Does this situation sound familiar: You plop into your seat on a plane or train and the person next to you gives you a nasty glare. You haven’t said a word, you smell fine, and you’re dressed reasonably well.
What could possibly be the problem?
Chances are it’s how you’re sitting, or rather how you’re manspreading. For the uninitiated, manspreading is when you sit with your legs wide apart, thereby encroaching on someone’s personal space.
Some folks claim there’s a scientific basis for man’s desire to spread his thighs. But others just think it’s lazy and disrespectful, so much so that they’ve taken legal action against manspreaders.
In this article, we’ll analyze the ethics of manspreading, why it’s so common, and how activists are fighting for their right to more leg room.
What Is Manspreading?
Manspreading is a slang term for a male sitting with his legs wide apart in a public space, hogging the sittable space around him. Instead of sitting with your knees directly in front of you, manspreading involves widening the space between your thighs to form a wide V-shape, as pictured below.
Manspreading is generally associated with public seating areas where space is at a premium, such as subways, park benches, and airplanes. But you can also manspread on your couch, chair, or toilet. The habit has drawn widespread backlash across the globe, particularly from angry commuters suffering from a lack of leg room.
Where Did the Term ‘Manspreading’ Come From?
The term manspreading was floating around social media as early as 2008, and the first Urban Dictionary entry was created in 2010. However, the term really spread in the fall of 2014 when The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) launched an anti-manspreading campaign to encourage courtesy on the subways.
The posters, which said “Dude… Stop the Spread, Please,” ignited a fierce debate between manspreaders and their alleged victims.
“Many men sit with their knees splayed far beyond their hips, claiming enough space for two and sometimes three people in a position colloquially known as ‘man spread,’” wrote Sheila Anne Feeney for MTA.
Spreaders didn’t shy away from defending their habits though: "That's how men sit—as opposed to women, who cross their legs," countered Luis Tutz, a Brooklyn resident.
Manspreading was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary in August 2015, solidifying its place in the cultural lexicon.
Why Do We Manspread?
It seems as if dudes are born with an unconscious almost intrinsic need to sit with our legs spread wide open. But is our habit hardwired into our DNA, or are we just a bunch of degenerates?
Let’s break down three leading theories behind the manspreading phenomenon
Defenders of manspreading say Mother Nature is to blame for their seating preferences. Author and fitness journalist Lou Schuler notes that manspreading is natural due to men’s anatomical structure.
Here’s what he told VICE about the pains of sitting with his knees close together:
The round ball at the top of the femur will pinch against the outside edge of the hip socket, straining the labrum that lines the socket. To get into that position, I have to activate the adductor muscles on my inner thighs. That automatically triggers resistance from the abductor muscles on my outer thighs, creating tension that can reach all the way up into the lower back. The second I release the contraction, my thighs spring apart, leaving a gap of about 15 inches from the center of each kneecap, more than three-quarters of the distance to a proper manspread ... Women, on the other hand, have a wider pelvis and thighbones that more naturally angle in toward the body's midline, rather than away from it. Sitting with the knees close together is a stress-free position most of the time, although that changes during pregnancy, when the weight of the belly pushes the knees out.
Other medical professionals call B.S. on this theory…
"Sitting with legs splayed apart is rude, inconsiderate and has no medical rationale, especially if done only during the 30 to 45 minutes of a subway ride," says Dr. Marc Goldstein, a professor of reproductive medicine and urology at Cornell University.
2. To Assert Dominance
Sociologists believe manspreading may signal dominance and attractiveness.
Tanya Vacharkulksemsuk, a researcher at U.C. Berkeley published studies that found spreading out legs is more sexually attractive when males do it. In fact, she found that images of men manspreading got 87% of interest among female viewers.
The findings are ironic, considering women are leading campaigns to make manspreading illegal (more on that later).
3. It’s Just More Comfortable
Biology and psychology aside, manspreading is just more comfortable than closing your thighs, especially when you want to let your balls breathe.
“I suspect most men would suggest the reason for adopting the more spread posture in sitting would be the avoidance of testicular compression from the thigh muscles,” says spinal neurosurgeon John Sutcliffe. “The pelvic rotation goes some way to improve compression in both aspects.”
Is Manspreading Illegal?
In some places, manspreading in public will get you more than a dirty look—it could get you a hefty fine and even jail time.
In 2015, two men in New York were arrested for manspreading on the subway.
It’s against MTA rules to take up more than one subway seat if doing so “interfere(s) or tend(s) to interfere with the operation of the Authority's transit system or the comfort of other passengers.”
The arrests caused an uproar, and lucky for the dudes, the charges were eventually dropped.
New York isn’t the only city punishing manspreaders. In 2017 Madrid, Spain banned manspreading on its public transportation.
Outside of these two cities, you’re free to manspread as wide as your heart (or legs) desires. Just be prepared for the backlash if space is at a premium.
Before You Manspread, Do a Maintenance Wipe
Manspreading probably won’t win you any new friends, especially in a crowded public space. But if you insist on sitting spread eagle, the least you can do is make sure your crotch doesn’t smell like a dead animal.
Swamp ass and monkey butt can cause ungodly stenches to waft from your third pit, especially in the muggy summer months. As such, every dude should master the art of the maintenance wipe to clean up their gooch gunk.
Just pack a DUDE Wipe Single in your pocket and give yourself a swipe if you’re feeling not-so-fresh down there. You’ll thank us later when bystanders aren’t ducking for cover next time you manspread.