Pain And Pleasure: Feet, Footwear and Feminism
Oh holy shit, my feet! Just have to start by saying that, because it’s the thought running most regularly through my head today. A kind friend passed on a pair of beautiful 40-hole black Doc Martens to me as they were, apparently surplus to her requirements. She said they had hardly been worn, and she was absolutely right. They had hardly been worn at all.
If you are groaning in sympathy by now, then you, too, must be a DM-lover and you know what’s happening, and what’s going to keep on happening, until I make it through to the other side.
Part of the whole mythology and iconic status of DMs is that fact that, most unusually for modern footwear, you have to break the things in, and it really, really hurts while you are doing it. It’s said that pain concentrates the mind, and it definitely set me thinking about stuff: specifically feet.
Women’s footwear is supposed to hurt. At least, the sort of footwear mostly considered sexy on women is supposed to cause a certain amount of discomfort and even lasting damage at times. There’s been a fair bit of feminist analysis about this being the whole point: attractive shoes for women are the sort that make it harder for them to run away (though a stiletto heel does have its uses should you need to see off a genuine predator: stamp down hard on the top of his foot and he won’t be chasing you or anyone else for a while). If you think about it properly, it’s quite interesting that one of the indicators for a dominant woman is a very high-heeled shoe or boot, despite the fact that wearing mega heels is not comfortable and takes a certain amount of practice if you’re going to move with any level of elegance.
There are undoubtedly people who admire and even thoroughly fetishize trainers, brogues, walking boots or flipflops on women (no matter what a thing is, someone, somewhere, finds it fapworthy) but ‘sensible shoes’ is generally shorthand for a woman who refuses to make herself attractive to men – at least, among the stupid. It would be quite interesting to know if those who are turned on by the sight of a woman in high heels or thigh-boots derive part of the pleasure from the idea that her footwear is causing her discomfort, or if the appeal is more down to the deep-rooted cultural insistence that this is what sexy shoes look like. There are also some foot fetishists who may like to see a woman in uncomfortable heels because they will be aware that offering a footrub is likely to endear them to her quite considerably.
Setting aside the men who wear heels as part of either voluntary cross-dressing or during an enforced feminisation or maid-training scenario, it’s probably fair to say that Doc Martens are the only pain-causing shoes or boots that are regularly worn by men, and even men who don’t openly identify as kinky seem to get some kind of satisfaction from discussing the suffering they endure as part of the breaking-in process. Part of this may be due to the fact that it is a process, with an end in sight: once your Docs have softened and moulded themselves to your feet, they will be the most comfortable shoes in the world, while a pair of spike-heeled courts will hurt just as much every time you wear them.
Mind you, a charming male sub on OKCupid did actually offer to take my challenging new boots and break them in for me. Sadly I have had to decline, as my feet are actually bigger than his, so it wouldn’t work at all.
– Zak Jane Keir
About the writer: Zak Jane Keir describes herself as a maker of stuff, writer of rude words, drinker of much cider, feminist, deviant, atheist, book junkie and morris dancer.
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