During the summer of 2010, I suffered a stress fracture on the underside of my right foot, the product of overzealous running in poorly padded shoes. The break took over a year to heal completely and as I rehabbed, a metamorphosis that began in my late 20s completed its cycle. Never a fan of sky-high, welt-producing footwear to begin, a full-on conversion to sensible shoes became the new paradigm. If the shoe wasn’t hiking boot, sneaker or flip flop, color me uninterested.
I considered my general, lifelong aversion to the platform wedge anew as a result of the thoughtful piece What’s up with high heels?, written by my friend and fellow author William Quincy Belle. In the essay, Belle delivers scientific insight into the popularity of kitten heels and a theory as to why both sexes are drawn to their effects on the feminine shape. Citing the biological phenomenon of “lordosis behavior,” Belle wittily describes it as “a physical sexual posture seen in female animals. The back is arched inward (ventral arching) which helps to elevate the hips as an invitation to mate and as an aid in intercourse. Yes, this shows up in the Kama Sutra but is better known on the street as doggy style.”
It is hypothesized that that simple act of stepping into heels creates a sexual environment – for wearer as well as audience. With the arched posture that only a heel can foment, a woman harnesses her powers of attraction, directly and indirectly eliciting an aroused reaction from admiring menfolk. We can’t help this pattern we’re told. It’s wired into our DNA. Belle makes a rather compelling argument.
But how then to explain the outliers? The ladies like myself who have generally tended to prize function over form? When Belle circulated his post via his personal Facebook page, I found myself participating in this brief but enlightening discussion:
Becky Sarwate: I am immune to the apparently siren call. I never find discomfort sexy. Guess I am alone in that amongst my gender.
Friend of Belle: Right there with you Becky Sarwate… I think I can generate plenty of sexual heat w/o heels.
Becky Sarwate: Friend, maybe we should start an awareness group. There must be more of our kind. Sexy in Sneakers!
So I’m wondering, are there more of us out there? Is there a small but vibrant minority of women who reject the very notion that we have to move through the day in pinched irritation in order to look and feel our best? If so, where are my sisters? In my own circle, I have several talented, educated, brilliant friends who will walk over hot coals in rocky terrain wearing four-inch heels, women who otherwise use logic to spin the various plates of life, as a matter of course. When queried as to why good sense goes out the window when it comes to sartorial aesthetics, the answer is generally some version of, “Because I look fabulous!” But ask why again, and the speaker invariably reverts to a defensive crouch of justifications that ring hollow, as if they’ve broken the assertive control displayed in other daily spheres in order to read from a script.
Maybe Belle’s theory is right and the lure of heels is simple, unavoidable biology. But why then have I found them, and their companion in shapely vexation, thong underwear, so repellent? Yes, I hate physical discomfort but after careful consideration, I own that my distaste is more sharp and visceral than simple malaise.
I bristle at the suggestion that by forgoing the spikes, I’ve chosen the persona of tree-climbing tomboy, or have given up trying to follow the rules of attraction. I enjoy an active, diverse sex life and find nothing shameful in the declaration. Sex has never been taboo for me, nor has it been psychologically verboten to consider new ways to attract members of the other gender. I like to dress thoughtfully and apply makeup with care. I just don’t see the point of primping below the kneecaps. I want my partner’s gaze trained on my eyes and mouth. I don’t find feet very sexy.
So is that it? A desire for comfort combined with an anti-foot fetish (with all respect to NFL coach Rex Ryan and his wife)? Perhaps another chapter in the story of patriarchal ideology rejection that is increasingly coming to define my life’s journey?