You know the saying, "One man's trash is another man's treasure?" Well, that's how I feel about feet. I personally don't see the sex appeal of this particular body part, but for some people it's a MAJOR turn-on.
According to a 2007 study by Nature that surveyed 5,000 people, the most common fetishes recorded were foot fetishes and fetishes for objects related to feet (such as shoes).
I never really thought about the possible reasoning behind people's sexual association with feet, until I saw a video that delved into the biological aspect of this fetish. In the TikTok, @renegadescienceteacher — aka 29-year-old evolutionary biologist Forrest Valkai — whips out a diagram of the brain to help get to the root of our curiosity.
Since most of us likely did not get to neurobiology in our studies (or retain the information, if we did), we reached out to Forrest to help even further simplify everything he talked about in the video. "Your brain is super wrinkly," Forrest told BuzzFeed. "The wrinkles are called sulci, and the noodles between the wrinkles are called gyri. Everybody's noodle patterns are different (like a slimy fingerprint), but there are certain structures that are uniform across all people. The somatosensory cortex is one of those structures. It's the main part of your brain that feels physical touch, and it sits on the postcentral gyrus (the big noodle), right behind your central sulcus (a deep wrinkle everyone has in the exact same place across the top of their brain)."
"The different parts of our bodies are mapped out on this cortex in such a way that the part of the brain that feels your feet and toes is bumped right up against the part of your brain that feels your genitals," he said. "The idea is that having these parts of the brain bumping against each other could lead to some 'crossed wires' in layman's terms, where seeing or touching feet feels like seeing or touching genitals."
If you're curious as to why we were wired this way in the first place, there's a pretty cool theory. "There are actually a few competing hypotheses on that. My favorite is that deriving some pleasure from having your feet touched might encourage you to keep them clean and free of parasites. Remember, when we're talking about the evolution of behaviors, it's not good enough to just not die. You've got to do things that help you live as well," Forrest said.
Forrest also expanded a bit on the psychological aspect of foot fetishes. "Foot fetishes tend to increase after STI scares," he said. "We even tend to see more foot-related pornography during syphilis or AIDS outbreaks throughout history. The most common hypothesis here is that feet are a safe, non-penetrative, non-contagious thing to sexualize, so our brains latch onto them."
Although the theories Forrest discussed made a lot of sense (and were sure as hell entertaining), he wanted people to keep in mind that the science isn't confirmed yet. "You have to understand that, when conducting research, it's pretty difficult to get people to be super open with total strangers about intimate sexual desires that are often considered taboo, so getting good data can be a challenge," he said. "One thing we are sure of, however, is that foot fetishes are the most common fetishes in the world, so don't be afraid to be honest with your partner! You may be surprised by what they're into too!"
For more cool facts about evolution and the human body, be sure to check out Forrest's website, TikTok, and Instagram!
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