced. Although I often greatly

admire a woman's intellect and even person, sexually no other

part of her has any serious attraction for me except the leg,

from the knee downwards, and the foot, and these must be

exquisitely clothed. Given this condition, my desire amounts to a

wish to gratify my sexual sense by contact with the (to me)

attractive part of the woman. Comparatively few women have a leg

or foot sufficiently beautiful to my mind to excite any serious

or compelling desire, but when this is so, or I suspect it, I am

willing to spend any time or trouble to get her to tread upon me

and am anxious to be trampled on with the greatest severity.

"The treading should be inflicted for a few minutes all over the

chest, abdomen and groin, and lastly on the penis, which is, of

course, lying along the belly in a violent state of erection, and

consequently too hard for the treading to damage it.

I also enjoy

being nearly strangled by a woman's foot.

"If the lady finally stands facing my head and places her slipper

upon my penis so that the high heel falls about where the penis

leaves the scrotum, the sole covering most of the rest of it and

with the other foot upon the abdomen, into which I can _see_ as

well as feel it sink as she shifts her weight from one foot to

the other, orgasm takes place almost at once.

Emission under

these conditions is to me an agony of delight, during which

practically the lady's whole weight should rest upon the penis.

"One reason for my special pleasure in this method seems to be

that first the heel and afterwards the sole of the slipper as it

treads upon the penis greatly check the passage of the semen and

consequently the pleasure is considerably prolonged.

There is

also a curious mental side to the affair. I love to imagine that

the lady who is treading upon me is my mistress and I her slave,

and that she is doing it to punish me for some fault, or to give

_herself_ (not me) pleasure.

"It follows that the greater the contempt and severity with which

I am 'punished,' the greater becomes my pleasure.

The idea of

'punishment' or 'slavery' is seldom aroused except when I have

great difficulty in accomplishing my desire and the treader is

more than usually handsome and heavy and the trampling

mercilessly inflicted. I have been trampled so long and so

mercilessly several times, that I have flinched each time the

slipper pressed its way into my aching body and have been black

and blue for days afterwards. I take the greatest interest in

leading ladies on to do this for me where I think I will not

offend, and have been surprisingly successful. I must have lain

beneath the feet of quite a hundred women, many of them of good

social position, who would never dream of permitting any ordinary

sexual intercourse, but who have been so interested or amused by

the idea as to do it for me--many of them over and over again. It

is perhaps needless to say that none of my own or the ladies'

clothing is ever removed, or disarranged, for the accomplishment

of orgasm in this manner. After a long and varied experience, I

may say that my favorite weight is 10 to 11 stone, and that

black, very high-heeled slippers, in combination with tan silk

stockings, seem to give me the greatest pleasure and create in me

the strongest desires.

"Boots, or outdoor shoes, do not attract me to anything like the