“I’m not demanding the full-blown romantic love thing, but in general I don’t think you can love a person just for their feet, much less for their shoes.”
Another entry in my Year of Geoff Nicholson, and this brings me to Footsucker, a novel, which I freely admit, is not for everyone. But first let me say that I knew a footsucker–the correct term being Foot Fetishist, I believe. Yes, it’s true, I knew a man who appeared to be perfectly normal in every way, and yet he managed to get himself arrested for frenziedly sucking women’s toes. In public. Without their permission. Was I shocked or surprised? Well yes, sort of. I’d noticed that he really paid a lot of attention to the feet of women passing by. He always noted painted nails and well-tended feet while I tended to be oblivious. After his arrest, I considered why he hadn’t been able to find a consenting partner, and asked myself if the illicit nature of his obsession was part of the fun. I suppose that knowing that man led me to be very interested in Geoff Nicholson’s novel, Footsucker–because the author really seems to get his facts right, and he could have been writing about the foot fetishist I knew. Not that I’m an expert or anything.
I’ve mentioned before, that Nicholson seems to find obsessives interesting subject matter–curious really as obsessives in real life can be rather boring people–always rabbiting on about the same thing. In Footsucker, the narrator is a man who’s obsessed with women’s feet. When the novel begins, he has organized a nice little scam (again not unlike the true case I just mentioned). He hangs about on the street, looking respectable in a suit and a tie, and pretending to be “attached to a fashion PR company,” he carries a clipboard that is just a prop for the ‘market research’ he professes to gather. In reality, this is a way to stop women, ask them about their shoes, and if he’s lucky, snap a few photos he can drool over later. He often hangs about outside of shoe shops, and most women go along with his little scam until he starts asking whether or not they wear shoes during sex. That question is usually the deal breaker. Then one Friday, he meets Catherine, a tall, attractive American woman wearing an unusual pair of shoes, “spike-heeled, zebra-skins“:
I approached her. She stopped willingly enough and when I asked how many pairs of shoes she had, she said about two hundred and fifty. No doubt my eyes lit up, and I hoped I wasn’t drooling. I asked her what the shoes were like. She said, and I took it down word for word, ‘High heels, peep-toes, ankle straps, a lot of red and black leather, some very soft suede, one or two in silk, some fur mules, some ankle boots, some thigh boots, lots of weird animal skins; you know, your basic set of slut’s shoes.’
I felt like all my Christmases had come at once. When I asked if I could photograph her from the ankles down she was delighted. I squatted down on the pavement and started shooting the zebra-skin shoes. She moved her feet for me, arching them, turning her ankles this way and that, displaying them for me to admire. She really seemed to be getting into it.
This is the beginning of the relationship between the narrator and Catherine, so here we have a foot fetishist and a woman who’s happy to go along with her new boyfriend’s tastes. To the narrator, his wildest fantasies are now fulfilled, and he can finally indulge his sexual preferences with a consenting partner–a woman who happens to have perfect feet. All those scrap books, his video collection, and his own private shoe collection–all hidden from the world up to this point–can finally be shared, appreciated and understood. The narrator even has the great good fortune to meet a shoemaker with a “dark edge to his work” who specializes in making FM (Fuck-Me) shoes, and this peculiar, grimy, desperate little man, is the second person to become obsessed with Catherine’s feet….
Something strange always happens when sexual fantasies are fulfilled: perhaps a wrinkle is created in the Cosmos as moral boundaries, often invisible until we know we’ve crossed them, shift into unexplored and sometimes uncomfortable territory. While Footsucker is the story of one man’s very specific sexual obsession, there’s an underlying thread which addresses the testing of boundaries and morality and comfort levels. The story is also full of foot trivia as the narrator confides his thoughts to the reader, so we read about various foot shots in many films, the narrator’s views of the deficiency of men’s magazines, as well as some foot fetishist terminology. Ultimately, however, the story turns out to be a bit of a who-dun-it. But be prepared, there are lots of sex scenes in the book, so you can’t say you haven’t been warned.
One aspect of the novel, and we see this in the title, is that foot fetishists seem to be on the lower end of the totem pole in the fetish world. The narrator doesn’t think that his ‘interest’ is taken seriously, and given the response evoked from a few of the characters in the book, it would seem that the narrator is onto something. His attempts to confide in people usually end in humiliation of one sort or another, and a great part of the book seems to be the narrator’s attempts to claim understanding and acceptance–a paradox as, after all, fetishes are normally kept private. And here’s one response from an uncaring member of the British police force:
I’ve heard it all. And I’ve seen most of it. And as long as no one gets hurt and as long as kids and drugs and animals aren’t involved, then who really cares? Some people want to drink each other’s piss, some want to shove their fists up each other’s backsides. There are blokes out there who like to have their foreskins nailed to the floorboards. Now you and I might think they’re sick, filthy sods who should be taken outside and given a good kicking, but anyway, it’s a free country, isn’t it?