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Legs-spread-wide men raise ire of women passengers

It seems that comments from Deborah about how to deal with seat hogs touched a nerve with many female riders. She wrote:

"The worst offenders have to be the young men also in their 20s who feel entitled to take up three full seats on the subway by spreading their knees apart as far as possible. Must be a testosterone-driven territory-marking instinct."

This prompted comments from other women:

"I despise those men who spread their legs. Is their junk so big that they can't close their legs? Do they think that we women want an easy glimpse of their crotch?"


"I can't tell you how liberating it is to finally see this in print: The guys that sit with their knees pushed into your leg because of their SUPER LARGE SCROTUMS! I don't believe it! Sometimes I'll push back or churn around a little bit and smile and say "excuse me", just trying to give them the hint to pull their legs together AND 99% OF THEM WON'T! Why?"

And Xtina even wrote a poem about the subject:

Please be polite
And sit upright
'Cause it is oh so rude
To spread your knees wide, dude!


If your Johnson is chilly,
Pull your knees in, Silly!

or how 'bout:

There are ladies on this train,
And straight dudes too,
They don't wanna feel your knees,
So keep your legs together, foo'!

Trish got in the poetic spirit too:

"My leg is not part of your seat.
Must you sprawl so to fit all your meat?
If your balls are so swollen
That you cannot hold 'em
Get treatment -- and be more discreet."

I'm very impressed by such creativity.

Now, I'm a guy, but I'm not a spreader. In fact, if I sit next to a spreader, I nudge him with my knee to signal to him to get out of my personal space.

So ladies, how big a problem is this? Do we need a rule on the CTA?


1) I've seen women sit the same way, so don't place it all on us men.
2) I don't spread my legs out like that, but that doesn't give the woman or man the right to take up as much space as they want. I've had this happen as well, where a woman would take up as much room as she wanted, therefore smashing me in. No thanks. I've also had it where I've had the idiotic men who spread their legs out sit next to me, so I know your predicament, women.

My husband notices the leg spreading more often than I do when we're on the bus or train. He thinks it is all a power trip.

Where on the subway can you take up three seats? Is there some new seating arrangement I haven't seen yet?

Greg - Deborah is from NYC. She's talking about 3 seats on the NY subway.

I've more men than women spreading out their legs and taking up both seats. That's not to say that women don't do it, I just don't see it very often. The thing I hate on the bus, are the men turned sideways on the 3-4 seat sections taking up all the seats there as well. If I want to sit there I've got dude's arm around me because he feels he's gotta sit sideways and watch up the aisle rather than sit facing forward so that others can sit down too.

Whenever I encounter a leg-spreader, or just a person stretched across into my part of the seat in general, I just try and make them as uncomfortable as possible. If they're spreading their legs, I'll usually do the same, and make sure our legs are forcibly touching for the rest of the ride.

If someone has their legs out in the aisle of the train, I'll step right on the edge of their foot and stand there until they move it. Extra points when it's someone with new white shoes.

I must admit that I am one of the leg spreaders.

What you see is some punk-ass kid spreading his legs all wide to take up as much space as possible.

What you don't see is that I've been riding fat horses all day long, and my legs are just stuck like that.

Why don't you give a kid a break, huh? I don't see YOU riding fat horses all day.

What manner of men art these, who wear their knees in parentheses?

Bradley, I've never seen a woman do it. This is not to say that they don't, but don't act like we're maligning the male sex out of spite. We're talking about a small group of men who think they are such tough shit that they have to spread it all over or men who don't have any consideration for others.

Hate this. Happens all the time. I'll cut the guy a break if he is abnormally tall and wide, but otherwise, you don't deserve more seat than I do. Especially if they sit down AFTER me, and try and do this. You saw how much room there was, that I wasn't taking up. You can't pressure me to squeeze against the window because YOU think you need more room! Pathetic and selfish.

a male friend of mine said the guys who do this are usually worried about their package--or in other words, are over-compensating for what they think they don't have (or may not actually have, whichever). My personal observation is that 90% of the time or better, it's the young man who does this, say under 30. I suppose that says something, but this isn't a psychology blog...

There is a very simple explanation for why men do this. It is generally more comfortable. Why is everyone putting so much thought into this?

Besides the fact that it is more comfortable for a man to keep his legs at least slightly spread, the seats on CTA vehicles seem like they were designed for petite individuals. I'm 5' 11" and it is painful to sit with my legs facing straight forward against the metal of the seat in front of me. In addition, anyone with wide shoulders is forced to sit uncomfortably.

Dominus Absconditus: we're not talking about a slight spread--we understand *that*. We're talking about the young bucks who act like they're trying to straddle Lake Michigan--you know, legs out to there (holds arms out almost full length.
I know what you mean about the shoulders, though.

I'm 6'2" and in some seats (on the bus) my knees will be smashed against the seat in front of me if I don't spread my legs at least a little bit outside of my "seat boundary." Also, I have bad knees from years of running, which just makes the situation worse. Though, I don't spread wide enough to "straddle Lake Michigan." If someone sits down next to me I try my best not to invade their space. I also try to get a seat in one of the inward facing seats, which is far more comfortable for me.

I can see how the leg spreading is annoying to people. However, I see the larger problem being obese people that take up far more room than their seat. Not only are they taking up more space in the leg region, but also the rest of their body spills over into my space and I suffer because of it. At least someone who spreads their legs has an option, someone that is 100+ lbs overweight doesn't. I would like to make a rule against this. How about a giant billboard that says, "NO FATTIES"?

Alright, I will crawl back into my cave now that I have offended everyone.

Josh, I'm with you on dealing with the "[Knees at] Ninety Degrees for Maximum Junk Cooling" types. If I see a guy with his legs spread, I first curtly say, "Excuse me." If he doesn't move, I sit down so that my leg is against his, then "adjust" my leg and elbow into the space he's encroached upon. This works with some men, but if he's still clueless, I take out a RedEye (or similar) and keep "pushing" into his space.

This reminds me of something I read in Glamour magazine, circa 1988: If women can't demand equal space on the train/bus, how can we be taken seriously elsewhere?

The male leg-spreading typically goes hand-in-hand with a newspaper, opened up wide. It's like he's at home on the toilet, taking a dump!

Oh no, not the newspaper thing! A pet peeve of mine are what I call arrogant men reading the Wall Street Journal beside me who feel they are entitled to open the paper fully into my space while reading.

How about when people in the seat behind you open up their full length Tribune and hit you on the head and keep rustling it right up against your head. That bugs me!

also yesterday on the bus a woman was sitting in the seat with a little handicap wheelie pushcart thing (I dont know the technical name for it but she walks & pushes it in front of her to steady herself.).. She has her long cane sitting sideways on top of her pushcart, and its completely sticking out across the pushcart positioned across the whole aisle where you cannot walk or go around. Im in a crabby mood, so its blocking my whole path.. The bus starts to move and I almost fall acrost her pushcart. So I take my hand and assertively shove the cane out of the aisle without even a "excuse me please move your cane" I just say assertively MOVE YOUR CANE! Then as if clueless or doesn't speak English, she doesn't even say Pardon me for blocking everyone's walk with her cane.

This morning southbound on the Red Line I had to keep nudging a young, slender African-American woman who, even after she got the clue about her knees being way too far over, wouldn't move her ass out of the way. But, you know, it's not like I think she's a creepy miserable human being or anything, the way some of the commenters with issues would.

Seriously, you commenters are worrying me more than any fatass who's taking more room than she needs.

Back in '04 when I lived in Evanston and in the mornings took the Purple Line to Belmont, I sat next to one small, white, middle-aged guy who was managing to take up an amazing amount of space. After two or three nudges he looked at me and said, "I'm not moving." Points for honesty, at least.

Bob S.--

That's not honesty. That's being an asshole. No one gets points for that.

And I don't get what you don't understand about our complaints. We just want to be treated with consideration and respect. We don't want some guy's leg rubbing up against us, just as we don't want someone dropping their food on us or poking us with their elbows. It's not a difficult concept.

Yes, Kimberli, since I think the vitriol here is out of proportion to the "crime," clearly I'm a drooling idiot. Sorry I ruined your day.

I don't think you're an idiot at all and I apologize if you read any undertones of that. I typed what I did more out of questioning than of insult.

But I do think our point is clear. Personal space is important to some people, clearly a lot of us on this website, and we don't feel that we need to be poked or prodded by some men who can't understand consideration. Maybe you don't need personal space and that's fine for you as long as you're not infringing on the "space rights" of others.

It is uncomfortable for me to sit with my legs close together. It has less to do with squeezing my "package", and more to do with how my, and other men's, hip joints are constructed.

But part of living in a society requires some uncomfortable compromises, so when someone needs to sit next to me, I can, and will, bring my legs together -- usually before they ask.

I can only tollerate doing this for so long. That's why I don't fly coach anymore. But even I can stand to keep them together for any trip on CTA. (Well, it might be a problem if I were on one of those trains trapped between stations for extended periods. However, I'm sure that I can come to some sort of fidgeting detante with someone sitting next to me who is problably uncomfortable, and needs to occasionally shift around, too.)

Most men may have a skeletal structure that causes them to prefer to sit with their legs apart, and most men will natually just sit that way.

But to accuse us all of being unwilling to bring our legs together is wrong. Most of us will bring our legs together, many without needing to be asked, and almost all of us will bring them together when asked or prodded.

The problem is that women don't notice the 98% that aren't a problem, and the other 2% are annoying enough that some women are flipping the ratio in their minds. That's as bad as the 2% who don't close their legs, if not worse.

Rusty, I don't have the medical background to respond to your claim that men's hip joints are constructed in a way that requires them to sit with their knees wide apart, but from my own experience the proportion of men who will invade my personal space is closer to 50-70% than 2%. But nobody expects anybody to glue their knees together (it's uncomfortable for women too); all we're asking for is respect of our personal space.

Your "uncomfortable compromise" is admirable and I can embrace the notion of a "fidgeting detante." But your comment leaves me pretty sure you're not the kind of man we're complaining about. You don't sound like the sort of passenger who uses others as furniture (see Vendela's comment above) or has an alpha-male need to claim territory (see Dee, or Deborah's original post).

Being squashed by leg-spreaders irks me primarily because I almost never see men do it to each other. They seem to have this tacit agreement to avoid touching each other - it might be respect, it might be homophobia, it might not even be conscious, but it's there. What makes me angry is that I never see that reserve directed towards women.

Obviously, this doesn't change the fact that some people are jerks, and will willfully invade your personal space no matter who you are. But our beef's not with decent fellow riders like you, Rusty; it's with the ones Deborah needs to beat out of the way with her cane.

I'm getting myself a cane.

Just to clarify: I never said, nor did I imply, infer or otherwise try to lead anyone to believe the my hip joint, or that of any other man "requires" us to sit with our legs apart. I said it's uncomfortable to sit with my legs together, and I prefer them to be apart.

Many problems come from people SAYING they perfer something, and other people HEARING they require something. (Or in this case, writing and reading.)

As for the men avoiding their legs touching other men, homophobia is probably accurate, but a way too emotionally charged word. But through conditioning, we associate light touching with flirting, and something that should be avoided when not flirting. You'll probably also notice that men will avoid having their legs touch grandmotherly-types, as well as bag ladies, too. And most of the time it's not a concious decision, but just plain old conditioning.

The guys who don't close their legs unless physically forced to are not alpha-males. They're alpha-wannabes. A real alpha-male knows how to respect people, or they wouldn't have made it to an alpha position in any social structure.

In other words, even the leader of the most dispicable gang knows how to respect people, otherwise they wouldn't be respected by their followers. And they're probably also aware enough of their suroundings to need very little prompting to close their legs.

The guys who don't may want to be alphas, but they aren't, and won't be as long as they act like that. They need to learn respect is a two-way street, and they need to become more aware of their environment. If one of these clods is actually traveling with the alpha of their pack, you might even see the alpha scold them for not closing their legs when appropriate.

I say go ahead and beat them with a cane. They're just insecure alpha-wannabes.

I'm getting a cane, too.

i agree its only ever young(ish) men who do this. i was in a doc surgery not so long ago and this young guy, practically a teenager sat right opposite me and spread his legs out so much and so close i didnt even know where to look...i dont know if it was because im a muslim female and wore the dresscode and he felt he wanted to intimidate me alittle but soon his dad walked in and kicked his legs and told him to move them lol. How embarrassing!.

Yes, For some men, its more COMFORTABLE to sit like that ...
but the PROBLEM IS, if what you do , causes OTHERS TO BE UNCOMFORTABLE...
you are taking other's right to be comfortable , just so you can be comfortable yourself?
how selfish

A QUESTION TO LEGS SPREADERS...would u want SOMEONE just like you (ANOTHER LEG SPREADER) sitting next to you?? ask yourself that!
PROBABLY NOT! so dont do it to others!

I'm a 6'1" 220 lbs. male. I'm sitting with my legs together. This gorgeous full figured curvy blonde girl gets on the el, stands infront of me, places her bookbag on the seat, takes off her jacket. She then slams her full side into me, and pressed against my side, and kept pressing against me for about 5 minutes. Then she started shuffleing constantly through a newspaper through out the entire ride from Belmont to State and Lake! I didin't know if I wanted to be aroused or irritated. Then she abruptly shifted away from me after 5 minutes. I was a gentlemen, and I got pressed into! Ok maybe majority of men are stupid sitting with their legs out. I didn't know if this girl liked me or thought i was part of a sofa until the last minute. It made me very uncomfortable as to what her intentions were. Maybe she was pissed I didn't say anything, but damn protocol states that "el" trains are not social clubs. I guess it really doesn't matter who sits spreadeagled. It's just someones way of being comfortable,or not. Maybe I should've just moved to avoid the mean tease. It can cut both ways between men and women at times.

I, overall, find it very annoying when guys invade my personal speace with thier legs spread far apart. I find that with most guys who do it, it really doesn't matter who is sittng next to them-- they feel that they must guard their territory. A few times, I have sat next to women who have done that as well, but I didn't mind it nearly as much.

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