Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Volume 5 (of 6)
by Havelock Ellis
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Erotic Symbolism The Mechanism of Detumescence The Psychic State in Pregnancy





In this volume the terminal phenomena of the sexual process are discussed, before an attempt is finally made, in the concluding volume, to consider the bearings of the psychology of sex on that part of morals which may be called "social hygiene."

Under "Erotic Symbolism" I include practically all the aberrations of the sexual instinct, although some of these have seemed of sufficient importance for separate discussion in previous volumes. It is highly probable that many readers will consider that the name scarcely suffices to cover manifestations so numerous and so varied. The term "sexual equivalents" will seem preferable to some. While, however, it may be fully admitted that these perversions are "sexual equivalents"—or at all events equivalents of the normal sexual impulse—that term is merely a descriptive label which tells us nothing of the phenomena. "Sexual Symbolism" gives us the key to the process, the key that makes all these perversions intelligible. In all of them—very clearly in some, as in shoe-fetichism; more obscurely in others, as in exhibitionism—it has come about by causes congenital, acquired, or both, that some object or class of objects, some act or group of acts, has acquired a dynamic power over the psycho-physical mechanism of the sexual process, deflecting it from its normal adjustment to the whole of a beloved person of the opposite sex. There has been a transmutation of values, and certain objects, certain acts, have acquired an emotional value which for the normal person they do not possess. Such objects and acts are properly, it seems to me, termed symbols, and that term embodies the only justification that in most cases these manifestations can legitimately claim.

"The Mechanism of Detumescence" brings us at last to the final climax for which the earlier and more prolonged stage of tumescence, which has occupied us so often in these Studies, is the elaborate preliminary. "The art of love," a clever woman novelist has written, "is the art of preparation." That "preparation" is, on the physiological side, the production of tumescence, and all courtship is concerned in building up tumescence. But the final conjugation of two individuals in an explosion of detumescence, thus slowly brought about, though it is largely an involuntary act, is still not without its psychological implications and consequences; and it is therefore a matter for regret that so little is yet known about it. The one physiological act in which two individuals are lifted out of all ends that center in self and become the instrument of those higher forces which fashion the species, can never be an act to be slurred over as trivial or unworthy of study.

In the brief study of "The Psychic State in Pregnancy" we at last touch the point at which the whole complex process of sex reaches its goal. A woman with a child in her womb is the everlasting miracle which all the romance of love, all the cunning devices of tumescence and detumescence, have been invented to make manifest. The psychic state of the woman who thus occupies the supreme position which life has to offer cannot fail to be of exceeding interest from many points of view, and not least because the maternal instinct is one of the elements even of love between the sexes. But the psychology of pregnancy is full of involved problems, and here again, as so often in the wide field we have traversed, we stand at the threshold of a door it is not yet given us to pass.


Carbis Water, Lelant, Cornwall.




The Definition of Erotic Symbolism. Symbolism of Act and Symbolism of Object. Erotic Fetichism. Wide Extension of the Symbols of Sex. The Immense Variety of Possible Erotic Fetiches. The Normal Foundations of Erotic Symbolism. Classification of the Phenomena. The Tendency to Idealize the Defects of a Beloved Person. Stendhal's "Crystallization".


Foot-fetichism and Shoe-fetichism. Wide Prevalence and Normal Basis. Restif de la Bretonne. The Foot a Normal Focus of Sexual Attraction Among Some Peoples. The Chinese, Greeks, Romans, Spaniards, etc. The Congenital Predisposition in Erotic Symbolism. The Influence of Early Association and Emotional Shock. Shoe-fetichism in Relation to Masochism. The Two Phenomena Independent Though Allied. The Desire to be Trodden On. The Fascination of Physical Constraint. The Symbolism of Self-inflicted Pain. The Dynamic Element in Erotic Symbolism. The Symbolism of Garments.


Scatalogic Symbolism. Urolagnia. Coprolagnia. The Ascetic Attitude Towards the Flesh. Normal Basis of Scatalogic Symbolism. Scatalogic Conceptions Among Primitive Peoples. Urine as a Primitive Holy Water. Sacredness of Animal Excreta. Scatalogy in Folk-lore. The Obscene as Derived from the Mythological. The Immature Sexual Impulse Tends to Manifest Itself in Scatalogic Forms. The Basis of Physiological Connection Between the Urinary and Genital Spheres. Urinary Fetichism Sometimes Normal in Animals. The Urolagnia of Masochists. The Scatalogy of Saints. Urolagnia More Often a Symbolism of Act Than a Symbolism of Object. Only Occasionally an Olfactory Fetichism. Comparative Rarity of Coprolagnia. Influence of Nates Fetichism as a Transition to Coprolagnia, Ideal Coprolagnia. Olfactory Coprolagnia. Urolagnia and Coprolagnia as Symbols of Coitus.


Animals as Sources of Erotic Symbolism. Mixoscopic Zoophilia. The Stuff-fetichisms. Hair-fetichism. The Stuff-fetichisms Mainly on a Tactile Base. Erotic Zoophilia. Zooerastia. Bestiality. The Conditions that Favor Bestiality. Its Wide Prevalence Among Primitive Peoples and Among Peasants. The Primitive Conception of Animals. The Goat. The Influence of Familiarity With Animals. Congress Between Women and Animals. The Social Reaction Against Bestiality.


Exhibitionism. Illustrative Cases. A Symbolic Perversion of Courtship. The Impulse to Defile. The Exhibitionist's Psychic Attitude. The Sexual Organs as Fetiches. Phallus Worship. Adolescent Pride in Sexual Development. Exhibitionism of the Nates. The Classification of the Forms of Exhibitionism. Nature of the Relationship of Exhibitionism to Epilepsy.


The Forms of Erotic Symbolism are Simulacra of Coitus. Wide Extension of Erotic Symbolism. Fetichism Not Covering the Whole Ground of Sexual Selection. It is Based on the Individual Factor in Selection. Crystallization. The Lover and the Artist. The Key to Erotic Symbolism is to be Found in the Emotional Sphere. The Passage to Pathological Extremes.



The Psychological Significance of Detumescence. The Testis and the Ovary. Sperm Cell and Germ Cell. Development of the Embryo. The External Sexual Organs. Their Wide Range of Variation. Their Nervous Supply. The Penis. Its Racial Variations. The Influence of Exercise. The Scrotum and Testicles. The Mons Veneris. The Vulva. The Labia Majora and their Varieties. The Public Hair and Its Characters. The Clitoris and Its Functions. The Anus as an Erogenous Zone. The Nymphae and their Function. The Vagina. The Hymen. Virginity. The Biological Significance of the Hymen.


The Object of Detumescence. Erogenous Zones. The Lips. The Vascular Characters of Detumescence. Erectile Tissue. Erection in Woman. Mucous Emission in Women. Sexual Connection. The Human Mode of Intercourse. Normal Variations. The Motor Characters of Detumescence. Ejaculation. The Virile Reflex. The General Phenomena of Detumescence. The Circulatory and Respiratory Phenomena. Blood Pressure. Cardiac Disturbance. Glandular Activity. Distillatio. The Essentially Motor Character of Detumescence. Involuntary Muscular Irradiation to Bladder, etc. Erotic Intoxication. Analogy of Sexual Detumescence and Vesical Tension. The Specifically Sexual Movements of Detumescence in Man. In Woman. The Spontaneous Movements of the Genital Canal in Woman. Their Function in Conception. Part Played by Active Movement of the Spermatozoa. The Artificial Injection of Semen. The Facial Expression During Detumescence. The Expression of Joy. The Occasional Serious Effects of Coitus.


The Constituents of Semen. Function of the Prostate. The Properties of Semen. Aphrodisiacs. Alcohol, Opium, etc. Anaphrodisiacs. The Stimulant Influence of Semen in Coitus. The Internal Effects of Testicular Secretions. The Influence of Ovarian Secretion.


The Aptitude for Detumescence. Is There an Erotic Temperament? The Available Standards of Comparison. Characteristics of the Castrated. Characteristics of Puberty. Characteristics of the State of Detumescence. Shortness of Stature. Development of the Secondary Sexual Characters. Deep Voice. Bright Eyes. Glandular Activity. Everted Lips. Pigmentation. Profuse Hair. Dubious Significance of Many of These Characters.


The Relationship of Maternal and Sexual Emotion. Conception and Loss of Virginity. The Anciently Accepted Signs of This Condition. The Pervading Effects of Pregnancy on the Organism. Pigmentation. The Blood and Circulation. The Thyroid. Changes in the Nervous System. The Vomiting of Pregnancy. The Longings of Pregnant Women. Mental Impressions. Evidence for and Against Their Validity. The Question Still Open. Imperfection of Our Knowledge. The Significance of Pregnancy.


Histories of Sexual Development.





The Definition of Erotic Symbolism—Symbolism of Act and Symbolism of Object—Erotic Fetichism—Wide extension of the symbols of Sex—The Immense Variety of Possible Erotic Fetiches—The Normal Foundations of Erotic Symbolism—Classification of the Phenomena—The Tendency to Idealize the Defects of a Beloved Person—Stendhal's "Crystallization."

By "erotic symbolism" I mean that tendency whereby the lover's attention is diverted from the central focus of sexual attraction to some object or process which is on the periphery of that focus, or is even outside of it altogether, though recalling it by association of contiguity or of similarity. It thus happens that tumescence, or even in extreme cases detumescence, may be provoked by the contemplation of acts or objects which are away from the end of sexual conjugation.[1]

In considering the phenomena of sexual selection in a previous volume,[2] it was found that there are four or five main factors in the constitution of beauty in so far as beauty determines sexual selection. Erotic symbolism is founded on the factor of individual taste in beauty; it arises as a specialized development of that factor, but it is, nevertheless, incorrect to merge it in sexual selection. The attractive characteristics of a beloved woman or man, from the point of view of sexual selection, are a complex but harmonious whole leading up to a desire for the complete possession of the person who displays them. There is no tendency to isolate and dissociate any single character from the individual and to concentrate attention upon that character at the expense of the attention bestowed upon the individual generally. As soon as such a tendency begins to show itself, even though only in a slight or temporary form, we may say that there is erotic symbolism.

Erotic symbolism is, however, by no means confined to the individualizing tendency to concentrate amorous attention upon some single characteristic of the adult woman or man who is normally the object of sexual love. The adult human being may not be concerned at all, the attractive object or act may not even be human, not even animal, and we may still be concerned with a symbol which has parasitically rooted itself on the fruitful site of sexual emotion and absorbed to itself the energy which normally goes into the channels of healthy human love having for its final end the procreation of the species. Thus understood in its widest sense, it may be said that every sexual perversion, even homosexuality, is a form of erotic symbolism, for we shall find that in every case some object or act that for the normal human being has little or no erotic value, has assumed such value in a supreme degree; that is to say, it has become a symbol of the normal object of love. Certain perversions are, however, of such great importance on account of their wide relationships, that they cannot be adequately discussed merely as forms of erotic symbolism. This is notably the case as regards homosexuality, auto-erotism, and algolagnia, all of which phenomena have therefore been separately discussed in previous studies. We are now mainly concerned with manifestations which are more narrowly and exclusively symbolical.

A portion of the field of erotic symbolism is covered by what Binet (followed by Lombroso, Krafft-Ebing, and others) has termed "erotic fetichism," or the tendency whereby sexual attraction is unduly exerted by some special part or peculiarity of the body, or by some inanimate object which has become associated with it. Such erotic symbolism of object cannot, however, be dissociated from the even more important erotic symbolism of process, and the two are so closely bound together that we cannot attain a truly scientific view of them until we regard them broadly as related parts of a common psychic tendency. If, as Groos asserts,[3] a symbol has two chief meanings, one in which it indicates a physical process which stands for a psychic process, and another in which it indicates a part which represents the whole, erotic symbolism of act corresponds to the first of these chief meanings, and erotic symbolism of object to the other.

Although it is not impossible to find some germs of erotic symbolism in animals, in its more pronounced manifestations it is only found in the human species. It could not be otherwise, for such symbolism involves not only the play of fancy and imagination, the idealizing aptitude, but also a certain amount of power of concentrating the attention on a point outside the natural path of instinct and the ability to form new mental constructions around that point. There are, indeed, as we shall see, elementary forms of erotic symbolism which are not uncommonly associated with feeble-mindedness, but even these are still peculiarly human, and in its less crude manifestations erotic symbolism easily lends itself to every degree of human refinement and intelligence.

"It depends primarily upon an increase of the psychological process of representation," Colin Scott remarks of sexual symbolism generally, "involving greater powers of comparison and analysis as compared with the lower animals. The outer impressions come to be clearly distinguished as such, but at the same time are often treated as symbols of inner experiences, and a meaning read into them which they would not otherwise possess. Symbolism or fetichism is, indeed, just the capacity to see meaning, to emphasize something for the sake of other things which do not appear. In brain terms it indicates an activity of the higher centers, a sort of side-tracking or long-circuiting of the primitive energy; ... Rosetti's poem, 'The Woodspurge,' gives a concrete example of the formation of such a symbol. Here the otherwise insignificant presentation of the three-cupped woodspurge, representing originally a mere side-current of the stream of consciousness, becomes the intellectual symbol or fetich of the whole psychosis forever after. It seems, indeed, as if the stronger the emotion the more likely will become the formation of an overlying symbolism, which serves to focus and stand in the place of something greater than itself; nowhere at least is symbolism a more characteristic feature than as an expression of the sexual instinct. The passion of sex, with its immense hereditary background, in early man became centered often upon the most trivial and unimportant features.... This symbolism, now become fetichistic, or symbolic in a bad sense, is at least an exercise of the increasing representative power of man, upon which so much of his advancement has depended, while it also served to express and help to purify his most perennial emotion." (Colin Scott, "Sex and Art," American Journal of Psychology, vol. vii, No. 2, p. 189.)

In the study of "Love and Pain" in a previous volume, the analysis of the large and complex mass of sexual phenomena which are associated with pain, gradually resolved them to a considerable extent into a special case of erotic symbolism; pain or restraint, whether inflicted on or by the loved person, becomes, by a psychic process that is usually unconscious, the symbol of the sexual mechanism, and hence arouses the same emotions as that mechanism normally arouses. We may now attempt to deal more broadly and comprehensively with the normal and abnormal aspects of erotic symbolism in some of their most typical and least mixed forms.

"When our human imagination seeks to animate artificial things," Huysmans writes in La-bas, "it is compelled to reproduce the movements of animals in the act of propagation. Look at machines, at the play of pistons in the cylinders; they are Romeos of steel in Juliets of cast-iron." And not only in the work of man's hands but throughout Nature we find sexual symbols which are the less deniable since, for the most part, they make not the slightest appeal to even the most morbid human imagination. Language is full of metaphorical symbols of sex which constantly tend to lose their poetic symbolism and to become commonplace. Semen is but seed, and for the Latins especially the whole process of human sex, as well as the male and female organs, constantly presented itself in symbols derived from agricultural and horticultural life. The testicles were beans (fabae) and fruit or apples (poma and mala); the penis was a tree (arbor), or a stalk (thyrsus), or a root (radix), or a sickle (falx), or a ploughshare (vomer). The semen, again, was dew (ros). The labia majora or minora were wings (alae); the vulva and vagina were a field (ager and campus), or a ploughed furrow (sulcus), or a vineyard (vinea), or a fountain (fons), while the pudendal hair was herbage (plantaria).[4] In other languages it is not difficult to trace similar and even identical imagery applied to sexual organs and sexual acts. Thus it is noteworthy that Shakespeare more than once applies the term "ploughed" to a woman who has had sexual intercourse. The Talmud calls the labia minora the doors, the labia majora hinges, and the clitoris the key. The Greeks appear not only to have found in the myrtle-berry, the fruit of a plant sacred to Venus, the image of the clitoris, but also in the rose an image of the feminine labia; in the poetic literature of many countries, indeed, this imagery of the rose may be traced in a more or less veiled manner.[5]

The widespread symbolism of sex arose in the theories and conceptions of primitive peoples concerning the function of generation and its nearest analogies in Nature; it was continued for the sake of the vigorous and expressive terminology which it furnished both for daily life and for literature; its final survivals were cultivated because they furnished a delicately aesthetic method of approaching matters which a growing refinement of sentiment made it difficult for lovers and poets to approach in a more crude and direct manner. Its existence is of interest to us now because it shows the objective validity of the basis on which erotic symbolism, as we have here to understand it, develops. But from first to last it is a distinct phenomenon, having a more or less reasoned and intellectual basis, and it scarcely serves in any degree to feed the sexual impulse. Erotic symbolism is not intellectual but emotional in its origin; it starts into being, obscurely, with but a dim consciousness or for the most part none at all, either suddenly from the shock of some usually youthful experience, or more gradually through an instinctive brooding on those things which are most intimately associated with a sexually desirable person.

The kind of soil on which the germs of erotic symbolism may develop is well seen in cases of sexual hyperaesthesia. In such cases all the emotionally sexual analogies and resemblances, which in erotic symbolism are fixed and organized, may be traced in vague and passing forms, a single hyperaesthetic individual perhaps presenting a great variety of germinal symbolisms.

Thus it has been recorded of an Italian nun (whose sister became a prostitute) that from the age of 8 she had desire for coitus, from the age of 10 masturbated, and later had homosexual feelings, that the same feelings and practices continued after she had taken the veil, though from time to time they assumed religious equivalents. The mere contact, indeed, of a priest's hand, the news of the presentation of an ecclesiastic she had known to a bishopric, the sight of an ape, the contemplation of the crucified Christ, the figure of a toy, the picture of a demon, the act of defecation in the children entrusted to her care (whom, on this account, and against the regulations, she would accompany to the closets), especially the sight and the mere recollection of flies in sexual connection—all these things sufficed to produce in her a powerful orgasm. (Archivio di Psichiatria, 1902, fasc. II-III, p. 338.)

A boy of 15 (given to masturbation), studied by Macdonald in America, was similarly hyperaesthetic to the symbols of sexual emotion. "I like amusing myself with my comrades," he told Macdonald, "rolling ourselves into a ball, which gives one a funny kind of warmth. I have a special pleasure in talking about some things. It is the same when the governess kisses me on saying good night or when I lean against her breast. I have that sensation, too, when I see some of the pictures in the comic papers, but only in those representing a woman, as when a young man skating trips up a girl so that her clothes are raised a little. When I read how a man saved a young girl from drowning, so that they swam together, I had the same sensation. Looking at the statues of women in the museum produces the same effect, or when I see naked babies, or when a mother suckles a child. I have often had that sensation when reading novels I ought not to read, or when looking at a new-born calf, or seeing dogs and cows and horses mounting on each other. When I see a girl flirting with a boy, or leaning on his shoulder or with his arm round her waist, I have an erection. It is the same when I see women and little girls in bathing costume, or when boys talk of what their fathers and mothers do together. In the Natural History Museum I often see things which give me that sensation. One day when I read how a man killed a young girl and carried her into a wood and undressed her I had a feeling of enjoyment. When I read of men who were bastards the idea of a woman having a child in that way gives me this sensation. Some dances, and seeing young girls astride a horse, excited me, too, and so in a circus when a woman was shot out of a cannon and her skirts flew in the air. It has no effect on me when I see men naked. Sometimes I enjoy seeing women's underclothes in a shop, or when I see a lady or a girl buying them, especially if they are drawers. When I saw a lady in a dress which buttoned from top to bottom it had more effect on me than seeing underclothes. Seeing dogs coupling gives me more pleasure than looking at pretty women, but less than looking at pretty little girls." In order of increasing intensity he placed the phenomena that affected him thus: The coupling of flies, then of horses, then the sight of women's undergarments, then a boy and a girl flirting, then cows mounting on each other, the statues of women with naked breasts, then contact with the governess's body and breasts, finally coitus. (Arthur Macdonald, Le Criminel-Type, pp. 126 et seq.)

It is worthy of remark that the instinct of nutrition, when restrained, may exhibit something of an analogous symbolism, though in a minor degree, to that of sex. The ways in which a hyperaesthetic hunger may seek its symbols are illustrated in the case of a young woman called Nadia, who during several years was carefully studied by Janet. It is a case of obsession ("maladie du scrupule"), simulating hysterical anorexia, in which the patient, for fear of getting fat, reduced her nourishment to the smallest possible amount. "Nadia is generally hungry, even very hungry. One can tell this by her actions; from time to time she forgets herself to such an extent as to devour greedily anything she can put her hands on. At other times, when she cannot resist the desire to eat, she secretly takes a biscuit. She feels horrible remorse for the action, but, all the same, she does it again. Her confidences are very curious. She recognizes that a great effort is needed to avoid eating, and considers she is a heroine to resist so long. 'Sometimes I spent whole hours in thinking about food, I was so hungry; I swallowed my saliva, I bit my handkerchief, I rolled on the floor, I wanted to eat so badly. I would look in books for descriptions of meals and feasts, and tried to deceive my hunger by imagining that I was sharing all these good things,'" (P. Janet, "La Maladie du Scrupule," Revue Philosophique, May, 1901, p. 502.) The deviations of the instinct of nutrition are, however, confined within narrow limits, and, in the nature of things, hunger, unlike sexual desire, cannot easily accept a fetich.

"There is almost no feature, article of dress, attitude, act," Stanley Hall declares, "or even animal or perhaps object in nature, that may not have to some morbid soul specialized erogenic and erethic power."[6] Even a mere shadow may become a fetich. Goron tells of a merchant in Paris—a man with a reputation for ability, happily married and the father of a family, altogether irreproachable in his private life—who was returning home one evening after a game of billiards with a friend, when, on chancing to raise his eyes, he saw against a lighted window the shadow of a woman changing her chemise. He fell in love with that shadow and returned to the spot every evening for many months to gaze at the window. Yet—and herein lies the fetichism—he made no attempt to see the woman or to find out who she was; the shadow sufficed; he had no need of the realty.[7] It is even possible to have a negative fetich, the absence of some character being alone demanded, and the case has been recorded in Chicago of an American gentleman of average intelligence, education, and good habits who, having as a boy cherished a pure affection for a girl whose leg had been amputated, throughout life was relatively impotent with normal women, but experienced passion and affection for women who had lost a leg; he was found by his wife to be in extensive correspondence with one-legged women all over the country, expending no little money on the purchase of artificial legs for his various protegees.[8]

It is important to remember, however, that while erotic symbolism becomes fantastic and abnormal in its extreme manifestations, it is in its essence absolutely normal. It is only in the very grossest forms of sexual desire that it is altogether absent. Stendhal described the mental side of the process of tumescence as a crystallization, a process whereby certain features of the beloved person present points around which the emotions held in solution in the lover's mind may concentrate and deposit themselves in dazzling brilliance. This process inevitably tends to take place around all those features and objects associated with the beloved person which have most deeply impressed the lover's mind, and the more sensitive and imaginative and emotional he is the more certainly will such features and objects crystallize into erotic symbols. "Devotion and love," wrote Mary Wollstonecraft, "may be allowed to hallow the garments as well as the person, for the lover must want fancy who has not a sort of sacred respect for the glove or slipper of his mistress. He would not confound them with vulgar things of the same kind." And nearly two centuries earlier Burton, who had gathered together so much of the ancient lore of love, clearly asserted the entirely normal character of erotic symbolism. "Not one of a thousand falls in love," he declares, "but there is some peculiar part or other which pleaseth most, and inflames him above the rest.... If he gets any remnant of hers, a busk-point, a feather of her fan, a shoe-tie, a lace, a ring, a bracelet of hair, he wears it for a favor on his arm, in his hat, finger, or next his heart; as Laodamia did by Protesilaus, when he went to war, sit at home with his picture before her: a garter or a bracelet of hers is more precious than any Saint's Relique, he lays it up in his casket (O blessed Relique) and every day will kiss it: if in her presence his eye is never off her, and drink he will where she drank, if it be possible, in that very place," etc.[9]

Burton's accuracy in describing the ways of lovers in his century is shown by a passage in Hamilton's Memoires de Gramont. Miss Price, one of the beauties of Charles II's court, and Dongan were tenderly attached to each other; when the latter died he left behind a casket full of all possible sorts of love-tokens pertaining to his mistress, including, among other things, "all kinds of hair." And as regards France, Burton's contemporary, Howell, wrote in 1627 in his Familiar Letters concerning the repulse of the English at Rhe: "A captain told me that when they were rifling the dead bodies of the French gentlemen after the first invasion they found that many of them had their mistresses' favors tied about their genitories."

Schurig (Spermatologia, p. 357) at the beginning of the eighteenth century knew a Belgian lady who, when her dearly loved husband died, secretly cut off his penis and treasured it as a sacred relic in a silver casket. She eventually powdered it, he adds, and found it an efficacious medicine for herself and others. An earlier example, of a lady at the French court who embalmed and perfumed the genital organs of her dead husband, always preserving them in a gold casket, is mentioned by Brantome. Mantegazza knew a man who kept for many years on his desk the skull of his dead mistress, making it his dearest companion. "Some," he remarks, "have slept for months and years with a book, a garment, a trifle. I once had a friend who would spend long hours of joy and emotion kissing a thread of silk which she had held between her fingers, now the only relic of love." (Mantegazza, Fisiologia dell' Amore, cap. X.) In the same way I knew a lady who in old age still treasured in her desk, as the one relic of the only man she had ever been attracted to, a fragment of paper he had casually twisted up in a conversation with her half a century before.

The tendency to treasure the relics of a beloved person, more especially the garments, is the simplest and commonest foundation of erotic symbolism. It is without doubt absolutely normal. It is inevitable that those objects which have been in close contact with the beloved person's body, and are intimately associated with that person in the lover's mind, should possess a little of the same virtue, the same emotional potency. It is a phenomenon closely analogous to that by which the relics of saints are held to possess a singular virtue. But it becomes somewhat less normal when the garment is regarded as essential even in the presence of the beloved person.[10]

While an extremely large number of objects and acts may be found to possess occasionally the value of erotic symbols, such symbols most frequently fall into certain well-defined groups. A vast number of isolated objects or acts may be exceptionally the focus of erotic contemplation, but the objects and acts which frequently become thus symbolic are comparatively few.

It seems to me that the phenomena of erotic symbolism may be most conveniently grouped in three great classes, on the basis of the objects or acts which arouse them.

I. PARTS OF THE BODY.—A. Normal: Hand, foot, breasts, nates, hair, secretions and excretions, etc.

B. Abnormal: Lameness, squinting, pitting of smallpox, etc. Paidophilia or the love of children, presbyophilia or the love of the aged, and necrophilia or the attraction for corpses, may be included under this head, as well as the excitement caused by various animals.

II. INANIMATE OBJECTS.[11]—A. Garments: Gloves, shoes and stockings and garters, caps, aprons, handkerchiefs, underlinen.

B. Impersonal Objects: Here may be included all the various objects that may accidentally acquire the power of exciting sexual feeling in auto-erotism. Pygmalionism may also be included.

III. ACTS AND ATTITUDES.—A. Active: Whipping, cruelty, exhibitionism. B. Passive: Being whipped, experiencing cruelty. Personal odors and the sound of the voice may be included under this head. C. Mixoscopic: The vision of climbing, swinging, etc. The acts of urination and defecation. The coitus of animals.

Although the three main groups into which the phenomena of erotic symbolism are here divided may seem fairly distinct, they are yet very closely allied, and indeed overlap, so that it is possible, as we shall see, for a single complex symbol to fall into all three groups.

A very complete kind of erotic symbolism is furnished by Pygmalionism or the love of statues.[12] It is exactly analogous to the child's love of a doll, which is also a form of sexual (though not erotic) symbolism. In a somewhat less abnormal form, erotic symbolism probably shows itself in its simplest shape in the tendency to idealize unbeautiful peculiarities in a beloved person, so that such peculiarities are ever afterward almost or quite essential in order to arouse sexual attraction. In this way men have become attracted to limping women. Even the most normal man may idealize a trifling defect in a beloved woman. The attention is inevitably concentrated on any such slight deviation from regular beauty, and the natural result of such concentration is that a complexus of associated thoughts and emotions becomes attached to something that in itself is unbeautiful. A defect becomes an admired focus of attention, the embodied symbol of the lover's emotion.

Thus a mole is not in itself beautiful, but by the tendency to erotic symbolism it becomes so. Persian poets especially have lavished the richest imagery on moles (Anis El-Ochchaq in Bibliotheque des Hautes Etudes, fasc, 25, 1875); the Arabs, as Lane remarks (Arabian Society in the Middle Ages, p. 214), are equally extravagant in their admiration of a mole.

Stendhal long since well described the process by which a defect becomes a sexual symbol. "Even little defects in a woman's face," he remarked, "such as a smallpox pit, may arouse the tenderness of a man who loves her, and throw him into deep reverie when he sees them in another woman. It is because he has experienced a thousand feelings in the presence of that smallpox mark, that these feelings have been for the most part delicious, all of the highest interest, and that, whatever they may have been, they are renewed with incredible vivacity on the sight of this sign, even when perceived on the face of another woman. If in such a case we come to prefer and love ugliness, it is only because in such a case ugliness is beauty. A man loved a woman who was very thin and marked by smallpox; he lost her by death. Three years later, in Rome, he became acquainted with two women, one very beautiful, the other thin and marked by smallpox, on that account, if you will, rather ugly. I saw him in love with this plain one at the end of a week, which he had employed in effacing her plainness by his memories." (De l'Amour, Chapter XVII.)

In the tendency to idealize the unbeautiful features of a beloved person erotic symbolism shows itself in a simple and normal form. In a less simple and more morbid form it appears in persons in whom the normal paths of sexual gratification are for some reasons inhibited, and who are thus led to find the symbols of natural love in unnatural perversions. It is for this reason that so many erotic symbolisms take root in childhood and puberty, before the sexual instincts have reached full development. It is for the same reason also, that, at the other end of life, when the sexual energies are failing, erotic symbols sometimes tend to be substituted for the normal pleasures of sex. It is for this reason, again, that both men and women whose normal energies are inhibited sometimes find the symbols of sexual gratification in the caresses of children.

The case of a schoolmistress recorded by Penta instructively shows how an erotic symbolism of this last kind may develop by no means as a refinement of vice, but as the one form in which sexual gratification becomes possible when normal gratification has been pathologically inhibited. F.R., aged 48, schoolmistress; she was some years ago in an asylum with religious mania, but came out well in a few months. At the age of 12 she had first experienced sexual excitement in a railway train from the jolting of the carriage. Soon after she fell in love with a youth who represented her ideal and who returned her affection. When, however, she gave herself to him, great was her disillusion and surprise to find that the sexual act which she had looked forward to could not be accomplished, for at the first contact there was great pain and spasmodic resistance of the vagina. There was a condition of vaginismus. After repeated attempts on subsequent occasions her lover desisted. Her desire for intercourse increased, however, rather than diminished, and at last she was able to tolerate coitus, but the pain was so great that she acquired a horror of the sexual embrace and no longer sought it. Having much will power, she restrained all erotic impulses during many years. It was not until the period of the menopause that the long repressed desires broke out, and at last found a symbolical outlet that was no longer normal, but was felt to supply a complete gratification. She sought the close physical contact of the young children in her care. She would lie on her bed naked, with two or three naked children, make them suck her breasts and press them to every part of her body. Her conduct was discovered by means of other children who peeped through the keyhole, and she was placed under Penta for treatment. In this case the loss of moral and mental inhibition, due probably to troubles of the climacteric, led to indulgence, under abnormal conditions, in those primitive contacts which are normally the beginning of love, and these, supported by the ideal image of the early lover, constituted a complete and adequate symbol of natural love in a morbidly perverted individual. (P. Penta, Archivio delle Psicopatie Sessuali, January, 1896.)


[1] The term "erotic symbolism" has already been employed by Eulenburg (Sexuale Neuropathie, 1895, p. 101). It must be borne in mind that this term, implying the specific emotion, is much narrower than the term "sexual symbolism," which may be used to designate a great variety of ritual and social practices which have played a part in the evolution of civilization.

[2] Sexual Selection in Man, iv, "Vision."

[3] K. Groos, Der AEsthetische Genuss, p. 122. The psychology of the associations of contiguity and resemblance through which erotic symbolism operates its transference is briefly discussed by Ribot in the Psychology of the Emotions, Part 1, Chapter XII; the early chapters of the same author's Logique des Sentiments may also be said to deal with the emotional basis on which erotic symbolism arises.

[4] A number of synonyms for the female pudenda are brought together by Schurig—cunnus, hortus, concha, navis, fovea, larva, canis, annulus, focus, cymba, antrum, delta, myrtus, etc.—and he discusses many of them. (Muliebria, Section I, cap. I.)

[5] Kleinpaul, Sprache Ohne Worte, pp. 24-29; cf. K. Pearson, on the general and special words for sex, Chances of Death, vol. ii, pp. 112-245; a selection of the literature of the rose will be found in a volume of translations entitled Ros Rosarum.

[6] G.S. Hall, Adolescence, vol. i, p. 470.

[7] Goron, Les Parias de l'Amour, p. 45.

[8] A.R. Reynolds, Medical Standard, vol. x, cited by Kiernan, "Responsibility in Sexual Perversion," American Journal of Neurology and Psychiatry, 1882.

[9] R. Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, Part III, Section II, Mem. II, Subs. II, and Mem. III, Subs. I.

[10] Numerous examples are given by Moll, Kontraere Sexualempfindung, third edition, pp. 265-268.

[11] Chevalier (De l'Inversion, 1885; id., L'Inversion Sexuelle, 1892, p. 52), followed by E. Laurent (L'Amour Morbide, 1891, Chapter X), separates this group from other fetichistic perversions, under the head of "azooephilie." I see no adequate ground for this step. The various forms of fetichism are too intimately associated to permit of any group of them being violently separated from the others.

[12] This has already been considered as a perversion founded on vision, in discussing Sexual Selection in Man. IV.


Foot-fetichism and Shoe-fetichism—Wide Prevalence and Normal Basis—Restif de la Bretonne—The Foot a Normal Focus of Sexual Attraction Among Some Peoples—The Chinese, Greeks, Romans, Spaniards, etc.—The Congenital Predisposition in Erotic Symbolism—The Influence of Early Association and Emotional Shock—Shoe-fetichism in Relation to Masochism—The Two Phenomena Independent Though Allied—The Desire to be Trodden On—The Fascination of Physical Constraint—The Symbolism of Self-inflicted Pain—The Dynamic Element in Erotic Symbolism—The Symbolism of Garments.

Of all forms of erotic symbolism the most frequent is that which idealizes the foot and the shoe. The phenomena we here encounter are sometimes so complex and raise so many interesting questions that it is necessary to discuss them somewhat fully.

It would seem that even for the normal lover the foot is one of the most attractive parts of the body. Stanley Hall found that among the parts specified as most admired in the other sex by young men and women who answered a questionnaire the feet came fourth (after the eyes, hair, stature and size).[13] Casanova, an acute student and lover of women who was in no degree a foot fetichist, remarks that all men who share his interest in women are attracted by their feet; they offer the same interest, he considers, as the question of the particular edition offers to the book-lover.[14]

In a report of the results of a questionnaire concerning children's sense of self, to which over 500 replies were received, Stanley Hall thus summarizes the main facts ascertained with reference to the feet: "A special period of noticing the feet comes somewhat later than that in which the hands are discovered to consciousness. Our records afford nearly twice as many cases for feet as for hands. The former are more remote from the primary psychic focus or position, and are also more often covered, so that the sight of them is a more marked and exceptional event. Some children become greatly excited whenever their feet are exposed. Some infants show signs of fear at the movement of their own knees and feet covered, and still more often fright is the first sensation which signalizes the child's discovery of its feet.... Many are described as playing with them as if fascinated by strange, newly-discovered toys. They pick them up and try to throw them away, or out of the cradle, or bring them to the mouth, where all things tend to go.... Children often handle their feet, pat and stroke them, offer them toys and the bottle, as if they, too, had an independent hunger to gratify, an ego of their own.... Children often develop [later] a special interest in the feet of others, and examine, feel them, etc., sometimes expressing surprise that the pinch of the mother's toe hurts her and not the child, or comparing their own and the feet of others point by point. Curious, too, are the intensifications of foot-consciousness throughout the early years of childhood, whenever children have the exceptional privilege of going barefoot, or have new shoes. The feet are often apostrophized, punished, beaten sometimes to the point of pain for breaking things, throwing the child down, etc. Several children have habits, which reach great intensity, and then vanish, of touching or tickling the feet, with gales of laughter, and a few are described as showing an almost morbid reluctance to wear anything upon the feet, or even to having them touched by others.... Several almost fall in love with the great toe or the little one, especially admiring some crease or dimple in it, dressing it in some rag of silk or bit of ribbon, or cut-off glove fingers, winding it with string, prolonging it by tying on bits of wood. Stroking the feet of others, especially if they are shapely, often becomes almost a passion with young children, and several adults confess a survival of the same impulse which it is an exquisite pleasure to gratify. The interest of some mothers in babies' toes, the expressions of which are ecstatic and almost incredible, is a factor of great importance." (G. Stanley Hall, "Some Aspects of the Early Sense of Self," American Journal of Psychology, April, 1898.) In childhood, Stanley Hall remarks elsewhere (Adolescence, vol. ii, p. 104), "a form of courtship may consist solely in touching feet under the desk." It would seem that even animals have a certain amount of sexual consciousness in the feet; I have noticed a male donkey, just before coitus, bite the feet of his partner.

At the same time it is scarcely usual for the normal lover, in most civilized countries to-day, to attach primary importance to the foot, such as he very frequently attaches to the eyes, though the feet play a very conspicuous part in the work of certain novelists.[15]

In a small but not inconsiderable minority of persons, however, the foot or the boot becomes the most attractive part of a woman, and in some morbid cases the woman herself is regarded as a comparatively unimportant appendage to her feet or her boots. The boots under civilized conditions much more frequently constitute the sexual symbol than do the feet themselves; this is not surprising since in ordinary life the feet are not often seen.

It is usually only under exceptionally favoring conditions that foot-fetichism occurs, as in the case recorded by Marandon de Montyel of a doctor who had been brought up in the West Indies. His mother had been insane and he himself was subject to obsessions, especially of being incapable of urinating; he had had nocturnal incontinence of urine in childhood. All the women of the people in the West Indies go about with naked feet, which are often beautiful. His puberty evolved under this influence, and foot-fetichism developed. He especially admired large, fat, arched feet, with delicate skin and large, regular toes. He masturbated with images of feet. At 15 he had relations with a colored chambermaid, but feared to mention his fetichism, though it was the touch of her feet that chiefly excited him. He now gave up masturbation, and had a succession of mistresses, but was always ashamed to confess his fancies until, at the age of 33, in Paris, a very intelligent woman who had become his mistress discovered his mania and skillfully enabled him to yield to it without shock to his modesty. He was devoted to this mistress, who had very beautiful feet (he had been horrified by the feet of Europeans generally), until she finally left him. (Archives de Neurologie, October, 1904.)

Probably the first case of shoe-fetichism ever recorded in any detail is that of Restif de la Bretonne (1734-1806), publicist and novelist, one of the most remarkable literary figures of the later eighteenth century in France. Restif was a neurotic subject, though not to an extreme degree, and his shoe-fetichism, though distinctly pronounced, was not pathological; that is to say, that the shoe was not itself an adequate gratification of the sexual impulse, but simply a highly important aid to tumescence, a prelude to the natural climax of detumescence; only occasionally, and faute de mieux, in the absence of the beloved person, was the shoe used as an adjunct to masturbation. In Restif's stories and elsewhere the attraction of the shoe is frequently discussed or used as a motive. His first decided literary success, Le Pied de Fanchette, was suggested by a vision of a girl with a charming foot, casually seen in the street. While all such passages in his books are really founded on his own personal feelings and experiences, in his elaborate autobiography, Monsieur Nicolas, he has frankly set forth the gradual evolution and cause of his idiosyncrasy. The first remembered trace dated from the age of 4, when he was able to recall having remarked the feet of a young girl in his native place. Restif was a sexually precocious youth, and at the age of 9, though both delicate in health and shy in manners, his thoughts were already absorbed in the girls around him. "While little Monsieur Nicolas," he tells us, "passed for a Narcissus, his thoughts, as soon as he was alone, by night or by day, had no other object than that sex he seemed to flee from. The girls most careful of their persons were naturally those who pleased him most, and as the part least easy to keep clean is that which touches the earth it was to the foot-gear that he mechanically gave his chief attention. Agathe, Reine, and especially Madeleine, were the most elegant of the girls at that time; their carefully selected and kept shoes, instead of laces or buckles, which were not yet worn at Sacy, had blue or rose ribbon, according to the color of the skirt. I thought of these girls with emotion; I desired—I knew not what; but I desired something, if it were only to subdue them." The origin Restif here assigns to his shoe-fetichism may seem paradoxical; he admired the girls who were most clean and neat in their dress, he tells us, and, therefore, paid most attention to that part of their clothing which was least clean and neat. But, however paradoxical the remark may seem, it is psychologically sound. All fetichism is a kind of not necessarily morbid obsession, and as the careful work of Janet and others in that field has shown, an obsession is a fascinated attraction to some object or idea which gives the subject a kind of emotional shock by its contrast to his habitual moods or ideas. The ordinary morbid obsession cannot usually be harmoniously co-ordinated with the other experiences of the subject's daily life, and shows, therefore, no tendency to become pleasurable. Sexual fetichisms, on the other hand, have a reservoir of agreeable emotion to draw on, and are thus able to acquire both stability and harmony. It will also be seen that no element of masochism is involved in Restif's fetichism, though the mistake has been frequently made of supposing that these two manifestations are usually or even necessarily allied. Restif wishes to subject the girl who attracts him, he has no wish to be subjected by her. He was especially dazzled by a young girl from another town, whose shoes were of a fashionable cut, with buckles, "and who was a charming person besides." She was delicate as a fairy, and rendered his thoughts unfaithful to the robust beauties of his native Sacy. "No doubt," he remarks, "because, being frail and weak myself, it seemed to me that it would be easier to subdue her." "This taste for the beauty of the feet," he continues, "was so powerful in me that it unfailingly aroused desire and would have made me overlook ugliness. It is excessive in all those who have it." He admired the foot as well as the shoe: "The factitious taste for the shoe is only a reflection of that for pretty feet. When I entered a house and saw the boots arranged in a row, as is the custom, I would tremble with pleasure; I blushed and lowered my eyes as if in the presence of the girls themselves. With this vivacity of feeling and a voluptuousness of ideas inconceivable at the age of 10 I still fled, with an involuntary impulse of modesty, from the girls I adored."

We may clearly see how this combination of sensitive and precocious sexual ardor with extreme shyness, furnished the soil on which the germ of shoe-fetichism was able to gain a firm root and persist in some degree throughout a long life very largely given up to a pursuit of women, abnormal rather by its excessiveness than its perversity. A few years later, he tells us, he happened to see a pretty pair of shoes in a bootmaker's shop, and on hearing that they belonged to a girl whom at that time he reverently adored at a distance he blushed and nearly fainted.

In 1749 he was for a time attracted to a young woman very much older than himself; he secretly carried away one of her slippers and kept it for a day; a little later he again took away a shoe of the same woman which had fascinated him when on her foot, and, he seems to imply, he used it to masturbate with.

Perhaps the chief passion of Restif's life was his love for Colette Parangon. He was still a boy (1752), she was the young and virtuous wife of the printer whose apprentice Restif was and in whose house he lived. Madame Parangon, a charming woman, as she is described, was not happily married, and she evidently felt a tender affection for the boy whose excessive love and reverence for her were not always successfully concealed. "Madonna Parangon," he tells us, "possessed a charm which I could never resist, a pretty little foot; it is a charm which arouses more than tenderness. Her shoes, made in Paris, had that voluptuous elegance which seems to communicate soul and life. Sometimes Colette wore shoes of simple white drugget or with silver flowers; sometimes rose-colored slippers with green heels, or green with rose heels; her supple feet, far from deforming her shoes, increased their grace and rendered the form more exciting." One day, on entering the house, he saw Madame Parangon elegantly dressed and wearing rose-colored shoes with tongues, and with green heels and a pretty rosette. They were new and she took them off to put on green slippers with rose heels and borders which he thought equally exciting. As soon as she had left the room, he continues, "carried away by the most impetuous passion and idolizing Colette, I seemed to see her and touch her in handling what she had just worn; my lips pressed one of these jewels, while the other, deceiving the sacred end of nature, from excess of exaltation replaced the object of sex (I cannot express myself more clearly). The warmth which she had communicated to the insensible object which had touched her still remained and gave a soul to it; a voluptuous cloud covered my eyes." He adds that he would kiss with rage and transport whatever had come in close contact with the woman he adored, and on one occasion eagerly pressed his lips to her cast-off underlinen, vela secretiora penetralium.

At this period Restif's foot-fetichism reached its highest point of development. It was the aberration of a highly sensitive and very precocious boy. While the preoccupation with feet and shoes persisted throughout life, it never became a complete perversion and never replaced the normal end of sexual desire. His love for Madam Parangon, one of the deepest emotions in his whole life, was also the climax of his shoe-fetichism. She represented his ideal woman, an ethereal sylph with wasp-waist and a child's feet; it was always his highest praise for a woman that she resembled Madame Parangon, and he desired that her slipper should be buried with him. (Restif de la Bretonne, Monsieur Nicolas, vols. i-iv, vol. xiii, p. 5; id., Mes Inscriptions, pp. ci-cv.)

Shoe-fetichism, more especially if we include under this term all the cases of real or pseudo-masochism in which an attraction to the boots or slippers is the chief feature, is a not infrequent phenomenon, and is certainly the most frequently occurring form of fetichism. Many cases are brought together by Krafft-Ebing in his Psychopathia Sexualis. Every prostitute of any experience has known men who merely desire to gaze at her shoes, or possibly to lick them, and who are quite willing to pay for this privilege. In London such a person is known as a "bootman," in Germany as a "Stiefelfrier."

The predominance of the foot as a focus of sexual attraction, while among us to-day it is a not uncommon phenomenon, is still not sufficiently common to be called normal; the majority of even ardent lovers do not experience this attraction in any marked degree. But these manifestations of foot-fetichism which with us to-day are abnormal, even when they are not so extreme as to be morbid, may perhaps become more intelligible to us when we realize that in earlier periods of civilization, and even to-day in some parts of the world, the foot is generally recognized as a focus of sexual attraction, so that some degree of foot-fetichism becomes a normal phenomenon.

The most pronounced and the best known example of such normal foot-fetichism at the present day is certainly to be found among the Southern Chinese. For a Chinese husband his wife's foot is more interesting than her face. A Chinese woman is as shy of showing her feet to a man as a European woman her breasts; they are reserved for her husband's eyes alone, and to look at a woman's feet in the street is highly improper and indelicate. Chinese foot-fetichism is connected with the custom of compressing the feet. This custom appears to rest on the fact that Chinese women naturally possess a very small foot and is thus an example of the universal tendency in the search for beauty to accentuate, even by deformation, the racial characteristics. But there is more than this. Beauty is largely a name for sexual attractiveness, and the energy expended in the effort to make the Chinese woman's small foot still smaller is a measure of the sexual fascination which it exerts. The practice arose on the basis of the sexual attractiveness of the foot, though it has doubtless served to heighten that attractiveness, just as the small waist, which (if we may follow Stratz) is a characteristic beauty of the European woman, becomes to the average European man still more attractive when accentuated, even to the extent of deformity, by the compression of the corset.

Referring to the sexual fascination exerted by the foot in China, Matignon writes: "My attention has been drawn to this point by a large number of pornographic engravings, of which the Chinese are very fond. In all these lascivious scenes we see the male voluptuously fondling the woman's foot. When a Celestial takes into his hand a woman's foot, especially if it is very small, the effect upon him is precisely the same as is provoked in a European by the palpation of a young and firm bosom. All the Celestials whom I have interrogated on this point have replied unanimously: 'Oh, a little foot! You Europeans cannot understand how exquisite, how sweet, how exciting it is!' The contact of the genital organ with the little foot produces in the male an indescribable degree of voluptuous feeling, and women skilled in love know that to arouse the ardor of their lovers a better method than all Chinese aphrodisiacs—including 'giusen' and swallows' nests—is to take the penis between their feet. It is not rare to find Chinese Christians accusing themselves at confession of having had 'evil thoughts on looking at a woman's foot.'" (Dr. J. Matignon, "A propos d'un Pied de Chinoise," Archives d'Anthropologie Criminelle, 1898.)

It is said that a Chinese Empress, noted for her vice and having a congenital club foot, about the year 1100 B.C., desired all women to resemble her, and that the practice of compressing the foot thus arose. But this is only tradition, since, in 300 B.C., Chinese books were destroyed (Morache, Art. "Chine," Dictionnaire Encyclopedique des Sciences Medicales, p. 191). It is also said that the practice owes its origin to the wish to keep women indoors. But women are not secluded in China, nor does foot compression usually render a woman unable to walk. Many intelligent Chinese are of opinion that its object is to promote the development of the sexual parts and of the thighs, and so to aid both intercourse and parturition. There is no ground for believing that it has any such influence, though Morache found that the mons veneris and labia are largely developed in Chinese women, and not in Tartar women living in Pekin (who do not compress the foot). If there is any correlation between the feet and the pelvic regions, it is more probably congenital than due to the artificial compression of the feet. The ancients seem to have believed that a small foot indicated a small vagina. Restif de la Bretonne, who had ample opportunities for forming an opinion on a matter in which he took so great an interest, believed that a small foot, round and short, indicated a large vagina (Monsieur Nicolas, vol. i, reprint of 1883, p. 92). Even, however, if we admit that there is a real correlation between the foot and the vagina, that would by no means suffice to render the foot a focus of sexual attraction.

It remains the most reasonable view that the foot bandage must be regarded as strictly analogous to the waist bandage or corset which also tends to produce deformity of the constricted region. Stratz has ingeniously remarked (Frauenkleidung, third edition, p. 101) that the success of the Chinese in dwarfing trees may have suggested a similar attempt in regard to women's feet, and adds that in any case both dwarfed trees and bound feet bear witness in the Mongolian to the same love for small and elegant, not to say deformed, things. For a Chinaman the deformed foot is a "golden water-lily."

Many facts (together with illustrations) bearing on Chinese deformation of the foot will be found in Ploss, Das Weib, vol. i, Section IV.

The significance of the sexual emotion aroused by the female foot in China and the origin of its compression begin to become clear when we realize that this foot-fetichism is merely an extreme development of a tendency which is fairly well marked among nearly all the peoples of yellow race. Jacoby, who has brought together a number of interesting facts bearing on the sexual significance of the foot, states that a similar tendency is to be found among the Mongol and Turk peoples of Siberia, and in the east and central parts of European Russia, among the Permiaks, the Wotiaks, etc. Here the woman, at all events when young, has always her feet, as well as head, covered, however little clothing she may otherwise wear.

"On hot nights or on baking days," Jacoby states, "you may see these women with uncovered breasts, or even entirely naked without embarrassment, but you will never see them with bare feet, and no male relations, except the husband, will ever see the feet and lower part of the legs of the women in the house. These women have their modesty in their feet, and also their coquetry; to unbind the feet of a woman is for a man a voluptuous act, and the touch of the bands produces the same effect as a corset still warm from a woman's body on a European man. A woman's beauty, that which attracts and excites a man, lies in her foot; in Mordvin love poems celebrating the beauty of women there is much about her attire, especially her embroidered chemise, but as regards the charms of her person the poet is content to state that 'her feet are beautiful;' with that everything is said. The young peasant woman of the central provinces as part of her holiday raiment puts on great woolen stockings which come up to the groin and are then folded over to below the knee. To uncover the feet of a person of the opposite sex is a sexual act, and has thus become the symbol of sexual possession, so that the stocking or foot-gear became the emblem of marriage, as later the ring. (It was so among the Jews, as we see in the book of Ruth, Chapter III, v. 4, and Chapter IV, vv. 7 and 8). St. Vladimir the Great asked in marriage the daughter of Prince Rogvold; as Vladimir's mother had been a serf, the princess proudly replied that she 'would not uncover the feet of a slave.' At the present time in the east of Russia when a young girl tries to find out by divination whom she will have as a husband the traditional formula is 'Come and take my stockings off.' Among the populations of the north and east, it is sometimes the bride who must do this for her husband on the wedding night, and sometimes the bridegroom for his wife, not as a token of love, but as a nuptial ceremony. Among the professional classes and small nobility in Russia parents place money in the stocking of their child at marriage as a present for the other partner, it being supposed that the couple mutually remove each other's foot raiment, as an act of sexual possession, the emblem of coitus." (Paul Jacoby, Archives d'Anthropologie Criminelle, December, 1903, p. 793.) The practice among ourselves of children hanging up their stockings at night for presents would seem to be a relic of the last-mentioned custom.

While we may witness the sexual symbolism of the foot, with or without an associated foot-fetichism, most highly developed in Asia and Eastern Europe, it has by no means been altogether unknown in some stages of western civilization, and traces of it may be found here and there even yet. Schinz refers to the connection between the feet and sexual pleasure as existing not only among the Egyptians and the Arabs, but among the ancient Germans and the modern Spaniards,[16] while Jacoby points out that among the Greeks, the Romans, and especially the Etruscans, it was usual to represent chaste and virgin goddesses with their feet covered, even though they might be otherwise nude. Ovid, again, is never weary of dwelling on the sexual charm of the feminine foot. He represents the chaste matron as wearing a weighted stola which always fell so as to cover her feet; it was only the courtesan, or the nymph who is taking part in an erotic festival, who appears with raised robes, revealing her feet.[17] So grave a historian as Strabo, as well as AElian, refers to the story of the courtesan Rhodope whose sandal was carried off by an eagle and dropped in the King of Egypt's lap as he was administering justice, so that he could not rest until he had discovered to whom this delicately small sandal belonged, and finally made her his queen. Kleinpaul, who repeats this story, has collected many European sayings and customs (including Turkish), indicating that the slipper is a very ancient symbol of a woman's sexual parts.[18]

In Rome, Dufour remarks, "Matrons having appropriated the use of the shoe (soccus) prostitutes were not allowed to use it, and were obliged to have their feet always naked in sandals or slippers (crepida and solea), which they fastened over the instep with gilt bands. Tibullus delights to describe his mistress's little foot, compressed by the band that imprisoned it: Ansaque compressos colligat arcta pedes. Nudity of the foot in woman was a sign of prostitution, and their brilliant whiteness acted afar as a pimp to attract looks and desires." (Dufour, Histoire de la Prostitution, vol. II., ch. xviii.)

This feeling seems to have survived in a more or less vague and unconscious form in mediaeval Europe. "In the tenth century," according to Dufour (Histoire de la Prostitution, vol. VI., p. 11), "shoes a la poulaine, with a claw or beak, pursued for more than four centuries by the anathemas of popes and the invectives of preachers, were always regarded by mediaeval casuists as the most abominable emblems of immodesty. At a first glance it is not easy to see why these shoes—terminating in a lion's claw, an eagle's beak, the prow of a ship, or other metal appendage—should be so scandalous. The excommunication inflicted on this kind of foot-gear preceded the impudent invention of some libertine, who wore poulaines in the shape of the phallus, a custom adopted also by women. This kind of poulaine was denounced as mandite de Dicu (Ducange's Glossary, at the word Poulainia) and prohibited by royal ordinances (see letter of Charles V., 17 October, 1367, regarding the garments of the women of Montpellier). Great lords and ladies continued, however, to wear poulaines." In Louis XL's court they were still worn of a quarter of an ell in length.

Spain, ever tenacious of ancient ideas, appears to have preserved longer than other countries the ancient classic traditions in regard to the foot as a focus of modesty and an object of sexual attraction. In Spanish religious pictures it was always necessary that the Virgin's feet should be concealed, the clergy ordaining that her robe should be long and flowing, so that the feet might be covered with decent folds. Pacheco, the master and father-in-law of Velasquez, writes in 1649 in his Arte de la Pintura: "What can be more foreign from the respect which we owe to the purity of Our Lady the Virgin than to paint her sitting down with one of her knees placed over the other, and often with her sacred feet uncovered and naked. Let thanks be given to the Holy Inquisition which commands that this liberty should be corrected!" It was Pacheco's duty in Seville to see that these commands were obeyed. At the court of Philip IV. at this time the princesses never showed their feet, as we may see in the pictures of Velasquez. When a local manufacturer desired to present that monarch's second bride, Mariana of Austria, with some silk stockings the offer was indignantly rejected by the Court Chamberlain: "The Queen of Spain has no legs!" Philip V.'s, queen was thrown from her horse and dragged by the feet; no one ventured to interfere until two gentlemen bravely rescued her and then fled, dreading punishment by the king: they were, however, graciously pardoned. Reinach ("Pieds Pudiques," Cultes, Mythes et Religions, pp. 105-110) brings together several passages from the Countess D'Aulnoy's account of the Madrid Court in the seventeenth century and from other sources, showing how careful Spanish ladies were as regards their feet, and how jealous Spanish husbands were in this matter. At this time, when Spanish influence was considerable, the fashion of Spain seems to have spread to other countries. One may note that in Vandyck's pictures of English beauties the feet are not visible, though in the more characteristically English painters of a somewhat later age it became usual to display them conspicuously, while the French custom in this matter is the farthest removed from the Spanish. At the present day a well-bred Spanish woman shows as little as possible of her feet in walking, and even in some of the most characteristic Spanish dances there is little or no kicking, and the feet may even be invisible throughout. It is noteworthy that in numerous figures of Spanish women (probably artists' models) reproduced in Ploss's Das Weib the stockings are worn, although the women are otherwise, in most cases, quite naked. Max Dessoir mentions ("Psychologie der Vita Sexualis," Zeitschrift fuer Psychiatrie, 1894, p. 954) that in Spanish pornographic photographs women always have their shoes on, and he considers this an indication of perversity. I have seen the statement (attributed to Gautier's Voyage en Espagne, where, however, it does not occur) that Spanish prostitutes uncover their feet in sign of assent, and Madame d'Aulnoy stated that in her time to show her lover her feet was a Spanish woman's final favor.

The tendency, which we thus find to be normal at some earlier periods of civilization, to insist on the sexual symbolism of the feminine foot or its coverings, and to regard them as a special sexual fascination, is not without significance for the interpretation of the sporadic manifestations of foot-fetichism among ourselves. Eccentric as foot-fetichism may appear to us, it is simply the re-emergence, by a pseudo-atavism or arrest of development, of a mental or emotional impulse which was probably experienced by our forefathers, and is often traceable among young children to-day.[19] The occasional reappearance of this bygone impulse and the stability which it may acquire are thus conditioned by the sensitive reaction of an abnormally nervous and usually precocious organism to influences which, among the average and ordinary population of Europe to-day, are either never felt, or quickly outgrown, or very strictly subordinated in the highly complex crystallizations which the course of love and the process of tumescence create within us.

It may be added that this is by no means true of foot-fetichism only. In some other fetichisms a seemingly congenital predisposition is even more marked. This is not only the case as regards hair-fetichism and fur-fetichism (see, e.g., Krafft-Ebing, Psychopathia Sexualis, English translation of tenth edition, pp. 233, 255, 262). In many cases of fetichisms of all kinds not only is there no record of any commencement in a definite episode (an absence which may be accounted for by the supposition that the original incident has been forgotten), but it would seem in some cases that the fetichism developed very slowly.

In this sense, it will be seen, although it is hazardous to speak of foot-fetichism as strictly an atavism, it may certainly be said to arise on a congenital basis. It represents the rare development of an inborn germ, usually latent among ourselves, which in earlier stages of civilization frequently reached a normal and general fruition.

It is of interest to emphasize this congenital element of foot symbolism, because more than any other forms of sexual perversion the fetichisms are those which are most vaguely conditioned by inborn states of the organism and most definitely aroused by seemingly accidental associations or shocks in early life. Inversion is sometimes so fundamentally ingrained in the individual's constitution that it arises and develops in spite of the very strongest influence in a contrary direction. But a fetichism, while it tends to occur in sensitive, nervous, timid, precocious individuals—that is to say, individuals of more or less neuropathic heredity—can usually, though not always, be traced to a definite starting point in the shock of some sexually emotional episode in early life.

A few examples of the influences of such association may here be given, referring miscellaneously to various forms of erotic symbolism. Magnan has recorded the case of a hair-fetichist, living in a district where the women wore their hair done up, who at the age of 15 experienced pleasurable feelings with erection at the sight of a village beauty combing her hair; from that time flowing hair became his fetich, and he could not resist the temptation to touch it and if possible sever it, thus becoming a hair-despoiler, for which he was arrested but not sentenced. (Archives de l'Anthropologie Criminelle, vol. v, No. 28.)

I have elsewhere recorded the history of a boy of 14, having already had imperfect connection with a grown-up woman, who associated much with a young married lady; he had no sexual relations with her, but one day she urinated in his presence, and he saw that her mons veneris was covered by very thick hair; from that time he worshiped this woman in secret and acquired a life-long fetichistic attraction to women whose pubic hair was similarly abundant (Studies in the Psychology of Sex, vol. iii, Appendix B, History V).

Roubaud reported the case of a general's son, sexually initiated at the age of 14 by a blonde young lady of 21 who, in order to avoid detection, always retained her clothing: gaiters, a corset and a silk dress; when the boy's studies were completed and he was sent to a garrison where he could enjoy freedom he found that his sexual desires could only be aroused by blonde women dressed like the lady who had first aroused his sexual desires; consequently he gave up all thoughts of matrimony, as a woman in nightclothes produced impotence (Traite de l'Impuissance, p. 439). Krafft-Ebing records the somewhat similar case of a nervous Polish boy of old family seduced at the age of 17 by a French governess, who during several months practiced mutual masturbation with him; in this way his attention became attracted by her very elegant boots, and in the end he became a confirmed boot-fetichist (Psychopathia Sexualis, English translation, p. 249).

A boy of 7, of bad heredity, was taught to masturbate by a servant girl; on one occasion she practiced this on him with her foot without taking off her shoe; it was the first time the manoeuvre gave him any pleasure, and an association was thus established which led to shoe-fetichism (Hammond, Sexual Impotence, p. 44). A government official whose first coitus in youth took place on a staircase; the sound of his partner's creaking shoes against the stairs, produced by her efforts to accelerate orgasm, formed an association which developed into an auditory shoe-fetichism; in the streets he was compelled to follow ladies whose shoes creaked, ejaculation being thus produced, while to obtain complete satisfaction he would make a prostitute, otherwise naked, sit in front of him in her shoes, moving her feet so that the shoes creaked. (Moraglia, Archivio di Psichiatria, vol. xiii, p. 568.)

Bechterew, in St. Petersburg, has recorded the case of a man who when a child used to fall asleep at the knees of his nurse with his head buried in the folds of her apron; in this position he first experienced erection and voluptuous sensations; when a youth he had no attraction to naked women, and in real life and in dreams was only excited sexually under conditions recalling his early experience; in his relations with women he preferred them dressed, and was excited by the rustling sound of their skirts; in this case there was no traceable neuropathic taint nor any other personal peculiarity. (Summarized in Journal de Psychologie Normale et Pathologique, January-February, 1904, p. 72.)

In a curious case recorded in detail by Moll, a philologist of sensitive temperament but sound heredity, who had always been fond of flowers, at the age of 21 became engaged to a young lady who wore large roses fastened in her jacket; from this time roses became to him a sexual fetich, to kiss them caused erection, and his erotic dreams were accompanied by visions of roses and the hallucination of their odor; the engagement was finally broken off and the rose-fetichism disappeared (Untersuchungen ueber Libido Sexualis, bd. i, p. 540).

Such associations may naturally occur in the early experiences of even the most normal persons. The degree to which they will influence the subsequent life and thought and feeling depends on the degree of the individual's morbid emotional receptivity, on the extent to which he is hereditarily susceptible of abnormal deviation. Precocity is undoubtedly a condition which favors such deviation; a child who is precociously and abnormally sensitive to persons of the opposite sex before puberty has established the normal channels of sexual desire, is peculiarly liable to become the prey of a chance symbolism. All degrees of such symbolism are possible. While the average insensitive person may fail to perceive them at all, for the more alert and imaginative lover they are a fascinating part of the highly charged crystallization of passion. A more nervously exceptional person, when once such a symbolism has become firmly implanted, may find it an absolutely essential element in the charm of a beloved and charming person. Finally, for the individual who is thoroughly unsound the symbol becomes generalized; a person is no longer desired at all, being merely regarded as an appendage of the symbol, or being dispensed with altogether; the symbol is alone desired, and is fully adequate to impart by itself complete sexual gratification. While it must be considered a morbid state to demand a symbol as an almost essential part of the charm of a desired person, it is only in the final condition, in which the symbol becomes all-sufficing, that we have a true and complete perversion. In the less complete forms of symbolism it is still the woman who is desired, and the ends of procreation may be served; when the woman is ignored and the mere symbol is an adequate and even preferred stimulus to detumescence the pathological condition becomes complete.

Krafft-Ebing regarded shoe-fetichism as, in large measure, a more or less latent form of masochism, the foot or the shoe being the symbol of the subjection and humiliation which the masochist feels in the presence of the beloved object. Moll is also inclined to accept such a connection.

"The very numerous class of boot-and-shoe-fetichists," Krafft-Ebing wrote, "forms the transition to the manifestations of another independent perversion, i.e., fetichism itself; but it stands in closer relationship to the former.... It is highly probable, and shown by a correct classification of the observed cases, that the majority, and perhaps all of the cases of shoe-fetichism, rest upon a basis of more or less conscious masochistic desire for self-humiliation.... The majority or all may be looked upon as instances of latent masochism (the motive remaining unconscious) in which the female foot or shoe, as the masochist's fetich, has acquired an independent significance." (Psychopathia Sexualis, English translation of tenth edition, pp. 159, et seq.) "Though Krafft-Ebing may not have cleared up the whole matter," Moll remarks, "I regard his deductions concerning the connection of foot-and-shoe fetichism to masochism as the most important progress that has been made in the theoretic study of sexual perversions.... In any case, the connection is very frequent." (Kontraere Sexualempfindung, third edition, p. 306.)

It is quite easy to see that this supposed identity of masochism and foot-fetichism forms a seductive theory. It is also undoubtedly true that a masochist may very easily be inclined to find in his mistress's foot an aid to the ecstatic self-abnegation which he desires to attain.[20] But only confusion is attained by any general attempt to amalgamate masochism and foot-fetichism. In the broad sense in which erotic symbolism is here understood, both masochism and foot-fetichism may be cooerdinated as symbolisms; for the masochist his self-humiliating impulses are the symbol of ecstatic adoration; for the foot-fetichist his mistress's foot or shoe is the concentrated symbol of all that is most beautiful and elegant and feminine in her personality. But if in this sense they are cooerdinated, they remain entirely distinct and have not even any necessary tendency to become merged. Masochism merely simulates foot-fetichism; for the masochist the boot is not strictly a symbol, it is only an instrument which enables him to carry out his impulse; the true sexual symbol for him is not the boot, but the emotion of self-subjection. For the foot-fetichist, on the other hand, the foot or the shoe is not a mere instrument, but a true symbol; the focus of his worship, an idealized object which he is content to contemplate or reverently touch. He has no necessary impulse to any self-degrading action, nor any constant emotion of subjection. It may be noted that in the very typical case of foot-fetichism which is presented to us in the person of Restif de la Bretonne (ante, p. 18), he repeatedly speaks of "subjecting" the woman for whom he feels this fetichistic adoration, and mentions that even when still a child he especially admired a delicate and fairy-like girl in this respect because she seemed to him easier to subjugate. Throughout life Restif's attitude toward women was active and masculine, without the slightest trace of masochism.[21]

To suppose that a fetichistic admiration of his mistress's foot is due to a lover's latent desire to be kicked, is as unreasonable as it would be to suppose that a fetichistic admiration for her hand indicated a latent desire to have his ears boxed. In determining whether we are concerned with a case of foot-fetichism or of masochism we must take into consideration the whole of the subject's mental and emotional attitude. An act, however definite, will not suffice as a criterion, for the same act in different persons may have altogether different implications. To amalgamate the two is the result of inadequate psychological analysis and only leads to confusion.

It is, however, often very difficult to decide whether we are dealing with a case which is predominantly one of masochism or of foot-fetichism. The nature of the action desired, as we have seen, will not suffice to determine the psychological character of the perversion. Krafft-Ebing believed that the desire to be trodden on, very frequently experienced by masochists, is absolutely symptomatic of masochism.[22] This is scarcely the case. The desire to be trodden on may be fundamentally an erotic symbolism, closely approaching foot-fetichism, and such slight indications of masochism as appear may be merely a parasitic growth on the symbolism, a growth perhaps more suggested by the circumstances involved in the gratification of the abnormal desire than inherent in the innate impulse of the subject. This may be illustrated by the interesting case of a very intelligent man with whom I am well acquainted.

C.P., aged 38. Heredity good. Parents both healthy and normal. Several children of the marriage, all sexually normal so far as is known. C.P. is the youngest of the family and separated from the others by an interval of many years. He was a seven-months' child. He has always enjoyed good health and is active and vigorous, both mentally and physically.

From the age of 9 or 10 to 14 he masturbated occasionally for the sake of physical relief, having discovered the act for himself. He was, however, quite innocent and knew nothing of sexual matters, never having been initiated either by servants or by other boys.

"When I encounter a woman who very strongly attracts me and whom I very greatly admire," he writes, "my desire is never that I may have sexual connection with her in the ordinary sense, but that I may lie down upon the floor on my back and be trampled upon by her. This curious desire is seldom present unless the object of my admiration is really a lady, and of fine proportions. She must be richly dressed—preferably in an evening gown, and wear dainty high-heeled slippers, either quite open so as to show the curve of the instep, or with only one strap or 'bar' across. The skirts should be raised sufficiently to afford me the pleasure of seeing her feet and a liberal amount of ankle, but in no case above the knee, or the effect is greatly reduced. Although I often greatly admire a woman's intellect and even person, sexually no other part of her has any serious attraction for me except the leg, from the knee downwards, and the foot, and these must be exquisitely clothed. Given this condition, my desire amounts to a wish to gratify my sexual sense by contact with the (to me) attractive part of the woman. Comparatively few women have a leg or foot sufficiently beautiful to my mind to excite any serious or compelling desire, but when this is so, or I suspect it, I am willing to spend any time or trouble to get her to tread upon me and am anxious to be trampled on with the greatest severity.

"The treading should be inflicted for a few minutes all over the chest, abdomen and groin, and lastly on the penis, which is, of course, lying along the belly in a violent state of erection, and consequently too hard for the treading to damage it. I also enjoy being nearly strangled by a woman's foot.

"If the lady finally stands facing my head and places her slipper upon my penis so that the high heel falls about where the penis leaves the scrotum, the sole covering most of the rest of it and with the other foot upon the abdomen, into which I can see as well as feel it sink as she shifts her weight from one foot to the other, orgasm takes place almost at once. Emission under these conditions is to me an agony of delight, during which practically the lady's whole weight should rest upon the penis.

"One reason for my special pleasure in this method seems to be that first the heel and afterwards the sole of the slipper as it treads upon the penis greatly check the passage of the semen and consequently the pleasure is considerably prolonged. There is also a curious mental side to the affair. I love to imagine that the lady who is treading upon me is my mistress and I her slave, and that she is doing it to punish me for some fault, or to give herself (not me) pleasure.

"It follows that the greater the contempt and severity with which I am 'punished,' the greater becomes my pleasure. The idea of 'punishment' or 'slavery' is seldom aroused except when I have great difficulty in accomplishing my desire and the treader is more than usually handsome and heavy and the trampling mercilessly inflicted. I have been trampled so long and so mercilessly several times, that I have flinched each time the slipper pressed its way into my aching body and have been black and blue for days afterwards. I take the greatest interest in leading ladies on to do this for me where I think I will not offend, and have been surprisingly successful. I must have lain beneath the feet of quite a hundred women, many of them of good social position, who would never dream of permitting any ordinary sexual intercourse, but who have been so interested or amused by the idea as to do it for me—many of them over and over again. It is perhaps needless to say that none of my own or the ladies' clothing is ever removed, or disarranged, for the accomplishment of orgasm in this manner. After a long and varied experience, I may say that my favorite weight is 10 to 11 stone, and that black, very high-heeled slippers, in combination with tan silk stockings, seem to give me the greatest pleasure and create in me the strongest desires.

"Boots, or outdoor shoes, do not attract me to anything like the same degree, although I have, upon several occasions, enjoyed myself fairly well by their use. Nude women repel me, and I find no pleasure in seeing a woman in tights. I am not averse to normal sexual connection and occasionally employ it. To me, however, the pleasure is far inferior to that of being trampled upon. I also derive keen pleasure—and usually have a strong erection—from seeing a woman, dressed as I have described, tread upon anything which yields under her foot—such as the seat of a carriage, the cushions of a punt, a footstool, etc., and I enjoy seeing her crush flowers by treading upon them. I have often strolled along in the wake of some handsome lady at a picnic or garden party, for the pleasure of seeing the grass upon which she has trodden rise slowly again after her foot has pressed it. I delight also to see a carriage sway as a woman leaves or enters it—anything which needs the pressure of the foot.

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