How can I persuade girlfriend to let me touch her feet?
“Podophobia (an irrational fear of feet) may not be as well documented as its opposite number, podophilia (foot fetishism)
I find my girlfriend’s feet really attractive, but she thinks that all feet, including her own, are ugly, and won’t let me touch them. How can I persuade her to let me near them?
>> Most people are fairly neutral about their feet — particularly women because we can jazz them up with a pedicure and some nail polish — so it seems to me that if she is describing them as ugly, then she really, really does have a problem with them.
Podophobia (an irrational fear of feet) may not be as well documented as its opposite number, podophilia (foot fetishism), but it is not uncommon. Most people don’t hate feet, but they don’t find them erotic either. When Oliver Turnbull, a professor of psychology at Bangor University, asked 800 men and women to complete a survey rating 41 body parts for erogenous intensity, the penis and the clitoris were inevitably top of the list, while the feet, toes and ankles scraped along the bottom for both genders.
You are obviously different. Although you don’t describe yourself as having a foot fetish, you clearly think that feet are a turn-on and that touching them is a sexually gratifying experience. You are not alone. In 2007 Claudia Scorolli at the psychology department of the University of Bologna assessed the frequency of specific fetishes. A staggering 47% cent were sexually fixated on feet or toes.
It may sound like a bit of a jump, but the podophile/podophobe conundrum has previously been explained by the feet and the genitals occupying adjacent areas of the sensory cortex in the brain. The somatosensory homunculus, the sensory map of the brain, was developed in the 1950s by the neurosurgeon Wilder Graves Penfield and the neurologist Theodore Rasmussen.
In the late 1990s, Vilayanur S Ramachandran, a professor of psychology at the University of California, San Diego, proposed that the proximity may create some kind of neural confusion. His thought was that this would explain why some people develop either a foot fetish or an aversion to feet.
More recently, Serge Stoleru at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research has suggested there may actually be two different representations of the genitals in the brain, one that is sensitive to erotic stimulation and one that interprets whether the sensation is pleasant or unpleasant. Basically, we still don’t understand.
While it is reassuring to know you are both completely normal, your love of feet and your girlfriend’s aversion to them will be difficult to reconcile if you maintain your present positions. Compromise isn’t really an option because there is no acceptable halfway between wanting to touch something and not being allowed to, so your only option is to negotiate.
I’d start by trying to give her confidence that she has lovely feet. Instead of fetishising them, learn what she dislikes about them and make her feel good about them instead. Perhaps start by offering her a foot massage at the end of a busy day (without it leading to sex). The key is simply to make her and her feet feel truly loved.