About four years ago a group of tootsie trolls started a coordinated and orchestrated campaign on WikiFeet, the largest photo-sharing site in the world devoted to female celebrities’ feet. The aim: booting actress Emma Stone (“Birdman,” “Lal La Land”) from the top of the site’s rankings list and putting someone else in her place. To that end, the trolls opened a slew of fictitious accounts to give Stone the grade “ugly feet” – the lowest and most insulting on the scale.
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In the immediate term, the blitz proved successful and Stone was knocked off the pinnacle. However, the site’s founder, Eli Ozer, 37, from Tel Aviv, lost no time in identifying the falsified accounts and deleting their votes. Within a few hours, Stone had stepped back into her natural place. Ozer believes that she is there by rights.
“There are three parameters for evaluating feet,” he explained in a meeting with him last week, “toes, soles and arches. Emma Stone’s excel in all three: The length of the toes is proportional, the soles are soft and the arches are very high, which is one of her most outstanding features. She also always takes care to display her feet in a good way, with flattering shoes. Even in the pictures in which her nails aren’t painted, her foot looks well cared for and that too is an important measure.”
Justice for Emma Stone
Ozer, as we have noted, hastened to fight back to do justice to Stone, but the troll attack made it clear to him that he had to take more drastic measures to maintain the purity of the voting. In the second half of 2014 he founded “The Guild,” a bank of veteran surfers who hold dear the topic of feet, fellow podophiles who like him are concerned about threats to the democratic process and who have volunteered to take on the task of surveillance. The guildsmen monitor suspicious activity on the site and filter hurtful comments before they are posted.
'There are very few people in our community who send creepy messages to celebrities or secretly take pictures of feet on the street, but it is a bit like Islam: One extreme act of terror unjustly gets generalized to all the moderates.'
“The aim is to relate to the aesthetic beauty of feet and not to disgust,” explains Ozer. “People have written things intended to shock – about excrement, cheese odors, very crude sexual messages. The Guild members have early access and they can vote as to whether the comment conforms to the standards we have set.”
Since then, the reform has taken the sting out of the attacking trolls and Stone remains at the pinnacle in splendid isolation. However, though it seems that the battle for the top has been won, there has been no decline in the buzz around the site. Someone from the American gossip site TMZ recently ambushed actress Claire Danes (“Homeland”), whose feet have also received top marks, and informed her that she is the object of the “fantasies of foot-fetish connoisseurs worldwide,” while bombarding her with selected comments from WikiFeet. Danes chose not to respond.
In 2015 it was Elizabeth Banks (“The Hunger Games”) who in an interview on a morning television show was confronted with the fact that hundreds of pictures of her, barefoot, are displayed on the site. Banks was sporting about it: She took off a shoe, stretched her leg onto the table and even allowed the woman who was moderating to stroke it. Stone herself, in an old interview, was asked about her meteoric rise on WikiFeet and about the polemics surrounding her feet, which many surfers defined as “bony.” She spiritedly riposted that this might be a reason to quite the profession.
In any case, cute feedback from the Hollywood stars might be PR nibbles but they are not the measure of WikiFeet’s popularity. As of now, the site hosts about 2 million pictures of the feet of about 50,000 women, categorized by ranking, nationality and shoe size. Surfers, about 3 million a month in an estimate provided by Ozer, vote – of course – with their feet.
It all began nine years ago. Ozer, a gamer, animator and amateur programmer who worked at the time at a medical institute switchboard, was looking for an accessible internet database of barefoot women. “Then, there were only two such sites – one behind a pay wall and the other very cumbersome,” he says, “so I decided to share my own personal collection, with the idea being that surfers could add content online. I uploaded the first 6,000 pictures myself and at first the additions came in dribs and drabs, but within about half a year a number of guys really committed to this interest came along and shared huge collections.”
When the site increased in volume, Ozer added a ranking scale of from 1 to 5 stars (“ugly feet” to “beautiful feet.” The criteria for uploading a woman’s photo are that she must be at least 17 years of age and have a page on IMDb – the online International Movie Database, the largest in the worldwide entertainment industry. The other limitation aims at ensuring that the women who are ranked are celebrities and not “ordinary” women who are not interested in exposure and especially not this sort of exposure.
The tragedy of webbed toes
However, this criterion is rather porous as even a single appearance on a talk show, however obscure, suffices for a name to be recorded on IMDb, thereby opening the path to WikiFeet. Last year, the British Daily Mail reported the story of Alice Cachia, a literature student of 21 from a small town in Kent who was “horrified” to discover her pictures on WikiFeet. She came upon them by chance as she was Googling her name and said she was unhappy not only with the exposure but also by the middling ranking (2.5 stars, “okay”) she received from surfers. She was given the unflattering score mainly because two of her toes are inseparably webbed.
Cachia had addressed the topic of her webbed toes in an article she had published a year earlier in her university newspaper, but she did not take into account the possibility that they would be scrutinized by a community of millions and become an object of cataloguing and scorn.
“Apparently she had a page on IMDb but in any case the moment a request to remove a photo comes in, I do so without asking questions,” promises Ozer.
He and his Guildsmen also remove images that are copyright protected, pictures that do not include feet and pictures that are classified as “adult content.” That last qualifier is tricky because the site is laden with photos of porn starlets but the condition is that only their feet are bare.
'Foot fetish people are often mistakenly perceived as freaks or perverts. We are talking about guys of all ages and all strata of the population, who work at steady jobs, people who contribute, are productive and who happen to love feet.'
According to Ozer, “From the very first moment, my intention was that the site would be mainstream and I was careful not to let it become sleazy. There are a lot of surfers who have difficulty making this distinction and from whose perspective it is hypocrisy to define the sight as non-pornographic. At the same time, there are also surfers who would prefer that the content be squeaky clean and ask me to take down even pictures of porn stars who are wearing clothes. I try to tread this line.”
“I understand what you’re saying but I can tell you that the ranking doesn’t really focus on the feet but rather takes the whole into account. Most of the surfers admire the woman’s body without discriminating against any part or perceiving it as inferior or of lesser value. Face, bust, legs – and also feet. From our perspective this adds and does not detract. The idea in fact is to bring about a kind of correction: Most of the population ignores feet at best and at worst is put off by them because they are considered something dirty and unaesthetic. Lots of times someone’s personality or her face or her approach has a decisive effect on her ranking.
Nevertheless, it is the ranking that determines the hierarchy. It doesn’t matter what you have achieved in life, whether you have won three Oscars or you have made a career in porn - from our point of view you are a foot.
"We love feet and we don’t discriminate. There are actresses, athletes, politicians, women who do not necessarily conform to the mainstream ideals of beauty, older women. Hillary Clinton is ranked on our site. Very often people upload a picture of someone they love or admire. When they praise her feet, this is their way of honoring her.”
“It’s almost impossible to get to the average ranking of ‘ugly.’ There has to be serious fungus or completely crooked toes, someone who neglects her feet and not just because she has certain natural attributes and doesn’t have any choice. It’s true that this population is a bit judgmental about celebrities who are neglectful – who wear shoes that destroy the shape of their feet or who don’t have pedicures. However, when it comes to a celebrity whose foot is average but she takes care of it and isn’t ashamed of it – almost certainly her ranking will be high.”
Why not add a section of men?
“I don’t think it will take off, but I am not ruling out the possibility.”
A foot stare on Elm street
He grew up in Bat Yam, the eldest of two children of a teacher and a renovator-taxi driver. When he was 13, he first noticed that he is attracted to feet. “I remember I was watching a video of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and I kept rewinding it to see the star’s feet and my brother laughed at me for that. This was one of my first experiences. Today, incidentally, he too loves feet. I don’t know if there is a genetic dimension here or if exposure to the idea makes a person more open to it.”
At about the time he was doing his military service in a tank maintenance unit, he realized that aesthetic feet were something about which he could not compromise. “In the army I started a relationship with a woman and when I saw her without shoes I couldn’t get it up,” he relates.
As time passed, it became easier for him to “come out of the foot fetish closet,” especially once he had established the site. “Many years ago I kept it to myself because I thought it was an issue but it’s the main thing in my personality and I don’t feel that I have anything to hide. That I am attracted to feet doesn’t mean that I will relate to a girl any differently.”
Thus, Ozer disagrees with relating to this as a fetish. “This is because a fetish has very sexual connotations,” he explains. “The definition of a fetish is that it has to be a part of the act to get satisfaction. When I find a beautiful or attractive foot, it’s not necessarily in a sexual context, just like it’s possible to admire a pretty face. Therefore I prefer to describe it as ‘foot appreciation.’
“Foot fetish people are often mistakenly perceived as freaks or perverts,” he continues. “We are talking about guys of all ages and all strata of the population, who work at steady jobs, people who contribute, are productive and who happen to love feet. When you understand that it’s not necessarily something creepy, it might be possible to look at it in a different way.”
Why is attraction to breasts, buttocks or even legs considered part of the mainstream but attraction to feet is classified as a fetish?
“I can only conjecture that it’s because the foot has a stigma in the context of all kinds of extreme uses: smelling, licking. These are the more sexual and less aesthetic areas I try to keep away from the site. There are very few people in our community who send creepy messages to celebrities or secretly take pictures of feet on the street, but it is a bit like Islam: One extreme act of terror unjustly gets generalized to all the moderates.”
Ozer, therefore, sees himself as belonging to the sane majority. “In the community’s consensus, there are things that seem obvious: healthy nails, soft skin, symmetrical toes. I, for example, am a toe-man, someone who connects more to toes, so symmetry is important to me and I am bothered, for example, when the second toe is longer than the big toe. Of course it’s all a matter of preference and there are also the exceptions who love a strong odor, dirt, the furthest from the mainstream.”
One place where foot fetish gets an extreme interpretation is the sadomasochistic scene. However, within the worlds of BDSM (an umbrella term for bondage, discipline, dominance and submission and sado-masochism), foot worship is considered the mildest of kinks. A
A word from the Dungeon Club
According to Amos Levy, director of the Dungeon Club in Tel Aviv, “Foot fetish itself is in first place, the most common and the most popular. As long as adoration of the foot is manifested in massage or licking, it is within the range of the refined but of course it is possible to take it a number of steps further: taking a whole heel into the mouth or when someone steps with her foot on the man’s organ. Here at our club you will see a lot of boot-licking.”
Can you hypothesize on what need this fulfills?
“A large part of the scene is based on humiliation and this also fits into those areas. When a woman’s heel goes into a man’s mouth, there is a strong visual element of role reversal relative to penetration by the male.”
Ozer, however, believes that foot appreciation and sessions of various kinds of humiliation aren’t necessarily located on the same continuum. “It’s a sort of perception but it’s not necessarily correct. In my case, at least, there is no correlation.”
Famke Janssen: One star. “The worst there is – each toe points in a different direction and the knuckles are too prominent.”
Paris Hilton: Two stars. “The toes are bony, the nails are too thin, there is a distortion of the rst metatarsophalangeal joint” – which attaches the big toe to the foot – “and in general there is a feeling of asymmetry.”
Salma Hayek: Three stars. “The proportions are good, the nails are the right size and the joints aren’t prominent. However, the fourth toe is a bit too short and there is a somewhat unnatural bend in the toes, possibly because she wears high heels.”
Bar Refaeli: Four stars. “The proportion between the toes and the rest of the foot is good, there are no distortions and the foot itself looks very healthy, as does the skin. Nevertheless, the toes are a tad too short and the shape of the big toe is not perfect.”
Beth Behrs: Five stars – “First of all, because she flaunts her feet, shows them off. You can see that beyond the perfect proportions there is a uniform slope in the length of the toes – each toe is shorter than the one before it – which for me, personally, is very important.”