Recently we posted about a British photographer called Jo Farrell who is documenting a dying tradition in China: foot binding.
The process began between the ages of 4 and 9. The feet were soaked in animal blood before the toes were folded over the sole of the foot and bound with cotton bandages.
The arch and toes were then broken by force, and the feet were repeatedly bound tighter and tighter in order to achieve the smallest size possible.
It was the beauty ideal of the time and considered necessary in order to get married and have a better life.
BUT: The reason behind feet binding isn't the perceived beauty of tiny broken feet.
According to Splendid Slippers: A Thousand Years of An Erotic Tradition by Beverley Jackson, it was all about sex.
Because of their tiny feet, [the women] were forced to walk with a unique posture and gait... [which] forced the tightening of the muscles in the upper legs, hips and vagina. With the body's weight carried constantly on her heels, a woman developed fat thighs which made her most voluptuous in the eyes of a Chinese male. The walk caused the muscles of the vagina to tighten to such an extent that Chinese men have claimed making love to woman with bound feet was like making love to a virgin every time.
Thus, when watching a woman take her cautious, wobbling steps, the male must have been reminded continually of exquisite sexual delights.
Thanks to the Wellcome Collection.