By Geoffrey Rowan
Walk with me ladies and let’s explore one of the great mysteries of hetero maleness. You may view it as a tolerable, even comical idiosyncrasy of the Y chromosome, or perhaps a weak insensitivity, a sexist deal-breaker, or just the way it is.
However you deal with it, at some point you have wondered why your boyfriend/husband/employee/employer/father/grandfather or any other hetero man cannot stop himself from ogling the waitress’s bosom when she bends over the table?
I don’t know. But there is a single word that may help you understand and even related to their helplessness; a word that offers you a visceral, emotional light-bulb insight into their slavering. It is offered here as a public service to increase understanding between the sexes.
That word is shoes.
Like breasts, shoes are functional objects that come in pairs and inspire lust. A pair of one to feed the children and of the other to protect your feet from the elements. You’d think that would be the end of it. What could be more mundane?
Why then must men and boys of every age always look? Science has its theories.
Maybe breast-obsessed men have mommy issues, or have been programmed by media’s constant sexualizing of the breast, or are stuck in an adolescent sex loop. These are all reasonable speculations and there are others. But do any of them satisfy your desire to know why he can’t stop?
Intellectually, you know your contented life partner doesn’t really want to blow up his family in order to get his hands on the freckled cleavage of the bank teller. So why must he look? He is smart enough to silently remind himself “eye contact, eye contact, eye contact” during meetings with his boss. And certainly he knows his semi-salacious, never-subtle-enough glance is not really going to ignite the bartender’s loins or inspire his hair stylist to rip open her bodice and mount him in the chair.
But then, you know that no matter how hard you press your nose against the storefront glass on Fifth Avenue, no matter how profoundly you long and sigh over glossy magazine pages, you’re not going to blow the family budget on that $1,000 pair of Manolos. Why must you look? In your fantasy world, you buy them all.
So, before you bust him for not-so-subtly trying to catch a glance of waitress décolletage, admit it. You had already checked out her shoes. Cute ballet flats. When you’re walking down the street together and he does the head swivel, like radar tracking an incoming brace of inter-ballistics, admit you had already checked her out, and were lingering dreamily on her Prada Studded Shoe Booties in grey.
There are as many attempted rationalizations for women’s shoe-porn addiction as for male titillation, and they are about as reasonable. Some say shoe size rarely fluctuates, so women never have to beat themselves up over not being able to fit into their skinny slingbacks.
Another rationalization in the self-esteem category: heels lengthen the leg and lift the buttocks, highlighting posture and curves in a way that inspires feelings of self-confidence and sexiness.
Maybe, but we’re not buying, ladies. Neither explains the feelings of breathless excitement and urgent desire so many women report having when they look at pictures of shoes, see them on display or fondle them in a store.
Women’s shoes and women’s breasts are sensuous and sexy, to women and men respectively and often collectively. The curves, colours, lines, shapes, supple textures, the ratios and juxtapositions, the totality of the experience and the sublime exquisiteness of each molecule that comprise them. The imagined conversation between fingertips and skin. The intoxicating smell of new shoe/boob. The fantasy. Blahnik, Louboutin, Prada, Chanel. Big, small, pert, pendulous.
Breasts and shoes are secondary sexual characteristics. Each provokes feelings of desire and sexuality, but you don’t actually have sex with them. Well, most people don’t.
“I love shoes, desire and lust after them,” Alyssa Siegel wrote in Psychology Tomorrow Magazine, after attending Shoe Obsession, an exhibition at The Museum of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. “I feel my heart race when I look at shoes I am considering buying, feel a jolt of joy when I wear them the first time.”
She desires them all. “Flats, heels, boots, ballets, sandals, clogs, platforms, wedges, strappy, buckled, lace-ups, peep-toes.”
Compare that to Andre Cross, writing in AskMen.com: “Yes, I like big breasts, but I like small breasts as well. I have never encountered a breast that I didn’t like. There are only two things I require from a woman’s breast: nipples and accessibility.
Breasts have a gravitational pull on hetero men only slightly weaker than the sun’s gravitational pull, right before you’re sucked into it and vaporized. Maybe that’s because the 14-year-old who still inhabits the rec room of the hetero male mind believes breasts are the on button for female sexuality. Push here to ignite. Of course that is stupid (right?). But have you ever seen guys under the influence in a strip club? Not the peak of our self-aware, intellectual selves.
Have you ever seen women under the influence in a shoe store? Same-same. Same feigned insouciance, trying to look just as chill and nonchalant as guys in a strip club, but a little too much animation in the voice, a little too giddy.
Still, if shoe store is to woman as strip club is to man, there are some important differences. You can’t get microwaved nachos in a shoe store, and few have football on big-screen TVs to provide a respite from the constant, emotionally exhausting visual stimulation.
But then, in a shoe store, you can touch the object of your desire all you want with no fear that a 350-pound guy named Tiny will grab you by your upper lip and back of your pants and toss you to the sidewalk. And you don’t have to pay $20 a song to sit with a pair of Manolos on your lap.
In the end, there is no convincing explanation for the lust-inducing powers of shoes/breasts. A breast is an erogenous zone located on a woman’s body. A shoe store is an erogenous zone located in a mall.
Nor should we want to live in a world that has demystified the allure of the shoe/breast. All we should care about is that no shoe/breast goes unadored. A flat can be as sexy as a four-inch stiletto. Strappy, buckled, lace-ups, peep-toes. They’re all good. They all bring happiness.
All except for espadrilles. They are a shoe that says: “I don’t like the way you’re looking at me, and don’t even think about touching me.”