Journalist Laura Bassett learned last fall that her feet had their very own profile on fetish website wikiFeet. This is, we imagine, an enormously creepy thing to discover about your online presence. Bassett, though, in an article for The Cut about this strange revelation, writes that she “wasn’t offended or unnerved, though [she] can understand why someone would be.” She “mostly thought it was funny,” and decided to track down whoever was responsible by checking her Instagram story viewers (her public profile is where the foot photos are taken from) against new entries to her wikiFeet page.
This tactic worked and soon Bassett had managed to get the guy responsible for making her a footnote in disconcerting online history on the phone. Incredibly, he was very forthcoming. His name is Robert Hamilton, he’s 58 years old, a salesman, and is described as “gregarious,” with “a thick Jersey accent.”
Over the course of their long, strange discussion, we learn quite a bit about Hamilton. He’s known he had a foot fetish since he was six, has posted “a couple hundred” photos on wikiFeet, and is a big fan of “pronounced” arches, “rounded big [toes,]” and “the soles.” When Bassett gets to the real core of the interview—why, exactly, Hamilton combs her Instagram for foot photos he can share with others online—he’s very unabashed about that subject, too.
“I can’t remember how I first discovered you,” he says. “But I looked on Instagram and saw you on there and you had a lot of barefoot pictures, and I just followed you, that was all.” He compliments Bassett’s dog (and her feet of course) and claims that he shares his favorite foot photos because, as he puts it, “I just think I’m helping other people out.” This kind of activity “doesn’t pay the bills,” but Hamilton enjoys showing others the pictures he likes because he’s “generous that way.”
The entire discussion walks a delicate line that implicitly asks a lot of questions about how the personal details we post online can be repurposed by any kind of stranger. When Bassett asks him if he ever considers that “it might be a bit invasive to take someone’s personal photos and put them on a fetish site without their knowledge or consent,” Hamilton says “it does cross my mind” and that he has “a conscience” but believes “people seem to have a good sense of humor about it.”
We definitely encourage you to read the entire interview, which is both a fascinating look at online consent and a profile of the kind of man who, when asked about a recent heart surgery, is quick to brag that a nurse would show him her feet while he was recovering. “I can just get girls out of their shoes,” Hamilton says in conclusion. “It’s a thing I can do.”
Send Great Job, Internet tips to firstname.lastname@example.org