"All I Wanted Was to Sell Heels Online"

When you try to make money through the internet, it doesn’t always work out as you expect.

By Hélène Clabecq

When you put your personal information on the internet, strange things happen. ( Art:    Elizabeth Zamets  )

When you put your personal information on the internet, strange things happen. (Art: Elizabeth Zamets)

Last month, while clearing my wardrobe for the winter, I decided to sell some of my old shoes.

I had recently moved from Los Angeles back to my hometown in the north of France, and months of strolling on Venice Beach and hiking in Malibu had taught me that comfort was paramount to style. The shoes were detritus from my past, back when I wore dangerously high heels and dared to show disgusting amounts of toe cleavage. These days, I’m way more likely to lace up a pair of sneakers than strap on some stilettos.

I had dozens — all of them untouched, unworn, and forgotten. They were in great shape and I knew someone somewhere would be interested them. So I decided to sell them online, listing them for $15 a pair.

I placed the ads on Le Bon Coin, the French equivalent of Craigslist, and tried my best to make them look as professional as possible. I photographed the items from different angles, used unbusy backgrounds, and made sure the lighting was good.

But, as a naive first-time seller on a digital marketplace, I made a few rookie mistakes. Namely, by including my phone number below the product descriptions. I thought this would save me from some cumbersome back and forths with potential buyers.

I was wrong.

I also had no concept of who would be buying these shoes from me. I thought I’d simply get a text from another French woman with size 7.5 feet who also had a predilection for leather knee-high boots and spiky heels.

I was wrong. Again.

Instead, my ads left the door wide open for anyone to contact me. And, over the next few weeks, I had some very out-of-the-ordinary conversations with strangers.

One of the photos the author posted online to help sell her heels.

One of the photos the author posted online to help sell her heels.

At first, I didn’t realize what was happening. I bought into their explanations. A lot of men said they were interested in buying my shoes as gifts for their wives. There were also requests for additional photos or pictures of me wearing the shoes.

After receiving dozens of messages and no one actually buying any of my heels, I had to face it. I wasn’t being contacted by potential buyers. I was talking to foot fetishists.

Instead of blocking them one after the other as I normally would, I decided to play along and find out more about these men: who they were, why they were doing this, what they wanted, and how much they were ready to pay.

The first fetishist I chatted with — let’s call him “Slave” as he begged me to call him —  was a seemingly normal guy. In the photo he sent me of himself wearing a suit, he seemed about 40 years old, 5’10, and average-looking. Confident and powerful, he looked like a guy who’d give you a solid handshake and remember your name the next time he met you. I knew he was educated, owned a company, and was married. And he lived in Nantes, a city far enough from mine that I didn’t have to worry about running into him in real life.

He told me he was looking for a strong, confident, and authoritative female to punish and hurt him. He called it “femdom,” and according to him, it’s pretty popular.

While it was difficult to imagine myself playing such a character, as I would qualify my personality as kind and gentle, I played along and asked for further details:

What are you looking for, exactly?

I am looking for a regular master. A girl that I can meet in person and have fun with. I want her to enjoy our interactions. And of course, I want to see her in beautiful high heels.

Interesting. How should I call you during our interactions?

Slave, buffoon, minion, little dick, whichever you prefer.

Ahaha. OK. How would you call me?

I usually call my mistresses beautiful flower, master, or princess.

Sure, call me master. So what’s the plan?

I want to meet up in a park. You’ll be wearing heels. I’ll come to you and kneel down. You’ll ask for the cash and I will hand you a bill. Then you’ll spit at me and let me lick your shoes. After that, I want you to call me names and laugh as hard as you can, pointing your finger at me, while I get aroused. Maybe I’ll even touch myself if you allow me. Or slap me? Or stamp on me? I could lay down on the ground… I’ll pay you $50 dollars per perk.

I started feeling uncomfortable. I now knew more about what got this guy off than I wanted, so I decided to end the conversation, justifying it with the fact that this was going too far and I was not interested anymore.

A few days later, another fetishist contacted me. I didn’t want to base my opinions about this particular paraphilia on just one encounter, so I asked him similar questions in an effort to learn more:

Hi! What do you want from me?

I want to have a long distance relationship with a woman. I want to text back and forth and exchange pictures. Pictures of feet, naked. I want you to be mean to me, treat me like a dog on a leash.

How would you call me?

Majesty or goddess.

Do you have other goddesses in your life?

I had one but she left because she met someone so I am looking for another one.

Are you married or single?

Married and my wife is very jealous so I can only text during the day.

Okay, let’s talk business. How much are you ready to pay and for what?

$50 per photo of your feet. Maybe videos of you spitting or peeing, if you feel comfortable with that? I can send you an envelope with money for three simple feet pictures to begin with.

He sent me a photo of the bills. I considered having him send the envelope to my address to see if he was truthful. And also because that was easy cash. But then I realized it would be too dangerous to give him my name or address.

So instead, I sent him a little teaser to test his reaction. I thought it was hilarious: a photo of my bare feet, toes painted with red polish, that I had scribbled over so you could only see part of my goods.

It proved to be too much excitement for dear Fetishist #2. He got over-confident and sent me an unrequested picture of himself shirtless, on all fours, wearing a choke chain as a collar.

That seemed like a good time to end our conversation. From that point on, I decided to put the kibosh on my investigation into the minds of foot fetishists. Interacting with them helped shine some light unto a world I previously knew little about (and still have much to learn). The foot fetishists I spoke with were all men, both married, self-described workaholics who were a little bored with their lives. They found it sexually arousing not only to look at women’s feet but also to feel shame, humiliation, and guilt. In fetishism, they had found a way to switch roles and shuck the pressures of their daily lives. They were masochists who enjoyed the freedom that being submissive gave them.

Do I regret missing out on an opportunity to make some easy, extra cash? Not really. It would have been nice, in theory, but ultimately it was not something I felt entirely comfortable doing.

In the meantime, I still have a bunch of shoes to get rid of. I’m through with online selling, so I’ve decided that I’ll have to advertise them in-person. That said, anyone interested? Only $15 a pair.


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