Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Debby Herbenick Ph.D., M.P.H.

The Pleasures of Sex

What Your Feet Have to Do With Better Sex

The surprising way your feet can lead to more pleasurable, connecting sex.

Posted May 30, 2010

In the quest for sexual pleasure, we too often focus squarely on one another's genitals as if those few square inches hold the only key to ecstasy. Paying attention primarily to these parts may work fine for casual flings but even in months-long affairs, not to mention long term relationships, sex runs the risk of turning stale unless partners pay attention to each other and to more than just the vulva, penis or anus.

One of my favorite poems by Pablo Neruda is called "Your Feet". It has these beautiful lines in it about why he adores his lover's feet - not because of how they look, but because of the way they carry and support her as she walks along the earth (and, of course, that they ultimately brought her to him).

I once Secret Messaged (on Twitter) a link to this poem to my own partner, who notoriously makes fun of my bony feet when they poke him at night as I wrap my leg around him and fall asleep. Always the sensitive one, I told him that I want him to love my feet the way he loves the rest of me - if not for their boniness then for the way they carry me home to him day after day. [Even Neruda's lover - if this translation can be trusted - had "feet of arched bone... hard little feet." Like me!]

Is it any wonder, then, that I want to sing the praises of feet and how I think we neglect them a bit too often in our sexual and romantic lives? Certainly I cannot be the only woman who grew up watching The Cosby Show and noticed how Cliff regularly massaged Clair's feet on the sofa after she came home from work. Some years ago, I remember hearing that even Oprah remarked on her show about what a loving gesture that had been and why it mattered to see such a warm display of love on television.

Feet are sometimes seen as dirty and it's not unusual for people to feel embarrassed about their feet or even to pull them away or hide them from the notice of someone they like. I once pulled mine away all too quickly from someone I very much liked only because someone had previously made fun of my feet. It's too bad, of course, because feet are incredibly sensitive and massaging them can feel lovely.

As I wrote about in my book Because It Feels Good, there are myriad ways to enjoy in each other's bodies - and not just the genitals. Why not, for example:

- Give your partner a foot massage - wash them gently with a warm towel first, then slather massage lotion on his or her feet, making sure to rub all over the tops and the soles and also in between the toes

- Dress your feet up in stockings, knee highs or high heels and make them festive for sex play

- Bathe together, taking turns to wash and scrub each others' feet, perhaps with a pumice stone and some soft body wash

- Take care of your own feet so that they look and feel their best. If you're prone to tough skin, your dermatologist might be able to prescribe a cream to soften your feet. If your feet are only mildly scratchy or thick in places, then scrubbing with a pumice stone and sleeping with socks over your cream-slathered feet may help them to feel soft and sensual

- Drag your soft tootsies over your partner's back (not with your full weight on them, of course, unless your weight proportions to each other are such that your partner likes having you walk on his or her back)

- Suck on your partner's toes, or your partner can suck on yours (assuming they are clean, of course; to add a little flavor, consider Tulip's brown sugar or mint julep flavored body sugar). Not partnered? Suck on your own! (Oh, you: like you never tried it as a child.)

- Henna paint your feet with intricate designs either professionally or using a home kit, just for the sake of fun and beauty. I had my hands and wrists painted in India a couple of years ago and it gave me a new perspective on them.

Any part of your body can be attended to in a way that enhances your relationship, your love life or sex life. Enjoy these tips and create some of your own to make your feet a neat part of your day-to-day pleasures.

Debby Herbenick, PhD, MPH is a sex researcher at Indiana University, a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, and author of Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction. Follow her on Twitter @mysexprofessor

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