What I’ve Learned From Selling Feet Pics

I started getting the comments years ago. Every so often when I post a full body picture on Instagram, a stranger compliments my feet. These comments are always polite and positive, just a quick little “lovely feet” from a man with a nondescript profile. I have never felt objectified by these remarks, just puzzled and amused.

I do not have a foot fetish. I never notice my feet, at least no more than any other body part. My heels get dry in the winter. My toes are long and agile. I am a size six, which means I am smaller than average but I never have trouble finding my size. My feet get me around. They’re good feet.

“Maybe I should sell feet pics,” I wondered aloud during the depths of the pandemic. Winter settled in alongside the dreadful realization that COVID-19 was nowhere near over, pre-vaccine but post-novelty. Patreon was my only source of income, and my apparently pretty feet just sat there not pulling their weight. I was going a little nuts. I googled how to sell foot pics but got distracted, the thought remaining a stray joke.

“Maybe I should sell feet pics,” I said two years later, heels up on the dashboard of my partner’s car. We were an hour into an international trip and I needed a Diet Coke. I flexed my toes in my white socks, watching the fabric stretch. Rain kissed the windshield.

“Why not?” my partner said. I’d made the joke so often that its humor had faded like the color of a well-worn shirt. Maybe he could tell I was circling ever closer to something I genuinely wanted to do. 

The more I learned about polyamory, kink, and sex work, the more curious I became about fetish photography. What kinds of pictures of feet do people want? How do they buy them? Who do they buy pictures from—faceless strangers, or is knowing who the feet belong to part of the appeal? Why do people pay for foot pics when they can use Google and see endless pictures of feet for free?

And the obvious: Why feet? Why feet??

As my foot pic curiosity brewed, Twitter went feral. Elon Musk’s purchase of the social network closed and people lost their shit. Harassment skyrocketed. Leftists organizers were abruptly suspended. Nazis resurfaced like dead horror franchise villains as Musk reinstated their accounts. Every few days users became convinced the site was on the brink of collapse, and we all swapped goodbyes like partygoers who continued to linger because the bar hadn’t run out of free drinks. Find me on Mastodon, maybe one more glass of wine for the road…

Grief and hysteria are a potent cocktail. “I am considering going into the feet pic business,” I tweeted on November 28th. “Twitter is dying, my account is locked, my ass is bruised and I want more money.”

I logged off and took a bath. I have a deep Victorian claw-foot tub, a perfect setting for a photo shoot. I took a few pictures, experimenting with how much of my feet to reveal. My toes peeked out from the bubbles, dark pink nail polish a nice contrast against the white. I am not a photographer, but I know the rule of thirds and some basic editing.

Swiping through the pictures, I felt a strange new pride. My feet, long disregarded in favor of more obvious body parts, really are pretty. They are delicate and feminine and shy. I get it. I still don’t find them arousing, but I get it.

The next day I set my terms. “ok forreal tho, DM me for #feet pics, $20 for a set of three,” along with a GIF of Bradley Cooper asking “Why not?” Several kind Twitter mutuals informed me that I should charge more. Others replied with some solid foot puns. I lost some followers.

“Grow up, nobody wants to see your filthy feet,” a troll replied.

A follower with a cat profile pic defended my honor against this attack. “Some people pay extra for dirty feet. Sounds like you might be one of them.”

My first customer contacted me within the hour. We confirmed pricing and payment, and I nervously sent him a set of three pictures. He sent me a fire emoji. Success! The easiest, most relaxing $20 I’ve ever made.

By the end of the weekend I made nearly a hundred dollars. I gave one customer a discount if he gave me feedback on a new set of pictures. He picked his favorites and succinctly explained why. Another customer chatted with me about the stigma of the fetish and why many folks use anonymous accounts to interact with foot content producers. A man taught me about “The Pose,” a shot taken over the model’s shoulder as she lays on her belly, her feet in the air behind her.

Every client treated me with respect and gratitude. No one made our conversations even remotely sexual, focusing instead on the beauty of my soles or the color of my nail polish. One gentleman thanked me for the privilege of buying from me. Several wished me well in my new foot pic venture.

While Twitter burned down around us, I had some of the most humanizing, insightful DM conversations of my 14+ years on the platform.

“Look at you doing sex work!” my partner texted me affectionately.

It is easy for me to forget that this is sex work. Feet are not sexual for me, which lends my photograph sessions the air of a fun art project. The illicit vibe of selling these images lifted after a day or two of posting about it. Mining my own fantasies for erotica inspiration feels much more vulnerable. I share — I sell — my sexual imagination to anthologies for at most $200 per short story, and as little as nothing (ah, exposure). That feels much more like sex work, even though I sell to an editor who represents a publishing house, who then sells the story to readers. Yet writing erotic fiction is not considered sex work. No one would say that publishing my upcoming romance novel is sex work, even though it includes multiple graphic sex scenes.

Taking pictures of my feet does not feel like sex work. But it is sexual for my clients, and it is seen as sexual by the folks reading my tweets. For the first time in my life, after years of reading about it and writing college papers about it and listening to podcasts about it, I am doing sex work. While I may not do it forever, I can never undo it. As bizarre as it is for me to imagine, there are people out there who have no problem with me writing erotica, speaking publicly about my STI, and posting thirst traps, but who will be appalled that I’m selling fetish photography. Or maybe they’ll just be disgusted that I’m talking about it instead of conducting my business quietly in the DMs and on my new OnlyFans.

I may not even be able to host this essay on Patreon, as it is about adult content creation. I’m genuinely not sure. I find this ironic. Many of your favorite artists, musicians, and writers do, or have done, sex work. They do it out of financial necessity, or because it suits their needs and abilities, or because they enjoy it, or all of the above. While I deal with my C-PTSD and recover from trauma, it is difficult for me to work full-time. Selling foot pics is an easy and comfortable way for me to make some extra money from home with nothing but my iPhone and an internet connection. If I continue to sell foot pics, it will allow me to invest more time and resources in my writing. It is also a form of personal expression, a way to connect with other people, and an opportunity to learn about a fetish that the world loves to mock.

Of all the professional choices I’ve made in the last five years, this feels like one of the healthiest and strategic. I am a consenting adult who knows how to be safe and navigate judgment. I can do this work when I feel inspired and I have the energy. I can charge what I want, and I don’t have to sell to anyone who makes me uncomfortable. I may encounter harassment and boundary violations, but I had a malicious stalker for years because of my milquetoast role as a social media manager. No job is inherently safe.

Welcome to my toes and prose era. Gaslight gatekeep girlfeet.

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Or come buy some feet pics on my OnlyFans!

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Ella Dawson is a sex and culture critic and a digital strategist. She drinks too much Diet Coke.