How can I per­suade girl­friend to let me touch her feet?

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“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.

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