A Historical Case in Point - Foot Binding

Variations in Sexual Behavior

Two Examples: 1. Fetishism

A Historical Case in Point - Foot Binding

Chinese erotic statuette
The jade sculpture, dating from the 15th century A.D., very clearly shows the small, pointed feet produced by the practice of foot binding.
Courtesy China Sex Museum, Tongli

An interesting case in point is presented by the once popular, now abandoned Chinese custom of binding female feet: Beginning in early childhood, a girl’s feet were wrapped in very tight bandages, preventing their normal growth. This painful procedure was continued for years and eventually resulted in the typical, deformed, very small feet of adult Chinese women.
First reported as an already existing practice in the Song Dynasty (960-1279 A. D.), it originated with the upper classes and, over the centuries, was also adopted by the middle and lower classes. Thus, from a relatively rare phenomenon, it eventually turned into a nearly universal custom affecting virtually every young girl in China. In the Qing Dynasty (1636-1911), footbinding became so widespread and was so strictly executed that the vast majority of Chinese women were turned into cripples who could hardly walk. Finally, after more than 1000 years, with the end of the monarchy and the arrival of the first republican government in 1911, the practice was banned as barbaric. The reasons for footbinding can be summarized this way:

Unnaturally small female feet were

A status symbol
The crippled feet of aristocratic ladies demonstrated their high social rank and the fact that they did not have to work.

A mark of oppression
Women with crippled feet could not walk very far and thus were prevented from “running away”. Instead, they were tied to the household and restricted to the domestic sphere. This also ensured their obedience to their husbands.

Objects of sexual desire
Female crippled feet were considered erotically attractive and increased a girl’s chances in the marriage market. Indeed, many girls were sold as brides or concubines to rich men who paid handsome sums to their parents.

The last point is interesting for sexologists, because it seems to indicate some culturally nurtured, widespread male foot fetishism.

[Course 6] [Description] [How to use it] [Introduction] [Development] [Basic Types] [Variations] [Sexual Rights] [Sexual Rights 2] [Sexual Rights 3] [History] [Two Examples] [Sexual Minorities: Intro] [Prohibited Behavior] [Additional Reading] [Examination]