Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Shoes:Fantasy and fetish

By the reign of Queen Victoria well bred women could not be acknowledged as possessing anything as potentially carnal as legs. So the term lower limb was used to describe the leg which is still a convention in medicine. Ironically, crinoline was incredibly seductive and the steel hoops that buoyed the skirt kept it in a permanent state of motion The slightest pressure at one point raised it correspondingly at the opposite side, often revealing a titillating and tantalising glimpse of the forbidden flesh. Ankles and feet became a focus for sexual allure and anything and everything which covered them all the more attractive. Simple court pumps disappeared and were replaced with the ankle boot. Partly worn as a fashion in honour of Wellington and Queen Victoria, the boot complemented the crinoline dresses and provided a foot corset enjoyed by men and understood by women. As trade and travel took on international dimensions in the 19th century, the prized fabrics of the orient joined the French fashion world. The eastern look was dignified and exotic, symbolic of a sophisticated understanding of the world. Shoes styles had names like the Empress. With the cotton trade came delicate gauze or layers of sheer fabrics for dresses. Shoes needed to match and were decorated with pearl buttons, or bead buttons and rhinestones. Repression and prudery generated new outlets for sexual expression. The fashion to conceal the female leg under floor length skirts and boots was so successful that the mere glimpse of a women's ankle was a cause for arousal. Women's ankles and by extension their shoes and boots became symbols of more hidden body parts, and lusting after their feet or footwear was deemed strictly taboo. Not surprisingly, by 1850 with the introduction of photography an underground market for pornography and shoes with 6 inch heels flourished in London. Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, from which the word masochism comes, freely wrote of his experiences where he allowed his mistresses to whip and walk on him. He was delighted to kiss the shoes that performed the action. Well over a century later, shoe fetishism flourishes although it remains a social taboo because of its association with cross dressing and Algolagnia or S&M. The fetish shoe often incorporates locks, chains and high heels. The locks represent the idea the feet are precious and owned by the admirer. Chains restrict movement, which reinforce the power game being played out between "slave and master". According to some anatomists wearing high heels changes the distribution of mass around the body and, and tilts the pelvis into a precoital position. Fetish shoes are often black or red, made in patent leather, and fit the foot like a corset. Boots are often extended to knee or thigh and have platform soles to extend the length of the leg. In today's society, cross-dressing is still viewed with great suspicion however many people are specifically attracted to style associated with the opposite sex because of their allure. Naturally they wish to explore the full ensemble. As Rossi so eruditely puts it "fashion is the artisan of mascarade." Erotic symbolism is not expressed in all footwear in the same way and the sex appeal features in shoe design must comply with the psychosocial personality of the individual. Eroticism often infers dominance of one partner over another popular foreplay with foot fetishists and algophiles is tickling. Tramping describes walking over your partner. A little more uncomfortable than tickling but still relatively harmless. Crushing describes standing on your partner with stiletto heels. Definitely not for the fainthearted and more than likely to cause perforation of the skin. The bazaar practice is more for the discerning s&m user.

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