By Daniel J. McLaughlin
You may not have heard the word "manspreading" before, but you will have most likely experienced it in the past.
Whether it is on public transport, where a man occupies more than one seat during a crammed journey, or you have the misfortune of sitting between two guys in the back of a car; you may not have been claustrophobic before, but you certainly are now.
The act of bad social etiquette has even earned a place in the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED defines manspreading as "the practice whereby a man, especially one travelling on public transportation, adopts a sitting position with his legs wide apart, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat or seats".
Why do men feel the urge to part their legs like the Red Sea? The Independent offers 'misguided defences' of manspreading, including "I need to sit like that because of my balls" (which they conclude is - well - a load of balls), "women put their handbags on their seats all the time" and "why do women get to breastfeed in public but we can’t sit with our legs wide open?".
Writing for the Huffington Post, Guyliner believes gentlemen sprawl rather than sit to assert dominance, as though they are taking a throne - however, "your subjects don’t appreciate or respect you".
He concluded: "I suspect the reason men do this is very simple: we think we should. Sitting with knees together and legs in tight is a sign of weakness or homosexuality - both social death, of course."
Spreading the legs may be a way to spread the love. A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that men and women who adopted "expansive postures" - i.e. manspreading (or indeed, womanspreading) - were deemed more attractive by members of the opposite sex. It's not restricted to public transport, either. The trend continues online on dating apps. Profile pictures that show users in open, dominant poses tend to generate more interest from other users, the Australian ABC News reports.
Of course, another way to win over someone romantically is to be simply nice and respectful to them. While manspreading is a new name for an age-old issue, according to CNN, it is finally being recognised as a social phenomenon. And people have had enough of the "entitled thigh wideners".
Madrid is not the only city trying to stop the spread of manspreading. In 2014, the New York Metro authority tried to prevent men from sitting with their legs spread wide apart on public transport. It was part of a wider campaign, the Daily Mirror reports, to stop inconsiderate behaviour from commuters, including backpack wearers who take up too much space, littering and public transport users who put their feet on the seats.
Two men were even arrested in New York for manspreading. According to a report on the New York Police Department's attitudes to race and class, NYPD officers arrested two Latino men on the charge of 'manspreading' on the subway, "presumably because they were taking up more than one seat and therefore inconveniencing other riders".
Another American city, this time San Francisco, is taking action by enforcing a "one ticket, one seat" policy. Fox News reports that offenders will be fined $100 for the first violation, $200 for a second offence within a 12-month period, and $500 for each repeat violation within five years.
Using public transport can be a frustrating enough experience without the bane of manspreaders. Gentlemen, please close your legs. It does not spread the love - it shows bad manners.