Will Trade Sex for Shoes

By Poison Ivy,

A joke has been going around the Internet that features a series of flow charts explaining what a man can do to try to obtain sex from a woman, and how nothing works, he gets no sex, until he finally buys her designer shoes. It’s pretty funny.

Designer shoes have become a big deal in our culture recently. I think I know how. The popular TV show, “Sex and the City,” featured a heroine, Carrie, who was nuts over expensive shoes. She had an entire shoe closet. She even got mugged for them once. (Just as well. They looked terrible with that dress. Actually, that dress looked terrible, period.)

A certain kind of very high heeled, pointy-toed, usually red shoe even has a name: F**k-me shoes. You get the point: Do not engage me in business or intellectual discussions; take me to bed. I once saw a woman shopping in a discount store (Wal-Mart, to be precise) wearing those shoes. In all other respects, she looked like a normal young woman out with her husband and two young children buying necessities. But those towering red pointy stilettos said: “I am not just a wife and mother. I have another life. Maybe I’m even a stripper. I am powerful because I am sexy.” Whew!

A decade or so before this high-heeled shoe thing, there was an anti-heels thing going on. Actually, what happened was that New York City had a transit strike and a lot of people had to walk to work. The NYC pavement is very hard. The whole city is built on granite, which doesn’t help. So fashionable women stuck on the upper west side or the lower east side trudged miles to work, but they wore sneakers to do it. In pointless imitation of New Yorkers, other women in other cites wore sneakers to work and changed at the office, too. Well, that couldn’t last. How many pairs of sneakers does a woman need? Even an athlete? Only a relative few, because all sneakers create pretty much the same mood. But heels—ah, heels can be different for every single reason a woman leaves the house.

Meanwhile, black became the de rigeur costume in the big city. Whereas before, women only dressed in black for funerals, cocktail parties, and to work the perfume counter at Macy’s, now women were wearing all black, all the time. Black looks good on some people; on others, it looks terrible. But slaves to fashion wore that black, to prove they were fashionable, or professional, or young. Whatever the black clothes were supposed to mean, they drew a distinct line between colorful suburban dressing and sober city garb, that’s for sure.

And then a funny thing happened. Women started accessorizing the black clothing with colorful, impractical, silly little shoes. Glaringly impractical, very high-heeled shoes. Nasty, red, F**k-me shoes. Without admitting they were getting tired of black, women simply transferred their desire for color, originality, and fun to their shoes. We all know what happened then. Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, Prada, and a lot of other designers have cashed in on women’s suddenly revived focus on shoes. “Sex and the City” just helped tell the world.

I went to the Manolo Blahnik shop in Manhattan a couple of years ago and examined his shoes carefully. Aside from them having kicky designs, arty ideas, or just plain expensive crocodile leather (which was hard, not soft), I did not see a shoe that would last if one actually had to walk anywhere in it. The soles are very thin. They are meant to be worn from a limo to a club, and then back to the limo. Totally impractical. I shudder to imagine wearing them on the ultra-hard NYC pavement.

But practical shoes are never going to be important to women as long as economic inequality keeps them in competition with each other for men. We need every bit of weaponry possible to vie for the richest, handsomest, sexiest, and most powerful men. How do we do it? We cripple our feet with high heels. Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid (the original one, not the Disney G-rated version) was willing to walk on knives (i.e., accept horrible pain in her feet), just to have a chance with the handsome prince—a prince who was not worthy of her adoration. Short women admit to wearing very high heels just to be taller. Why? Because height gets you noticed. They’ll pay later, but now, they’ll mess up their feet in order to look more like the American ideal of the tall, thin woman.

And speaking of thin, the wonderful thing is your shoes usually fit you whether you’ve been spending your nights in a rock star’s bed or in front of the TV with Ben and Jerry. Have no life? Get shoes. Have a great life? Get even more shoes. They work whether you are up or down. Heels always hurt my feet. But I guess in the long run these shoes hurt less than men do. And you can kick them off with far less trouble.

So maybe giving her shoes is the perfect way to woo a woman. It shows her that her man sees her as sexy, powerful, and fun. And the right size. Good message. Maybe sex will happen tonight after all.