polka-dot stilettos*

Well, it’s the night right before the second edition of An Unholy Harvest begins. I’m sitting bleary-eyed on my brother’s futon, trying madly to finish a work contract, having spent the evening stuffing conference registration bags and writing volunteer thank-you notes with Jacqueline. We’ve been running off our feet, along with several wonderful volunteers, to get things ready for the hordes of women and transfolk who will descend upon us tomorrow night in the nation’s capital, site of much impending dyke debauchery and devilishness. For the curious, this week’s issue of the Capital Xtra featured a story about Harvest with a fun photo of me and the bois; if you’re interested in registering, we still have a few spots, just check out the FAQ section on our website, www.unholyharvest.ca. Tomorrow, the madness begins. Perhaps I’ll get a few hours of sleep between now and then. One can dream!

In any case, I bid you a wonderful weekend, and I give you another re-post from Ye Olde Sexe Geeke. Perhaps my dreams will contain delicious polka-dot stilettos. That would be nice.

*I originally posted this on March 28, 2006. I’m still lusting after polka-dot stilettos, and I still haven’t found the perfect pair. Tips are welcome, preferably for less than $700 (the unfortunately prohibitive price of the ones I saw in the magazine in question).


Yup. Polka-dot stilettos. That’s what I want.

In the new issue of Bust magazine, the cover article is an interview with Gretchen Mol, who plays 50s fetish pinup model Bettie Page in the film “The Notorious Bettie Page,” which is to be released on April 21. (Bet your ass I’ll be there. Mol’s not my style of hottie, but put her in a corset and stick a whip in her hand and you never know.) In the article itself, there’s a great photo of her wearing the most amazingly drool-worthy pair of white stiletto heels with black polka-dots. They’ve got a black T-strap ankle strap, and black piping around the edges. Don’t roll your eyes, folks – for the shoe fetishist, this kind of detail is significant. I think I’ve become a very particular sort of shoe fetishist, with a preference for ankle straps, tone-on-tone colours, retro styling, and very specific shapes. Anyway, I digress.

So I got myself to Google and typed in “polka-dot stilettos.” I thought maybe I’d get a link to the latest Steve Madden collection or something. At the very least I thought maybe I’d be able to track down a similar pair to Gretchen’s. Instead, I discovered that everyone who likes polka-dot stilettos, online at least, is either a suburban shopping-club member or a bone fide pervert.

I’m so not kidding. One of the first sites to pop up was for – get this, folks – crush videos. Ever heard of those? The only reason I wasn’t completely floored (so to speak) is because Patrick Califia mentions them in the essay “Boy-Lovers, Crush Videos and that Heinous First Amendment” in his 2002 book Speaking Sex to Power: The Politics of Queer Sex. Here’s his description:

“So-called ‘crush videos’ usually depict a woman stepping on an insect, snail or worm. Occasionally, baby mice or rats, and (rarely) larger animals, have also been featured. (…) He (JV, a video producer Califia interviewed) estimates that his fetish is shared by perhaps a couple of thousand men in the entire world – very specific masochists and foot fetishists who usually identify with the creature that’s being tortured and killed.” This same video producer says, “My ultimate fantasy is to be one inch tall and trapped inside a really vicious woman’s kitchen.”

So one of the videos on the site featured a mistress wearing a lovely pair of polka-dot stilettos as she squished a snail. Zowie.

Of course the idea is pretty gross, in a lot of ways – particularly for a vegetarian sort like me. But at the same time, Califia goes on to make a couple of excellent points later in the same essay: “Outlawing crush videos will do nothing to eliminate the most common forms of animal maltreatment. If anything, the deaths that are documented in crush videos have more meaning than the millions of gallons of pig, sheep, and cattle blood that daily soils the floors of slaughterhouses nationwide.” He’s referring to a First Amendment case in which a crush video producer was actually prosecuted for his work; he wound up with a year of community service and three felony charges. Awfully stiff penalties for the premature deaths of a few snails.

Touchy stuff. To me, the idea of hurting and killing animals is horrid; I haven’t eaten meat in fifteen years, I buy beauty products that aren’t tested on animals, and I only buy by-product leather when I buy it at all – and even then, only because I learned about the comparatively much larger environmental consequences of PVC production a couple of years after I’d started to develop a PVC-based fetish wardrobe. Hell, I recycle my gum wrappers and use organic biodegradable laundry detergent. The idea of someone wanking to a scene of a mouse being squished to death is more than a little stomach-turning. But… I do poison the little fuckers when they try to invade my apartment. And I don’t feel the least bit guilty about that. Does that make me a hypocrite? I don’t think so. I can’t see how allowing rodents to infest my home helps prevent animal rights abuses. And the cruelty-free traps and such are hit and miss in their effectiveness. Mice are pests. They must die. Sorry, guys – my politics end where that little practicality starts.

I think the crux of the matter is that people’s gross-outs around crush videos, at least in the ridiculously overblown court cases Califia wrote about, are redolent with sexual repression, not with animal rights concerns – or worse, animal rights are used as a convenient excuse for sexual repression rather than coming from a sincere belief in the cause. What’s the big deal if a woman in polka-dot stilettos steps on a snail? Why should anyone be made a convicted felon for this? People’s righteousness seems to arise tenfold when someone involves sexual pleasure in the equation, and that, I have a big problem with. It blurs the issues and gets people’s priorities all screwed up by tugging on their hearstrings with the sheer “upsettingness” of sex-related images that appeal to a select few. In these legal cases, the tactics used for prosecution haven’t been about seriously considering the issues, but rather about reacting judgmentally to unusual imagery.

Baby seal clubbers are protected under the law. The meat industry is horrific. The SPCA is overflowing with abused and abandoned animals nobody cares about except a few dedicated volunteers. The environmental consequences of an over-consumeristic North American society have brought countless species to extinction, never mind the massive damage we do to wildlife habitats that in turn kill millions of creatures. Our society tolerates bullfights, dogfights, hunting licenses, McDonald’s hamburgers. And let’s not forget that we exploit human beings pretty darn badly too.

Once we have a completely cruelty-free society, then we can talk again about preventing the crush video producers from doing their work. Maybe at that point technological advances will have come up with ways to produce inexpensive snail figurines with green goo inside them, that make a satisfying crack when stepped on. Presto – cruelty-free jack-off material for the seriously twisted.

In the meantime, I’m very suspicious of any kind of rule or ban that’s not directly about protecting actual people from actual harm – or about reforming the massive industries that currently treat animals badly in astronomical numbers.

Crush fetishists can do their gross thing over there. I’ll do my own “gross” things over here, and mine won’t involve snails and rodents, but rather pain-slut bottom girls, butt-plugs, piercing needles and lead-filled punching gloves. I might not want to go to a crush fetishist’s parties, but I don’t want to run them out of town either. I feel strongly that if we engage too far in distancing ourselves from the weirder members of the pervy-sex world, we’re not doing ourselves any favours in the end. Lord knows enough people out there would have no problem putting a bullet through my head for being a queer, or jailing me for being a sadomasochist. These threats are real – if not so much in the happy little bubble of Montreal, Canada, at the very least in many other places in the world, including in the US. So who am I to accuse someone else of having the “wrong” kind of proclivities? Who are any of us to impose that kind of judgment?

Yeah, crush videos are pretty nasty. They don’t do it for me. I wouldn’t buy porn from a crush video dealer, or support the industry (tiny though it may be) in any way. But I can’t find it in myself to get excessively upset about them, either. In the grand scheme of things, so long as nobody’s hurting real people in a non-consensual way or taking excessive health risks, I don’t have much to say about it.

So back to the task at hand. Does anyone know where I can buy a hot pair of black-and-white polka-dot stilettos… preferably with no snail guts on the soles?

6 thoughts on “polka-dot stilettos*

  1. glenn – We haven’t even met but I like you a lot. Very, very cool tip. They’re not identical to the Mol ones but y’know, they’re so close it’s remarkable. Which is kinda wild, considering how diligently I searched for something of the kind at the time! Very, very cool. *going off to order new shoes, whee!*

  2. Hi Sexgeek.

    I’m not sure if you use ebay, but a quick search came up with a few items that might catch your attention. Not knowing your size or the style you’re most interested in I’ve resisted the temptation to post a link. Whether any or all of them are free of snail guts, you’ll have to ask the sellers that one for yourself.

    As for the crushing fetish, I don’t understand it either, but the case you site does indeed seem ridiculous. As far as I’m concerned, if it’s legal to do, why isn’t it legal to film and sell? Substitute puppy for snail, and I think we’d all have a problem, but I’m okay with society protecting some living things more than others. I’m guessing the prosecutor and judge are closeted and self-loathing perverts themselves. Who else would care if a very few people get their rocks off watching something that happens millions of times every day in households around the world?

    But what I really want to hear more about is lead-filled punching gloves. Wow!!

    Have a great time in Ottawa.

  3. Hey there. Usually I like reading your blog, but this post really saddened me, and unlike almost everything else you write, it didn’t hold together logically. First of all, I don’t think that saying “oh well, the world is imperfect” justifies killing animals to get off. The world will always be imperfect. Based on what you’ve said, we should abandon all activism that doesn’t focus on giant global problems. Saying “the world is sexist, so a little transfobia is okay, and maybe we’ll deal with that when we’ve acheived a non-sexist society” is clearly bullshit. And in fact, perhaps sexism itself isn’t so important when we consider that most of the world mostly worries about food and shelter. Just because there are “bigger” wrongs, it doesn’t make condoning in or participating in “smaller” ones okay. Additionally, refusing to condone animal exploitation in no way limits one’s ability to work for human equality. While the causes that one actively spends time on have to be somewhat prioritized, you’ve stated a false “either or” here.

    Your facts about PVC vs leather in terms of environmental damage are just plain wrong. While some (very very little) leather is made in small operations that make an effort to reduce the impact of tanning, most leather is made industrially. Unless you are dropping huge amounts of money on and doing careful research about these stilettos, they are most likely the product of conventional leather production. Also, PVC is not the only leather substitute, and materials that are better than PVC in terms of environmental impact certainly exist. The kind of processing that has to be used to turn skin into leather is much more harmful than making most leather substitutes. Also, more than half the leather on the market comes from China or India, where there are few environmental regulations, not to mention regulations about animal treatment and worker treatment. While I don’t think there is any justification for using leather, I recognize that your blog isn’t the place for me to get into the ethics of it. However, please get the factual stuff right.

    As for you actual statements on crush videos… well, there is a point where a kink should not be indulged. For example, there is general agreement (as far as I can tell) that pedophiles should not be indulged with kiddie porn made with actual kiddies. Even if one does not place animals on par with humans in terms of rights, it seems to me that it’s more than a little selfish to say that we should have the right to kill to get off. I mean, somewhere there may be people who get off on killing dogs. A dog’s nervous system isn’t more sensitive than that of a mouse. Would that be okay? I have zero problem with people getting off on descriptions of crushing, on animated crushing, on whatever fake version of it they care to engineer, but actually killing an animal seems to be taking it a bit far on the “selfish human tricks” scale. If you have no problem with killing animals, that’s one thing, but I don’t think that you can logically defend crush videos while advocating vegetarianism for ethical reasons without some serious doublethink (unless I’ve misunderstood your reasons for including references to your own diet in this post).

    …and in the spirit of being helpful: http://www.pennangalan.co.uk/index.php?br=Stiletto
    Cool fetishy footstuffs, most with a non-leather option.

  4. Sinead – First of all, thanks for the thoughtful response. I’d like to respond in turn to a couple of points.

    “I don’t think that saying “oh well, the world is imperfect” justifies killing animals to get off.”

    Ah, but in no way did I say that was a justification. It very much squicks my ethics that people would kill animals to get off, and I’m not one of those people who thinks that killing small animals is somehow more okay than killing big ones. I thought I was clear on that, but perhaps I should have said it better. My point is definitely not that killing animals is okay, but rather, that when a person is being prosecuted and convicted as a felon for animal abuse because of a couple of squished snails when the people doing the prosecuting probably eat meat twice a day, the case is not about animal rights. It’s about sexual squeamishness and the desire to put “deviants” in jail using whatever convenient excuse happens to be on the books. It always gets me upset when people co-opt the language of a progressive movement to do incredibly non-progressive work – the same way the US government’s talk of protecting women’s rights in Afghanistan is a pathetic attempt to dress up an imperialist war in feminist politics. So no, I don’t think it’s fair to extrapolate from my post that I think we should abandon all activism that doesn’t focus on giant global problems. If that were true I’d hardly be recycling my gum wrappers. 😉 I just think that sexual repression cloaked in animal rights activism is pretty gross on numerous levels.

    “While I don’t think there is any justification for using leather, I recognize that your blog isn’t the place for me to get into the ethics of it. However, please get the factual stuff right.”

    Fair enough. And actually I would very much be interested in learning more about the leather question. My facts are based on several conversations I had about five years ago with a couple of leatherworking companies when I contacted them about non-leather options for kink toys that would still retain the thuddy properties of a leather flogger, since most non-leather options tend much more toward the sting. But I haven’t done extensive research on the question, so I’m definitely up for some education. If you have sites or books to recommend I’d be most interested. I’ve been moving towards a more vegan-oriented diet for quite some time now, and looking at local and organic food production and related politics, so I’m definitely up for extending that approach to elsewhere in my life including my kinks. Though I’m not sure I will ever make the leap to 100% vegan, I am always up for information that will help me make more ethical choices.

    “As for you actual statements on crush videos… well, there is a point where a kink should not be indulged. (…) it seems to me that it’s more than a little selfish to say that we should have the right to kill to get off. (…) If you have no problem with killing animals, that’s one thing, but I don’t think that you can logically defend crush videos while advocating vegetarianism for ethical reasons without some serious doublethink (unless I’ve misunderstood your reasons for including references to your own diet in this post).”

    I totally get that my post might have read that way, but again, I need to clarify that I really don’t think we should have the right to kill in order to get off – and I certainly didn’t say that anywhere in my post. I really don’t have any interest in defending crush videos that involve the actual killing of actual animals. And I am totally with you on the idea of coming up with many creative ways to indulge an animal-killing kink without actually involving the animal-killing part; I would add that it really shouldn’t be that hard for an enterprising kinkster with that particular proclivity to come up with some way to make it work and look realistic. (Movie special effects, anyone?)

    My point in this post was that if a State government can invest that much time and energy in prosecuting and convicting someone for killing a handful of snails, but not do anything about the much larger animal-rights atrocities that are equally under their jurisdiction, we are seeing hypocrisy at work, not animal-rights activism except in the most technical of senses. This sort of case smells strongly of hypocrisy and sexual repression, and it feels important to call a spade a spade.

  5. Hmmmmm… I can see what you’re saying. I agree with you completely that in the case of crush videos, prosecution is sexual squeamishness masquarading as AR, given that the prosecution is probably not so vegan. I just don’t see what that has to do with your particular diet, or why you included that in your post. But meh, I guess that’s the fun of having a blog… we can pretty much write what we want.

    In terms of links and info and such, I’ll poke around and find you some specifics. Keep in mind that slaughterhouses aren’t actually required to release the breakdown of exactly how much of their profit comes from what (meat, hide, bones etc.), but it’s possible to get a general figure of 10-20% of profit. I’ll find some stuff on tanning etc. vs. lorica production. The general figure is 7x more pollution for leather than for a “good” leather alternative (like lorica, not cheap pvc). Busy now, but if you’re actually interested, email me or something and I’ll put a little something together for you.

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