If we were to play an associative word game, in response to the word "fetish," you'd almost certainly say "foot." For all the variety the kink community has to offer, it would seem that we’ve declared this one particular podiatric fixation the poster child for normalized sexual obsession. But for those of us who have not yet tapped into the market for vending your used flip flops on the internet, fetishes are a much broader contemplation.
So, what actually IS a fetish? And why do we have them? Well, by the dictionary (Merriam-Webster, obviously), it's "a form of sexual desire in which gratification is linked to an abnormal degree to a particular object, item of clothing, body part, etc." While “abnormal” feels a bit judgmental, the implication is that you feel aroused by something that’s not in the typical canon of “erotic” things. Sure, it can be a classically unsexy body part like a foot or an elbow, but it can also be, say, quicksand, or diapers ("adult babies" are indeed a thriving fetish community). And there’s no quantity limit here, either. It’s proven that your roster of fetishes can lengthen at any given time –– and the addition of a new preoccupation does not replace the old.
Now, when it comes to the foot fetish, in particular, psychologists believe the fixation may have been passed down from Victorian men, being that women in that era were meant to cover their ankles, knees, and feet. Of course, that’s no longer the case, but it does help us to explain where our fetishes come from in our respective psyches. And while there’s no across-the-board, agreed-upon explanation for the nature of these obsessions, it is widely believed that they come from our own neuroses. So, when it comes to taking a closer, look, there are a few competing theories.