Monday, November 10, 2008

Preventing STDs: “Beso los pies” (I kiss your feet)

The syphilis epidemics of the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries caused great consternation across Europe and beyond and may have ensured the foot became sexualised. The foot and shoe in both Occidental and Oriental Societies were used as sex toys in intimate frottage. When the STD epidemic moved from Spain to Italy before engulfing the whole of Europe painters began including the female foot with toe cleavage as an artistic interpretation for seduction. Partially covered feet became a common theme representing a voyeuristic mark of the times. In contemporary literature the foot was idealised and wandering troubadours extolled its virtues in poetry and song.

Apparently the long second toe was popular (aka the Greek Foot) and clothed prostitutes paraded before customers unshod. Preference for the small foot in the French and Italian courts meant foot binding European style was openly practiced. Occidental foot binding was less severe and usually restricted to young adults wearing ballet type pumps.

Great interest in the erotic works of the East was also evidenced during the Syphilis Epidemics and the fetish for feet remained popular until the discovery of mercury as a primitive cure for syphilis was found.

During the 18th century a genteel common practice at the time was to give small ornament gifts in the shape of feet or shoes and leather boots. In the nineteenth century a second epidemic of syphilis reappeared this again mirrored a flurry of interest in foot sex.

Brothels began to specialise in foot eroticism on a large scale. This may partly be because the use of the foot was seen as a safe sex alternative to genital intercourse. Victorian schools of painting included the idealised female foot.

The French painter Édouard Manet in 1886 presented a scandalous painting of a reclining nude entitled Olympia. He depicted the shoe as an erogenous zone and this brave metaphor was acknowledged by many art historians as pivotal to the development of modern art.

These reviewed sexual awakenings were also witnessed with the introduction of censorship where the female foot was excluded from respectable photographic tintypes. While contemporary portrayals showed men with their boots exposed, women's feet were covered by dresses or lap shawls or were mechanically cropped from the plate.

The Cinderella fairy tale was revived with fetishistic overtones. George du Maurier's "Trilby" became a bestselling novel (1894) and spurned the fashion for foot shaped objects from ice creams to sausages. At a time when the works of Freud were eagerly read by the same readership that would devour Trilby the swallowing of offal could not be divorced from the symbolism to fallatio.

Foot shaped jewelery became the fashion with men's tobacco pouches and hip flasks all the rage. Isadora Duncan revolutionised ballet by dancing in her bare feet. At this time the idea of a good girl was one which did not become involved in intercourse and the concept of a bad girl was one who did. Either way self abuse in youth would be a common experience albeit never spoken of in polite society. Here the foot and toes could be used to good purpose.

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