What if the Right Woman has the Wrong Feet?

Big Feet!This article is a response to a Spiritual Conundrum recently submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Jared. We’ll get to his query in a minute.

But first, the question in the title is not the question Jared asked. Rather, it is the question I am asking Jared, and others who have a foot fetish—which is what Jared did ask about.

I ask this question because for those who have a foot fetish, their answer will say a lot about whether their foot fetish is a serious problem or just one of the particular harmless idiosyncrasies we humans have, or is somewhere in between.

But first, let’s let Jared ask his question.

Foot fetishes, pornography, masturbation, and lust

Jared writes:

Hi Lee!

I recently found your website, and I read your thoughts on masturbation, pornography, and lust / adultry. This is something I have struggled with since I was little, and I was hoping I could hear your thoughts about this.

I have a foot fetish, and it’s something I’ve had since I was young. I don’t watch pornography (like people having sex), but I do watch videos or look at pictures of girls posing their feet, wearing nail polish or jewelry. These can be easily found on non pornography sites like YouTube, and Instagram. It’s also incredibly easy to find pictures of girls including their feet on Facebook.

My entire life I’ve been told about “lust” and how it’s a sin, and how you were supposed to wait for your wife for all of those feelings. Throughout my teenage years I beat myself up over it to the point of depression. I’m just now learning that the Bible truly says nothing about masturbation, and it’s actually a huge stress reliever and an output, and in moderation is healthy and natural.

But I’ve had very mixed feelings about the “visual aid” part of this. I still want to wait for my wife, but obviously there are still strong sexual desires I have. Throughout using these videos, I’ve learned what colors of nail polish are attractive to me, what poses are most attractive, even the length of toes I find attractive. Part of me is worried that I am becoming too selective with my preferences, and that’s the only harmful thing I can see out of using this. But God has given me these specific desires for a reason, right? Is it wrong to explore those?

So, I’m not sure how to feel between using these videos / pictures or not. After finding your thoughts on these things, I’m starting to understand the actual biblical definition of lust and Jesus’ words about them and adultery. Pornography obviously is on that scale of evils you talked about, as it involves people committing fornication and adultery. But, here’s my question. Is it an evil to use these videos or pictures as an aid during masturbation? And what about using your imagination, a picture of your girlfriend, or a Facebook picture (Things that aren’t porn and don’t involve fornication or adultry, but are still exciting)?

Thank you for your time, I hope you understand where I’m coming from. Thanks again!

First, Jared, I’m glad the articles here have helped you better understand, and relax about, such hot-button issues as masturbation, lust, pornography, and so on.

For those just tuning in, here are some of the articles Jared is referring to:

Whatever our individual variations on it may be, our sex drive is something God built into us—and for very good reasons. Yes, our sexual drives can and sometimes do go very wrong. But there is nothing wrong with feeling sexual desire—and our sexual desires are going to find one outlet or another whether we like it or not. Perhaps the main point of these articles is that when the ideal situation isn’t available to us for one reason or another, our job is to keep our heart, thoughts, and gonads generally headed in the right direction.

Foot porn?

First, let’s deal with Jared’s final round of questions, relating to pornography and foot fetishes.

It’s true that pictures of girls’ and women’s feet are very common on non-pornographic websites and in magazines and other media as well.

However, it’s also true that these women and girls probably aren’t showing their feet so that guys with foot fetishes can get their rocks off.

This means that using photos of female feet as an aid to masturbation also exists in a gray area. Even though pornography does commonly involve fornication and adultery, at least those involved in “legitimate” pornography are well aware that men (and women) are going to use their sexualized photos and videos for sexual gratification. For women and girls who post pictures and videos that include their feet, or who appear in non-pornographic videos and photo shoots, the idea that someone is going to get sexual gratification from looking at their feet can feel like a violation.

Does this mean that using pictures and videos of female feet as an aid to sexual fantasy and masturbation is horribly bad and wrong?

Not necessarily. As discussed in the above articles, we humans commonly live in a gray area when it comes to our sexuality and sexual expression. Few, if any, people are able to keep their sexuality entirely pure all the time. And pragmatically speaking, we humans are sexually attracted to one another in various ways. We are sexual beings. It is not possible to erase that fact from our culture or our individual lives.

So although using pictures and videos of girls’ and women’s feet for sexual gratification isn’t entirely innocent, it is also part of that general gray area of the continuum of sexuality that most people commonly live in.

The bigger issue, as covered in the articles linked above, is what direction we’re going with all of this.

Are foot fetishes evil?

Now let’s deal with Jared’s first round of questions.

First, saying that God gave you those particular desires may be putting it a little too strongly.

Yes, God built a desire for sex and intimacy right into our basic nature as human beings. However, the particular variations and directions our sexual desires take is highly complex. Psychologists don’t agree on what causes some people to find feet sexually stimulating. But many theories hold that human and cultural factors have a heavy influence on this particular sexual variation.

That doesn’t necessarily mean foot fetishes are bad or wrong. Just that they may have human origins rather than divine ones.

As for whether having a foot fetish is bad or evil, from a Christian perspective, this is on the same footing as whether masturbation or even pornography is evil or sinful. The fact of the matter is that as with masturbation and pornography, the Bible doesn’t say one word about foot fetishes, or about any other kind of body fetish. It’s simply not something that the Bible is particularly concerned with. So those pastors and priests who shout about the evils of body fetishes have very little basis for all that shouting.

What the Bible does talk about is not making or worshiping idols.

Of course, in the context of Bible times, that meant literally making a statue of some fish or bird or animal that one then worshiped as a god. But it’s not hard to make the jump from literal idol-worship to having something other than God in our life that we focus on inordinately so that it becomes the most important, driving factor in our life. Some common idols that we moderns worship are money, fame, physical pleasure, power, and popularity.

It’s not that money, fame, physical pleasure, power, popularity, and other things that people make idols of are necessarily wrong in themselves. It’s when we make them the most important thing in our life—more important that loving and following God, and more important than loving and serving our neighbor—that they go out of bounds and become evil and even sinful.

The same principle applies to a foot fetish. By itself it may be nothing more than a pleasant quirk in a guy’s (or girl’s) character and inclinations. Different people find pleasure in different things. Nothing wrong with that, as long as nobody’s getting hurt in the process.

Where a foot fetish begins to verge over the line is when it becomes so much of a focus, and so consuming, that other more important things get pushed to the side.

Things such as real human love and relationships.

That’s where my question to Jared and others with a foot fetish comes in.

What if the right woman has the wrong feet?

Though being sexually attracted to feet may be less common than being sexually attracted to breasts or pelvises or penises, feet are a part of the human body, just as those other parts are. And we humans are sexually attracted to one another’s bodies, and to the various parts that make up those bodies. So aside from it being “unusual,” there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with finding a woman’s (or man’s) feet sexually attractive.

However, feet really aren’t the most important part of a person. Neither are breasts or pelvises or penises. In fact, the body as a whole isn’t the most important part of a person—and it’s certainly not the most important factor in finding true love and a lasting marriage and sexual relationship.

Secular psychologists sometimes say that the brain is the most important sexual organ. What this means from a spiritual perspective is that our romantic and marriage relationships are, first of all, a connection of minds. In a healthy sexual relationship, no body part comes first. Rather, a sense of inner oneness between the two people is the real relationship, and physical sexual intimacy is an expression of that inner oneness.

Yes, of course our sexual attraction to another person’s physical body and physical characteristics may prompt us to connect with that person and pursue a possible romantic relationship with her or him. But as an example, any man who decides what woman he’s going to marry based primarily on her cup size is an idiot, and is probably in for a very rocky and short-lived marriage.

Hence my question for those with a foot fetish: What if the right woman (or man) has the wrong feet?

If you find someone who is a good match for you in character and values, and whom you have feelings for, but whose feet are too fat or too skinny, or have the wrong toe length or the wrong nail polish, or in any other way don’t fit the particular type of foot that turns you on, what do you do?

If you were dating a woman and the two of you were mutually attracted to each other, but then you saw her feet for the first time and she had the wrong feet, would that be curtains for the relationship as far as you’re concerned? Or would the growing mental and emotional connection building between the two of you override those “wrong feet” in your mind, and in your feelings toward her?

Your answer to these questions will determine for you whether your foot fetish has become an idol that you worship, or whether it is just one of many relatively harmless variations on human sexuality and sexual desire.

This article is a response to a spiritual conundrum submitted by a reader.

For further reading:

About

Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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16 comments on “What if the Right Woman has the Wrong Feet?
  1. persedeplume says:

    !
    ?
    I loved the video. 🙂 I’m still up in the air about all the other stuff.

  2. Rami says:

    Hi Lee,

    This article actually skims along the lines of a question I’ve been wanting to ask you regarding the relationship between sexuality and our spiritual conditions, and I guess this is as good as place as any to ask it.

    It concerns the attraction we seem to have toward a kind of ‘wrongness’ in our sexual behaviors. One of the most prevalent themes in our sexual idiosyncrasies (and the pornography we model upon/market toward them) is the idea of being ‘bad.’ Men will often fantasize about the idea of the ‘bad girl.’ A great number of Halloween costumes marketed toward women are sexualized versions of archetypes seen as otherwise wholesome and conservative, and the fetish of the ‘naughty schoolgirl’ goes back almost as far as I can remember. While there are certainly male representations of the ‘bad boy’ that are intended to be desirable in their own way, I think it’s apparent that the most prevalent trends are built on what men wish to see from women.

    In any case, my question is: is it healthy to embrace these trends in our personal lives? The cultural aspect of it- with all its empty (and often misogynistic) sexual commercialization- is it’s own, but these themes also play out in the lives of people in healthy, committed relationships, where both people are willing participants. Married couples for whatever reason will often involve themselves in a kind of role playing where these themes of bad and wrong play themselves out. In fact it’s a commonly suggested experiment for couples experiencing problems with sexual intimacy.

    On the one hand, it’s easy to surmise that this aspect of our sexual psychology is rooted in the repressive aspects of our culture, and so it makes sense that we would feel titillated by a sense of taboo. At the same time, the idea that we would feel attraction toward evil and wrongness seems linked with our fallen natures, and it’s for that reason that I feel cause for pause when asking whether these are just natural, healthy parts of our psychology that we ought to healthily incorporate into our lives. After all, inherited tendencies toward evil *is* a natural part of our psychology, and if these tendency toward sexual taboo is a part of that, how ought we deal with it?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rami,

      This is, of course, a complicated question. But for the sake of brevity in responding by comment, I would say that there are two major factors in our societal and personal attraction to “bad boys” and “bad girls”:

      1. Our inherited tendencies toward evil—as you mention
      2. Our desire for freedom and self-determination chafing against often arbitrary social rules

      As for the first, that is covered fairly fully in the article, “Why is Evil Sexier than Good?” Rather than taking time and space with it here, I’ll simply recommend that you read that article.

      The second is, if anything, thornier and more complicated than the first, because it sets powerful internal human drives, some of which are good, against social norms and expectations, some of which are not so good.

      Our desire for freedom and self-determination is quite strong, and is a good and healthy part of our God-given psychology. God wants us to build up a strong sense of self, and of personal integrity and inner-directedness, because these are foundations on which a strong spiritual life can be built. Our sense of self does have to be modified in the course of our spiritual rebirth. But if we have a weak sense of self and simply follow the crowd, God doesn’t have a lot to work with in bringing about our “regeneration,” or spiritual rebirth.

      This is one of the psychological and spiritual reasons that we commonly admire people who buck society and social mores, and follow their own standards rather than society’s standards. That admiration commonly applies to people who buck societal sexual mores and taboos as well.

      Of course, it’s a double-edged sword. Not all societal mores and taboos are bad. Some of them are in place for very good reasons, and we flout them at our peril. But sometimes societal attitudes toward sex, in particular, are either outdated or just plane destructive. Witness the overwhelming negativity toward masturbation that has existed in Western society for many centuries, when in fact, as covered in various articles here, masturbation practiced reasonably and in moderation can be a good and healthy part of our overall sex life. People who flout wrong societal attitudes commonly lead society toward better and healthier sexual attitudes and practices.

      The trick, of course, is figuring out which attitudes and practices that society condemns really are harmful, or just not very good, and which ones are harmless and even good. And that tends to happen through trial and error rather than through rational contemplation of various sexual acts and practices.

      And especially since sexual relations are usually quite personal, and for most people fairly private, I generally think it’s best to let people explore their sexual desires, drives, and fantasies, only with a general injunction to do so in a way that respects and honors one’s sexual partner physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If a particular practice feels demeaning and bad to one’s partner, that should override any fantasies or desires one may have toward it. First and foremost in any healthy marital and sexual relationship is a love for the other person and a desire to give him or her happiness. This applies to sexual relations just as it does to everything else in the relationship.

      • Rami says:

        Hi Lee,

        Thanks for your reply. I agree, questions like this are complicated from both theological and psychological perspectives, and to answer them within the context of addressing our spiritual health seems to necessitate an understanding of both. I also don’t think every fetish or attraction toward taboo or social wrongness is necessarily rooted in our inherited tendency toward evil. It makes perfect sense that many people who are raised in morally restrictive, repressive environments wind up reacting against them later in life, and I don’t think that always has some relationship to, as you describe in the title of your earlier article, the fact that we find evil sexy.

        But whatever the reasons and complex interplays at work behind our sexual psychologies, I can see at least three possible ways of dealing with some of our more ‘exotic’ sexual inclinations:

        1. Ignore and repress them.
        2. Sublimate them into something constructive.
        3. Identify healthy modes of expressing them.

        Going through the list, repression seems like the absolute worst and most destructive way to handle any kind of urge- sexual or otherwise- so I think we can agree to eliminate that right off the bat. Sublimation certainly seems like a lofty way to handle urges that may ultimately be or reflect something unhealthy, but I’m not sure most of us have the spiritual presence of mind to do so successfully (and I think often what we think is sublimation is just disguised repression anyway). Which leaves us with finding healthy outlets for them, and I think that’s where most reflective people will find themselves.

        And that’s something that’s certainly encouraged in most therapeutic circles. As I mentioned earlier, married couples are often encouraged to participate in a kind of role playing, where they craft some kind of make-believe means of living out their sexual fantasies, whatever they may be. Some people fantasize about simultaneous sexual partners, and there are ways to simulate that experience without the material folly of inviting other people into the bedroom. So it can be done, but one thing I’m still wondering after what I’ve written and reading what you wrote is: are we *embracing* evils by living them out in so-called ‘healthy’ modes of expressing them?

        The simple reality is that our tendency toward evil- our fallen nature- is an indelible part of part of us; it’s not going anywhere, and the sexual expressions thereof alone are too numerous to mention. The simple fact is we need to find some way to deal with it, and my own belief is that sublimation is ultimately what we ought to aspire toward. Even sexual urges that have no relationship to our fallen natures but rather our rejection of social repressiveness are things I think we ought to sublimate away, because a sexual identify defined through reacting *against* something is still not where you want to be.

        One thing I’ve learned from this blog and Swedenborg’s writings in general is that our spiritual makeup is not about being a black and white ‘one thing or the other,’ but rather it’s about trajectories: it’s what your current status says about the direction you’re headed. In that respect, if our fantasies and urges are rooted in something spiritually evil, or psychologically destructive (which are two sides of the same coin), then maybe a case can be made for healthily living them out if your orientation is ultimately toward a place beyond them?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          A few further thoughts in response:

          First, I wouldn’t altogether count out “repressing” particular sexual desires and fantasies.

          Though many sexual fantasies aren’t actually prohibited in the Bible (or the relevant sacred books of a culture) despite traditional religious taboos against them, some are clearly prohibited. For Christians, and people of most other cultures, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” is a definite rule laid down by God. This means that sexual fantasies that would involve actually committing adultery, such as married people engaging in a threesome (regardless of mutual consent) is a violation of divine law, and simply shouldn’t be done. At least, not by people in monogamous religions such as Christianity. (And even many polygamous religions have a taboo against a man having sex with more than one woman at a time.)

          In other words, sexual fantasies that would involve committing adultery are in a category of actions to which we should say, “Although I desire this, I will not do it because it is against God’s commandments.” That could be called “repression” if we want, but from a religious perspective, in traditional terms, it is “shunning evils as sins.” And that is something we are supposed to do.

          We humans will always be tainted by evil. However, particular evil desires and actions do not have to remain part of our dominant and effective character. It is possible to gradually push particular evil desires far into the periphery of our psyche, so that they no longer have any significant hold on us, but are replaced by good desires. Doing this is what spiritual rebirth is all about.

          And for most people, the primary way of doing this is simply not acting on them when we feel the urge. If we consistently don’t allow them to flow into action, they will gradually wither on the vine internally, and be replaced by other, better impulses that we do express in our actions. For an alcoholic in recovery, the primary directive is simply not to take a drink.

          In other words, if acting on a particular sexual fantasy would involve engaging in acts that are clearly prohibited as evil and as sins against God, then “repressing” or “shunning” them is the proper course of action.

          However, this, of course, is an area where false, human-invented religious doctrine rears its ugly head and causes all sorts of problems.

          In several places in the Gospels Jesus says, in effect, “That’s not God’s teaching; that is mere human doctrine that you have substituted for divine commandments.” And unfortunately, many human-invented doctrines are false—which in practical terms, means they don’t work.

          Two examples of this are believing either that sex is inherently evil, and the result of the Fall, or that sex is intended by God solely for procreation. The fact of the matter is that sex is an original, built-in part of humans, created by God from the beginning, as expressed in God’s commandment to humans on the sixth day of Creation, before the Fall, to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). And as for sex being solely for procreation, if that were the case God would have given humans one mating season per year as is true of most other mammals, rather than giving us year ’round fertility and sexual desire.

          Such false doctrines about sex have the effect of unnaturally suppressing a natural and spiritual element that God has built right into human beings: our sexuality. And when human-invented religious doctrine attempts to suppress what God has created, it causes immense damage.

          Connecting this back to the earlier point about “repressing” or shunning the expression of sexual fantasies, if our religion teaches us that sex in general is questionable and even evil, then we are put in the position of “shunning” something that can’t effectively be shunned because it is part of our basic, God-created, character as human beings.

          This is where learning the truth becomes critical to healthy spiritual, emotional, and physical life. False doctrines do real damage. Learning that they are false, and learning what is true, has the effect, as Jesus said, of setting us free.

          This is why here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life we do our best to smash false human doctrines that aren’t actually taught in the Bible, not only about sex, but about many other things, such as faith, salvation, and being born again.

          There are, of course, some sexual fantasies that aren’t actually prohibited in the Bible, but that inhabit a gray area in between evil and good.

          An example of this is domination / submission fantasies. If engaged in by married couples through mutual interest and consent, they don’t actually violate any of the commandments. But it’s clear enough from the Bible that such an arrangement is not God’s ideal for human marriage. (See: “What are the Roles of Men and Women toward Each Other and in Society?” and related articles here.) Having one partner dominate the other represents a fallen state of human relationships. However, because it has been a common social pattern ever since the Fall, it falls short of actual evil, and instead, as I just said, inhabits that gray area between good and evil, provided that it is desired and agreed upon by both partners. (And yes, some women, and even some men, do want to be dominated by their partner. See: “What Do Women Really Want?”)

          In an instance such as this, in which acting upon a particular sexual fantasy isn’t actually prohibited by the Bible (or the sacred books of a given culture), but also isn’t the ideal, it’s best, I think, to allow ourselves freedom to explore those fantasies within the boundaries of mutual consent. It may be something that persists long-term with a particular couple, who continue to have a generally good and mutually loving relationship overall. Or it may be that engaging in such fantasies is what we need in order to ultimately realize that this pattern of relationship falls short of the ideal, and make the decision to move away from that pattern and into a better (in this case, more equal) form of relationship.

          In other words, when it comes to many sexual fantasies that aren’t outright prohibited, but that do inhabit that gray area between the ideal and actual evil, if we feel attracted to them as couples it is probably best for us to explore them within the bounds of the moral code that the Bible does give us, and learn through experience whether this is something that is moving us in a good direction or a bad one.

          We humans can’t always think things out properly, because our minds have been muddled by many false doctrines and beliefs. Oftentimes we must learn through experience whether a particular type of sexual fantasy is good and healthy or not so good and rather unhealthy.

          Of course, for that to work, we must have an ideal of healthy, faithful, monogamous, and mutually loving marriage that we put higher than any particular sexual desire or fantasy we may have. This is where a desire and commitment to move away from adulterous and evil sexual desires and toward true spiritual marriage provides the sail and the rudder that we need to keep our romantic and sexual life and relationships moving in the right direction.

        • Rami says:

          Hi Lee,

          Thanks for your additional thoughts. As I always, I appreciate the time and effort you invest in presenting them here in such a detailed response to my questions, and I hope that I’m not taxing your energies further by continuing the discussion in an equally detailed way. That said, we’ve touched upon a few things here, and so I’m going to break this up into a couple of parts just to ensure it flows smoothly.

          In regards to experimenting in order to determine if something is good or evil, I wonder: isn’t that the very meaning behind The Fall, as you described in your earlier article where you describe the meaning behind eating from the Tree of Knowledge? The idea of experimenting and trying to determine for ourselves what is good and evil? You emphasize that this must be done within the moral code of The Bible, so does that mean there is room for ‘experimentation’ when coming to moral conclusions? A part of me is reluctant to to accept the idea, because it suggests that God does not give us all we need in order to make moral determinations, and that have to enter blindly into dubious moral scenarios.

          Shifting gears a bit, your remarks about common cultural evils following The Fall is especially important, and strikes at the core of the questions I’ve been asking. The question is made more complicated by its relationship to evolutionary theory- which is not evil or a product of evil- of which theorists would place and attempt to explain the attraction to sexual submissiveness and dominance, as you described. This again complicates things quite a bit because it might necessitate attributing evolution to our fallen states.

          And other culturally common sexual fetishes, like the sexually burgeoning school girl, who pop culture figures like Britney Spears helped to popularized, are often explained in more psycho/sociological terms. Like I said in an earlier post, it would make sense that we some would feel intense sexual attraction to the idea of the otherwise ‘good girl’ acting like a ‘total slut,’ as is just the psychological nature of the way we deal with morally constrictive environments. It’s not an attraction to evil, it’s an act of rebellion against what many find to be uptight conservatism, and so it’s hard for me to see how that’s necessarily evil.

          At the same time, that same form of sexual attraction can be rooted in a desire to see goodness perverted. The sexual defilement of something that is otherwise good and pure, and that most *definitely* strikes me as evil and has its basis in The Fall of mankind.

          All of this plays into asking the same question about what we find sexually desirable and what we choose to either adopt or shun: are we *embracing* our embedded evils by living some of these things out? The simple fact is, either through society, our spiritual fall, or a combination of both, we have these urges. Now what are we going to do about them?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          There’s enough here for many posts, but I’ll try to contain myself! 😉

          Yes, our need to experiment to find out for ourselves whether something is good or evil is a result of the Fall.

          Before that, humans knew by an inner perception from God what was good and evil. After the Fall, that inner perception was largely lost, and replaced by learning from external sources and the building of conscience based on that external learning. It was lost precisely because we no longer listened to God internally, but instead turned to our senses and the external world for our learning and understanding. This is the spiritual meaning of Eve ignoring God’s commandment not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but instead seeing the tree as “good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom” (Genesis 3:6). That “pleasing to the eye” speaks volumes.

          So the long and the short of it is that because we humans have become materialistic and physically-oriented, we no longer “instinctively” know what’s right and wrong. We have to be taught by external means, and quite often, we have to try it out for ourselves to satisfy ourselves that what we’ve been taught is right—or perhaps wrong, since as I said in my earlier comment, there is much doctrinal error in today’s religions.

          So it’s not that God did not give us all we needed to make moral determinations. It’s that we started ignoring the guidance God was giving us, and wanting to figure it out for ourselves instead. And that’s still our basic nature today.

          About evolutionary theory, it accounts for the physical and materially-oriented part of our human make-up, including our animal-level emotions and desires, but not for the spiritual part. The spiritual part interacts with the evolutionary part, but is itself distinct from the evolutionary part. And we humans can choose whether to make our evolutionary, animal part primary or our spiritual part, which is more directly from God, primary.

          Also, though Swedenborg didn’t have access to the theory of evolution, since he lived before Darwin, reading his interpretation of the first two chapters of Genesis in light of evolutionary theory yields an interesting idea about the interaction between evolution and the origins of humanity.

          In a nutshell, humans developed like any other animal. But at some point that proto-human animal had developed mental capacities sufficient to understand and respond to spiritual thought and spiritual sources. At that point, what had previously been a mere animal became truly human because God created a spiritual being within the human animal as a superstructure built upon the physical foundation that was put in place through evolution.

          This would mean that in the “internal historical” sense of the Bible, which tells the story of the spiritual development and journey of humanity as a whole, Genesis 1 and 2 occur, not when proto-humans first emerged as a species, but rather when humans first became spiritually aware. So if we wish to date the time in human evolution and development that the events of Genesis 1 and 2 took place, we should look for when humans first began to show evidence of having the concepts of God, spirit, the afterlife, and so on. Though I’m no expert on paleontology, my sense is that archaeologists generally consider burial of the dead to be a turning point in human development, and as being a sign that humans now had a concept of the afterlife.

          About schoolgirl type fetishes, on the positive side, this is probably simply an expression of the time of our life—puberty—when we first begin to experience romantic and sexual feelings and desires. In itself it’s not evil. But if a middle-aged man wants to sleep with teenage girls, it probably indicates that his sexuality is at least partially frozen in adolescence instead of having developed to maturity. And that is complex subject all its own.

          However, if, for example, a married couple likes to play at being adolescents, that may simply be a desire to return to the early innocence of the first awakenings of sexual and romantic feelings in them, and may be quite harmless and even good. Swedenborg describes married couples in the highest heavens looking from a distance like little children playing together.

          What are we going to do about our urges?

          That’s what I talk about in the whole series of articles about masturbation, pornography, and now foot fetishes. And the short answer is:

          1. We do not violate the actual commandments in the Ten Commandments in our sex life. In addition to not committing adultery, this also means, for example, not lying to or being dishonest with our partner.
          2. We hold onto an ideal of faithful, loving, monogamous marriage, and always orient and move ourselves toward that ideal, and away from adultery and promiscuity, while recognizing that this is a journey, and not something that we achieve all at once.
        • Rami says:

          Hi again Lee,

          I wanted to clarify that I refer to ‘repression’ of sexual urges as the idea of failing to interact with them- to bottle up intense sexual energy in the hopes that it will go away. Because generally speaking, it doesn’t go away, and human beings- despite their best efforts and best of intentions eventually break and succumb to those energies in destructive and often scandalous ways.

          Our sexual drives are intense, and our specific sexual fetishes can be overwhelming. When it comes to urges that are evil, all that negative energy has to go somewhere, and that’s why I nodded to the idea of sublimation- to redirect that energy into something constructive. While I feel the higher levels of sublimation are beyond the development of most people, not every act of sublimation has to be some kind of act where you’re levitating off the ground into a zen-like state of bliss. Sublimation can be as simple as going for a walk, or focusing on work, or anything that invests your focus into something other than the evil energies that are beginning to overwhelm us, and I think most of us have some kind of experience with this.

          So I don’t want to create the impression that I think simply shunning evil is a bad way to go. On the contrary, sublimation *is* the act of shunning, and is just one way in which to do it. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t avoid interacting with those feelings, whether you channel that energy elsewhere, or whether you simply try to get a handle on them by deconstructing them and figuring out what they really mean, demystifying them in the process (because oftentimes our sexual fetishes have nothing to do with sex per se).

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          Yes, our sexual drive is intense, and it will express itself.

          But that doesn’t mean that corruptions of our sexual drives must express themselves. Only that our sexual drives must express themselves, and they can do so in either good or evil ways, or somewhere in that gray area in between.

          Further, evil never becomes good. Instead, evil is pushed to the side and good takes its place. So if the idea of “sublimation” is that an evil desire is turned into a good action instead, that idea is false and misleading. What happens, rather, is that the evil desire, which is a corruption of good—in this case, of our good and healthy sexual drives—is thwarted and pushed aside so that better and more healthy sexual desires and actions can replace that corruption.

          To put it in traditional religious terms, sexual evil comes from hell, whereas sexual good comes from God. Hell never leads us to sexual good, nor does God ever lead us to sexual evil. In the sexual realm as in every other realm, turning toward God means turning away from hell.

          Some ascetic sects and practices within various religions include the notion that sex is intrinsically dirty, evil, and unspiritual, and can be “sublimated” into something entirely different and non-sexual.

          That idea is false.

          And the rampant sexual misconduct coming to light within the religions (not just Christianity) that include such asceticism, and an ideal of celibacy, demonstrates its falsity.

          Sexual desire can never healthily be “sublimated” into something non-sexual. Sexual desire is an expression of a core element of our humanity, which is a desire to unite spiritually with a partner. That, in turn, is an expression of a core element of God, which is the union of divine love and divine wisdom. So attempting to “sublimate” our sexual desires into, for example, intense meditation on the glories of God is doomed to failure. At best will result in a joyless, loveless life entirely contrary to the atmosphere of love and joy that reigns in heaven. At worst it will result in the rampant sexual misconduct rife within those churches and religions that practice such asceticism and celibacy.

          Now, it is true that evil in general, and sexual evil in particular, can be overwhelming. And it is true that we can and often do succumb to those evil desires. We’re human beings, born into tendencies toward all kinds of evil. The whole purpose of regeneration is to turn that around. And it is a lifelong process. So the fact that a desire to sleep with someone else’s spouse, or to have sex with adolescents, may for some people be overwhelming and result in their committing adultery or statutory rape does not mean that we therefore should simply open the gates to adultery and allowing full-grown adults to have sex with minors. Rather, it means that we humans, both as individuals and as a society, have an awful lot of work to do to get ourselves back to a healthy, spiritually-based sexuality.

          And further, though that may sometimes involve exploring in our fantasies things that would be evil and immoral if acted upon, that does not mean we are required to act upon them in order to further our regeneration. The very reason we have a fantasy life is to make it possible for us to explore the ramifications of our various desires, and to reject before acting upon them those that are evil and highly immoral. (See: “How Imagination and Fantasy Help our Spiritual Growth.”)

          But of course, we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. So sometimes we do engage in sexual actions that are evil and highly immoral. And then, ideally, we eventually learn through experience both that they are evil and immoral and why they are evil and immoral.

          On the other side of the coin, there are also many ways to act upon sexual fantasies that do not actually break any of the basic laws given to us in the Ten Commandments. For example, acting upon a foot fetish in a committed relationship in which both partners enjoy sexual footplay does not break any of the Ten Commandments or other moral and ethical rules given to us in the Bible. As I said in the above article, as long as it doesn’t become an idol, pushing aside the more important spiritual aspects of the marriage relationship and becoming the primary focus of our relationship with our partner, it is simply one of the many harmless variations in our human sexual life.

        • Rami says:

          Hi Lee,

          Thanks for your breakdown on sublimation as it relates to our inborn behavior. After having read it, I’d say I’m on the same page with you, in that you can’t run evil impulses through a kind of water purifying filter where it comes out as positive and good on the other side. Evil is evil, and the only thing it gets ‘sublimated’ into is just more evil. I think what I was in effect talking about, then, are the psychological and physiological effects that come from our attempts to shun evil, in whatever constructive and counter-productive ways we do it. Anxiety, invasive thoughts, restlessness, etc; *those* things, I believe, we *can* sublimate into something constructive through the basic daily practices I described, like taking a walk or focusing on work.

          This aspect of our discussion was also interesting because it alludes to a question about spiritual ‘energies.’ Some people believe that our impulses are essentially neutral, because the good and bad ones are ultimately the same thing- energy. If it’s all just some kind of amorphous stream of energy that takes good and bad shape, then it might be possible to transfer it into something positive. But if energy does exist in inherently good and evil states, then no, no good can come from evil, and I’d be inclined to agree with that latter assessment.

          On the topic of evolution, I’m not sure if you’ve ever dealt with it in any formal way here on this blog, but human evolution definitely one of the most difficult and even downright perplexing things people of all faiths have tried to reconcile with their understanding of human spirituality. You remark that we have the choice whether to embrace or accept the animal, evolutionary part of ourselves, or the human, spiritual part of ourselves. However, don’t a lot of *positive* behaviors fit into evolutionary theory? People have couched all kinds of behaviors we would consider spiritually negative into evolutionary theory: avarice, a materialistic sexual imperative, etc. But things like charity, forgiveness, and compassion are also traced back into evolutionary theory (albeit for material, a-spiritual reasons).

          As someone like me who’s dualist- in that I believe there’s a spiritual duality to everything that exists in the physical world (Swedenborgians might call that ‘correspondence’ ;), is it possible to harmonize the full spectrum of our evolutionary heritage with a spiritual way of seeing the world? Or is the choice we have to make one between either embracing or shedding our evolutionary side?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          About the “energies,” I believe the fire behind the smoke of the idea that the energy that flows into us is neutral, and can go in either direction, is that God keeps us continually in balance between good and evil spiritual influences. So although the energies that flow in actually are intrinsically good or evil, we feel their overall effect as neutral because the good and the evil influences are in balance with one another. This is necessary to preserve our spiritual freedom, and to make whatever direction we do go in ours rather than being imposed upon us by a preponderance of either good or evil influences impinging upon us.

          Another aspect of this, though, is that in its ultimate origin, all power, or energy, is good, because it all flows from God. Evil has no power or energy of its own. All of its power is borrowed from the original good energy that flows from God. However, evil takes that energy and twists it back against itself so that it becomes a force for evil instead of for good. Thus evil is always secondary or derivative; it is never primary.

          Another way of saying this is that evil has no reality of its own, as good does. Evil has only a borrowed reality that it distorts into its own form. This is another way in which divine energy can go either toward good, which is its own intrinsic state, or toward evil, which is what happens when humans take it and twist it into something different than its intrinsic state. It then, of course, is no longer divine, but human and evil because we humans have turned it into something contrary to its own nature. Our ability to do this is possible because of the way God created us to be able to have an existence “as if from ourselves” even though ultimately our existence is all and continually from God. Some aspects of this are taken up in the article, “God: Puppetmaster or Manager of the Universe?

          So although I don’t accept the popular New Age idea that all energy is neutral, it does conceal some greater truths that are worth knowing and understanding.

          And as far as dealing with evil, unfortunately, once we twist the inflowing divine energy into evil, that particular energy cannot be turned back into good. It has been corrupted, and the only way to deal with it is to cut it off and push it to the side. The good that then ensues is not a result of evil being “sublimated” or turned into good. Rather, it is a result of the inflowing good energy no longer being corrupted, but flowing pure once again.

          To use a somewhat faulty example, in cleaning up a polluted river, we don’t normally attempt to clean up the water that is already polluted. Rather, we attempt to cut off the sources of pollution that are entering the river. Once we do that, the polluted water is flushed out of the river as it completes its journey to the sea, and is replaced by new water flowing down pure from the mountains.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          I would say that evolution is difficult for many religions to reconcile with their beliefs because their beliefs originated many centuries before Darwin, and therefore could not draw on evolution as a metaphor for greater spiritual truth.

          This points to an ongoing difficulty that religions, especially at their more conservative and fundamentalist ends, commonly have: sorting out the universal from the cultural. Time after time, on issue after issue, the conservative and fundamentalist wings of Christianity and other religions point to their sacred scriptures and condemn various things such as premarital sex or homosexuality because of laws that were given in a particular cultural context, but which are read as being universal laws. It is a tricky business to sort out the temporal from the eternal, and to see the deeper, spiritual and eternal meaning within the particular time-bound events and codes of law that form the literal meaning of the various Scriptures of humanity. This is the subject of my article, “How God Speaks in the Bible to Us Boneheads.”

          Swedenborg also did not have access to the theory of evolution, so neither do his theological works draw upon it as a metaphor for deeper spiritual realities. But now that we do have access to it, there are many rich possibilities for drawing spiritual insight based on it. However, that is a huge topic all its own.

          To respond to your more specific angle on it, yes, I do think that what has developed under evolution can have a good spiritual significance as well as an evil one. Much of our modern life is highly unnatural and contrary not only to the spiritual order that we were created for, but also the natural, biological order that we were created for. Respecting and learning from our biological background and environment can lead to many improvements in our physical life and health that provide a better foundation for a healthy spiritual life.

          However, although nature, and especially life, developed in a way that was powered by spiritual realities, and through correspondences with spiritual realities, it also has a certain amount of inertia and resistance to those spiritual realities in that it is not in itself spiritual and alive, but physical and dead. It doesn’t naturally live and breathe, but must have life and breath imposed upon it from the spiritual realm. In other words, though the nature, and the physical universe as a whole, reflects and expresses spiritual realities, it also tends to resist them and inclines to revert back to and remain in its own natural, non-living, non-responsive state.

          So there is a certain sense in which material things do have an inherent tendency toward what in the human realm would be called evil. They naturally resist spiritual life and want to be in their own non-living state. This is also reflected in our physical body tending to resist what our spirit wants it to do, and instead to revert back to amoral and animalistic drives and desires.

          That’s a longish way of saying that the interaction between spirit and matter, and its relationship to good and evil, is immensely complex, and not easy to sort out and clarify in our minds. However, the effort to do so is worthwhile because it gives us a clearer view of the nature and circumstances of our own life, both animal and spiritual.

  3. Jared says:

    Hi Lee, thank you very much for your reply! I’m finally starting to understand this, I really appreciate your time!

    After reading your post, I had to ask myself that question. Yes, if I was far into a relationship and loved her for who she is, it wouldn’t matter. But is it wrong to be attracted to someone who does have the right feet, as long as I’m seeing them for who they are as well?

    Also, do you think by focusing on such specific details it’s harmful? Should I not be so picky when viewing pictures or videos I find arousing? Or should I stop viewing them entirely and just use my imagination?

    Thanks again, I really really appreciate it!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Jared,

      Glad the article was helpful to you!

      About your questions, my general suggestion is that as long as you recognize that there is a difference between fantasy and reality, having particular relatively harmless fantasies isn’t a big issue.

      But as I said in the article, if you start making choices and judgments about a real, flesh-and-blood woman based primarily on whether she has the right feet to fit into your fantasy life, that’s where you could start creating problems for yourself and your potential real life relationships.

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Lee & Annette Woofenden

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