Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review Tuesday: Love Under Foot (#gay #review #footfetish)

Love Under Foot cover

Love Under Foot: An Erotic Celebration of Feet
Edited by Greg Wharton and M. Christian

Harrington Park Press, 2004

Let it be a challenge. When I was offered the opportunity to review Greg Wharton's and M.Christian's anthology of gay foot fetish stories, this was my reaction. I'm not a gay male, and although I admit an occasional lustful reaction to the sight of some smooth, graceful woman's foot embraced by a strappy sandal, I find most men's feet, with their calluses, fuzzy insteps and gnarled toenails, distinctly unarousing. At the same time, I have often pontificated on the universality of the sexual urge and the remarkable flexibility of our erotic impulses. Under the right circumstances, any stimulus can become a turn-on. So why not feet?

Nevertheless, I'll admit that despite the exceptional credentials of the editors, I did not have high expectations for a collection which seemed to have such a narrow focus. I was most pleasantly surprised. The twenty tales in LOVE UNDER FOOT offer originality, diversity and unexpected thematic depth, as well as the promised hot homoerotic sexual encounters.

Feet are major players here, but other body parts are not neglected. Greg Herren's "Athlete's Foot" lets the reader vicariously enjoy an outrageously public oil wrestling session between two exceptionally hard bodies. In "Those Boots", by Bill Brent, used leather boots picked up at a BDSM swapmeet trigger an auto-erotic fantasy scene that had me panting. The shoe salesman in Duane William's "No Mean Feet" begins by giving a phantom foot massage to an ex-soldier's amputation stump; I'll let you imagine, or discover, where it ends.

Personally, I can't find anything sexy about stinky gym shoes or sweaty socks. But I'm willing to believe, from the energy and enthusiasm in Sean Meriwether's "Sneaker Queen" or Paul J. Willis' "Aromatherapy", that someone might. Could you come from being tickled? Stories by Wayne Courtois and Jason Rubis suggest that it's distinctly possible.

Most of the tales in this collection treat their subject matter with a light-hearted (or perhaps I should say light-footed) sense of fun. Charles Anders' "At the Right Foot of God" imagines a religion founded on the precept that feet are the province of Divinity -- complete with the appropriate foot worshipping rituals. In "Days of Wine and Toesies", Sean T. Gold serves up a tale of a dinner party flirtation where playing footsy takes a hilariously unexpected turn.

A few of the stories have a darker edge, most notably Simon Sheppard's gritty "The Footwhore of Babylon" and Ian Philips' folksy but tragic "Shrimpboat Willie". These stories provide a satisfying counterweight to the happier tales of cruising, looking for the perfect sole.  

All of this would have made LOVE UNDER FOOT sufficiently entertaining to justify my time in reading it. Three exceptional stories, however, raise this book above the level of fun foot-porn into the domain of literary erotica. All three convey an emotional intensity that nearly brought tears to my eyes. In William Dean's "The Alabaster Arch", the object of desire is not even animate, yet its power reaches across half a world, calling to those who recognize it. "Lotus", by G. Merlin Beck, turns deformity into mystery, and lust into awe.  And M.Christian's "Happy Feet" juxtaposes past and present in the mind of an aged ex-dancer whose feet were the darlings of Kelly and Astaire.

Feet are featured in all three of these stories. The tales are clearly at home in this collection. At the same time, they transcend fetish and orientation, demonstrating that arousal is universal and that desire is an essential attribute of the soul, regardless of its source.

That is the truth that brings me back to erotica, as a reader and a writer, again and again.

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