Podophilia, more commonly known as foot fetishism, is defined as having intense, sexual attraction to feet and footwear. It is one of the most well-known forms of sexual fetishism of a non-genital body part. Although relatively innocuous, podophilia can turn criminal. In this essay, foot fetish and its connection to criminology is further explored by applying life-course theories.
As mentioned previously, having a foot fetish is not a crime, more so, a deviant act and very taboo today. Mention you have a foot fetish out loud, and you will more than likely receive a few glances. Both men and women can be sexually attracted to feet, and in very different ways. Some people prefer the shape or size of a foot. Some love a nice pair of smelly feet, or rather, if theyre freshly manicured and accessorized with toe rings, anklets, etc. There are the bunch you hear asking for pictures, offering massages and feeling your feet, in exchange for money. And finally, those who enjoy feet licking, biting, sucking, and sometimes penetration during sex. With full consent, these are nothing more than your average deviant acts in society. However, there have been cases of extreme foot fetish resulting in crime. As this is a criminology course, I wanted to focus on the criminal aspect of male homosexual foot fetishism. What caused them to commit this crime?
Jerome Brudos, also known as The Shoe Fetish Slayer, is a well-known serial killer whose obsession with feet and shoes drove him to kill. Born in 1939, Jerry was the youngest of two sons with an unstable childhood. He had a controlling mother who physically abused him, because she had wanted a daughter when pregnant with Brudos. His family also moved around a lot and the neglect from his parents didnt help his psychological growth. When Jerry was five, he discovered a high-heel shoe while playing in a junkyard. His mother found out about this, confiscated the shoe, and destroyed it in front of him. This event in his early childhood acts as a trigger, and his fetish continues to grow darker as he gets older.
Jerome is able to maintain the illusion of living a normal life for a few years. In 1961, he marries at 22 and has two children. He keeps up this charade of playing house while going on a crime spree, and in and out of psychotherapy hospitals. Jerry committed many crimes ranging from collecting womens shoes, stealing their underwear, and forcibly taking their nude photos. The first felony he was affirmatively connected to was in 1967, when he followed a woman home because he really liked her shoes. He forced his way into the home, choked her until unconsciousness, raped her and then stole a few pairs of shoes. However, it isnt until the next year in 1968, that Jerry Brudos commits his first murder. Linda Slawson was an encyclopedia saleswoman going door-to-door before stumbling upon Brudos s house. Jerry pretends to be interested in buying an encyclopedia, invites Linda inside, and unbeknownst to her, kills her by strangulation. He dresses her body up before raping her and cutting off her foot to keep as a model for his growing shoe collection. He disposes of the body in the nearby river, the Willamette River. Jerry Brudos kills three more women, each more violently than the next, before disposing of their bodies into the same nearby river. This careless mistake eventually leads to his demise as the bodies are slowly discovered downstream. He gets apprehended by local Police and confessed to all his crimes.
Had Jerry not been caught by the police, he would have surely continued these vicious crimes, and fallen under the category of life-course persistent offender. This is where Terrie Moffitts Dual Taxonomy Theory is applied. This life-course theory directly relates to Brudos, in the sense that, due to the neglect he received from his family and the traumatic stressors experienced, he developed antisocial behaviors with social, neurological and psychological defects. His deviant behavior cultivated at a very young age and as it progressed, became more violent. Another life-course theory that can be applied is Thornberrys interactional theory. This is all explained in the name, interactional. It is through interactions during childhood, adolescent, and adulthood that affects delinquency. Never receiving the love and affection a child needs, Jerry had always been socially awkward at a very early age. The incident when he was five involving the heels made Jerry grow up to resent and hate women. Therefore, his crimes were always so violent and so personal. He chose to strangle them to death first, with his hands, before violating them and finally, cutting their bodies up.
Jerry Brudos was a perfect case of extreme podophilia, but not every foot fetish crime is as drastic. Brudos clearly had psychological issues drastically affecting him, and his story was even covered on Netflixs Mindhunter. Majority of people will get arrested only for harassment or making people uncomfortable, while others tend to keep quiet about their secret fetish. A foot fetish can turn criminal but can also be explained using the life-course theories mentioned. Different scenarios of foot fetishes can also use different criminology theories.