Stay tuned, there’s more to it than that.
Citing no real scientific basis for his statements, iconic shoe designer Christian Louboutin recently said: “What is sexual in a high heel is the arch of the foot, because it is exactly the position of a woman’s foot when she orgasms.” A “female French academic” told him this, which clearly means it’s true. (Who trusts the French, anyway?) Sorry, Mr. Louboutin, your shoes are cute, and I wish I could afford them, but I don’t buy into your theory.
Apparently by “putting your foot in a heel, you are putting yourself in a possibly orgasmic situation.” Oh, really? You’re not just running a clever PR campaign to sell more overpriced shoes? Well, everyone should be so lucky as to have orgasmic experiences from high heels.
I’ve kind of been meaning to post something on this for a while, and rest assured that I am not the only one. That link goes into more detail on the history of the heel than I was prepared to, so go ahead and read it beforehand, if you wish.
Now, supposedly today’s higher heels were perfected in design by inserting a steel rod into the heel in order to allow it to be both thin and higher than about 2″ or so — heels had been limited in height by the weight and volume required to provide support. Both posts suggest two ways that heels are supposed to be alluring: 1) By angling the foot such that it mimics the female foot during orgasm; and 2) By adjusting body position to highlight various feminine features. I’d heard of both of these previously, but never in written form except in the bit by E.O. Wilson quoted in the second link:
Increased heel height creates an optical illusion of ‘shortening’ the foot, slenderizes the ankle, contributes to the appearance of long legs, adds a sensuous look to the strike, and increases height to generate the sensation of power and status.
That’s pretty much what I had heard: the heel causes the calves to flex, lengthens the look of the leg, pushes the butt out, arches the lower back, and causes the bosom to project some as well. These are supposed to not just highlight those assets but on a deeper level mimic the signs of sexual receptivity. Intuitively, the first part of that makes sense, to me at least. (It also made sense to a female colleague of mine who suggested it does the same thing to men wearing cowboy boots with a heel) The second part. . . .well, I dunno. It strikes me as more paleopsychologizing, which I am suspect of. Not that I think there’s not some cross-cultural traits that are generally found to be attractive; there are quite a few studies demonstrating these, at least on an empirical level (so-called ‘universal signs of beauty’). Some of these seem reasonable, others maybe not. Ferinstance, symmetry has been found to be one of those universals: faces that are more symmetrical are judged to be more attractive. This is usually related to health or genetics, suggesting the person is both healthy (and generally young) and has good genes. One would assume that the body positioning that heels force also tends to suggest youth/health since all the parts that usually sag as people get older are enhanced? I dunno, but it seems more plausible than a suggestion of estrus burned into us from our Plio-Pleistocene ancestors which a lot of these explanations seem to imply. . . . .
The foot/orgasm thing is the first I’d heard that particular explanation, but I’d always suspected something else was going on with them besides posture. I always thought that there was something in the way the heel shapes the foot itself (or appears to) that is in and of itself alluring. True foot-fetishists aside, isn’t there something kind of inherently sexy in the photo above even without being able to see the way the rest of her body is positioned? I’m guessing that the research on that hypothesis would be rather more involved than showing people faces and asking them with his more attractive.
Anyway, I find the concept of sexual selection fascinating, but confusing as hell to interpret and explain.