The Leg Spreader

I hate guys who sit with their legs wide open on the bus. It’s obnoxious and half the time there’s no reason for them to be doing it.

I boarded the 38B this morning, and there weren’t too many available seats. One guy sat in the aisle seat without shame, and the woman in the seat behind the one I ended up sitting in blocked the aisle seat with her bag.

Anyway, I sat next to this guy who had his legs spread out. Usually I can get a leg spreader to close his damn legs, but it didn’t work for me today. His right knee was pressed into me, so my first tactic in dealing with leg spreaders is to do the same thing—spread my legs also and press into them the way they press into me. Usually that embarrasses them to stop. Our knees made contact, but he didn’t budge.

Then I decided to be direct. “Can you close your legs please?” I asked. He obliged, but for two seconds. He opened his legs right back up.

“And you open them right back up,” I said, sarcastically. “Dag!”

As soon as the girl who was seat hogging behind me got off the bus, I took her former seat. (I can see why she was seat hogging—probably didn’t want a jerk like this guy sitting next to her!) The leg spreader went right back to opening his legs even wider than what they were after I moved.

I was hoping someone larger than this guy would board the bus, sit next to him and give him a taste of his own medicine, but it didn’t look like it’d happen.

The bus gets to Rosslyn, and a short older woman gets on the bus. She first sits in one seat, but then moves to sit next to the leg spreader. The leg spreader immediately closed his legs and sat closer to the window. How about that! She wasn’t bigger than this guy and didn’t do anything specific, but he finally started acting right. Good!

I know guys are going to come here and say “The seats are small and we need to open our legs to be more comfortable!” but I don’t want to hear it. This guy looked like he’d be no taller than 5’7” standing, and seemed to be one of those small (figuratively) men who thinks he’s big by spreading his legs open to make himself feel powerful over a woman. Men like that are weak and pitiful.

Though my encounter with this guy didn’t go well, I’m still going to continue to call them out on their crap.

Submitted by anonymous on 12/10/2010

Location: 38B Bus, VA

Time of Harassment: Day Time (9:30A-3:30P)

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault you would like to submit? Just click here and fill out the online submission form. All submissions are posted anonymously unless you specify.


23 responses to “The Leg Spreader

  1. I don’t think this is so much about harassment as is it just about being a jerk.

  2. men’s hips are narrower than womens, and we have a bulky .. package.. at the intersection. I could sit with my knees together too if my hips were wider and I had no balls… or if I reached into my pants and pulled the balls up on top of my lap. I’m not sure that is the solution you would appreciate, sitting next to me on the bus.

    • Whatever it takes for you to stop using your legs to shove me into the window or the aisle, bro. At least you can make an adjustment; even anorexia won’t make my hips any smaller.

    • Unless you have a basketball between your legs, you can keep the leg-spreading to 6″ and not forcibly take over another’s personal space. No one is asking you to sit knees-together and ankles-crossed. Your narrower hips do not entitle you to more public space than a woman.

  3. What’s your point, where is the harassment? No one forced you to sit next to the so-called “leg spreader”. Oh, the things you people make issues of here….

    • What’s your point, where is the harassment?

      There is something called human decency, and one would’ve thought that the leg spreader would’ve closed his legs when someone sat next to him. No, the woman in question didn’t have to sit next to the guy, but no one should have to keep moving around to find a seat where no one’s being a jerk.

  4. And another thing: Why are people so quick to categorize what counts as harassment and what doesn’t? If the person who submits a story says it feels like harassment, then it’s harassment. Who are we to judge what other people feel and go through? We weren’t there!

    • Oh whatever Golden Silence. You see I have been in South Africa where women have to worry about actually being raped all the time, they do not have time to worry whether the guy next to them in a minibus taxi (the main mode of public transport) is spreading his legs too far. I used to live in DC also, and sometimes after a long day at work I just did that “leg-spread” thing without thinking about it. It had nothing to do with dominance.

      • Golden Silence

        BC, can it. You can be dismissive all you want, but harassment is a problem in DC. To say “at least DC women aren’t being raped like they are in South Africa” is a twisted comparison. Why don’t you read NbyNw’s 12/15/10 4:51 response and maybe you’ll start to get the drift.

  5. I agree with BC..

    How do you know this guy didn’t have elephantits? or hemmoroids? Its not like he was being all pervy about rubbing his leg on someone elses, or was touching his junk the whole time, or doing anything other than minding his own business, perhaps slightly inconsiderately. Does he have a right to take up more than one seat? no.. is it harrassment when he doesnt? Not by any definition I am aware of:

    Note there is no ‘annoying stance’ type..

    • Er, well, the story says he closed his legs up when the older lady got on, AND closed them for a moment when the author asked him to. He was obviously capable of it and making the conscious to keep them open whilst KNOWING it made her uncomfortable.

  6. This blog isn’t just for incidences that qualify under the legal definition of sexual battery. This is a community for those who believe that the public streets and spaces of DC should be safe and accessible for women and LGBTQ individuals.

    Harassment is far more about control and intimidation than anything sexual. I have encountered plenty of ‘leg-spreaders’ and the behavior is more about asserting dominance over women who are expected to take up as little space as possible when venturing into public spaces. I have found this behavior is often accompanied by leering as well.

    ‘Leg-spreading’ may not be something to report to the police, but behavior that is meant to assert dominance over me by a stranger and to remind me that my presence in public spaces is unwanted does not make me feel any more safe on the streets of DC.

  7. I’m a leg-spreader.. I admit it.. and its not about asserting dominance.. its about not having uncomfortable balls. I participate in this community because I too believe that no one should feel harassed or intimidated in any space, but in the public space in particular.

    Are women who put their purse on the seat next to them asserting their dominance over me?? no..

    • Are women who put their purse on the seat next to them asserting their dominance over me?? no..

      Ooh…I cannot stand it when men come up here and try to invalidate women’s opinions! A man who’s leg spreading (asserting physical dominance) and a woman who’s seat hogging (plain, flat-out rudeness) are two different things!

  8. Years ago, some man sat next to me on the train and his son (I’m guessing he was 12) sat in the row ahead. The man spread his legs so damn wide and his knee and foot pressed into me hard. I pushed back and told him to keep off me and respect my space. He compacted himself and looked like a petulant kid the rest of the train ride and yes, I embarrassed him in front of his son. There was no reason for him to do what he did.

    Let me guess what the responses and straw man arguments to this will be:

    “You shouldn’t have sat in the window seat!” Well I like sitting in the window seat and I’ll sit where I damn please.

    “A guy needs to spread his legs sometime.” Yes, those seats are tiny as hell, but he knew good and well that he was pressing into me and didn’t apologize. Also, he was not that big a man to need all that space.

    “Well, women put their seats in bags—that’s not harassment!” No it’s not harassment, but that doesn’t have a thing to do with my story or the story that was posted. Now if the woman put her bag in that tiny space on the seat between her and someone else, and proceeded to rudely push her bag into that other person, that would be considered harassment. But by bringing up the lame straw man argument of a woman putting her seat in the bag, or even taking it to the extreme by using rape in South Africa to put down someone’s completely different experience to being “no big a deal,” you’re using twisted tactics to downplay someone else’s experience.

    All said, as NbyNw said, this site is supposed to be a safe place for people to tell their stories. It is NOT a place for stories to be nitpicked, downplayed, downgraded, compared, and criticized. Have any of you naysayers even read the other stories, or do you only pick the one out of hundreds submitted to prove a lame point? I never see you post on other stories. All I can do is shake my head at how obnoxiously dense some of you are.

  9. Unwanted, preventable touching is assault, I will concede that.. However, the point of this forum is to expose street sexual harassment, and to call attention to the fact that it is common, under reported and way under-punished. Using it as a forum to express every way in which a male may annoy a female dilutes its impact and in fact fuels the “you are complaining about nothing” sentiment.

    As a feminist I participate in this forum to applaud those that do speak out, and to do what I can to help call attention to the problem.

    As a male, I have a problem with hypersensitivity and reverse sexism, as it undermines the purpose and intent of the forum, and demonizes all men, which is not fair.

  10. Also, if you notice, men will sit in this position regardless of who is near them.. I agree that in some cases it can be *interpreted* as a “Im a big dominant male look at how much space I take up”.. but Take a look at two men sitting on a couch watching football, or sitting in the stands at a ball game, or sitting in the passenger seat of your car. 99.98% of them will be sitting with their knees apart. This guy doesnt even sound like he was excessively rude about it..

  11. Men have, I always thought public spaces are to be shared by everyone. But I guess a guy’s got a right to his space and to be oblivious when he’s taking up someone’s else’s space and touching that someone else huh?

  12. I am a leg spreader, but I’m 6′ 5″ and my legs literally do not fit behind bus/metro seats. I try to keep my limbs within the bounds of the seat, but sometimes its hard.

    I can tell you that I resent the notion that this represents sexual harassment or “asserting my physical dominance”.

    • As the partner of a 6’6″ man and otherwise observant person, I can recognize when size is an issue in determining seat space and treat it accordingly. I’m pretty sure other women can and do, too. This wasn’t directed at you and your gangly brethren, but the very average-sized 5’9″, 170-pound dudes who decide to take up all of the space on a public transit seat just because they can. Chill.

  13. Whatever arguments the men are using are ignoring the fact that this man got his act together when an older woman sat next to him. So why was he spreading his legs obnoxiously when the OP was sitting next to him? Why couldn’t he have politely obligated her request? Why was he treating the OP and the older woman differently? Seriously fellas, THINK ABOUT IT!! Desist railroading the thread and pay attention to details!

    • Thank thank you! Because of those details, this story is a tale of harassment.

    • Seriously fellas, THINK ABOUT IT!! Desist railroading the thread and pay attention to details!

      I had to walk away from this thread because it was getting out of control, so I was pleasantly surprised to come back and see more people defending the original poster. Thank you!

      People need to respect other people’s spaces on the bus and train, point blank period. And I agree, the men here refuse to see the bigger picture and ignore all pertinent details in the story. I hope the next leg spreading story (if there is one, hoping there is not) has a better reaction than this one.

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