Cultural sexual hegemony #6: Flat shoes vs. heels

We straight men are supposed to prefer women in heels. “Heels do wonderful things for women’s calves,” we are told, “not to mention their asses.” And to be sure, they do.

But heels also conjure up lots of associations for me that are more ambiguous than just “Yummy! Curves!” When I see a woman teetering on (or standing improbably confidently on) spiky, high heels, the first thing I think of is Anna, the woman shopping for shoes in Steve Martin’s “The Cruel Shoes.”

He took off the lid and re­moved a hideous pair of black and white pumps. But this was not an ordinary pair of black and white pumps; both were left feet, one had a right angle turn with sepa­rate compartments that pointed the toes in impossible directions. The other shoe was six inches long and was curved inward like a rocking chair with a vise and razor blades to hold the foot in place.

Carlo spoke hesitantly, “. . . Now you see . . . they’ re not fit for humans . . .”

“Put them on me.”

“But… “

Put them on me!”

Carlo knew all arguments were useless. He knelt down before her and forced the feet into the shoes. The screams were incredible.

Anna crawled over to the mirror and held her bloody feet up where she could see.

“I like them.”

I think about this – pain, blood, gore – every. single. time. I see a woman in seriously high heels.

There’s more, though. There’s the undeniability of the elevation of form over function (or, perhaps, of the function of sexual appeal over that of, say, walking). I don’t generally like this. It’s one thing if you’re wearing those shoes for ME, in the context of our sex life, because I’ve asked you to, because you are my toy, and I’ve chosen to adorn you that way for my own gratification. It’s equally good if you’re wearing them for me, for my pleasure, but not at my explicit request or bidding.

But if you’re just wearing them to be generically hot, without reference to me? Well, then you’re making me your prey, instead of the other way around, and while I’m all for that among people for whom that works, it doesn’t work so well for me. I like hunting, not being hunted. I mean, I’m all for sexy dressing, but it’s seriously a lot sexier when it’s for me.

Now. Let’s talk about flats.

In recent years, I’ve noticed a trend toward flatter and flatter shoes, ones that bring women’s feet closer and closer to the ground, and that feature less and less arch support.

I’m entirely in favor of this trend. There’s something about the ease and natural-ness of a woman walking essentially barefoot that is at least as sexy as whatever it is that heels do to calves and buttocks.

This morning, I saw a woman whose feet were separated from the ground by a few millimeters of leather, under the simplest black canvas. Her calves swelled up, filling textured black tights (or stockings – I never know the difference) that led up her legs, vanishing beneath her skirt somewhere between her knees and her thighs. Whereas in heels, the calf is pressed up, and forward, in flats, the calf – it’s muscle, its flab, its curve – curves out and back, under the ass. If anything, the curve is accentuated in flats. Maybe this is part of why people say heels look better: they make calves look slimmer. But me, I’m all about the curve.

It’s so yummy.

In conclusion: I like women’s feet and legs. I like shoes. I like heels, and I like flats.

Just sayin’.


  1. There are a dozen things my wife can do to make herself sexy, but only two count, (1) if she does it for herself – I love it when she finds a dress or blouse that she feels sexy in (though she’d never phrase it that way). If she feel sexy, she looks sexy. And (2) when she does it for me. I don’t ask for specics, but when she wears one of my shirts with jeans, or put on her black boots for going out, or when she comes to bed in something besides pajamas, no matter what that little thing is, if it’s for me, it’s hot.

  2. To add to your repertoire of associations with “pain, blood, gore”: the classic (Hans Christian Anderson) story of the Little Mermaid takes up the theme of beauty before comfort, specifically regarding feet.

    “Drinking the potion will make her feel as if a sword is being passed through her, yet when she recovers she will have two beautiful legs, and will be able to dance like no human has ever danced before. However, it will constantly feel like she is walking on glass hard enough to make her feet bleed most terribly.” Finally, she must kill the Price and let his blood drip on her feet so that “she will become a mermaid again, all her suffering will end, and she will live out her full life.”

    Then there’s Cinderella, the OG of transformative footwear.

    Not to mention the cultural practice of foot binding…

    I could go on (Dorothy!). Suffice to say there’s a conflicting message here for women and feet. I appreciate that your point is more about what works for you subjectively, though. And I also like that it made me think about all these literary/historical references. Thanks.

    Full disclosure: I’m a self-proclaimed heels-wearing feminist myself.

      1. Well we resolved this yesterday so it’s no longer that relevant or important. It was in regards to the conversation we were having after my confession about a certain request I find tricky.

        I suppose you could say I was reading between the lines when you noted that you’re “all about the curve”, and figured you didn’t exclusively mean just in terms of a woman’s calves.

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