There is scientific proof that foot fetishes are normal
Research dating back to the 1950s explains why the foot fetish makes total sense.
- A fetish is a sexual fixation on a specific object, activity, or body part that becomes absolutely necessary to a person's sexual satisfaction.
- According to recent research, 1 in 7 people have fantasized about feet in a sexual way at least once in their lives.
- Prominent researcher Wilder Penfield, who established the "body image map" in the 1950s, explains that the sensory perception for our feet is located directly adjacent to the sensory perception area for our genitalia - which can explain the sexual fascination many people experience with feet.
A brief introduction to fetishes
Have you ever wondered how fetishes are formed?
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"Fetish" and "kink" are sometimes used interchangeably, but there are some key differences that are important to discuss when we're talking about the psychology of a specific sexual desire.
A fetish is a sexual fixation on a specific object, activity, or body part that becomes absolutely necessary to a person's sexual satisfaction. A kink is a broad term that is used to describe many different "alternative" sexual interests, preferences, and/or fantasies.
A fetish will oftentimes be psychologically ingrained in our desires - it becomes almost impossible to feel sexual pleasure without including this particular thing in your sex life.
Sometimes a fetish is a kink that has become psychologically essential to sexual gratification. For some, participating in a specific BDSM activity may start as a fantasy and eventually lead to something they need in order to feel arousal, pleasure, and sexual release.
How are fetishes formed?
The idea of how fetishes are formed has been a question of intrigue for a long time. However, there is still very little research available on the subject. Perhaps this is because of the complexities of sexual psychology — after all, sometimes it's difficult to explain why our brain reacts the way it does to certain stimulation.
The most common answer to the question of how fetishes are formed is that a fetish is a learned response. For example, when a neutral item (such as a shoe, for example) is paired with something arousing (a nude photo, for example), the previously neutral item is eventually associated with arousal and sexual excitement, eventually becoming a trigger for arousal.
This theory was proven in 1966, with a study performed by Stanley Rachman, where colored photographic slides of naked women were projected onto a screen for 15 seconds, followed by another image of a pair of black, knee-length women's boots projected for 30 seconds.
Sexual arousal was successfully conditioned in this study, meaning that the participants eventually became aroused when looking at the image of the black boot.
There is another theory surrounding fetishism that suggests there are prerequisite personality traits that enable us to become more or less likely to develop certain fetishes.
According to psychologist Dr. Justin Lehmiller, who is currently a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, the idea that people are "born with" fetishes likely won't be proven - but there is merit to the idea people may be born with a generalized predisposition to developing fetishes.
"Although personality is undoubtedly influenced by environmental factors, several studies have suggested that a number of personality traits are heritable to some degree," Lehmiller explains. "So, to the extent that individuals are born with tendencies towards certain personality traits could explain why some people are more likely to develop fetishes than others."
Explaining foot fetishes
1 in 7 people have had a sexual fantasy about feet.
Photo by Martin Carlsson on Shutterstock
The fetish for feet has been labeled as many things: foot fetishism, foot worship, foot partialism (where you are sexually aroused by a certain body part).
Foot fetishism has also been deemed a paraphilia (a condition where the individual's sexual arousal and satisfaction depend on fantasizing over a specific thing), with people who have a distinct interest in feet noted as having "podophilia", which is described as a pronounced sexual interest in feet (or shoes).
How popular are foot fetishes?
According to Justin Lehmiller, who collected data on this topic for his book "Tell Me What You Want", reported that 1 in 7 people have reported having a foot-related sexual fantasy before. However, he explains the number of people who have a true fetish for feet is likely to be much smaller than that.
It's important to note, according to Lehmiller, that just because someone has fantasized about feet in a sexual capacity, this doesn't mean they have a fetish for feet - simply, they have been sexually aroused by the idea of feet in the past.
Lehmiller even went as far as breaking down the sexual orientation of his participants, explaining that 18% of heterosexual men have fantasized about feet before, compared to a very small 5% of heterosexual women. Twenty-one percent of gay or bisexual identifying men and 11% of lesbian or bisexual women also shared their experiences with foot-related sexual fantasies.
Research from the 1950s explains the correlation between feet and sexual arousal
The "body image map" known as the Penfield Homunculus explains why people can be sexually aroused by feet.
Photo by sergey karabanov on Shutterstock
Dr. Vilayanur Ramachandran, a neurologist and professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, San Diego, has spent years studying and analyzing the neural mechanisms that cause human behaviors.
Ramachandran explains the results of a study he conducted on the clinical phenomenon known as "the phantom limb", where people who have lost limbs continue to have vivid sensations (pain or otherwise) where the missing limb would be.
Chronic phantom pain is present in about ⅔ of patients who have had a limb removed, and this phenomenon may also explain foot fetishism, as well.
According to Ramachandran, every point on your body has a corresponding point in your brain.
When a person loses a limb, the brain rewires the area of the brain that is connected to that part of your body and can often make it feel as though there is still a limb there - this is the explanation found in studies of phantom missing limb pains.
In one of Ramachandran's studies, many people who had lost a foot also reported that they could experience sexual pleasure from thinking about their missing foot.
While this may sound unorthodox, a groundbreaking study from the late 1950s proves this theory.
Wilder Penfield established the "body image map" (referred to as The Penfield homunculus) which found that sensations in the body directly correlated to stimulations in various parts of our brain. The sensory perception for our feet is located directly adjacent to the sensory perception area for our genitalia - perfectly explaining the normalcy behind foot fetishism.
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Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
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