Michael Boyle
CMN 368
Caressing and touching of feet


Partialism is a type of paraphilic activity where the person focuses upon one part of the body for sexual gratification. It is considered sexual gratification that has “an exclusive focus on part of the body”. The person does not necessarily focus on the genitalia of the other person, instead opting for non-sexual body parts such as the foot, armpit, or calves. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with partialism, both homosexual and heterosexual relationships can contain aspects of partialism. Partialism is considered a subset of paraphilia. Interest in partialism normally begins in early adolescence and this interest will remain for the rest of the person’s life (Hucker, 2005). Many of the characteristics of partialism overlap with fetishism. Fetishism can be described as having sexual arousal to both/either animate or inanimate objects. Partialism is more specific than fetishism because it deals with sexual arousal that is only geared toward specific, animate parts of the human body. In DSM-III-R from the American Psychiatric Association, fetishism and partialism were considered distinct from one another yet under the same category of Paraphilia (Kafka, 2010).


For many years partialsim and fetishism were considered to be one in the same. French psychologist Alfred Binet first included the definition of partialism within fetishism in the 1800’s. Other psychologists such as Freud and Hirschfeld also included many of the characteristics of partialism within fetishism. Partialism began to become distinct from fetishism in 1965 by psychiatrists Gebhard, Gagnon, Pomeroy, and Christenson. Partialism fully became its own distinction when the American Psychiatric Association came out with DSM-III-R in 1987 (Kafka, 2010).


Partialism can come in many different forms depending on personal preference. Not all people find the same body parts as attractive as others. Partialism is a unique and personal experience for different people from all walks of life. Some of the more common areas of interest for partialists are the feet, armpits, and calves. Some less popular areas of interest are obese people and people who have amputated limbs.
Feet and toes are apparently the most common non-sexual area of the body that people find most sexually gratifying. Renowned neurologist and psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud described the reasons for arousal by feet “to the notion that feet are a penis symbol”. Sexual gratification and stimulation can range from rubbing or touching of the feet as well as smelling and kissing to simply seeing a woman’s foot wearing high heels (Dobson, 2007).
Armpit partialism refers to sexual arousal in relation to the armpit area. Kissing, caressing, and touching are some of the factors that can increase sexual arousal. Many times the person is attracted to the bodily odor that the armpit secretes as well. For some people, armpit odor can be considered a sexual stimulant as well as a muscular stimulant (Havelock, 1905).
Partialism in relation to the calves is just another area of the body that one can find sexually stimulating or arousing. People who would find this area of the body attractive would pay special attention to it in the form of rubbing or touching this area. People could receive sexual gratification by rubbing or touching their genitals to this specific area.

Popular Culture

NY Jets head coach Rex Ryan

While partialism is a recognized subject by the American Psychiatric Association, it is not considered a mainstream movement or norm. Not many people understand the intricacies of this type of sexual arousal and could possibly have a negative reaction to the idea. Due to this fact, people who engage in partialism could become embarrassed if their sexual acts were publicly known. For example Rex Ryan, head coach of the New York Jets, was publicly embarrassed earlier this year when a video was leaked of him and his wife engaging in foot partialism. Once the video hit the internet everyone began talking about the Ryan’s private life and sexual preferences. Rex, known for his in-your-face attitude and bombastic nature was clearly unhappy with the entire situation. He told his players that “I feel embarrassed, but it’s something personal with me.” Whenever he was asked by the ravenous New York press about the situation he consistently declined to comment about it and wanted to move on with his life. This case alone clearly shows that mainstream American society is not quite ready for some of the more “taboo” topics that are associated with partialism. Even the most brash of American celebrity personalities was humbled by the idea that the public knew about his non-mainstream sexual preferences (Associated Press, 2010).
Partialism however has also found its way onto the internet in various forms of pornographic content. Some websites specifically highlight areas of the body such as the armpit that would cause sexual arousal. These types of websites cater to different areas of the body that a variety of people would find attractive. This shows that while partialism may not be considered part of mainstream society’s norms it does have its own niche within a specific subculture.


Kafka, M.P. (2010). The dsm diagnostic criteria for fetishism. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39(2), 357-362.
Kafka, M.P. (2010). The dsm diagnostic criteria for paraphilia not otherwise specified. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39(2), 373-376.
Dobson, R. (2007, February 25). Heels are the world's no 1 fetish. The Independent, Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/heels-are-the-worlds-no-1-fetish-437802.html
Havelock, E. (1905). Studies in the psychology of sex. Public Domain.
Associated Press/Huffington Post. (2010, December 22). Michelle ryan foot fetish video? rex ryan's wife's maybe movie surfaces. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/22/michelle-ryan-foot-fetish-video_n_800138.html
Hucker, S.J. (2005). Partialism. Retrieved from http://www.forensicpsychiatry.ca/paraphilia/partialism.htm
Image From: http://www.sodahead.com/fun/do-you-let-people-touch-your-feet/question-187438/?link=ibaf&imgurl=http://www.aswakegypt.com/b2b/dbpics/template/image/372_5_FOOT-MASSAGE.jpg&q=foot%2Btouching