Philias: Foot Fetishes Kick the Stigma

Ever wondered why some people have a thing for feet? In this final Philias episode, we’re flying feet first into foot fetishes. Social psychologist Dr. Justin Lehmiller breaks down the origins of fetishes (and the truth to that “crossed wires in the brain” factoid), while writer and “Educatrix” Tina Horn gives us the lowdown on why feet can be such a turn-on. We also step into the cultural aspects of foot fascination and debunk some common misconceptions. Whether you’re a foot fanatic yourself or just interested in what makes people tick, this episode will shed light on a often misunderstood aspect of human sexuality. So go ahead, press play and put your feet up—and maybe snap a pic or two while you’re at it.

Resources from Dr. Justin Lehmiller:

Resources from Tina Horn:

Citations and further reading:

TikTok – Make Your Day

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[00:00:00] Ashley: A while back, I came across this TikTok from a woman named Elisa. Her username is @msheavenonearthh. She’s on the beach, and it starts out with a selfie view as she gets up from a beach towel and some unseen strangers tell her that a man had been taking pictures of her while she was sleeping. They pointed him out, and she did what I could never do in a million years. She walks over and confronts him.

[00:00:27] Elisa: Yo, why are you recording me while I was sleeping?

[00:00:30] Foot creep: I didn’t record you sleeping.

[00:00:31] Elisa: Yeah, I had like three people just told me that you were taking pictures of me while I was sleeping.

[00:00:35] Foot creep: Just your feet.

[00:00:36] Elisa: No.

[00:00:37] Ashley: She makes him delete the pictures off his phone, along with some pictures of high school girls who were sitting near her, then takes his phone and deletes the deleted pictures from the trash.

[00:00:48] Ashley: Her bravery is incredible, and I think it might be a product of the area. The beach is right next to Coney Island, and this is clearly a take no shit NYC girl through and through. But what stuck out to me was his excuse. He wasn’t taking pictures of her butt. He says he was taking pictures of her feet. He says it again later.

[00:01:09] Foot creep: I didn’t mean no harm or disrespect.

[00:01:11] Elisa: No, it’s disrespectful. ’cause what if I did that while you were sleeping and took pictures of your butt? Are you serious?

[00:01:16] Foot creep: I took pictures of your feet. So.

[00:01:18] Elisa: My, and you got my back end. That’s crazy. That’s so crazy.

[00:01:21] Ashley: The idea that it’s more okay to take creep shots of a person’s feet than some more traditionally sexualized body part is one of the things that makes foot fetishes complicated, at least to me.

[00:01:34] Ashley: There’s an aspect of manipulation there. You don’t know if the person has a foot fetish, and they’re taking advantage of that fact to take the kinds of pictures that would be a clear ethical violation if the person had more garden variety interests. The same goes for sites like WikiFeet, where people post pictures of feet belonging to famous and semi famous women.

[00:01:55] Ashley: If a site were devoted to the boobs or butts of famous women, there might be more of an outcry, but because it’s feet, it’s just something strange. Of course, not everyone with foot fetishes acts the way this guy on the beach did. And considering that it’s one of the world’s most popular fetishes, the creeps are likely a very small minority.

[00:02:18] Ashley: But here’s my argument. Some people with foot fetishes act creepy because society sees foot fetishes as creepy. Someone who feels shunned by society will do things that get them shunned by society because they’ve got nothing to lose. The more we understand and welcome foot fetishes as just one more colorful form of human sexuality, the better off everyone will be.

[00:02:44] Ashley: And today, we’re learning all about them. I’m Ashley Hamer, and this is Taboo Science, the podcast that answers the questions you’re not allowed to ask.

[00:03:16] Ashley: So, to start with the absolute basics: What is a fetish in the first place?

[00:03:21] Justin Lehmiller: A fetish is a type of kink, right? So if we use the term kink as kind of the umbrella term, that refers to any sexual interest that kind of falls outside of the mainstream. And a fetish would be a specific type of kink.

[00:03:38] Ashley: That is Dr. Justin Lehmiller.

[00:03:40] Justin Lehmiller: I’m a social psychologist and research fellow at the Kinsey Institute. I run the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast, and I’m author of the book Tell Me What You Want, The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life.

[00:03:54] Ashley: I mentioned that book on the last episode. It’s the result of surveying more than 4, 000 Americans about their favorite sexual fantasy of all time. It uncovered a lot of useful information, not only about less researched interests like foot fetishes, but also about how a person’s fantasies are connected to their personality traits, where they live, or other elements of their personal background.

[00:04:17] Ashley: We’ll talk more about that later.

[00:04:19] Justin Lehmiller: And so, with fetishes, what we’re talking about are having a fascination with a particular sensation, or object, or non genital body part. And so, it’s really just this enduring fascination with something that’s, you know, isn’t typically a part of common sexual practices.

[00:04:42] Justin Lehmiller: So that could be something like feet or shoes. It could basically be anything that you can think of, right? People can have fetishes for virtually anything. And I think it’s important to note that fetishes are multi sensory. So what it is that turns somebody on who has a fetish might be the look or appearance of something.

[00:05:01] Justin Lehmiller: It could be the taste or smell of it. It could be the sound of it. It could be multiple senses all combined at once. So fetishes are kind of diverse in terms of their meaning to the individual.

[00:05:13] Ashley: Something you may have heard about fetishes is that they’re exclusive. If someone is into feet, feet are the only thing that can turn them on sexually. They get nothing from quote unquote normal sex. Like most things in human sexuality, this is only true of some people.

[00:05:31] Justin Lehmiller: Fetishes vary across persons in terms of their strength and intensity. And for a subset of people, fetishes are these requirements for arousal and orgasm. Like, they have to have that fetish object in order to obtain sexual pleasure or gratification.

[00:05:48] Justin Lehmiller: However, for many people with fetishes that are on kind of the more mild end of the spectrum, um, the fetish is really just an enhancer to sex and so they can still enjoy non fetish sex to a very great degree or level and if the fetish is added to it that’s just like an extra bonus, right? So you know that’s one of the things worth recognizing is that there’s a little bit more nuance to fetishes, you know, they’re not always these exclusive requirements.

[00:06:13] Justin Lehmiller: And sometimes, and actually I think more commonly, they just tend to be these enhancers to sex that people might just pursue on occasion or only with partners who might be interested in that.

[00:06:30] Ashley: So here’s the eternal unanswerable question. Where do fetishes come from?

[00:06:36] Justin Lehmiller: There’s not a simple answer because I think two people could develop a fetish for the same thing, but they might develop it for different reasons. So I like to think of all sexual interests, whether they’re fetishes or something else, or another type of kink, let’s say.

[00:06:54] Justin Lehmiller: They are biopsychosocial in nature, so there can be biological factors, for example, your hormone levels that might play a role in terms of our general level of sexual interest and desire, and that can sort of shape what we do and how we behave sexually, and that can open the door to learning and developing different sexual interests if you’re just more sexually active.

[00:07:15] Justin Lehmiller: Also, you know, it depends on psychological factors, so your own unique personality traits. For example, I find that people who are very extroverted versus very introverted tend to develop pretty different sexual interests.

[00:07:29] Ashley: Yeah! According to Dr. Lehmiller’s research, introverts tend to develop kinkier sexual interests than extroverts. The stereotype of the freaky band geek or the sexy librarian? It’s not too far from the truth.

[00:07:44] Justin Lehmiller: And then it also depends on our environment, you know, the culture in which we’re embedded and our relationship circumstances, you know, the things that we’re exposed to or the things that are considered to be taboo or deviant within our culture or society, you know, so all of these factors can play a role in different ways in terms of developing something like a fetish. But I would say probably the single most common way that fetishes develop is that they’re learned through experience. And they’re things that we come to associate with sex and with sexual pleasure. So for example, if you had a sexual experience, particularly if it was early on, and let’s say there was something like shoes or stockings involved in that, and this experience involved a very powerful, very intense orgasm, that can become a reinforcing variable, right?

[00:08:35] Justin Lehmiller: And so it can make us want to pursue that more in the future because we want to repeat or replicate that intense experience of pleasure that we had. So fetishes, I would say, are more often than not learned behaviors.

[00:08:48] Ashley: In fact, scientists have given people fetishes in the lab multiple times. The most famous experiment on this was published in 1966 by a researcher named S. Rachmann. He invited three straight male psychologist buddies into the lab, had them put on a device that measured blood flow to the penis, and started showing them pictures.

[00:09:10] Justin Lehmiller: He would show these men images of nude women, and for most heterosexual men, that’s going to be arousing. And so when they see the images of the nude women, they’re registering levels of genital arousal.

[00:09:21] Justin Lehmiller: And then following the images of the nude women, he would show them images of women’s boots. And for people who don’t already have a foot fetish, you know, just seeing an image of ladies boots probably isn’t going to do a whole lot for them. So, you know, in the beginning, they would see the images of the boots and they’re not registering or showing much sexual arousal.

[00:09:39] Justin Lehmiller: But over time, when you present the image of the nude woman, followed very closely by images of women’s boots, what you see is that eventually, the men start showing arousal to the boots alone, right? Because the boots are becoming associated with, they’re becoming a cue for sexual arousal.

[00:09:58] Ashley: Eventually, other researchers repeated the experiment with subtle tweaks.

[00:10:03] Ashley: A researcher named M. McConaghy did it with geometric shapes. That experiment was with both straight and gay men, and it got basically the same result. And then in 1999, researchers Joseph Plaud and James Martini did the experiment again.

[00:10:19] Justin Lehmiller: And so in that study, they followed the same experimental design, except instead of showing images of boots, they showed images of a jar of pennies, which, you know, is probably a highly unarousing stimulus for most people, unless you’re, like, really into money.

[00:10:35] Justin Lehmiller: But, you know, they found the same pattern, uh, of associations there was that over time participants in that study started to show arousal to that image of a jar of pennies because it had become this learned cue for sexual arousal.

[00:10:49] Ashley: I was curious about this and maybe you are too. Did the men then leave the lab with a lifelong fetish for pennies?

[00:10:56] Ashley: No. Thankfully, this experiment, and all experiments like it, included an extinction trial where they showed the conditioned stimulus, in this case, the jar of pennies, a bunch of times without the sexy images until the volunteers didn’t get aroused anymore. Close one!

[00:11:23] Ashley: But if there’s one thing you’ve heard about the scientific reason for foot fetishes, it’s probably this.

[00:11:30] Justin Lehmiller: One that often gets thrown around is that in the brain, the areas for sensation, where we register that in the brain for the feet, are actually in very close proximity to the areas where we get genital sensation.

[00:11:44] Justin Lehmiller: And so the thought is that maybe there’s some overlap or even cross wiring in some people that kind of leads to this, you know, sensation or stimulation to be kind of associated with sexual arousal.

[00:12:02] Ashley: This idea was first posed by neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran in the 90s. The part of the brain we’re talking about here is called the somatosensory cortex. It’s a narrow strip on the outside of the brain that contains basically all of the sensory brain cells that connect with different parts of your body.

[00:12:21] Ashley: It’s almost like a map. The tongue neurons are next to the teeth neurons, which are next to the mouth neurons, which are next to the face neurons, and so on. Until you get to the hands and feet. For some reason, the hands are mapped next to the face, and the feet are mapped next to the genitals. A psychology researcher named Martha J. Farah came up with a fascinating explanation for this.

[00:12:45] Ashley: See, we’re pretty sure the connections in the somatosensory cortex form in the womb. When we’re all balled up in the fetal position, our hands are closest to our face and our feet are closest to our genitals. All that touching we do, with our hands on our face and our feet on our genitals, creates a lifelong change in the brain that associates those body parts with one another.

[00:13:07] Ashley: Cool, right? So the idea is that the foot neurons being so close to the genital neurons might cause some crosstalk, leading to foot fetishes. But I see one problem with this. It’s about sensation, not attraction. It might explain why someone gets off on having their feet touched, but it doesn’t explain why people are attracted to someone else’s feet.

[00:13:31] Ashley: Dr. Lehmiller also doesn’t totally buy it.

[00:13:34] Justin Lehmiller: I think it falls in the category of, hey, there could potentially be something to it, but it feels like it might be too easy or too simple of an explanation. And I think when we’re trying to understand the origins of where sexual interests come from, people tend to be very easily seduced by simple explanations, especially if you can throw, like, the brain into it in some way.

[00:13:57] Tina Horn: Desire is an art, not a science. I mean, I think it’s worthwhile to apply all kinds of science to sexuality, for sure. But when it comes to really understanding why are people into that, there’s never going to be just one answer that applies to everyone or even applies to just one person. It can change throughout the day, it can change throughout a monthly cycle, it can change throughout your lifetime, it can change in different dynamics.

[00:14:25] Tina Horn: It can be different in your solo sex life masturbation fantasies in your head versus what you like to do with people. It can surprise you. So as elusive and sometimes maddening as that can be, I do think that we have to accept that sexuality is like slippery, if you’ll forgive the use of that word, and it’s like the sun, you like shouldn’t look at it directly.

[00:14:49] Ashley: That is Tina Horn.

[00:14:51] Tina Horn: I’m a writer I identify as an educatrix, combining my background in professional BDSM with education of all kinds across many mediums. I’m also apodcaster. I have a podcast called Why Are People Into That. The book version of Why Are People Into That is going to be out from Hachette Press in June 2024.

[00:15:14] Ashley: Meaning it’s out now. I’ve read it, and if you’re at all interested in the stuff that I talk about on this podcast, you are going to love it.

[00:15:23] Ashley: Tina also has certain interests that are relevant to the topic at hand.

[00:15:27] Ashley: (in interview) You are into feet, correct?

[00:15:30] Tina Horn: Do you want to see my feet?

[00:15:32] Ashley: No, thank you. I’m sure they’re lovely.

[00:15:35] Tina Horn: Great. Well, that’s good because I would have to charge you.

[00:15:40] Ashley: Okay. So, um, why, why are you into feet?

[00:15:44] Ashley: (narration) Tina’s answer, plus a lot more about foot fetishes, when we come back.

[00:15:56] Ashley: So I asked Tina why she’s into feet, and here was her answer.

[00:16:01] Tina Horn: This, you know, probably like says a lot about the way that I see the world and that I see sexuality. Like, I see feet as having like an enormous amount of personality and as being like little characters.

[00:16:18] Tina Horn: Sounds creepy, like a creepy puppet, but I see feet as like little microcosms of the people that they’re attached to, and When I am into a person, erotically, I just become so, like, obsessed with and curious about their body, and I’m absolutely curious about their butts, and I’m absolutely curious about their genitals, and I’m absolutely curious about their tits and their nipples, and I’m, like, absolutely curious about their, their face, you know, their hair, all the hair, all the places on their body.

[00:16:54] Tina Horn: And, like, feet. Just kind of feel like, like a part of many people’s bodies that just has sort of so much to say about who they are. And I just, I like love to worship them both in a devotional way, but also in a, um, just like, being a sensory pig and wanting to just like, rub my face up against, um, the people that I like.

[00:17:24] Tina Horn: I’m a very like, scent motivated person, so feet tend to have a strong scent that tells you a lot about a person. I mean, I personally like things that are stinky, um, but even if someone’s feet aren’t particularly, like, sweaty or stinky, like, that still also says something about them, and that’s interesting.

[00:17:45] Tina Horn: Um, I feel like people neglect their feet, so I like to take care of them. I like to give people pleasure by rubbing them and worshipping them. I like to see the look on somebody’s face when I just, like, want to get my face up in their feet.

[00:18:02] Ashley: There’s also an element of submission in foot worship that appeals to some people.

[00:18:07] Tina Horn: I’m not an extremely submissive person. But I have definitely had experiences of being in the bottom position in a kink scene and having somebody put their feet on me in a way that was sort of like, I’m not in charge, I’m not in control.

[00:18:26] Tina Horn: You know, some people love to be objectified as like a footstool, the sort of like taking care of somebody’s feet or pampering their feet is very much an act of service, right? So if you want to think about that as a love language. An act of service, but also service is a very big part of a lot of leather community, BDSM play for a lot of people.

[00:18:47] Tina Horn: Um, uh, so, you know, being in service to someone by taking care of their feet. Um, yeah, trampling, pressure. I mean, yeah, I love to, like, I love to walk on people.

[00:19:01] Ashley: So what’s so funny about this, this very detailed explanation of why you’re into it is I feel like it doesn’t line up with a lot of people’s conception of a foot fetish, which is people looking at foot pics online, paying for foot pics. There’s wiki feet, you know, it’s, but it doesn’t sound like foot pictures are at all part of your thing. It has, they’re attached to the person that you’re into.

[00:19:24] Tina Horn: Oh, that’s interesting. I mean, I, I’m not a super visual person. But there’s no moral valence to that. Like, I’m much more of a sensory, tactile kind of person, so I do want to stress that I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with enjoying looking at pictures of feet and being a visually motivated person, or even the sort of foot partialism of fixating on feet and like not really caring who they’re attached to.

[00:19:52] Tina Horn: Like if there’s a certain kind of foot that you enjoy looking at, enjoy fantasizing about, um, and you don’t really care if it’s attached to like, you know, your mom’s friend at the pool or Emma Stone, I don’t know, or, you know, Ryan Gosling, um, whomever, uh, Idris Elba. I’m sure Idris Elba has amazing feet, actually, now that I think about it.

[00:20:13] Ashley: Probably, yeah.

[00:20:14] Tina Horn: But, uh, so I want to stress that my interest in feet often does have to do with who they’re attached to and, like, having an experience with that person. But it’s also just because I’m more tactilely motivated. So, um, somebody who is more visually motivated might enjoy looking at pictures of feet.

[00:20:32] Tina Horn: And also, um, sometimes people who enjoy looking at pictures of feet do get an erotic charge from the person that they know that it is connected to. So sometimes the pictures are not disembodied. Sometimes it’s, you know, the foot is in focus in the foreground of the frame and, you know, the person is attached to it, extending behind it.

[00:20:52] Tina Horn: And sometimes, you know, being sent foot pics by someone who you would like to fuck or you find attractive can be a part of the visual element as well.

[00:21:03] Ashley: As a woman, Tina is outside the majority for this fetish. Men are more likely to identify as having a foot fetish than women. And according to Dr. Lehmiller, there’s probably a cultural reason for that.

[00:21:16] Justin Lehmiller: So if you think, for example, about the way that feet, and in particular women’s feet, are often depicted in the media and in advertising and in popular culture, you know, feet are very sexualized, you know, in, in a lot of ads and in a lot of movies and TV shows.

[00:21:32] Justin Lehmiller: You know, if you think about, for example, the prominent role that footwear played in shows like Sex and the City or in the movie Barbie, and, you know, the way that women’s feet are depicted, I think that that is one of the things that can start to create this association between feet and sexual arousal, and we can kind of learn that over time through what we’re exposed to.

[00:21:55] Ashley: But men’s feet don’t get that kind of media treatment.

[00:21:58] Justin Lehmiller: I mean, just try and think for a moment. Can you think of any examples of men’s feet being depicted in very sexy ways? Like, when men’s feet are shown or discussed in the media, they’re often talked about as kind of being gross, right? As opposed to being like a sex symbol.

[00:22:15] Justin Lehmiller: So, you know, I think that that’s part of the reason for why there’s a big gender difference there. If I’m remembering my data correctly, I think gay men were actually even more likely to have foot fetishes than heterosexual men, which is interesting in light of, you know, what I just said about sort of the cultural explanation because men’s feet don’t tend to be kind of sexualized, uh, in the media in the same way.

[00:22:36] Justin Lehmiller: So there’s something interesting going on with gay and bisexual men where feet really seem to be a pretty prominent fetish in particular in that community. And something that’s worth mentioning is just that in general, sexual minorities, and in particular sexual minority men, tend to have more kinks and fetishes compared to cisgender heterosexual people.

[00:22:59] Justin Lehmiller: And I think one possible explanation for that is when you’ve already, you know, sort of broken the norms or violated one sexual taboo and you know if you’re gay or bisexual you’ve already violated the norm of heterosexuality. I think that kind of opens the door to exploring your sexuality more fully because it becomes less costly to violate other taboos once you’ve already violated a big one like the norm of heterosexuality.

[00:23:29] Justin Lehmiller: So I think that could potentially be at play in terms of why gay and bi men tend to have more foot fetishes than heterosexual men.

[00:23:37] Ashley: In my interviews, the same point has been made about trans people tending to be kinkier than the general population. They’ve already violated a huge gender norm, so why not explore what other norms are worth violating?

[00:24:02] Ashley: To come full circle, I wanted to ask my guests about why people with foot fetishes have a stereotype of being creepy, like the guy in the TikTok at the top of the show. Why does that stereotype exist? Tina and Dr. Lehmiller both said the same thing.

[00:24:24] Tina Horn: I think that we think that people who Like, feet are creepy because mental health institutions have been defining, you know, partialism, like an interest in a part of the body that is not a primary or secondary sexual characteristic that we’ve decided is like normal to be sexually interested in. Mental health institutions have defined that as a sickness for a very long time.

[00:24:53] Justin Lehmiller: So I don’t think there’s truth to the idea that people who have fetishes, whether they’re feet or something else, are necessarily or more likely to be sexually interested in sexual deviants who are going to go out and, you know, commit sex crimes or engage in sexual harassment or things like that. Like, I’m not aware of any data or evidence to support that idea.

[00:25:15] Justin Lehmiller: But I think where this comes from is that there’s long been a stigma, not just against foot fetishes, but about all fetishes and all kinks, you know, especially anything BDSM related, because historically in the DSM, which is the psychiatry bible, fetishes and sadomasochism have been classified as paraphilias, which refers to an unusual sexual interest, and they were considered to be disorders that were in need of treatment.

[00:25:45] Justin Lehmiller: And it wasn’t really until the early 2010s when the DSM for the first time made a distinction between having a paraphilia, so having an unusual sexual interest, versus having a paraphilic disorder, which is having an unusual interest that either causes distress to the individual or is causing harm to someone else because maybe it’s, let’s say, being engaged in non consensually.

[00:26:07] Justin Lehmiller: So it’s very, very recent as a phenomenon for psychiatry and psychology to have really tried to kind of de stigmatize unusual sexual interests. And so it’s kind of hard to fight that long standing baggage of people associating fetish and kink and S& M with disorder, right? The field no longer considers these things to be disorders today unless, you know, they’re causing distress or harm.

[00:26:35] Justin Lehmiller: I think that nuance is kind of lost on a lot of folks.

[00:26:40] Tina Horn: Like, where do our ideas about sexuality come from, I ask, in Why Are People Into That? A Cultural Investigation of Kink and, you know, some of it is the moral imperialism of powerful churches and religions. Some of it is certainly the law. So I think that the result of that, I know that the result of that is that people who In coming into their sexual understanding in adolescence and young adulthood, when they realize that they’re turned on by something, that they are seeing messages makes them creepy, then it becomes this like self fulfilling prophecy or this like feedback loop, where then people feel bad, and then that, like, tamping down of shame can contribute to maladaptive behavior, like seeking out images of people’s feet on the internet without their consent, or staring at people’s feet in sandals without their consent because they feel like they can’t say to a partner, I would love to touch your feet, I would love your feet in my mouth, whereas I think that people having their first sexual experiences, you know, don’t feel like they need to have a conversation before they put somebody’s tits in their mouth or somebody’s genitals in their mouth, um, or, or kiss their neck or kiss down their legs, right?

[00:27:59] Tina Horn: They’re, it’s all, it’s all a body, you know, it’s all bodies. Um, and the meaning that we place on different parts of bodies comes from all kinds of places. So I, you know, what do I think is the solution to this is, is, just is. Um, read my book. Um, uh, read other books. Uh, I’m fine with people reading other books. That’s cool. That’s cool.

[00:28:21] Tina Horn: Um, uh, talking about your sexual fantasies and interests with your platonic friends, normalizing that, and talk to your partner and also practice being a good listener for, you know, ask your partner what they’re interested in, because we always say, talk to your partner about your interests, but like, talk to your partner about your interests only goes so far if your partner is not being a good and compassionate listener, and also not then asking questions.

[00:28:50] Ashley: But talking to your partner can be easier or harder depending on the intensity of your fetish.

[00:28:56] Justin Lehmiller: When we start talking about things like, how do you make relationships work when say one partner has a kink or fetish and the other partner doesn’t share that, well, it’s important to understand that nuance.

[00:29:06] Justin Lehmiller: So is the kink or fetish a requirement for the individual? Or is it just an enhancer? Because if it’s just an enhancer, it makes it a lot easier to find other ways that you can connect and find common ground sexually. But when one partner has one of these exclusive or requirement level kinks or fetishes and the other partner doesn’t, share that interest at all.

[00:29:26] Justin Lehmiller: It’s not, it’s not a bonus or an answer for them. That’s where you start to run into tension and conflict and it can become very hard to make a sexual or romantic relationship work because sometimes the sexual disparity is just too wide to be able to find common ground.

[00:29:43] Ashley: In those cases, Dr. Lehmiller has a couple of suggestions. One is that you could open the relationship.

[00:29:50] Justin Lehmiller: Because then they can practice their kink or fetish sexual activities with someone outside of their primary relationship, and they can have vanilla sex with their primary partner. Now, open relationships don’t work for everybody. It’s, it’s not, you know, a simple solution to just say, well, if you have different sexual interests, just open up, and that’ll solve all your problems.

[00:30:09] Justin Lehmiller: No, it doesn’t, it doesn’t quite work that way. It’s not that simple, and non monogamy isn’t for everyone.

[00:30:15] Ashley: Option two is just to have vanilla sex with your partner and use pornography and masturbation to fulfill that need.

[00:30:21] Justin Lehmiller: Now, sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t, because like I said, sometimes the fetish interest is this exclusive requirement, and so they might not be able to find a way to engage with their partner or find common ground.

[00:30:33] Justin Lehmiller: And sometimes the answer, and I know people don’t like to hear it, but sometimes the answer is actually pretty simple. Breakup and finding a partner who is more sexually compatible with you. So it is not always possible to bridge the divide, but there are lots of things you can try first before you get to that phase of realizing, all right, we’re at an impasse and, and if sex is important to both of us, breakup might be the only option because we need to find partners who are more compatible with our own interests.

[00:30:58] Ashley: In the end, though, a foot fetish, just like any other kind of fetish or kink, is just another form of human diversity. When society better understands that, maybe they’ll start to normalize it. And when we start to normalize it, it stops being creepy, and starts being something people feel comfortable expressing to their partners, and finding sexual fulfillment as a result. No WikiFeet necessary.

[00:31:33] Tina Horn: You know, there’s that expression, there’s no accounting for taste. And I, I hope that people will learn to see someone who likes feet as just someone who has a taste for feet, and that doesn’t mean it’s to the exclusion of an interest in anything else sexually. I think that when we start to learn, like, you know, do I prefer Beatles or Stones or do I prefer hot coffee or cold brew, um, how do you like your, you know, how much cream do you want in there? How much sugar do you want in there? I think that we start to identify, you know, as a cream and sugar person or as a, like, half calf, like, foam person.

[00:32:23] Tina Horn: And I hope that people can learn to see sexual tastes in that way because I think that that unlocks something for people where they don’t see it as something totally separate from other kinds of human experiences that are connected to cerebral thought and deep emotion and probably a lot of psychology and a lot of nature and nurture and also is something that can change throughout our lifetimes and as something that people can then create community and organize around, you know, and find compatibility around.

[00:33:06] Ashley: Thanks for listening. Huge, massive thanks to Justin Lehmiller, who I badgered for eight months, I am not kidding, to come on this podcast and talk about fetishes. His book, where he surveyed 4, 000 people about their sexual fantasies, is Tell Me What You Want, The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life.

[00:33:27] Ashley: He also wrote a textbook called The Psychology of Human Sexuality. His podcast is The Sex and Psychology Podcast, and you can find that the same place you found this podcast.

[00:33:39] Ashley: Big thanks also to Tina Horn, whose fantastic book is Why Are People Into That? A Cultural Investigation of Kink. Her podcast is also called Why Are People Into That?

[00:33:49] Ashley: And both the book and the podcast cover a lot more kinks that this miniseries didn’t have time to cover. You can find links to everything I just mentioned in the show notes.

[00:33:59] Ashley: Taboo Science is written and produced by me, Ashley Hamer. The theme song is by Danny Lopatka of DLC Music. Episode music is from Epidemic Sound.

[00:34:09] Ashley: This is the final official episode of the Philias miniseries. We made it! We’ll be wrapping up with one extra episode where I’m interviewed about what I learned and other behind the scenes details about the show. If you’ve got questions for me, you have a little more time to get them in. Send them to ashley at tabooscience. show or tweet them at tabooscience. Thank you to everyone who’s sent in questions so far.

[00:34:35] Ashley: Thank you for coming with me on this journey! I hope you tune in to the final, final episode in two weeks. I won’t tell anyone.