The ethics of Wikifeet

Photo by Jan Romero on Unsplash

Q: A couple weeks back, some friends and myself were joking about the website Wikifeet and how easy it is for those with foot fetishes to access these photos. It then dawned on me: one of Wikifeet’s notable (and I use that term loosely) features is celebrity feet, and it got me wondering how many of these public figures actually consented to their feet being on a foot fetish website? 

I’ve seen countless YouTubers do their best to hide their bare feet because they don’t want to be on Wikifeet, but sometimes, slip-ups happen and they wind up on the website. Am I the only one that thinks sites like Wikifeet should shut down their “celebrity” part of the website and should cater more to people who consent to having their photos online for the particular fetish?

I have to admit that while I was conceptually familiar with Wikifeet, the self-dubbed “collaborative celebrity feet site,” that I had not extensively perused it myself before receiving this question. What I knew already was that it featured an absurdly large collection of foot images and that, outside of its community of foot fetishists, that it’s largely considered a joke on the internet. 

What I did not know – and was wildly unprepared for – was how janky and 2007-era internet its design would be. For a site that boasts over 3 million visitors per month (in 2017, when the stat was last reported), and is inarguably the largest online celeb foot forum, it looks a lot like Craigslist…. But with feet. Or perhaps more accurately: it looks like the kind of low-rent porn site that one reaches by accidentally hitting a pop-up ad. 

Anyway, to your query about consent. According to the site’s own rules, the photos uploaded must be of celebs over 18 and can’t depict nudity. Specifically, photos must have “everyone reasonably covered when pictures were taken. Censoring adult content is not allowed. Underage subjects must be completely cropped out.”

There’s no rule listed that all the models must be female, but in all my searching, they were exclusively feminine presenting. They are also overwhelmingly thin and light skinned, with a heavy representation of Europeans, despite the fact Wikifeet is blocked in the European Union due to an EU Copyright Directive. 

Another thing I noticed is that I had never heard of many of these so-called celebs. Kailee Donovan? Yanina Latorre? I have no doubt they are influential in their respective circles, but it seems a generous assertion that all the feet depicted are of people too famous to be reached for approval. 

What counts as a celeb is decidedly arbitrary – the person depicted must have an IMDB page – a result of the original founder not being aware of any other metric when he started the site in 2008. But IMDB is simply an indicator that a person has been involved in the production of a movie, TV show or even its soundtrack. 

When journalist Laura Basset reached out to the fan who was posting pics of her feet to the site, he even admitted creating IMDB profiles for women whose photos he wanted to upload. 

The practice of distributing photos without the consent of the people depicted is not unique to Wikifeet – it’s not even the only site that is foot-centric to do so.

Foot fetish sites are replete with images of everyday people – sourced from Instagram and other social media – as well as stolen from porn and other modeling. 

After photos of his feet were uploaded to a foot fetish website against his will, writer Hussein Kesvani looked into having his tootsies copywritten. He interviewed a woman who had sold foot pics to a random man, only to find them being resold on Patreon. She spent weeks trying desperately to get the images taken down, to no avail. 

It is possible to copyright your entire nude body in the US – the upside being that you can sue for a significant amount of money if your nudes are stolen and shared. The process to receive justice involves a lot of time, energy and bureaucracy, but it might be worth it for anyone who has posed for artsy photos – whether professionally or with an ex. 

The unfortunate truth is that while there are many hardworking content creators willingly posting photos of themselves for the enjoyment of viewers, social and financial discrimination against them is rampant, and too many porn consumers would just as soon wank off to the idea that an image was taken without consent.

Despite some slow movement in a progressive direction, it’s still entirely legal to post upskirt photos taken of random women, for instance. 

Many Wikifeet fans find their pastime entirely wholesome – and there’s certainly nothing wrong with being aroused by feet – but the site is definitely an exemplar of a larger cultural issue of women’s bodies being seen as public property. Not only are the photos posted without the expressed consent of the models, but they are rated and marked with salivating, adolescent commentary. 

While I don’t condemn interest in feet or the sharing of saucy, arousing images, I would urge everyone online to consider whether they are engaging in an act of sharing erotic fun or if they are removing the agency of a person in order to objectify them – whether you’re on Wikifeet or elsewhere.

For the millionth time, if you want to be an ethical perv: pay for your porn. 

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  • Timaree Schmit Headshot

    Timaree Schmit is basically an episode of Adam Ruins Everything, but in the shape of a person. She has a PhD in Human Sexuality Education and years of experience in community organizing, performance art, and finding the extra weird pockets of Philly.

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