Many people have fetishes they don't feel comfortable disclosing due to kink-shamers, many of whom most likely suppress their own eccentric desires they are embarrassed about.
But foot fetishists, those who are aroused by a part of the body many think should remain shod and not seen, can now rejoice in the fact that they are not alone.
A 2007 relative prevalence study of different fetishes by Nature revealed that, out of 5,000 people surveyed, the most common sexual preference recorded was for feet, toes, and other objects associated with the feet, like socks and shoes.
People into feet are even in the company of celebrities like film director Quentin Tarantino, pop singer Ricky Martin, and N.E.R.D. frontman Pharrell Williams, who have all admitted foot fetishes.
Scientist and youth speaker Forrest Valkai just joined the conversation about the most common form of "partialism," or sexual interest: podophilia.
When a TikToker asked him to provide a "biological reason for why foot fetishes and other kinks exist," the biologist gave an entertaining visual explanation in the following video.
Reply to @imcyfi I'm a biologist, not a psychologist, but this one actually has a biological reason. #science #biology #foot #kinktok #LearnonTikTok
The "KinkTok" video went viral and received over 2M likes.
Speaking with Buzzfeed News, Valkai did a deep dive and elaborated on why foot fetishes are more common than you think.
Ready to take some footnotes?
"Your brain is super wrinkly," began Valkai.
"The wrinkles are called sulci, and the noodles between the wrinkles are called gyri. Everybody's noodle patterns are different (like a slimy fingerprint), but there are certain structures that are uniform across all people."
"The somatosensory cortex is one of those structures. It's the main part of your brain that feels physical touch, and it sits on the postcentral gyrus (the big noodle), right behind your central sulcus (a deep wrinkle everyone has in the exact same place across the top of their brain)."
"The different parts of our bodies are mapped out on this cortex in such a way that the part of the brain that feels your feet and toes is bumped right up against the part of your brain that feels your genitals."
"The idea is that having these parts of the brain bumping against each other could lead to some 'crossed wires' in layman's terms, where seeing or touching feet feels like seeing or touching genitals."
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So why are we wired this way in the first place? Valkai said there are a "few competing hypotheses."
"My favorite is that deriving some pleasure from having your feet touched might encourage you to keep them clean and free of parasites."
"Remember, when we're talking about the evolution of behaviors, it's not good enough to just not die. You've got to do things that help you live as well."
Valkai also explored the psychological aspect of having foot fetishes.
"Foot fetishes tend to increase after STI scares," he added.
"We even tend to see more foot-related pornography during syphilis or AIDS outbreaks throughout history."
"The most common hypothesis here is that feet are a safe, non-penetrative, non-contagious thing to sexualize, so our brains latch onto them."
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When a TikToker thought "brain wrinkles were random," they asked if the brain expert could elaborate more.
Valkai responded with:
"Every brain has different patterns of wrinkles (like a fingerprint), but there are certain universal landmarks and each region has a function."
Those whose wires are crossed very differently stepped in.
Those with a more neutral brain wiring were fascinated.
Valkai also emphasized that, though the theories make sense, the science hasn't yet been confirmed.
"You have to understand that, when conducting research, it's pretty difficult to get people to be super open with total strangers about intimate sexual desires that are often considered taboo, so getting good data can be a challenge."
"One thing we are sure of, however, is that foot fetishes are the most common fetishes in the world, so don't be afraid to be honest with your partner!"
"You may be surprised by what they're into too!"
Sounds like a step in the right direction.