NPJ Book Review: The Sex Life of the Foot & Shoe by William Rossi

 The Sex Life of the Foot & Shoe by William Rossi (1976) The subtitle of this work is “An occasionally indecent exploration of the sexual history of feet and footwear.”

My perspective: I occasionally read a book for a wink, a smile and greater awareness. In this case Rossi’s work is thought provoking entertainment with a number of cultural insights added while much seems common sense especially within the framework of social/cultural history and anthropology – “The foot is an erotic organ and the shoe is it’s sexual covering.”  The author quotes numerous sources e.g. psychologist Bernard Rudofsky’s studies that show the word feet “as a euphemism for the genitals.”  And regarding some shoes, the author states, well they are sexual with a few being fashionably “pornographic.” 

I thought of Freud when I originally perused this work as I recall studies in the history of theater, costume and the fine arts and anthropology. Upon reading this work and the studies referenced I found this book enjoyable, while knowing there’s even more to the story which Rossi would probably acknowledge.

The erotic nature of the feet and shoe wear is provocative. The foot for example the author suggests what appears as common knowledge especially among anthropologists, possesses a “natural phallicism….commonly used in sexual foreplay and even coitus.” The comment has an anthropological grounding as researched in other works.

There haven’t been numerous in-depth studies covering the eroticism of the human foot and shoe – not many scholars have endeavored to study human feet and shoes from a strict sexual / sensual / societal perspective, unless one delves into esoterica of social, historical, anthropological and cultural/fashion research. Fetish works certainly take note of the foot and shoe eroticism and employing different methods of enjoyment.

In light of the aforementioned, Rossi’s study retains a reliable measure of value. His findings among different societies in history allows for further exploration – his style and content possess a measure of vivacity encouraging greater curiosity. The bibliography is interesting and his citations and  descriptions I found to be “footnote” worthy and other scholarship pertaining to the subject matter is still forthcoming. 

“A book not so much for the bookshelf as at the bottom of the wardrobe…”