Is three months too early to ban your girlfriend from ever wearing flip flops again?
February 8, 2010 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Resources for lady new to foot fetishism? Many details inside.

Dear Askme, I am in a new (3 months) relationship with a very special guy with whom I have a lot in common. We are in our mid-twenties, graduate students, and crazy about each other. Something we didn't know about each other before we started dating is that we are both somewhat kinky. I fantasize a lot about BDSM themed activities and have played around with this stuff in previous relationships (light-hearted fun, like blindfolds and silk scarves) but never had a partner who was really interested in non-vanilla sex. He is also somewhat interested in BDSM but it is not his main interest. He is very into feet and stockings. He told me that this is the first time he has ever told a girlfriend about his fetish, let alone engaged in any foot-centric activities in the bedroom. So, he is very nervous when it comes to discussing these things and we are both very new to actually trying them.

All this came out within a few weeks of us beginning to sleep together and up until this point everything was a-okay. I feel pretty comfortable with my feet and I didn't think I would have any problem with accommodating his needs. However, now I feel that I wish I had some resources at my disposal to learn more about his kink or about engaging in BDSM activities in general. I am comfortable with the actual things he wants to do with my feet (your garden variety foot worship), but communicating about these issues is very stressful for both of us. He gets very stressed out talking about his foot-and-stocking-needs and the more stress builds up around the issue, the more worried I am that I won't be pleasing to him. His ultimate fantasy is for me to wear stockings and heels all day until my feet get sweaty, then to return home for foot worship and sexy sex. This all sounds fine to me, but we have not done it yet and the more time passes, the more nervous I feel about doing this/incorporating it into our lifestyle. Talking about this stuff seems to bring out a controlling side of him that I don't think I like. For instance, a few times, he has become annoyed or unhappy if I mention that the shoes I am wearing hurt my feet or if I take my shoes off to relieve them for a moment. In the latter case, we were in the library together one day and he told me I should put my shoes back on (so that my feet will continue to get sweaty) and that he doesn't like it when women talk about "how much trouble it is" to wear nice shoes. On that particular day, I had put on a cute pair of heels, but it was just to look nice, not with his special kink in mind. I felt a little bummed out because I had just wanted to look cute for him, but instead he was telling me about how my actions were falling short of his fantasy. Later on, he told me that even talking about it that briefly was very difficult for him and put him very close to orgasm. This made me feel more sympathetic towards him, but I still felt pretty uncomfortable, both because I don't like being told what to do in public and because I felt the lines between our private/bedroom life were blurring with our public life. When told him later how I felt, he admitted that he was very nervous about how it would go when we did try to enact his fantasy. He says that it would not be a deal breaker for him if I didn't want to participate in foot activities anymore, but he seems to be very worried/convinced that this is what I will want after we try his stocking sex fantasy. For my part, I think that, however the initial experience goes, we will be able to reach some kind of mutually beneficial agreement, so I am not worried about this, but the way he behaves when we try to talk about it makes me feel like I'm under a lot of pressure to act a certain way and that, for him, it will be a huge disaster if it doesn't go perfectly the first time around.

So! I wonder if anyone can point me to a book, website, or community that can help me suss out the norms for couples with these kind of interests. I feel like we need help communicating about boundaries and best practices. When I met this guy, I fell in love very quickly, but some of these recent interactions make me wonder if I am just dealing with a nervous newbie like myself or if he is someone who has overall trouble with communicating and respecting boundaries. Initially in the relationship, we had some other problems related to communication, but now, other than when we are talking about the foot stuff (and I should add that the foot stuff we have already incorporated into our bedroom activities have been very fun and enjoyable for both of us -- our bedroom life is very satisfying and active), I feel happy with him and able to express myself comfortably. When it comes to the fetish-related issues, I feel that I need to hear from him that he will be willing to talk about compromises (e.g., we can negotiate how often we do it), but when I want to talk about these practical issues in a non-sexual context, he seems to hear it as my shutting down his steamy fantasy and feel dis-empowered, as if I'm the one with all the power in the situation because he is the dirty perv (his words, not mine -- I love his pervy ways).

Blah! Any recommendations for resources or methods for easing into these sort of things?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I don't have any specific resources for you, but I just wanted to gently point out that this relationship isn't just about satisfying *his* needs or fulfilling *his* fantasies...and it sounds as though this is becoming the case. Your comfort overrides his fantasies, and you talk about feeling under pressure to accomodate him. I think that before you delve any deeper into the fetish, you need to have a frank discussion about communication and boundaries.
posted by noxetlux at 8:34 AM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

There is (or was when I was a member) a very active forum at lustlylibrary. It's been a while since I was a member, but I remember an interesting thread about foot fetishes...
posted by patheral at 9:10 AM on February 8, 2010

I felt a little bummed out because I had just wanted to look cute for him, but instead he was telling me about how my actions were falling short of his fantasy. Later on, he told me that even talking about it that briefly was very difficult for him and put him very close to orgasm.

It sounds like he's excited by your feet, but also by dominating you (at least insofar as getting to control what you do with your feet.) You should decide if you're ok with this to any degree, get it out in the open, and set some ground rules so you can have fun with it too and don't feel more powerless than you want to.
posted by contraption at 9:10 AM on February 8, 2010

Ditto. He's obsessing, and as you pointed out, beginning to try to control you (in a not-playful way - nothing wrong with consensual power exchanges!).

Foot fetishists often have (female) domination fantasies - the ordinary metaphors of "being underfeet", "kicked around", and "beneath me" all are suggestive of the unequalness implied by foot worship.

Unfortunately, when you combine insecurity with power exchange, too often what you end up with is a controlling, narcissistic attitude. In BDSM circles, this is sometimes referred to as "topping from below" (when the insecure one is the bottom), or "being an asshole" (when the insecure one is the top).

If your boyfriend wants to continue to have a relationship with you, a wonderful sexual catch for him by all acounts, he needs to remember to treat you like a truly special friend, and not just a sexual object. If you can get him to realize this, then the rewards can be immense - for both of you!
posted by IAmBroom at 9:13 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

You do not exist solely to fulfill his sexual desires 24/7. To quote Dan Savage, he needs to be good, game and giving. DTMFA.
posted by Brittanie at 9:18 AM on February 8, 2010

I just want to address your title. Whether or not he has the right to "ban" you from wearing flip flops has nothing to do with how long you've been dating. He never has the right to "ban" you from wearing what you want to wear or doing anything else you want to do.

What he does have the right to do is to say, "I'd really like it if you would do X, and it would make me happy if you would take my wishes into consideration, and I believe that it would strengthen our relationship in the following way." Then, it's up to you to decide whether his reasons for wanting you to do X trump your reasons for wanting to do something else. And if you decide to do something else, he has two reasonable options: accept your decision gracefully, or break up with you to find a relationship with someone who is willing to do X. Sulking, being passive aggressive, or demanding that you change your mind are unreasonable behavior.

It sounds as though he's having a lot of trouble articulating his desires, much less asking you nicely to take those desires into account. I hate to be the first one to say therapy (we could have an AskMe drinking game where we all did a shot every time therapy is suggested, and every regular reader would be schnockered all the time), but I think that he needs to come to terms with his needs, and talking with a disinterested third party could help him do that.

No matter what happens or how he chooses to deal with his desires, though, you shouldn't have to tolerate him treating you poorly. This is a man who supposedly cares about you as a person, and he's treating you like a fetish object who inconveniently happens to have a brain attached. You should let him know not just what you're willing (or not willing) to do with him sexually, but also how you're willing (and not willing) to be treated in a relationship. That means no more ordering you around, no more pressuring you, and no more using his nervousness as an excuse to behave in manipulative ways.
posted by decathecting at 9:26 AM on February 8, 2010 [5 favorites]

I disagree with all of the DTMFA-ness going on already. This sounds like a guy who has just been able to articulate his desires for the first time, to anyone. There is a lot of fear in that- if you reject him, or if he feels you are rejecting him, it means that EVERYONE who knows what he likes (feet!) thinks he's weird/gross/whatever.

He isn't sure what the boundaries are. He may not even be sure how to talk about boundaries. I think this is time for a clear and frank conversation about ground rules and public vs private behavior.

It also seems like trying out his fantasy about you coming home with sweaty feet is overdue- the longer you wait to do it, the more focus both of you will put on doing it RIGHT. The important thing here is there is no RIGHT, there is just fun. Try to have fun the first time. And make it clear it is the first time- there will be more. Before hand, perhaps treat it like you're in a play. Before the scene, you (as the actor) set the ground rules, sort of like a contract negotiation. Pre-plan that sometime after the scene, he will provide you lavish compliments and also some "notes" (as another actor but also the Director of the scene, he will have the opportunity to give you constructive requests for the next time you're an actor in a similar scene.

That way you can be sure he will get what he has desired for so long, and it will actually be fun for you.

Also, how about conversations about what makes a cute shoe? Remind him that the more comfortable the shoe is, the happier you'll be making it all sweaty (by walking fast and energetically, which is hard in uncomfortable shoes) and getting excited YOURSELF about participating.

Maybe take him shoe shopping? See if you can find kitten heeled shoes that he finds equally swoon-worthy so that you can find something that will work all day but also drive him crazy when he gets home.

Also: we didn't hear much in here about you getting to experiment with YOUR desires, make sure there is room in the relationship for some of what you'd like to try out, or else eventually no matter how eager you are to help him, this will eventually grow tiresome for you.
posted by arnicae at 10:01 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

As I read the first half of this question I was mentally preparing a list of books and resources to help you guys open up and explore SM (SM 101, and The Topping Book and The Bottoming Book are great), but by the time I got to the end of your post I was thinking you have a different issue to deal with than exploring SM.

From your description, your boyfriend's behavior seems inappropriately controlling. Negotiating fantasies can be difficult, painfully embarrassing, awkward etc, even for experienced SM players, but I really think there needs to be clear negotiation about what everyone is willing to do and not do. And there needs to be some agreement about when you are participating in SM play, and when you're not.

I have to say, my first instinct is to forget this guy whose behavior seems straight up out of line to me, but assuming you want to proceed for now, the first thing that needs to happen is creating a limit about when and where you are playing. Boyfriend's sweaty feet fantasy is all fine and good, and it sounds like you're open to doing it. That doesn't mean that every time you leave the house in heels you have to be fulfilling his foot needs. I really don't think this can work without some honest, neutral negotiation and limits. If you do want to do this, what about saying something like, "Baby, I want to try this foot fantasy. Can we do it on Friday?" and then, "Your fantasy sounds really hot, but I also need to be clear that this is something I need to mentally prepare for, so I can't do it every day. Sometimes I just want to wear flip flops and I need that to be OK."

Assuming Foot Day works out well, you'll probably want to continue to explore and negotiate other activities, including your fantasies. As a first step you could suggest something like, "Let's write down three things we'd like to do to each other/have done to ourselves". Then read your lists out loud. You also really need to hear what the other person does not want to do. A common SM negotiation practice is to give each other a Yes, No and Maybe list - of things you'd like to do, things you definitely don't want to do (at least for now), and things you'd consider trying. BTW, these types of practices are described in detail in the books I mentioned above.

I also really recommend getting involved in the SM community online or in real life. I think your instinct of trying to find out what social norms are in the scene is a good one. (There has also been a fair amount written about abuse in the SM scene but I'm having trouble finding an article right now.) The good thing about hooking into a real life SM community is that your boyfriend will hopefully be able to talk to other people about this stuff. You're being very sweet about what is obviously a hugely triggering, shame-infused set of issues for him, which is lovely, but there really is a limit to how much you can help reduce the shame for him. Especially given that he's reacting to the shame by pressuring you. He's going to have to deal with some of this himself.

Anyhow, good luck. I hope that everything works out.
posted by serazin at 10:09 AM on February 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm a female dominant. I was occasionally a controlling jerk when I was new because I didn't know exactly how much control to assert without going over the line into asshole territory. Not to defend this guy, but as a new dominant, it's really hard to suss out when you should "hold your ground" in the face of submissive's resistance, and when you should relent in the face of a valid concern. It's also really, really hard for some dominants to "keep it in the bedroom" because it's a natural way of being for us. It's easy to be assertive all day long. It's much harder to be submissive 24 hours a day, and he may not realize you don't want that (if you like it in the bedroom, why wouldn't you want more of it, the reasoning goes).

The antidote to all this is to have a very frank conversation before you engage in any kind of play. You say what you will and will not do, and he has to abide by that, period, the end. If you never want to be told what to do in public, then so be it. If you want to wear bunny slippers when you get home from work, so be it. There's nothing wrong with that. There's plenty of room for compromise, but he may not be willing to bend, and you two may be a mismatch. It happens a lot in kink. I understand the impulse to please him, but if something is genuinely making you uncomfortable, it won't please either of you in the end.

when I want to talk about these practical issues in a non-sexual context, he seems to hear it as my shutting down his steamy fantasy and feel dis-empowered

I totally understand this guy. He's insecure in his dominance, which is also really typical of a new dominant. He doesn't yet understand that he gets his power from you. He's not taking power from you, you're giving it to him. Right now he doesn't feel like he's able to take enough, so he feels impotent and disrespected. He needs to know that you do find his fantasies exciting, and you're eager to please him, but your limits are thus and such. You have to have this conversation in a non-sexual context so he's not in a dominant headspace and you're not in a submissive one. I would approach it like so: "Boyfriend, I really love when we do X and Y, and your fantasies about Z really turn me on. I love doing these things in the privacy of (my, your) house but it makes me uncomfortable when we're out in public. I feel really pressured to do ABC and it's not fun for me. I'm really eager to find a way that we can both be comfortable and happy - do you have any ideas?" This throws the ball back in his court and makes him the decision maker again.

Feel free to email me - again, he reminds me a lot of myself when I was new. I also recommend that he find a mentor. Going to BDSM gatherings and talking to other dominants helped me keep my expectations in check and realize that I was being an ass.
posted by desjardins at 11:05 AM on February 8, 2010 [6 favorites]

What if you went shoefinding for a couple of pairs of mutually-acceptable shoes, and you make an agreement that they were "his" shoes.

When you choose to wear them, whether it is to the office or around the house, you are choosing to participate. and he would have a clear signal that you were fully prepared to make that day's footness all about him.

Make him buy them. Make him help you try them on. Zappos won't be as much fun.
posted by Sallyfur at 9:41 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

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