When I first met the boy we will call Siggy (10 points for anyone who guesses why), I was not in the least bit attracted to him. I needed friends as I had just started an MFA program in a new city and knew no one. But I would never hook up with him, I told myself with conviction.
For this reason, whenever I felt the mood of our hangout sessions changing from bromance to romance, I would use my foolproof mood-killing method of bringing up the topic of castration.
“Did you know that Freud said that foot fetishes derive from a little boy seeing his mom’s vagina –– or lack of penis -- for the first time and thinking she was castrated? Supposedly he gets so terrified he looks down at her feet and becomes sexually fixated on them.”
I expected his response to be something like, “Um yeah...I totally forgot to feed my cat! Gotta go bye!” Instead, he said, “You know, I have a foot fetish.”
At first I was a bit freaked out. But the next time we hung out, he told me that I was the only person he had told among our group of MFA friends because I seemed accepting. This both flattered and intrigued me; we barely knew each other, but he felt he could tell me this secret. So I asked him more and more questions.
He’d had this fetish since before he could remember. When he was a baby he used to crawl around the yoga studio his mother owned sucking on the toes of all the female yogis. When he was in high school, his ex-best friend told the whole school, but it backfired and all the pubescent girls with raging hormones started asking him to give them foot massages. It often lead elsewhere. He could look at a woman and guess what her feet look like. He could look at feet and guess what the woman looked like. He didn’t like having his feet touched. He didn’t like it when the second toe was longer than the big toe. To him, feet were like naked bodies and summer was like being surrounded by scampering naked women.
Throughout these intimate conversations I felt my sense of duty turn to genuine curiosity, my feeling of flattery to empathy, and eventually (along with the realization of how smart and sweet and funny he was) affection. I realized that I very very much wanted to have sex with this boy.
So Siggy and I began an affair so torrid and passionate and actually not as kinky as you might think, that we moved in together after only a few months. I loved his foot fetish at this point. When we were hanging out in a large group, I could mess with him by doing a foot strip tease, pulling off my socks slowly with my toes. He would cross his legs and grow all blushy and stammery.
We would go shoe shopping and then have wonderful sex afterward and I would pretend I was Carrie Bradshaw. He was happy to accompany me to the pedicure salon. Although I did attempt to master the footjob (made difficult and frustrating by my tendency to get foot cramps), Siggy did not require any attention to his fetish that I was not comfortable with. I began to find that, though they were quite ’90s, I kind of liked the look of the anklets and toe rings he gifted me with. And I was head-over-heels in love with him and therefore, in the midst of it, loved everything about him.
The ending began not due to the fetish itself, but to the publicizing of it. Like he did in high school, he decided not to hide this part of himself from his new group of friends. Although I was a bit disappointed that I would no longer be the sole possessor of this intimate secret, I supported and encouraged his coming out like a good girlfriend should. What I hadn’t quite realized is that it had now become my secret, too.
As soon as people found out, I could see the images of the weird stuff we must get up to going through their heads. I could see in them the same reaction that I had first had to his fetish: mild disgust and confusion, but it was now aimed at me as well. People began shyly asking me questions about our sex life, if he made me do anything weird, if I was into feet too now, what foot-fetish sex consisted of.
I could no longer tell my friends how great it was that my boyfriend loved going shopping or to the nail salon with me without them acting as if we were going to an orgy or a plushie party. Siggy did not seem to mind. But then the same thing started happening to each member of our group of friends that had happened to me and the girls in high school -- intrigue.
Our female friends began asking him his opinion on their feet, teasing him with them in the same way I used to, not quite realizing how sexual it really was for him, or realizing and not caring. And he loved it. I realized quickly that this coming out was not just about him accepting a part of who he was, but that it was another level of sexual game for him. He loved the voyeurism it inspired, he loved the flirtation, the fascination that arose in our female and gay male friends, the same fascination it had inspired in me. Knowledge of his fetish had suddenly sexualized him for everyone.
I brought my feelings about this up with him one semi-drunken night at a friend’s party. I said I felt like it was an excuse to cheat right in front of me. How would he like it after all if our male friends started coyly showing me their penises and asking my opinion on them?
He said it was different, it was all in good fun, it wasn’t sexual for them and he wasn’t even attracted to most of their feet. I called bullshit and he got huffy and then angry and said I wasn’t supporting him and didn’t understand. I took a bottle of Jack that was on the table and stomped home. That night, in my absence, he gave three foot massages and was caught in the middle of a “wrestling match” on a bed with one woman I had always had a competitive relationship with. He denies to this day that it went further than wrestling, but who knows.
This night was not the only reason I gave him back the toe-rings that were annoying my feet anyway and left. There were other aspects of the relationship that were not working. But it was clear that Siggy was not in control of his sexuality and didn’t really want to be. Most of the time he loved me and didn’t want to hurt me, but when the fetish took over, he turned into a man-child surrounded by an all-you-can-eat ice cream bar. He would completely forget that he had ever agreed to enter into an adult relationship.
I have faith that he will eventually learn moderation, and I don’t think his attitude speaks to that of every foot fetishist. I have never known another (to my knowledge), so I wouldn’t know. But for me, being in love with one was fascinating and fun, but very, very difficult.