Around five years ago I started to receive requests online for photos of and details about my feet. I’ve been asked for foot pictures intermittently ever since. Most of the gentlemen are upfront about what they’re after (‘send foot pic plz’), but one man went above and beyond in his pursuits. Posing as an academic, he sent several emails to my work account claiming dozens of women in the British media had submitted their shoe size to help him with a research project. He was just waiting for my details to finish his ground-breaking study. Although I never responded, I commend his efforts.
I was never able to work out what triggered this attention from foot fetishists, but now I think I’ve figured it out. In the course of doing ‘research’ for an article running in the magazine, my Spectator colleagues recently stumbled across wikiFeet, the internet’s largest ‘collaborative celebrity feet website’, home to unlimited foot content. And on this website we discovered my feet: three photos of them in flip-flops, lifted from my Instagram page in 2016 and 2017.
I suppose there’s never a good time to find out that people have been ogling your feet. But I was hungover, already feeling delicate and a little bit nauseous, and in no condition to process this news. As I sat at my desk, horrified, my colleagues pointed to some silver linings. The website revealed that people who liked Kate Andrews’s feet also liked the feet of Ashley Judd and Mila Kunis. It’s the first and only time I am likely to keep company with these famous actresses.
And my feet were ranked four out of five stars, which officially labels them ‘nice feet’ on the website. This was perhaps the biggest surprise. Years of doing ballet as a child has led to a noticeable ‘smoosh’ effect, so my toes are all shorter than I think they’re supposed to be. I wouldn’t call that especially nice, but judging from comments across the site, wikiFeet users value ‘symmetry’. It seems crushing your toes with pointe-work is fine, as long as both feet are ruined in equal measure.
The strangest thing about wikiFeet is that, although it is obviously a fetish site, everything is presented in strictly non-sexual terms. ‘Adult content’ is forbidden. The comments section is reserved for ‘intellectual discussions’ about the aesthetics of feet. Any talk of foot fantasies is prohibited: ‘In short,’ it reads, ‘stay classy ;) .’
All comments are moderated by ‘The Guild’ — a network of ‘experienced site members’ who judge whether posts are ‘respectful’ and within the rules. Commentary is not supposed to stray off topic, but exceptions are made for remembering the great feet that are no longer with us, as exemplified by the comment thread on the page for the actress Betty White, who died on New Year’s Eve just before her 100th birthday.
WikiFeet was founded in 2008 by software developer and animator Eli Ozer and the site appears to be growing in ambition. It has an online gift shop where users can buy branded gear, including pillowcases, water bottles and ‘Love feet and prosper’ tote bags. A spin-off dating website is in development, but for the sake of inclusivity it will put ‘less emphasis on the foot fetish aspect’ while helping foot lovers meet their matches.
My friends’ reactions to my discovery have been mixed. There’s been some shock and horror, similar to my own, and lots of laughter. There’s even been some shaming. A few people have asked why photos of my feet were online in the first place. It’s been a bit of a lesson about the strange world we live in: that my innocent Instagram video of a tortoise in Thailand — which happened to include my feet in the frame — could become another person’s fetish screenshot.
I had to break the news to The Spectator’s Isabel Hardman that she also has a wikiFeet profile, featuring a photo of her swimming, feet on show. She wasn’t delighted either, but we took comfort in our shared experience as ‘sole sisters’.
With no obvious button to press to make my profile go away, I suppose all there’s left to do is feel mildly grateful that life is back to normal enough that there’s space to care about this sort of thing.