I found out that a close (platonic) friend apparently has a foot fetish. Should I avoid being around him when I'm barefoot or wearing sandals or sexy high heels?

Dear Reader,

Thank you for writing in with your question.

Your friend shows that he trusts you, revealing his fetish towards feet. Your friend obviously trusts you enough to tell you about their fetishes and desires. He may not be coming on to you, just being forthright and honest.

I am curious to know why you would want to limit yourself regarding your footwear after hearing this confession. Why do you want to deny yourself the pleasure of being barefoot, wearing sandals or sexy high heels? Wear what pleases you, makes you feel good. Do you worry about what others will think, if you are turning them on? Do you feel shame or is it exciting?

I would like you to rephrase your question and ask me, “My friend loves boobs. Should I avoid being around him when I'm wearing a low-cut top with a push-up bra or a sexy dress?” Any part of the body can turn another person on – the back of the neck, lips, a haircut, hands, etc.

Please take care to not judge or shame someone who trusts you enough to reveal their fetish to you. Most people do not reveal their fetishes for fear of rejection and ridicule. This person may be strong enough to handle your being shocked by the revelation, but I wouldn't count on it. Fetishes are deeply ingrained in our subconscious. There is no way of digging them out. Some may say we're born with them. It can be deeply humiliating and damaging to have that trust broken from making fun by laughing or a poor reaction from embarrassment.

Are you worried that this platonic relationship will gravitate to a non-Platonic one? Is your friend hinting he wishes you would wear footwear that is more revealing? Does this suggestion make you uncomfortable? Does it progress to revealing your feet to him, or to tell him to leave you alone? You and your friend may need to have a more thorough discussion about boundaries and where each of you are comfortable about your friendship.

I'd like to talk more about fetishes.

A foot fetish is one of the most common 'fetish' a person can have. Some reports state at least 50 percent have a foot fetish. Some with the fetish prefer seeing women in flip flops over seeing their cleavage or a short skirt. Toe cleavage, seeing a glimpse of the tops of toes in shoes can be a real turn on too. Slipping the shoe off the back of the heel, absentmindedly showing off the back of the foot and the arch, is a tease and can be an incredible pleasure. It's not just for men. Women enjoy giving and receiving foot/toe pleasure too. It does not just affect men.

I would like to thank Charles Gatewood, Monika Thomas and Kitty Stryker for their insights on some uses of the word, Fetish.

"In everyday speech, any fixation on a singular inanimate object, body part, or erotic practice is called fetishism. To most of us, a fetishistic desire is an overwhelming need for some magical thing to fill our deepest longings. The term is heavy with psycho-sexual implications, and fantasy plays a crucial role. A fetishist, then, is someone whose sexual arousal is greatly enhanced by objects or practices not directly related to intercourse." Charles Gatewood, Cultural Anthropologist and Photographer.

Historically the word "fetish" has been used to describe an extreme attachment or fixation that prevents a person from enjoying sex without it. "Fetish" also has a connotation with paraphilia and the pathologization of any kind of "abnormal" sexuality but as Kinsey discovered, there's no such thing as "normal" when it comes to human sexuality! There are many pathways to pleasure. When you must describe the kinds of desires that "most people" don't talk about, I like the term "kinky" because it's inclusive and playful. You could use the term "attraction" but it's not as specific to divergent sexuality and already being used to describe sexual orientation, as in "same-sex attracted." Monika Thomas, host of Sexploration with Monika.

Kitty Stryker follows the teachings of Paul Gebhard. He is an American anthropologist and sexologist, and wrote of four levels of fetishistic intensity:

Level 1: A slight preference for certain kinds of sex partners, sexual stimuli or sexual activity. The term “fetish” should not be used at this level.

Level 2: A strong preference for certain kinds of sex partners, sexual stimuli or sexual activity. (Lowest intensity of fetishism).

Level 3: Specific stimuli are necessary for sexual arousal and sexual performance. (Moderate intensity of fetishism).

Level 4: Specific stimuli take the place of a sex partner. (High level fetishism).

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