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A man is like a cat; chase him and he will run. Sit still and ignore him and he'll come purring at your feet.

-- Helen Roland

We stopped at the store for chocolate and tampons on the way to the party and smiled in response to the cashier's knowing look. I wanted to say, "The tampons aren't for me, okay?" But I never would have done so in front of the ever-unabashed Stephanie, which is the reason I had invited her, and no one else, to join me at this party that was sure to be unusual. She's the kind of friend you can count on to pick up Imodium, Vaseline, and a pregnancy test on her way to your house.

I was instantly intrigued when Mistress Luna, a professional dominatrix, told me about this once-per-month soiree. "It's called Footnight," she said, "and, Barb, I think you of all people would have a wonderful time there." She'd asked me to attend previous foot parties, but I'd never been able to make it. This time, my schedule was open, and I had Stephanie as my accomplice.

This month's Footnight theme was "Beautiful Bosses and Sexy Secretaries." Having worked as secretaries for various companies, Stephanie and I were prepared to dress professionally. But we had questions: "What shoes do we wear? Do we shave our legs?" Stephanie was worried about those little hairs on our toes -- should we shave those? What, exactly, are these guys going to do with our feet?

We were told that some men like smelly feet; before last month's party, Mistress Luna called to tell me she was working hard to stink up her sneakers for the evening. I throw away shoes at the first sign of funkiness, but I had red tennis shoes quarantined in a plastic bag at the back of the closet. On the day of the party, I put on a pair of black knee-high nylons and retrieved my red sneakers. To satisfy the party's theme, I'd switch my sneaks for heels at the last minute.

If you're a man unfamiliar with the concept of foot fetishism, imagine that how you feel toward breasts, another man can feel toward feet. This alternative man, more common than you think, gets excited at the prospect of coming into contact with a woman's foot, just as many guys would do a happy dance should a few dozen pretty girls allow them to fondle their upper regions. There's no difference; it's all anatomy. So the mammary-man should respect the foot-man, just as he does the derriere-man and the very rare eye-man.

Footnight, the party, began in Las Vegas three years ago and has been in San Diego for a year. Businessman and foot-lover Steve Savage began hosting Footnight parties because he wanted to "help people start living some of their fantasies in real life with real people and to [help them] realize that the ladies love it as much as they do." There are many men who are embarrassed by their obsession with feet; Savage wants these men to overcome their shame and have a great time. He has documented many of the parties with photographs and stories on his website, footnight.com.

Because I'm a bit kinky, I had a tad more of an idea than did Stephanie about what we were getting into. Armed with our PMS purchases and two bottles of red wine, we arrived at the party. Comparing my garb to the garb of other women present, I noted that I was the only woman who thought a red boa was office-appropriate.

I introduced myself to the ladies, including the pregnant girl with her belly protruding from her pinstriped button-down shirt, and one woman who couldn't have been a day younger than 60. The remaining ladies were sexy little twenty- or thirtysomethings. I distributed chocolate and wine and sat down to chat. At least half of the women were there for the first time.

White sheets served as dividers along three walls, and within each partitioned section a bench or chair and a pillow on the floor offered seating. We were supposed to limit our "sessions" to ten minutes, giving everyone a chance to take part in the fun. Men began to arrive, first leaving a donation at the door. I overheard a young man in a leather jacket and a short, older man with dark skin chatting with one of the girls. Joe, the younger one, said this was the first time he'd been to a party like this. "So why'd you want to come here?" I asked, jumping into the conversation uninvited. He shrugged.

"You like feet? Hmm?" He nodded at this. "You like them when they smell less than fresh?" At this, the older man, John, looked at me and said, "Thank you for doing that."

"Doing what?" I asked him.

"For talking about it. Nobody ever talks about it." I found it surprising that these foot lovers go to this place where they are welcome to worship, admire, and adore women's feet, and no one talks about it. The atmosphere was reminiscent of my seventh-grade school dance -- shy boys, shy girls, they both want to boogie, but few have the nerve to proffer the initial "Wanna dance?"

"I'm a veteran," John said. "Been coming since the first party, and I like smelly feet."

"Well, mine are pretty ripe," I said.

"I'd love to take a sniff at them, whenever you want."

Nervous and curious, I said, "Well, let's go then." I went off to find a chair, with John behind me. I plopped myself down in a comfy chair and waited for John to do his thing.

I enjoy a good foot rub, but that was not why I was there -- I like to encourage people to find out what they're into and to be okay with that knowledge once it's discovered (as long as it's legal and not morally offensive). In this case, I felt no sexual draw to these men. Rather, I felt as though I were doing them a favor, titillating them in ways they may be too uncomfortable to ask of the women in their lives.

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