Finding a woman like Jess, who knows how to trample and wants to do it, is a rarity. But only Frank reaps the benefits of Jess' talents for free; other men must pay her steep hourly rate of $375 to $500. Suddenly it made sense why so many men responded to my ad.
Wondering if I had what it takes to be a crush dominatrix, I asked if I could take a walk on Frank myself.
With Jess' guidance, I stepped on Frank's back and realized that the sensation of standing on a man was surprisingly familiar. I said as much, and Frank chuckled through his gritted teeth as I shifted my weight ineptly. This was harder than I thought Frank was clearly embarrassed at letting me perform what amounted to a sex act with him in front of his girlfriend, and I was having a hard time staying balanced.
"Sure, your male friends would ask for you to stand on them to 'get the knots out,' right?" he asked as I wobbled.
"Yeah," I said, remembering the guys at camp or in high school who made that request.
"They were lying," he said, his voice clotted from the pressure.
He may have been right. On one of the main Internet forums where fans of trample and crush congregate, many trample fans recount tales of covert experiences, where they managed to maneuver a woman, or several women, into stomping on them in public. Some place their feet "accidentally" in the paths of women with high heels. Others convince store saleswomen to stand on their aching backs.
Frank had exactly what these men all want: a real, live girlfriend to step on him. But while that's enough for Frank, it wasn't nearly enough, apparently, for Bryan Loudermilk.
In a letter, Loudermilk described how as early as high school, his fascination with being trampled by sandaled goddesses led to an obsession with crushing small animals.
"I used to catch lizards and frogs and put a little super glue on their bellies and stick them to the floor next to my teacher's desk so that I would be able to see her step on the victim," he wrote. He would subject these "victims" only to teachers who were wearing sandals.
For Loudermilk, the desire to watch women crush animals might have been a way to experience, by proxy, his version of the ultimate sexual act: being squished to death by the feet of a woman. "The extreme fantasy for these men is to be trampled or crushed to death under the foot of a powerful woman," Susan Creede, a Ventura County crush investigator, explained to Congress in 1999 during a hearing to ban crush videos. "Because they would only be able to experience this one time, these men have found a way to transfer their fantasy."
Vilencia, the Californian who formerly produced videos and today is a sort of unofficial spokesman for the fetish, speculates that while watching small creatures being crushed in childhood, boys internalize the animal's pain and their own anxiety and associate it with their sexuality.
"For some reason, these little boys who saw that when they were children, the anxiety stayed with them," he says. (Loudermilk's mother says he told her he thought the source of his obsession might have been a "chemical imbalance.")
Some trample fetishists distance themselves from the crush scene not everyone who wants to be stepped on wants to see kittens squished by stilettos. But for Loudermilk, trample and crush were inextricably linked, both extreme extensions of an obsession with feet.
Immediately following her husband's death, Stephanie Loudermilk told police without hesitation that Loudermilk sold videotapes and photographs of feet and stomping through the mail. Many of the images featured a woman with an ankle tattoo that matched the one on Stephanie herself. Stephanie also did some crushing, she admitted.
One photograph Loudermilk sent to Vilencia was of Stephanie's feet in Roman-style sandals poised millimeters above a baby chick. The caption read: "Steph cruel. See the little chicken? SQUASH."
An ad Loudermilk placed in "In Step" Magazine starred Stephanie. "I'm a 27 year old female, and a Native American with tan feet," it read. "I love to trample on men and I love to feel small insects crushing under my sandal foot." It was signed, "Foot Goddess, Stephanie."
In the back of Bryan Loudermilk's SUV, investigators found two odd-looking objects: a wooden two-by-four with a metal plate in the shape of a foot wearing a sandal attached to one end, and a padded strap studded with spikes. On the two-by-four, in Loudermilk's bold script, was a label: "My Wooden Stephanie."