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Monday, 3 March 2014

The Great European Foot Craze.


 
The earliest known mention of foot fetishism is from around 1200 AD, a time when Europe was suffering from an epidemic of gonorrhoea. In fact many experts think that the fetish was on most occasions encouraged by the fear of STDs. History records that there was another huge increase during the syphilis epidemics of the 16th and 19th centuries. Clearly, lusting over feet was seen as a safe alternative to penetrative sex.


Sigmund Freud regarded the Oriental fashion for foot binding as a sexual fetish
 King Ludwig of Bavaria who was, for several years, the lover of Lola Montez, the subject of my biographical novel, Becoming Lola, had a model made of one of her feet in marble. He kept it on his desk and, so we are told, loved to fondle it in private moments. He rhapsodised that her feet were without equal. Ludwig was probably only one of many fetishists of his day.

In general, the Victorians' attitude to sex was confused and hypocritical. On the one hand, the Victorian wife was regarded as ‘The Angel in the House.’ On the other, it was not always accepted that sexual activity caused venereal disease. Not infrequently, husbands infected their wives with STDs caught during visits to one of the many brothels that flourished in Victorian times, with disastrous consequences for the whole family. If a sexual liaison resulted in an unwanted pregnancy, it was always the woman who was cast out by society. Leopold Egg's painting, Past and Present (below right) vividly depicts a terrible warning. 


Man was seen as a creature who could not be expected to control his animal instincts, to such a degree that even the chairs and tables in polite drawing rooms often had their legs swathed in fabric to avoid inflaming male lust. In William Holman Hunt's The Awakening Conscience, (below) women are reminded of the risks and cost of failing to keep on the straight and narrow way.