Rhubaiyat, Omar Kayyam
The sexual allure of clothing is well documented and Flugel (1930) described clothes as being either a source of sexual arousal or a symbol of genitalia. Shoes became secondary sexual characteristics (Rossi, 1990a/b) and to the shoe fetishist they may need only the shoe, and not the owner, to be completely satisfied. Others may incorporate shoes into their normal coital habits but in the case of a true shoe fetishist (retifist), complete coital satisfaction is impossible unless a shoe is involved. Making love to a shoe is quite a complex procedure and according to Rossi (1990) the retifist works up to an erotic pitch by kissing, licking, gently biting, and caressing their favourite shoe.
To the retifist parts of the shoe represent different parts of the anatomy of the genitalia and smell is important with some retifists inhaling the smell of their favourite shoes. The heel represents the phallus and is an aspect favoured for frottage and masturbation.
Masturbation commonly accompanies real or imagined contact with the shoe (McGuire, Carlisle and Young, 1965). Shoe fetish is not restricted to sight and touch, but also sounds. A reported case history refers to a man who would reach orgasm by following a woman whose shoes creaked (acousticophilia - arousal from sound).
The term retifist (or restifist) for a shoe fetishist was coined by Ivan Bloch and came from French Writer and educator Retif de la Bretonne (1734-1806) (Kunjukrishnan , Pawlak & Varan, 1988). Nicholas Edme Restif wrote under the nome de plume, Restif de la Bretonne. Like his contemporary the Marquis de Sade, Nicholas was a libertine (a promiscuous fellow) who had a strong attraction to shoes. A printer to trade he became a prolific writer with more than 200 books to his credit. He published most of his works himself and despite his output most of his works remain unremarkable. However he wrote about life and contributed considerably to the “personal novel genre" which was later to become very popular in the nineteenth century. His genius was his ability to recount experiences combined with his description of contemporary Pre-Revolution French life. Restif wrote about the lower classes and simple, uneducated peasants in a style which captured their habits and dialects. At the time he was branded a pornographer and his books were removed from the public libraries. More recently his works have been acknowledged as important French 18th century literature. He was preoccupied with women's shoes and wrote a novel entitled Le Pied de Fanchette (Fanchett's foot) in 1769. In his diaries he revealed he was a shoe voyeur, stealer and collector. He also wrote extensively on the subject and became so linked with shoe fetishism he gave his name to a preoccupation with shoes. A century after his death Restif became an inspiration to many writers including Alexande Dumas who wrote Ingenue (1854) which was loosely based on biographic detail of the life of Nicholas Edme Restif.
As a group gay men seem to be the most at ease with shoe fetishism. The belief is since homosexuals men have already come to terms with a momentous social challenge in their sexuality then acceptance of stimuli is no major drama. Retifists usually collect women's shoes and have exquisite taste for elegant style. Their preference covers the seven basic shoe styles described by Rossi (1993) and materials such as leather and furs often influence their choice. Retifists sometimes have a vast number giving names to their favourites . Most appear to have a preference for particular footwear and take their relationship with these shoes, very seriously. Shoes and boots with fur effects that symbolise pubic hair are considered the sexiest types of shoes. Knee high or over the knee type boots with high heels are also very popular. Possession of shoes is important to the retifist and in cases of paraphilia; men may steal the shoes they are attracted to. Kiernan (1917, reported in Rossi, 1990) first described the term kleptolagnia which was used when theft took place when associated with sexual excitement. "Hephephilia" is a term used when there is an uncontrollable urge to steal the objects of specific focus. Many hephephiliacs are ordinary people with no criminal intention other than a compulsion to possess the object of their desire due to a repressed or complicated sex life. Theft from shops is common as is robbery from private property.
According to Rossi (1990b) guesstimates of between .1 to .25 of 1% of the male population are thought to be fetishists or retifists. Taking age and health into consideration this would translate into 1/4 to 1/4 of 1% of the adult male population between the ages of 17-60. The absence of epidemiological information makes it impossible to indicate the number and gender breakdown of shoe fetishists. Although rare, female fetishism has been reported (van Krafft-Ebing 1886; Zavitzianos 1971, Richards1990), authors like Greenacre (1979) argue the frequency of occurrence in women is not as low as was previously thought. Experts consider shoe fetishists (or retifists) to exhibit similar characteristics to foot fetishists but with their primary focus and stimulus firmly on the shoe (John (Anonymous), Chambers & Janzen, 1976).
Foot fetishists experience less difficulty finding a partner to engage their fantasy but retifists are more likely to require the services of a specialist. In the sex industry retifists are referred to as 'bootmen,’ and traditionally boots were often worn by prostitutes affiliated with sadomasochism (Gebhard, 1969). Retifists report higher use of sex services because they find difficulty in trying to convince their partners to comply with their fantasies. The term "bootman" is commonly used within the sex industry to describe retifists. In the majority of cases, shoe fetishism pose no danger to others and individuals pursue their use of the fetish object in private, usually through masturbation. To the submissive foot fetishist the idea of kissing the masters’ feet relishes his physical, psychological and even social inferiority to the dominant.
Most authorities believe a retifists who commit a violent criminal act is not driven solely by the desire to express or satisfy his fetishist urges, although expression of the disorder may be a feature in the crime. Kunjukrishnan, Pawlak, and Varan (1988) reported a case of a retifist who committed indecent assault. The subject was diagnosed with retifism and inadequate personality disorder were made, thereby supporting the view that it was not the fetishism alone that led to the commission of the offence. It is however widely accepted pathological fetishism is rare. van Krafft-Ebing (1886) did note retifism and stealing rarely brought the fetishist in contact with the law (Grubin, Gudjonsson, Gunn and West, 1993). Many retifists keep copious records of their activities all of which adds to their excitement. Shoe snatching, including foot assaults, have been reported around the world. When these cases do come to court however the behaviour is often dismissed as a trivial deviation. Most medical authorities agree such behaviour signifies power and indicates domination. Richard von Krafft-Ebing considered the majority of shoe fetishists were masochists. Wedeck (1963) described this behaviour as someone who would steal shoes from their victim and tear, slash or burn them to attain a sexual climax.
Often collectors of shoes are mistakenly thought to be retifists but unless there is a sexual component to their behaviour then the person is more likely to have an obsessive compulsive disorder.
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