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Making Room For Cats
July 7, 2014 2:51 PM   Subscribe

Why the wide stance on the subway? Hmmmm?
posted by the young rope-rider (160 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
This one is perfect.
posted by rtha at 3:02 PM on July 7 [8 favorites]


Because it's comfortable. Unbelievably inconsiderate on a mostly full bus, but comfortable.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:04 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


LMAO. It's a better excuse than "because they're assholes."
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:05 PM on July 7


As enraged as lavaballs often make me, the cats make them way more adorable. Perhaps I should carry an angry cat on the subway to try this IRL.
posted by ldthomps at 3:07 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


A GIANT angry cat, pls.
posted by travelwithcats at 3:11 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


THE ONLY THING THAT MAKES SENSE
posted by shakespeherian at 3:13 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


(Double, sort of.)
posted by dorque at 3:19 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


I for one welcome our imperious underlords. Although my cat does not adore laps or public transportation.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:22 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I was going along enjoying them, when I came to this one.

Whoa.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:24 PM on July 7


As justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow noted, it is comfortable, and in a sense natural and normal. Not being a woman I don't know if it is a male only thing. I suspect it is and has as much to do with how the thigh bones join the pelvis as anything else. It isn't invariably a macho "hey look at my big balls" kind of thing. I am writing this in the privacy of my office sitting in my chair, and well my legs are spread apart - just like the home page of the tumblr. I would have to consciously move my thighs to have them close together. Sitting and having legs apart seems natural, in the sense that standing up to pee seems natural.

Note *this does not mean* that XYs get carte blanche to do this on the subway at rush hour. the pic that rtha highlighted does indeed show a dickwad. In crowded situations you MUST be considerate!

But really, absent that, every man who sits with his legs spread (which is probably almost every man) isn't necessarily a jerk.
posted by xetere at 3:24 PM on July 7 [14 favorites]


I am sitting in an otherwise empty office at a brewery with my legs crossed, one knee over the other. I can only assume all other men secretly do this while alone.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:26 PM on July 7 [20 favorites]


The idea of fulfilling these men's desire by putting cats on them (preferably large angry ones) seems fun, and much more practical than literally covering their balls in lava*.

*this is, however, inverted in Minecraft
posted by NoraReed at 3:27 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I would have to consciously move my thighs to have them close together. Sitting and having legs apart seems natural, in the sense that standing up to pee seems natural.

I am (a woman) sitting in a tucked away cubicle at work and my legs are together. It's comfortable to spread them apart but not much moreso and it's not something I generally do by default. I think it's completely acceptable for it to be more comfortable to a man because of genital happenings in that area, but it's so unnatural for me to imagine that as the "comfortable" "default." That part does strike me a bit as socialization.

Yesterday I was sitting on some stone steps outside after a long hike/walk, and I did sit with my knees splayed out. I realized that I did it automatically because mentally I had this feeling of being physically active and powerful that day and thus "masculine." So weird how that works.

Also, I know at least several guys who sit to pee and think it's stupid to stand and pee. I don't have a horse in that race, but the concept of "natural" really differs it seems.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:37 PM on July 7 [6 favorites]


It is definitely unnatural to be a Sitzpinkler.
posted by bhnyc at 3:45 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


A GIANT angry cat, pls

May I suggest...?
posted by longdaysjourney at 3:49 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I never sit like this. with the exception of if i just got home and took my pants off, it was like 85f out, and i'm using a fan to dry out my erm... bits.

Nothing compels me instinctually or otherwise to sit with my legs apart like that. It's not uncomfortable for me to sit the standard, legs straight ahead way. Even if i'm sitting completely alone, my legs are together.

This is completely alien to me. I'll also note though, that i'm a knee-over-knee leg crosser, not an ankle-on-knee one.(my knees are already garbage at 24 hereditarily and don't want to twist like that, but it's also just not uncomfortable to do it the other way)

And yea, i'm an average cis dude with average sized genitals. There's just no comfort advantage to sitting like this for me. I absolutely buy into the stuff from previous threads that the people who have an issue sitting normally need to not wear boxer shorts, but wear boxer briefs that actually hold your junk in a reasonable position.

Guys do this as a dominance thing. There's jabillions of accounts from previous threads of guys sitting down next to women when there's plenty of empty seats, and then pushing their legs into them and continuing to push if they didn't yield, sometimes for the entire half hour train/bus ride. I'm not really buying any "it's comfortable" or "it's natural" thing. I'm willing to accept that it may be more comfortable for certain people who are not me, but that's an explanation, not an excuse. Buses and trains are generally hot and crowded and uncomfortable for everyone. No one should get a free pass to rock out with their cock out in the name of comfort, to the detriment of comfort for others.
posted by emptythought at 3:50 PM on July 7 [45 favorites]


Oh yeah, I'm a woman and I cross my legs ankle-on-knee. Forgot that was the male alternative.

Good point emptythought, I have had plenty of guys press their goddamn freak legs into me on the train and I now push back and give a dirty look. Happily it's never escalated but it just pisses me off so damn much. Move your fucking stupid leg!
posted by stoneandstar at 3:58 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Now I'm going to be singing the Meow Mix theme as I crash through the gauntlet of touching knees down the bus aisle in the morning.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:03 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


This is not a male pelvic-shape issue, these spreaders are just either thoughtless or deliberately claiming extra room for themselves.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 4:07 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Nthing I'm a man and it's not especially more comfortable to sit with my legs wide apart rather than straight forward and I suspect it's a socialized display as well.
posted by deathmaven at 4:07 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


I hope this doesn't come across as "but but but" or as seeking a circumscription for every situational permutation (which drives me off the fucking wall), but I'm wondering if folks (women folks, really) can weigh in on this: sometimes on "grrrrr lavaballs!!" blogs I see pictures of guys stretching out while there's a bunch of empty seats around. Is this something you feel to be problematic? Personally I'll stretch out if I see a bunch of non-encroached seats someone could sit in. And as soon as those are taken up, I'll scrunch myself in to be as unobtrusive as possible. I'll stop doing it this way if it's seen as equally aggressive! p.s. I believe in privilege, micro-aggressions, feminism et al, so you can engage me on that level; sorry I even have to state that...
posted by threeants at 4:08 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


(and my personal preference of "stretching out" is a wide ankle-on-knee leg-cross, not lavaballs, but I suspect that's immaterial)
posted by threeants at 4:10 PM on July 7


Unless Paris and NYC buy their subways from the same subway seller, this is not in Paris.
posted by davidjmcgee at 4:13 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


i'm a tall, large hips and thighs having woman. right now i'm sitting leaned back with my maxi skirt hiked way up, one leg on a footstool and one resting next to my ass, thighs splayed, fully showing my bits. this is acceptable because i am in my home where only my husband and cat can see and they both have their own chairs. it would be an entirely different matter if i were on a train. we'd all like to be more comfortable on public transit, but for some reason this specific move (sometimes with other acts of space invading) is something overwhelmingly done by men. this isn't about what is the most comfortable, but why (not all) men feel like they get the right to limited spaces for their own comfort at the detriment of those (often women) people around them.
posted by nadawi at 4:13 PM on July 7 [13 favorites]


Lavaballs sitting position more anatomically correct for men, my fat dyke ass. Who does splits, ie, widen their thigh angle more radically, more easily - women or men? And who are taught from toddlerhood to modestly keep their legs together, to take up less space - women.

The spreadlegged no-homo guys are taking up public space as dominance displays. At least the tumblr gives them a proper pussy in there.
posted by Dreidl at 4:15 PM on July 7 [39 favorites]


One time I was on a conference panel in Hawaii. Trying to get into the island spirit I wore an almost-knee-length flowery skirt. The panel, rather than put me behind a table in a short chair, put the panelists on tall bar chairs on a raised dais with nothing in front of us, putting my knees and crotchal area within easy upward view of the seated audience making my usual comfortable seated positions - knees slightly apart with the non-thigh-gapped part of my thighs together, or legs crossed at the knee - inappropriate. I spent the hour long panel trying to keep my thighs and knees together to maintain modesty. I am not super fat, but I've got hips and thighs, and the effort of keeping them squeezed together in an appropriately feminine method had me literally shaking about 20 mins into the hour long panel.

So anyone who thinks women's skeletons make it more "natural" for us to keep our legs demurely together on the subway while you spread yours out "naturally" is full of shit.

I might make exception for a giant angry cat though.
posted by olinerd at 4:16 PM on July 7 [20 favorites]


Threeants, if there are many empty seats, stretch out, put your bag down. If it gets crowded such that a person can choose to either stand or have to ask you to move in order to sit down, be polite and restrain yourself to one seat. Basically, as a woman who rides transit, i hate to have to interact with men at all, for fear of dudes getting creepy (like a few weeks ago, i made accidental eye contact with a guy who spent the next 20 minutes loudly pontificating on the appearance and smell and taste of my genitals). If I have to pick between standing or starting a conversation with a man (especially one who has chosen to lavaball while the train is full, thereby signaling that he doesnt quite get the social contract of riding a train/bus) I will pick stand every time.

This tumblr is amazing BTW!
posted by holyrood at 4:24 PM on July 7 [9 favorites]


LAVABALLS 2.0
posted by Big_B at 4:27 PM on July 7


That part does strike me a bit as socialization.

Powerful Postures versus Powerful Roles (Huang & Galinsky 2011):
Three experiments explored whether hierarchical role and body posture have independent or interactive effects on the main outcomes associated with power: action in behavior and abstraction in thought. Although past research has found that being in a powerful role and adopting an expansive body posture can each enhance a sense of power, two experiments showed that when individuals were placed in high- or low-power roles while adopting an expansive or constricted posture, only posture affected the implicit activation of power, the taking of action, and abstraction. However, even though role had a smaller effect on the downstream consequences of power, it had a stronger effect than posture on self-reported sense of power. A final experiment found that posture also had a larger effect on action than recalling an experience of high or low power. We discuss body postures as one of the most proximate correlates of the manifestations of power.
A little bit of Googling tells me there is a lot of research into the idea that expansive postures such as sitting with your legs spread or putting your feet on the table are a way to project social power, but my internet is too crap to pull many articles right now.

Personally I'll stretch out if I see a bunch of non-encroached seats someone could sit in. And as soon as those are taken up, I'll scrunch myself in to be as unobtrusive as possible [...] (and my personal preference of "stretching out" is a wide ankle-on-knee leg-cross, not lavaballs, but I suspect that's immaterial)

I don't think you're going to get the same answers from different people on this one, but I bet that most people don't have a problem with it. I don't have a (reasonable) objection since it's not really stealing space from me, but I'll be honest--widely spread legs still make me think the guy's trying too hard to be macho. I'm talking about men who seem to be making room for a horse rather than the type of pose you're describing, though.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:27 PM on July 7


If I have to pick between standing or starting a conversation with a man (especially one who has chosen to lavaball while the train is full, thereby signaling that he doesnt quite get the social contract of riding a train/bus) I will pick stand every time.

And every man of sufficient privilege can and should take the opportunity to preferentially choose to take the seats adjacent to lavaballers or with bags unreasonably placed on them. Like any time there are no seats without neighbours free, it's our obligation to find the person who's most selfishly occupying space and gently ask if that adjacent seat's free.
posted by ambrosen at 4:30 PM on July 7 [13 favorites]


Wait. The real bastards here are the cats. Let's not forget that!
posted by srboisvert at 4:32 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


It's been a long time since I rode public transit with any frequency, but I might be more so inclined if there were cats.
posted by desjardins at 4:38 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


And every man of sufficient privilege can and should take the opportunity to preferentially choose to take the seats adjacent to lavaballers or with bags unreasonably placed on them. Like any time there are no seats without neighbours free, it's our obligation to find the person who's most selfishly occupying space and gently ask if that adjacent seat's free.

I am all about this. I basically just think of it as them saving a seat for me.

If i'm in a sufficiently shitty mood and i ask them to move their bag and they ignore me i'll sometimes even go "REALLY?" or something along those lines.

The issue is, while i see plenty of dominant monkey stance dudes, most of the people i see doing the bag-on-seat thing are women. And usually in the forward facing double seats, so no one will sit next to them.

I have mixed feelings about that. Because on one hand it's breaking the social contract in the same tiresome way, but on the other hand several lady friends have brought up doing that after repeatedly having people sit next to them intentionally, when other seats were available just to creep at them ala the genital-speculating above. So i mean, i get it, but i still think it's sort of an assy thing to do if the bus/train completely fills up and that's basically the last seat besides other bag-seats.

In the end, i just leave them alone. If a dude is packseating i'll say something, and if he's lavaballing i'll just sit down next to him straight forward and normal as if he isn't encroaching onto the additional seat. But women get a pass, because shits hard out there yo. IMO it wouldn't be out of line for other women to go "uh, can you move your bag" though. But that's just my dude opinion so w/e. Your comfort level and opinions may vary.
posted by emptythought at 4:53 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


The dude wearing the CHEAT ON WOMEN, NOT YOUR WORKOUT tank needs more cats. Angry, angry cats.
posted by bakerina at 4:55 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


OR PERHAPS angry weasels who have just been told that their favourite team has been controversially eliminated from the world cup, and that the referee responsible for making the questionable call is lurking within the male passenger's trousers

yes excellent
posted by elizardbits at 5:06 PM on July 7 [19 favorites]


I get upset whenever I see people ranting about men and their arrogant, dominant knees. I am, biologically, male, and the opposite of dominant, and on long plane rides I'm generally in considerable pain attempting to keep my knees out of other people's space. Let me reiterate: it fucking hurts to keep them together for any significant period of time. It's simple geometry: my hips are narrow and my thighs are wide. I have in fact pulled off my belt and strapped my legs together in extreme circumstances, which was a major relief to me but I'm not really sure what the person next to me was thinking about my sanity. So it's really frustrating to me that every time this comes up I'm hit with blanket accusations of intentionally perpetuating the Sitting Stance of the Patriarchy.

I mean, I know I've got certain privileges when I'm in cis drag, and there are way worse problems than some people on a web site criticizing the angle of my femurs. It's just frustrating, that's all.
posted by darksasami at 5:07 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


Many dudes, myself included, find it more comfortable to sit like this, though I wouldn't speculate on how many are doing it as a power play, consciously or otherwise. Regardless, I always clap my thighs together and lap my bag when there's even a chance someone might need to fit next to me. It's basic courtesy and everyone should be doing it. Is it uncomfortable? Yep! Too bad!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 5:13 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


Let me reiterate: it fucking hurts to keep them together for any significant period of time.

do you understand that people assigned female at birth also have this problem? and yet, those socialized as women put themselves through that discomfort in ways that those socialized as men often don't? that's what we're talking about. it's uncomfortable for some people and fine for other people, irrespective of sex or gender, but women don't often spread their knees as far as they can in crowded, shared spaces.
posted by nadawi at 5:15 PM on July 7 [34 favorites]


I've just done some experimenting and found that open legged is only more comfortable when I'm leaning down to read something I'm holding. Gives my forearms and elbows wider points to rest on.
posted by Greener Backyards at 5:18 PM on July 7


Some of those dudes in those pictures are practically doing splits.

No one can tell me that the natural pose of an adult man is Mary Lou Retton mid-routine.
posted by winna at 5:23 PM on July 7 [16 favorites]


can there be a thing about people who lean against the pole

because fuck those people
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:28 PM on July 7 [16 favorites]


They are sheltering the pole because it has had a hard day. It is a friendly cuddle for a lonely object of utility.

Haha no I hate the pole hug people too.
posted by winna at 5:29 PM on July 7 [8 favorites]


Hmmm. I usually just sprawl on my divan, which I have carried into public conveyances by my four burly attendants. No one has ever questioned my courtesy, even when a divan leg crushes their carelessly placed foot. I mean, not that I've noticed.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:32 PM on July 7 [10 favorites]


I agree that you can make yourself reasonably comfortable on public transportation and set your bag on the seat next to you if it's not crowded, but you should scoot over and put the bag on your lap if it starts to fill up and get crowded. This seems like basic social etiquette. But the person who took these photographs and posted them on tumblr clearly thinks anybody who sits in an unladylike position is an asshole (including the one woman) regardless of the circumstances and regardless of whether they're on a train or not.

Although I don't sit the way this tumblr is mocking, I'm reminded that anytime I go out in public, I can end up on tumblr as somebody's example of an inbred redneck or a middle-aged hipster, or some other category of risible subhuman I haven't heard of.
posted by nangar at 5:33 PM on July 7


For me it is about ergonomics for sure (long huge turkey thighs, pigeon-toed, short turkey calves, shoulders as broad as any typical chair allows), but yes you must be attentive and sit up and make room as soon as you see that seating space is dwindling. On an airplane I make every effort to get sufficient leg room so I can shove them somewhere under the chair in front of me and form a tripod of somewhat relaxing stability.

They can call it a dick move not to bring your legs together to make room and I agree, and say that women are conditioned moreso than men (probably because honestly men are more inclined to leer and look at "crotches") to avoid it and it's not fair to live in a world where men are more flagrant and less socially chastised for flashing their nuts because they can enjoy the benefit of being oblivious and unharmed or even harmful and harassing themselves whether than wondering if they're going to "deserve" a raping as a result. But don't tell me about your physiology and why it's easy, that's not the point, it's about social behavior so we don't need the paternalistic "and it's not even anything at all anything to ask of you" -- no, it's a perfectly reasonable request, even if it makes the guy uncomfortable for awhile.

Crossing my legs to some extent helps and has always been a strategy for managing my ADHD-fidgeting and constant discomfort in sitting still, but is shitty for your cardiovascular system, for any significant duration of time, especially if you have a heart-history as it is (I eventually started catching myself going numb increasingly easily and deeply, to the point where I might not be able to walk off a bus or whatever).

If the seat height allows me feet to sit flat, like at a decent desk chair, then it's plenty comfortable to have knees together. It is natural. As the seat height decreases, it becomes increasingly uncomfortable and legs begin to splay to bring stability to my massive male physique. Otherwise I will destroy my back, I'm learning, using those muscles instead.

My strategy is to try to be in a place where I can lean against the window and kind of push myself into it -- it sucks being in a middle seat on an airplane and trying to keep them together, for example. In the past I have nodded off and caught myself pushing someone inadvertently and apologized. Guys definitely don't do the "push up against me" thing to me as a large guy myself, but unfortunately every time I ride public transit it's just a douchey shitty experience in general, with groups of otherwise powerless not-quite-bro dudes trying to free style rap (looking out for black guys before dropping any n-bombs) or listen to shitty cell phone speaker music or whatever, or jackasses talking loudly on a phone, etc.

People are assholes, and I would say that overwhelmingly they are asshole-dudes; at least the ones that I run into or see being outwardly aggressive. Basically the bus should be a "commons" where everyone sacrifices a little to minimize discomfort, but they "make themselves at home" instead and find no discomfort in making others comfortable, so it's an easy transition from "I just don't care how people react to me" to "I'm an aggressive asshole."
posted by aydeejones at 5:56 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I'm a dude and I tend to sit spread legged. But sometimes not, and mainly the difference is in the size and shape of the seat.

Seats in Public Transportation are tiny. They are tiny little seats designed for tiny little people. When I sit on something with my butt below my knees, I have to spreadleg. Not much of a way around it.

If you are an average sized woman - 5'6" and 140ish lbs, go hang out in a kindergarten with kindergarten furniture. That is, more or less, what most furniture is like to me. So tiny. So ridiculous.

Don't get me started on airplane seats and having to look around the B pillar in cars. Or lecture hall seating!
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:56 PM on July 7


it's about social behavior so we don't need the paternalistic "and it's not even anything at all anything to ask of you" -- no, it's a perfectly reasonable request, even if it makes the guy uncomfortable for awhile.

I realize this in and of itself sounds paternalistic more than the subject it speaks to, but I guess I'm saying asshole-y guys need to be pushed with "be a man, I know it sucks to have to do things for other people" rather than "what's the big deal?" It's not like some blue-balls level of an excuse like I MUST DO THIS but it must be acknowledged, like dealing with an angry child, "I know you don't like this, but other people don't like that, so let's be grown-ups."

Yes, it is definitely incumbent on other guys to dissuade the dickishness. It's surprisingly awkward for everyone to do, but that's another one of those uncomfortable things one should "suck up" if they're in a position to do so. The main challenge is the guys who operate in groups, and the desire not to get jumped. I'm getting an idea for "grindr" like app for ganging up on transit-pricks but I'm sure it would end up being used for evil.
posted by aydeejones at 6:03 PM on July 7


i'm a woman who is 5'10, over 200lbs, broad shouldered, with the legs of someone who is 6'2 or so. (not all) short men sit like this, many tall women don't. public transit seats can be tiny, no argument there - some of us just deal with it. those lines are often gendered and it's useful to examine why. and it's really useful to sometimes just laugh about it with cats making angry faces.
posted by nadawi at 6:03 PM on July 7 [8 favorites]


"Anyone else think we should evict the 5 guys over in section blah at the next stop?"

15 Replies
posted by aydeejones at 6:04 PM on July 7


Yes, maybe it is more comfortable for some men to take up way too much goddamn room when they participate in the public sphere. No, their comfort does not take priority over everyone else's. It's not about comfort -- we do all sorts of things all the time that are slightly uncomfortable for the sake of other people. It's either unconsciously taking up too much room, in which case, you know, maybe as an adult you might start to be a little consciencious about these things, or it's deliberate, in which case you are an asshole.

Can we put this "it's just the way men naturally normal live in the world" thing to bed? It isn't. It's the way men who don't give a shit about their other passengers live in the world.
posted by maxsparber at 6:10 PM on July 7 [11 favorites]


My passing thought after seeing this topic pop up again the past few years and different versions of pictures popping up in new tumblrs, and us guys (me included) trying to explain why we personally have certain issues, is that it's an interesting exercise.

Maybe what I'm supposed to get from this is that no matter how I talk about how my knees sound like twisting bubble wrap when I stand up, regardless of how I describe my long legs, the pictures keep showing the behavior is perceived as assholish. When I look at some of the pictures and see that instead of letting their knees be in the aisle, some folks turn their legs that way so they aren't getting hit by passers by, but it still gets perceived as assholish, maybe that's the lesson.

That maybe women go through this very thing. That some women say hello to a man as part of some retail transaction, and that man takes that as a cue to harass. That some women change then and stop even saying anything when a man holds the door open, or picks something up for them, and trying to avoid getting harassed still gets them called names (I saw this online last week - it seemed clear to me what the women were doing, but the men were just incredulous that the women weren't saying anything to them).

It's a nice day out so some women don the sunglasses and put the top down, but construction workers take that as a sign to stop what they are doing and just stare down the car as it is stopped at a light, even going so far as to grab buddies and make them look too. The women never turned their heads, just drove off when the light turned.

And so on and so forth, for everything from the pants a woman is wearing that are comfortable (that lots of people are wearing), or any number of things women are doing that are completely normal behaviors and activities that get perceived as something else, every single day. Maybe it's an exercise for men in really internalizing how annoying that is. Really being personally taken aback by how your behavior is being turned in a way that you don't appreciate.

Sorry, maybe I'm way off. But if things keep popping up, I'll be damned if I'm not going to try to learn something new from it.
posted by cashman at 6:12 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Sometimes my balls actually do get really hot though. Also, on a lot of trains the back of the seat in front is about a quarter inch away from the lip of the chair seat, so I can either fold my legs up underneath me like a mad monk, or have my knees up around my ears like I'm giving birth, and then you will see my crotch tear. The whole thing is just a mess.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:13 PM on July 7


Lady, here. And on the short side, at that. I find it far, far more comfortable to sit with my legs splayed (my hips are wide and my thighs are wide). I will do so when I'm on a relatively empty subway train, but a general rule, I try to sit such that nobody ever has to ask me to move in order to sit down next to me.

I get that there are people far heavier and taller than I am, and that they take up more space than I do. That is totally fine. I'm happy to forego sitting when there's clearly only a fraction of a seat available, or to preemptively accommodate others when I'm sitting down.

The problem is people who take up far more space then they could possibly need, thus making a second seat unavailable, or the asshats who sit down next to me and jack their legs open wide, such that they're suddenly taking up half of my seat, and shoving their legs hard against mine, forcing me to sit as if I'm holding a metaphorical aspirin between my knees. The former is a dick move, and the latter (which I've never had a woman do to me) is incredibly gross.

Also, for what it's worth, I don't think the plane thing necessarily translates. Seats aren't assigned or as clearly delineated, there often isn't anything in front of people's knees, and almost no one is riding the subway for six hours straight.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 6:16 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Put another way, people are not necessarily asking you to sit in the most compressed manner humanly possible. They are not even necessarily asking you to sit like this ||. They are just asking you to sit like this \_/, and not like this \______/.

If you're doing the former, you're probably fine.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 6:20 PM on July 7 [6 favorites]


I don't sit like this but sometimes that pole needs a damn hug sorry h8rs.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:20 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Yeah I totally clamp my knees together and use my bag or book to hold them tight when other people want to sit next to me, and it's uncomfortable but occasional discomfort is part of the price we all pay for society. I get up and stand a lot, and often don't even bother sitting when there's a seat available because I know it's gonna get crowded and I don't want my legs to get all sore and shaky.

But, though I avoid doing it in crowded public spaces, it is a fact that it's more comfortable to splay my legs out a bit, especially with my ankles crossed below me. I literally can't cross my legs knee over knee. My stuff is situated such that it hangs underneath even in briefs, and if I press my thighs together like that it all painfully balloons out the side like the throat of a great frigatebird.

I cross ankle over knee but never in public, since I've lived in places where showing people the sole of your shoe is insulting. So mostly when I'm sitting at home reading.

Anyway I think people are talking about different things here. Some are saying yeah, only assholes sit like that when it's crowded and I think pretty much everyone agrees, but some are going further to say that only assholes ever sit like that, which is, like a lot of reductions, a crock. Society is improved when we walk a mile in each other's shoes, or ride a few stops in each other's underwear, or what have you.

I understand that there are lots of things that I do without thinking because I'm a man. I wish there weren't and I'm trying to fix them all. I often wish I didn't exist at all, but I do, and so do my big low-hanging balls, which I do my best to keep out of the picture, for the betterment of all.

Also the cats are funny but I wish they were better cut and pastes.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:24 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


In most public transit, you are allowed to stand. If you truly cannot sit down without lavaballing (which is not the same as having your knees slightly apart), then perhaps consider standing up.
posted by jeather at 6:26 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


The spreadlegged no-homo guys are taking up public space as dominance displays.

Okay, but not every guy who does this is a no-homo asshole. If you're seated between people or it's otherwise crowded then, yes, you're a fucking asshole. If the seats on either side are vacant, then maybe it's because my fucking genitals are overheating and it's just more comfortable.
posted by Token Meme at 6:31 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Surely it's possible to find some halfway point between your comfort and everyone else's. It's shared space, and most people are already compromising.

Stuff like this doesn't scream "biological necessity." I'm guessing his knees could be a foot closer together without causing great discomfort, and his bags would still fit on the floor between them.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 6:39 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


A few of these seem iffy, which begs the need for a Lavaball Scale (Kilauea-Toba, obviously). Others though... you're not stretching out for the Olympics, dude.

Anyway, me and my balls have just done some thorough Lavaball ResearchTM. After sitting normally in several chairs and allowing the legs to hangs as they may, I assumed full Lavaball Position (I think I can reach St. Helens status if I push it, Coach). Anyway, here are the findings from my research (Note: informed consent was obtained from all subjects):

- Splaying legs more than 20-30 degrees past || actually takes a concentrated effort. It feels like riding a horse.

- Lower seat height tends to be more splay-a-riffic, if not by much.

- Foot placement is key to leg splay angle. As Mark Twain said, "The tree grows from the root."

- The wider the splay, the greater the chance of your balls slipping down between your thighs and resting on your perineum.

- This is nowhere near as comfortable as it sounds.

- Standing up like a normal person with your nuts on your taint raises a high likelihood of what physiometricians call "femora-gonadal entanglement."

- This is as uncomfortable as it sounds.

- Standing up with a swinging motion, much like mounting a horse, can mitigate this effect.

CONCLUSION: Why are so many cowboys on the subway? Shouldn't they be wrangling dogies or something?
posted by Panjandrum at 6:42 PM on July 7 [38 favorites]


look, dudes, if you didn't want a cat flug onto your lap, you should've kept your legs shut

maybe we wouldn't need to fling so many cats if you could just put an asprin between your knees
posted by NoraReed at 6:44 PM on July 7 [10 favorites]


Panjandrum - seriously the hardest i've laughed at a mefi comment in weeks, i think. the sacketts are taking over the subway, it's the only explanation!
posted by nadawi at 6:46 PM on July 7


And every man of sufficient privilege can and should take the opportunity to preferentially choose to take the seats adjacent to lavaballers or with bags unreasonably placed on them. Like any time there are no seats without neighbours free, it's our obligation to find the person who's most selfishly occupying space and gently ask if that adjacent seat's free.

Good point. I've noticed that even non-harassy guys tend to choose women to sit beside, so as not to catch Teh Subway Gay or something, but I do generally try to sit next to other men to avoid unnecessarily encroaching on women.
posted by threeants at 6:46 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


My stuff is situated such that it hangs underneath even in briefs, and if I press my thighs together like that it all painfully balloons out the side like the throat of a great frigatebird.

This.

My GF always gives me shit for picking at my junk when I'm sitting for an extended period of time. Going for more than 20 minutes without some sort of readjustment is generally unbearable, in the same sense that listening to top 40 radio is unbearable. It's a frivolous grievance in a world of actual problems, but still.
posted by dudemanlives at 6:48 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


not every guy

You realize that this is literally a "not all men" defense?

if the seats on either side are vacant

...then your spreadeagling into them is going to dissuade people from occupying them.

(Man here. And dude, what are you packing down there that needs aggressive air-cooling to prevent overheating? They're testicles, not a VW engine.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:49 PM on July 7 [13 favorites]


Also, it's certainly not my place to say that other people's reported bodily experience isn't true, but I thought "lavaballing" was just a snarky turn of phrase and am genuinely astonished that dudes' balls overheating is an actual attested complaint in this thread (?!?!). I have been a proud ballowner for over 27 years and I can't relate to that problem in the slightest. Like, I don't think I even understand what it means for one's balls to feel as if they're overheating.
posted by threeants at 6:51 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


As a person who considers himself to be a strong supporter of feminism, progressive ideas, and equality I'm convinced the whole "Lava Ball" shame campaign is a throw back to the same kind of narrow minded, socially irresponsible thinking that gave us all kinds of other social ills. This appears to be yet another case of people telling themselves a story about others without actually knowing them or their situation so that they can feel better about themselves.

Many of the people pictured in this thread don't appear to causing problems for anyone (a picture of 1-2 people doesn't tell you how many seats are open) and yet they've been conflated with others who are so that the creators of the site and some of people viewing it can give their ego a boost through their finger pointing and cat placement. Good job at breaking the gender barrier by being a shame throwing asshat in a new way.
posted by Jernau at 6:51 PM on July 7 [6 favorites]


do I just have frigid nuts :(
posted by threeants at 6:57 PM on July 7


WON'T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE LAVABALLERS?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:59 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


I don't see why the people who might want to sit in available seats should be punished for cismen's inability to buy themselves proper underwear if they really are having nutsack issues
posted by NoraReed at 7:00 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


overheated genitals are not a gendered problem. like all of these physical ailments that in some people's mind requires lavaballing, this is something both men and women experience (and other men and women don't). the reason i was sitting skirt hiked thighs splayed earlier was because of the furnace emanating from my nether regions. yet, still, when around the rest of society in close quarters, i tuck everything together and know when i get home i'll be peeling my sweat soaked underwear off and jumping in the shower to relieve my aching legs.
posted by nadawi at 7:01 PM on July 7 [12 favorites]


CONCLUSION: Why are so many cowboys on the subway? Shouldn't they be wrangling dogies or something?

I have flagged this comment in order to force any mods on duty to read it repeatedly.
posted by elizardbits at 7:04 PM on July 7 [16 favorites]


As a person who considers himself to be a strong supporter of feminism, progressive ideas, and equality I'm convinced the whole "Lava Ball" shame campaign is a throw back to the same kind of narrow minded, socially irresponsible thinking that gave us all kinds of other social ills.

It ain't my job to worry about the tender feelings of autonomous adults who appear to be in full control of their mental and physical faculties and yet cannot seem to behave in public in ways that indicate they understand they are not, in fact, the center of the universe. Men who sit all "LOOK UPON MY BALLS, ALL YE ON THIS PUBLIC CONVEYANCE"...well, I'm seriously not going to worry that they're capable of being shamed.
posted by rtha at 7:21 PM on July 7 [22 favorites]


You realize that this is literally a "not all men" defense?

Oh, Jesus fucking Christ, just replace "guys" with "any given human being". It is in no way a "not all men" defense. It's "not all people are assholes for trying to be comfortable on public transit if the space is available." As I said, those who don't accommodate the space when it is needed are, indeed, assholes, irrespective of sex/gender/etc.
posted by Token Meme at 7:24 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


When dudes splay their legs next to me, such that they touch my legs, it makes me wish that I could fart at will. Not just at will, but with stunning rapidity, force, and volume. I would make a sound like a repeating nail gun firing into a very thick pillow, as I tearfully plead with God to make it stop, make it stop.

And then I would say, "don't worry, it's only contagious from thigh-to-thigh contact".
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:30 PM on July 7 [21 favorites]


It ain't my job to worry about the tender feelings of autonomous adults who appear to be in full control of their mental and physical faculties and yet cannot seem to behave in public in ways that indicate they understand they are not, in fact, the center of the universe.

If you're taking up more than one seat when people are standing, then yeah, you're being an asshole, but a number of these pictures seem to be taken on mostly empty subway cars. It seems weirdly normative to police how people sit when they aren't interfering with anyone else (for example, the Will Ferrell on the late show picture). It's on the same spectrum as making fun of men for sitting cross legged the 'feminine way'.
posted by Pyry at 7:30 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


spreadlegged no-homo

This phrase is magic on several levels at once.

And every man of sufficient privilege can and should take the opportunity to preferentially choose to take the seats adjacent to lavaballers

However, privilege is expressed by not needing to sit by one of these cretins.

maybe it's because my fucking genitals are overheating

Is this mostly a larger guy thing? Because I don't have this problem and I don't hear people (who are not shy about talking about their nuts) talking about this, so I'm wondering the demographics of this complaint that comes up whenever this topic is discussed.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:31 PM on July 7


This thread is making me realize that my stoned highschool idea of pants with a mesh area, small fan, and a little rechargeable battery pack in the pocket was, and is, a marketable idea.

I'm not snarking. I came up with that in a ~100f class room, and i'm sitting in an 85f warehouse right now contemplating how wonderful this device would be even if just to keep the humidity/sweat levels decent.

Maybe a partial solution is to pipe up air from beneath the seats through them, like in some cars?

If you're taking up more than one seat when people are standing, then yeah, you're being an asshole, but a number of these pictures seem to be taken on mostly empty subway cars. It seems weirdly normative to police how people sit when they aren't interfering with anyone else (for example, the Will Ferrell on the late show picture). It's on the same spectrum as making fun of men for sitting cross legged the 'feminine way'.

It's been addressed in here already, but there's two problems with this concept.

1. to sit in those seats, you'd need to interact with or even passive-aggressively make contact with the legsplayer. This is unacceptable for a number of reasons, especially if it's a woman to man interaction.

2. people won't even try and sit in those seats, because of #1. Those will be the last seats to fill up, and many times i've seen them never fill up because no one wants to engage in the battle of stupidity with legsplayer who is extremely likely, from much discussion and anecdata, to actually push back against you.

Basically, they're gaming peoples unwillingness to engage in any level of conflict/confrontation with them even if it's just really passive aggressive. This is an asshole move, and i can't really think of a good equivalent. It's not the same as parking across two parking spaces because you're not making the seats to the side(s) of you inaccessible, you're just making the opportunity cost of the whole thing suck.

It doesn't matter how full the train is, and we can't see how full it is outside of the narrow crop of the photos in a lot of them either. They're basically the kid who grabbed 3 cookies at lunch and no one is calling them on it.

Is this mostly a larger guy thing? Because I don't have this problem and I don't hear people (who are not shy about talking about their nuts) talking about this, so I'm wondering the demographics of this complaint that comes up whenever this topic is discussed.

Friends have discussed this, usually snarkily, while i was around. Apparently it's a complete crapshoot and depends on which model/revision of balls you were originally built with at the factory. Size/weight doesn't seem to come in to play as i remember it coming up around a friend who is a fairly large guy and he just kinda went "huh? nah". I've experienced it maybe once or twice. And one of them was after dismounting a bike having cycled in >90f weather.
posted by emptythought at 7:43 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


It seems weirdly normative to police how people sit when they aren't interfering with anyone else (for example, the Will Ferrell on the late show picture). It's on the same spectrum as making fun of men for sitting cross legged the 'feminine way'.

Good for you for feeling bad that this guy might feel shamed, but I just don't have it in me.
posted by rtha at 7:44 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I am a fairly small woman who has major problems with my hips. I need surgery on both hips. I often take a folded blanket along with me to sit on. I know that I get weird looks etc but my pain doesn't trump someone elses personal space. Ideally, i would take up 3 seats to make myself more comfortable but that would be inconsiderate and selfish.
posted by futz at 7:55 PM on July 7


Good for you for feeling bad that this guy might feel shamed, but I just don't have it in me.

holy fuck look at that guy. holy fuck.

Anyway I was reading this thread at work and lavaballing is not usually a problem on my yuppie bus home but today I was going to Capitol Hill and there was a lavaballing gentleman on the crowded bus and I am a 6' 2" 220 lb. white male and I just fucking sat on his leg, I mean he moved it on the way down so I just hit the seat and he was not too happy but he didn't say anything and I didn't say anything.

Putting my privilege to work for you, Seattle.
posted by Kwine at 8:05 PM on July 7 [31 favorites]


I'm a male that takes the train most every day and I can attest that it's a physiology thing*. It's how male hips and butt and legs just are when you're sitting down. AND, perhaps more importantly, it depends on how tall you are as well. I'm 6', and when planning the seats on trains the train makers don't want really low seats for children or really high seats for basketball players; they split the difference. The seat height is fine, but maybe just a wee bit shorter than is comfortable (more than a wee bit on older trains), and I'll sit legs akimbo because that's totally totally natural.

What's misleading about many of these shots is how crowded the trains actually are. If crowded, then, yes, taking up room like that makes you a douche and you shouldn't do that. But if the train is not crowded, and there are empty seats to each side, why the f not?

*An interesting experiment you can do (that must be related to this): from a standing position, pick a foot--left or right--and look at the sole of your foot, as if you got gum stuck on it. Generally, men will lift their foot and spread that knee wide to the side, looking straight down. But women, generally, will bend their knee straight back and look over their shoulder at their sole.
posted by zardoz at 8:07 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


An interesting experiment you can do (that must be related to this)

Yes, it continues to show the effects of socialisation on humans.

The answer to "why the fuck not" is, of course, that people don't suddenly put their legs together as it gets crowded, they keep them apart hoping to have the last seat without neighbours.
posted by jeather at 8:12 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


can we maybe, at the very least, agree that, on a car with a significant number of open seats, if this position is adopted unconsciously and/or for comfort, and changed when the number of open seats is fewer, it is no more worthy of scorn than putting a backpack/purse/whatever in the adjacent seat(s) with similar conditions?

if not I'll just keep looking at pictures of cats and that will be okay too.
posted by Nomiconic at 8:12 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


*An interesting experiment you can do (that must be related to this): from a standing position, pick a foot--left or right--and look at the sole of your foot, as if you got gum stuck on it. Generally, men will lift their foot and spread that knee wide to the side, looking straight down. But women, generally, will bend their knee straight back and look over their shoulder at their sole.

Women often wear skirts, and many skirts will not let you spread your knees wide to look at the sole of your foot, hence the over-the-shoulder technique.

It's not (just? at all?) physiology: it's fashion and conditioning. Women are not supposed to spread their legs in public.
posted by rtha at 8:14 PM on July 7 [15 favorites]


It's how male hips and butt and legs just are

no really seriously is not an inherently male thing. lots of women are just repeatedly shamed to shrink up and take up less space, no matter how uncomfortable.
posted by nadawi at 8:15 PM on July 7 [30 favorites]


The answer to "why the fuck not" is, of course, that people don't suddenly put their legs together as it gets crowded, they keep them apart hoping to have the last seat without neighbours.

Well, yes, that would violate the "if it's crowded" clause I started with. So, to recap: sometimes it's ok and sometimes it's not.
posted by zardoz at 8:15 PM on July 7


I guess I look for gum shoe like a man. And when I keep looking over my shoulder I hire a private detective. But then again, I am so hip I have trouble seeing over my own pelvis.
posted by futz at 8:16 PM on July 7


I am also 6' and ride a bus and a train every day to work for an hour-long commute both ways and I do not do crazy spreadeagles with my legs even when there's no one else there because that is a crazy thing.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:17 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Good for you for feeling bad that this guy might feel shamed, but I just don't have it in me.

Well, Will Ferrell (does he have a different haircut?) is certainly being rude in that photo! However, this was the Will Ferrell picture I meant, and I'm having trouble seeing how Ferrell's stance on a talk show is objectionable (is there going to be a late night rush and they'll need to fit six people on that couch?).
posted by Pyry at 8:17 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Well, yes, that would violate the "if it's crowded" clause I started with.

Sure, for those guys who lavaball but also keep their eye out so that as soon as there are no seats without neighbours left they close their legs, then it's fine. I haven't actually ever seen guys who lavaball close their legs without having someone sit down next to them first, and not always even then, but sure, if they existed they would be fine.
posted by jeather at 8:20 PM on July 7 [5 favorites]


In regards to women looking over their shoulder and men looking down:

because girl children are told from age 3 onward that spreading your legs apart is gross and unfeminine, and they internalize this message and act it out unconsciously?

it is totes related to lavaballing, but not in the way you think- this gum example, like lavaballing, are ways men are socialized to take up space and women to minimize the space they take up.
posted by holyrood at 8:24 PM on July 7 [11 favorites]


I haven't actually ever seen guys who lavaball close their legs without having someone sit down next to them first

Yes, because they're guys like me, who close their legs (gotta squeeze the crap out of that f'ing aspirin) and stack their bag neatly on their lap once most of the empty seats are taken.
posted by jaut at 8:24 PM on July 7


they're guys like me, who close their legs (gotta squeeze the crap out of that f'ing aspirin) and stack their bag neatly on their lap once most of the empty seats are taken.

Actually, it's once about half the empty seats are taken, not most, but if you are in fact one of these guys: great! we're not talking about you! you do not need to defend your honour!
posted by jeather at 8:31 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


It's how male hips and butt and legs just are when you're sitting down.

Yeah, no. I also am a 6' dude, and my natural sitting position is not the spread-eagle. Legs slightly parted, yes; legs splayed, no.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:33 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


I'm a dude and I sit full-on Indian-style in an office chair all day ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. It's more about stretching my leg muscles than anything else.

But on the bus I sit like a normal person. The lava balls thing makes no sense to me.
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:35 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


The "two seats being empty around you" idea doesn't really work in the NYC subway. Here's a diagram! Vertical lines represent partitions or walls, asterisks represent poles, horizontal lines represent seats, x's are people. For the sake of simplicity, let's assume individual travelers.

A common NYC subway seat layout involves two-seat benches on the ends, and six-seat benches in the middle, like so.

|__| |___*___| |___*___| |__|

People almost invariably sit in the next-to-partition seats first, since they put you closest to the doors, and enable you to lean. Even when all the partition seats are full, people can still sit splay-legged without a problem. Lavaball it up, son!

|_x| |x__*__x| |x__*__x| |x_|


The problem begins to arise as the next-to-pole seats fill up. At first, it's still kind of okay, since pole-adjacent seats remain open.

|_x| |x_x*__x| |x_x*__x| |x_|

But as soon as those fill up, you end up in a situation where the remaining lavaballers are discouraging passengers from using the empty seat next to them. That's a dick move even if similar seats are available elsewhere. At this point, nobody should be sitting splayed, unless it is somehow medically necessary.

|_x| |x_x*x_x| |x_x*x_x| |x_|

Meanwhile, if there is a person in this setup who has two empty seats around them, it's because, like Mr. Y below, they're sitting in the middle of the bench and taking up three whole seats, which is even worse.

|_x| |x_x*x_x| |x_x*_y_| |x_|

To recap: once the pole-adjacent seats are taken, you should sit the fuck up. And if you're going to sit in the middle seat to air out your undercarriage, you best be prepared to move, even if the car is only just filling up.

Train etiquette: super simple stuff.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:47 PM on July 7 [13 favorites]


In all fairness, that Parisian (New Yorker?) guy is splaying over a bag. I'm not saying it's max subway politeness, but at least the bag is on the floor.
posted by maryr at 8:48 PM on July 7


Going for more than 20 minutes without some sort of readjustment is generally unbearable, in the same sense that listening to top 40 radio is unbearable.

What are things I have to make several adjustments to avoid dealing with in a rental car?
posted by maryr at 9:02 PM on July 7


Train etiquette: super simple stuff.

Having missed your explanation of the asterisks I was wondering why the diagrams included so many buttholes.
posted by elizardbits at 9:39 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


> people won't even try and sit in those seats, because of #1. Those will be the last seats to fill up, and many times i've seen them never fill up because no one wants to engage in the battle of stupidity with legsplayer who is extremely likely, from much discussion and anecdata, to actually push back against you.

Bullshit. This is only true if the legsplayer is an asshole. I don't actually do the splayed leg thing, but I do frequently sit sidewise on public transportation because my knees won't fit, and I frequently have bags with me. If the bus is starting to get full and people start getting on at the next stop, I'll shift over and put the bag in my lap to make it clear that I'm not trying to claim the adjacent seat. People who sit funny on public transport for comfort reasons when it's not crowded or have bags with them can actually be polite, cognizant of their surroundings, and accommodate other passengers at the cost of some discomfort when the bus is getting full. People do this, although you you probably never notice it.

Yeah, I run into splay-legged guys who won't scoot over on busses, too (though some of them will). But your assertion that no one who sits funny on public transportation even when it's mostly empty would ever accommodate other riders when it starts to get full is false.
posted by nangar at 9:43 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


it's our obligation to find the person who's most selfishly occupying space and gently ask if that adjacent seat's free.

I do this. I make a point of it when the task packed a people sit in the aisle seat not the window, or give their bag a seat. It gives me SO MUCH PLEASURE to passively aggressively contemplate how I've ruined their morning by sitting next to them, ha ha.

I display a similar lack of Zen with people who won't stand up to let others in or out of three seaters. Did I 'accidentally' stand on your foot there? Did my bag accidentally muss your hair or get in your face? If only there was some way to avoid this....

I have quite larger balls than others (confessed in maybe the most ridiculous meta ever); and cross my legs with no discomfort whatsoever.
posted by smoke at 9:52 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


If I don't sit legs akimbo how are people meant to inhale my glorious musk?
posted by um at 10:02 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Product idea - thigh spikes. Maybe retractable thigh spikes. Lavaballers won't press hard against your leg if you're wearing thigh spikes!
posted by Joh at 10:20 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Okay, but not every guy who does this is a no-homo asshole. If you're seated between people or it's otherwise crowded then, yes, you're a fucking asshole. If the seats on either side are vacant, then maybe it's because my fucking genitals are overheating and it's just more comfortable

Of course it's more comfortable! Everyone's crotchal area gets hot & sweaty in the summer. I'm fine with people doing it if there's room, but the fact remains that men get a pass on doing this, and women would be likely be thought of as, at best, unladylike, at worst, inappropriately practicing some strange prenatal stretches or actively going into labour.

It's worth pointing out because, like eleventy six billion other things guys do, it's an exercise of often unexamined privilege.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:27 PM on July 7 [14 favorites]


Yeah, no. I also am a 6' dude, and my natural sitting position is not the spread-eagle. Legs slightly parted, yes; legs splayed, no.

Like I said previously, it does depend a lot on the height of the seat. In Japan anyway, the seats are set probably a bit lower than they would be in the U.S. That makes a difference.
posted by zardoz at 10:32 PM on July 7


Who the fuck sits like that?
posted by mazola at 10:49 PM on July 7


I'm a guy and the most comfortable position for me is JFK style knee over knee crossing, so yeah, I'm not buying the physiology argument. I'm sure many men sincerely believe it's physiology, but I'm convinced the perception of comfort is just because that's the posture you're used to, just like I'm used to crossing.
posted by yeolcoatl at 1:25 AM on July 8


If your balls are that hot you need some sort of ointment or Balla powder. Or something. Ask your doctor or pharmacist.

I get being uncomfortable on a cramped transport. I'm a girl with a 34 inch inseam - my legs are cramped and hot and yuck. I still manage to sit on the train (for a 3 hour ride!) and not air out my downtown.
posted by 26.2 at 2:13 AM on July 8 [5 favorites]


*An interesting experiment you can do (that must be related to this): from a standing position, pick a foot--left or right--and look at the sole of your foot, as if you got gum stuck on it. Generally, men will lift their foot and spread that knee wide to the side, looking straight down. But women, generally, will bend their knee straight back and look over their shoulder at their sole.

I remember, as a child, seeing April O'Neil doing exactly this on the (original) Ninja Turtles cartoon and thinking it was an especially over-the-top way to make her properly feminine.
posted by deathmaven at 3:16 AM on July 8


If I don't sit legs akimbo how are people meant to inhale my glorious musk?

Rest you hands behind your head (curl your elbows forward so you're not taking up too much space, though).
posted by deathmaven at 3:18 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


I recently got a death glare for daring to disrupt a guy on a train who was taking up five seats, so there are definitely people who just feel really crazy entitled to treat public transportation like their own personal limousine for whatever reason.

The problem with the "but I move when there's no more seats left!" argument is that people don't have a realistic idea of the point at which it becomes rude to continue lava-balling or seat-bagging or whatever. I basically think that like so many other public interactions, the guiding principle is "what would happen if everyone was doing what I was doing?" Everyone wants to be more comfortable on public transport. If you wait until the only seats remaining are the ones you're over-occupying, you've been relying on others sitting in a more constrained fashion in order to continue to be more comfortable yourself. Yeah, as long as there's any empty seats you're at least theoretically not occupying a seat that is needed, but that line of thinking is what leads to the sudden selective vision/deep preoccupation with books and phones and whatever that happens when somebody needs a seat and nobody wants to be the one to give up some of their space.
posted by lwb at 4:05 AM on July 8 [6 favorites]


This thread is hilarious, if only because I've never heard of this whole 'Lavaballs' thing. Somehow.
But it's actually pretty simple, if you're a fucking jerk, you try and take up the seats on either side of you so no one can sit down. If you're not, when the train gets crowded enough you move your knees back together or put your bag down so everyone has room.
At least, that's been my experience.
posted by From Bklyn at 4:52 AM on July 8


The andwer for the guys in the link is that they should be riding Monorail Cat to work.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:38 AM on July 8


I am sitting in an otherwise empty office at a brewery with my legs crossed, one knee over the other. I can only assume all other men secretly do this while alone.

It hurts like hell (the joints), as does keeping the legs clamped together, especially when I was heavier. I'm not talking obtuse-angle deliberate-jerk spread, but definitely my natural and comfortable (as in non-painful) sitting position is cat-worthy, apparently. I am sorry your subjective experience is not my subjective experience, but there you go.

On subways or the bus, when it starts filling up, I just stand, as standing is more fun and less awkward than playing dodge-a-knee with potential neighbors. The hour-plus long commuter rail ride was pure hell if I didn't show up a half hour early to nab one of the single seats at the very end of the car. At one point, when I was taking a crowded train in the mornings without the single-seats, I was considering packing a bungie cord to lash my legs together at the knees, as my butt and thighs would be on fire by the end of the ride, trying to keep from invading the neighboring knee-space. (I solved it by taking an earlier, less crowded train that never filled up).

I can definitely see how some people don't give as much of a fuck as others might like - I'm a little weirded out by close contact with other people, otherwise I might be one of 'em.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:16 AM on July 8


Straphanger Cats!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:23 AM on July 8


I'm a guy and the most comfortable position for me is JFK style knee over knee crossing, so yeah, I'm not buying the physiology argument. I'm sure many men sincerely believe it's physiology, but I'm convinced the perception of comfort is just because that's the posture you're used to, just like I'm used to crossing.

Nthing this. Plus I have huge genitals and I still sit with my legs crossed, at the knee (even in a car).
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:45 AM on July 8


I'm a guy and the most comfortable position for me is JFK style knee over knee crossing, so yeah, I'm not buying the physiology argument. I'm sure many men sincerely believe it's physiology, but I'm convinced the perception of comfort is just because that's the posture you're used to, just like I'm used to crossing.

> Nthing this. Plus I have huge genitals and I still sit with my legs crossed, at the knee (even in a car).


Yeah, I'm male and I sit cross-legged a lot. There's definitely nothing about male anatomy that prevents this. (There might be an issue for people with big thighs, I don't know.)
posted by nangar at 7:14 AM on July 8


Yeah, I'm male and I sit cross-legged a lot. There's definitely nothing about male anatomy that prevents this. (There might be an issue for people with big thighs, I don't know.)
There is nothing about your male anatomy that prevents this. I am an an average height guy, reasonably flexible, and I can not cross my legs at the knee. It has nothing to do with my genitals, or socialization, or habit. The angles just don't work. Not even if I push them with my hands. This has been the case since at least puberty. I don't remember if I ever tried before that. I guess I have extra-narrow hips, or something. There are very likely some females with the same issue, but given relative hip-widths, I would guess it wouldn't be many.

This does not, however, give me license to take up more than one seat on public transit, so I don't unless the bus is mostly empty. (Even then I sit with my legs somewhat closer together than in the Will Ferrell picture linked above.)
posted by notbuddha at 7:20 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


I think nangar meant there's nothing about cock and balls that will prevent someone from sitting with their legs crossed.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:22 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Lavapuss?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:24 AM on July 8


Its a little silly to be saying, "no, male anatomy does not mean you can only sit one way,..." Let's take it a step back and just say, different people are built differently. BUT some people are jerks, regardless of anatomy.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:15 AM on July 8


I love this post so much. At one point (after having a baby six weeks before and still feeling the pain of the epidural entry point,) I squeezed in between two men who thought they had the genitals of elephants because I really had to sit on the 1.25 hour ride to work. The one guy put his elbow into my side and kicked me all ride and the other guy kicked me in the shin when he got up to get off of the train. So this is whole thing is so nice. And I love the term Lavaballs!!! Thanks for posting!!
posted by Yellow at 8:19 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


UGH one time on a flight to Spain a little old lady asked me if we could switch seats so she could sit next to her sister. Being AN UTTER FOOL I assented, giving up my coveted window seat, and was forced to spend 7h in a middle seat between two snoring kicking elbowing old men who had absolutely no decent human respect for personal space. I had bruises on my ribs the next day from where they jabbed me repeatedly for such heinous crimes as tilting my seat back, opening my tray table, breathing, and existing.

never again shall i be kind to a little old lady, this i vow
posted by elizardbits at 9:13 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


> maybe it's because my fucking genitals are overheating and it's just more comfortable

I was trying to find some statistics about genitals and temperature, but I stumbled onto this and now I'm too scared to go any further down the Internet.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:34 AM on July 8


It's how male hips and butt and legs just are when you're sitting down. AND, perhaps more importantly, it depends on how tall you are as well.

Okay. I'm 6'2" with massive thighs and a 36" inseam and an amazing variety of hip and knee issues and I am positive this is nobody's natural sitting posture. That's three seats plus part of the doorway.
posted by psoas at 10:46 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


When I'm cramped in a car seat for a long drive my legs take every position possible in sequence

Maybe they just have a need to constantly do so a lot more than the average person. Maybe if you watch them enough they'll perform modern dance

I sit at work with my legs higher than my hips and wear orange fuzzy slippers, so you should listen to my advice
posted by halifix at 10:48 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


> right now i'm sitting leaned back with my maxi skirt hiked way up

Are there any women in this thread who are wearing skirts, are somewhere private, and DON'T have their skirts up around their hips? I know I do. That is how we sit when we can. But we don't do it on the subway because we are decent human beings.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:54 AM on July 8 [9 favorites]


Is this mostly a larger guy thing? Because I don't have this problem and I don't hear people (who are not shy about talking about their nuts) talking about this, so I'm wondering the demographics of this complaint that comes up whenever this topic is discussed.

Larger like "weighs a lot," or larger like "well hung"?

If it's correlated with the latter, I expect to hear a spike in complaints about extremely hot balls
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:58 AM on July 8


Are there any women in this thread who are wearing skirts, are somewhere private, and DON'T have their skirts up around their hips? I know I do. That is how we sit when we can. But we don't do it on the subway because we are decent human beings.

The thing I love about the internet is that you find out that something you do that you fear is weird is COMPLETELY NORMAL.
posted by winna at 11:06 AM on July 8 [11 favorites]


In any case, it isn't hard for me to put up with some discomfort for a little while if the train or the bus or whatever is crowded. Making other people's public-transit experience a little less awful isn't a lot to ask, and I can always splay out later. It's weird to me that well-intentioned men would get defensive about this.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:10 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I mean. I have actual medical reasons to sit awkwardly (hip labral tears) - it's really far more comfortable for me to slouch excessively so I can stretch my legs out in front of me to their full length. But if I did this on public transportation I would expect others to assume I was a worthless piece of shit selfish asshole, and they would be correct. It does me no harm to sit like a normal human being for 10 or even 20 or GASP EVEN 30 minutes. I do this because as a member of the human race there is a social contract to not inconvenience others unnecessarily if you can help it, and it is pretty much the sole social contract to which I regularly adhere.
posted by elizardbits at 11:19 AM on July 8 [7 favorites]


I mean ffs I have a handful of herniated discs in my neck, so technically laying completely flat with my legs slightly elevated is really the most comfortable. Maybe I'll try that later today on the L train at rush hour, let's see if I get stabbed in the face as I would so rightly deserve.
posted by elizardbits at 11:21 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]


It's weird to me that well-intentioned men would get defensive about this.

I think what a lot of otherwise well-intentioned men are getting defensive about here is a fair amount of broad-brush-tarring -- and the "aha! This is how women are culturally treated, and now the shoe is on the other foot!" doesn't help. As has been pointed out, a selection of photos at the link are devoid of all context regarding free capacity of their vehicle, choosing rather to mock "lavaballers" uniformly. Yes, the guys who take up four seats in a Mary Lou Retton stretch are patently ridiculous, but there's enough variety in human anatomy that treating every guy who sits with their legs at a more obtuse angle than is normative a harassing monster is... offensive itself.

So yeah, hi. I'm Jammer and I tend to be a lavaballer. Without even touching genitals (ha!) I'm a big guy, both in terms of frame and extra weight, and maybe I just have narrow hips and big thighs, but as with someone else above it is physically *impossible* for me to cross my legs knee over knee, even with my hands to force the issue, without very real pain in my joints. Similarly, sitting with even a "normal" splay in my legs for very long is uncomfortable. I tolerate it on a crowded train because, yes, dealing with some discomfort for the common good is just what one does in public, but you'd better believe that if a car is empty I'm going to be blocking at least a small portion of the seat on either side of me with my knees. I'm also the guy, though, who tries to use his privilege to positive effect by forcing his way into the truly flagrant lavaballer or seatbagger's space -- sometimes even pre-emptively even if there are other empty seats, but the train is starting to get full, just to punish antisocial behavior. So I'll offer the more easily upset in this thread a deal: accept that some men will offend your sensibilities by sitting legs akimbo whenever possible and not truly inconsiderate, and are otherwise fine and upstanding individuals, and maybe we'll stop being quite so defensive about it.
posted by jammer at 11:40 AM on July 8


I saw this tumblr a while ago and really enjoyed it so it's interesting to see people's comments here.

As for me: In the newer NYC subway cars (which evidenceofabsence delineated so well above) generally six people can sit on a bench, three on either side of the center pole. One time I had a guy cram in next to me and two other small ladies on what was essentially a full bench side, only to sit full-out lavaballs. (This was on a rush hour train of course.) I actually told him to stop it, and he did for about 15 seconds, only to do it again. I eventually got up and stood for the remaining half hour of my trip because he obviously wasn't listening to me and as a lady I am afraid of telling guys to fuck off in public (especially since I did already try once and was ignored. Jesus.). In conclusion, people who sit like that on crowded trains--and in NYC, what isn't a crowded train?--should have the cats eat their balls.
posted by ferret branca at 11:57 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Typically, one day every week I have to go into work super early (I have to be on the subway at ~5:20 AM) and without fail, every time, every 6-seater bench is occupied by 4 guys sitting as far from each other as possible, lavaballing to the greatest extent possible, so that no one sits by them. It's early, I get it, no one is feeling ready to surrender their personal space one millisecond before they need to. So I just stand. Whatever, fine, I don't mind that much. So guys who want to sit with their legs splayed because there are empty seats: Look around you. Are there a bunch of people standing? If not, you're fine. If yes, there's a reason. Move over and bring your legs ever so slightly together so you're only taking up one seat worth of space, or stand.
posted by matcha action at 12:03 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


It's a silly single-joke microblog that illustrates a common problem which annoys pretty much everyone, especially women, not a thesis on the evils of lavaballing in general. It's a good way for people to let off steam with cute cat pictures. As such, I'm pretty OK with the lack of context if it gets some men to think about the way they act on public transit and, hopefully, change the way they sit when they're around a lot of people. I get if some people are upset because they identify themselves as lavaballers, but making a big deal of an ultimately pretty reasonable joke reads as fussy to me.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:05 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


>>Are there any women in this thread who are wearing skirts, are somewhere private, and DON'T have their skirts up around their hips? I know I do. That is how we sit when we can. But we don't do it on the subway because we are decent human beings.

>The thing I love about the internet is that you find out that something you do that you fear is weird is COMPLETELY NORMAL.


winna, have you never had a female roomate? Because in the summer, 6 pm is straight up No Pants O'Clock in my apartment. Roommate and I both have house skirts. Running out on the deck to water plants? Dressed. Sitting on the couch with the shades drawn? Skirts pretty much flipped inside out.

It is the opposite of weird. It's better than normal. It's great.
posted by maryr at 12:19 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


(I also live on the third floor and fuck me, it is too hot to stay polite.)
posted by maryr at 12:20 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Before I escaped into the lands of no roommates at all I only had guy roommates or my ex-husband, so the world of living with ladies is a foreign country!

Apparently I really missed out on all the important lady secret tips that way.
posted by winna at 12:25 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


First mansplaining, then mansplaying, now mansplaining ABOUT mansplaying?!
posted by starfishprime at 12:33 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


Yeah no. I see way more ladies telling us how our balls REALLY ARE, so it's pretty much the opposite.
posted by Big_B at 12:57 PM on July 8


noooope. you have women saying that this isn't a gendered thing and blaming it on your balls as if our vadges and thighs don't create a seriously uncomfortable situation is really weird. no matter how many women say that public transit is also uncomfortable for us in similar joint jamming, leg aching, thigh mass ways, some other dude comes in to say that it's a feature of maleness and we just don't understand.
posted by nadawi at 1:02 PM on July 8 [7 favorites]


Well if your vag extends as far as my balls do then I would be able to understand better. Maybe we need a tumblr with roosters in place of women's crotches.
posted by Big_B at 1:14 PM on July 8


Fun activity: look up the actual variations in vulvic anatomy, particularly the length of the outer labia
posted by NoraReed at 1:15 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


Finally!
posted by maxsparber at 1:17 PM on July 8


some men and some women experience pain if they have to scrunch up into a subway seat - some so severe they find it basically impossible. some men and some women don't have those issues. this isn't an innate gendered thing no matter how much some dudes really want to believe that it's a physical difference instead of a socialized one.
posted by nadawi at 1:20 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


You know, when I was a boy, I was explicitly instructed not to cross my legs when I sat, as it was what women did. It never really took, and so I sit cross legged, and bandy legged, and actually often tuck in one leg under me like I am an Indian image of an ancient archer, and it all seems perfectly comfortable and naturally because I am used to it. I sometimes wonder if I had, however, listened to the stupid advice from my sexist boyhood friends if it wouldn't be much less comfortable for me to sit in those positions.

I wonder how many men who are uncomfortable sitting cross legged or in any way that allows others to sit next to them aren't simply the victims of childhood sexist friends, and could do with a little more stretching to become both more hip flexible and gender flexible.
posted by maxsparber at 1:21 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


I'm loving the ASCII diagrams! The front halves of our city buses are set up school-bus-style, with rows of double seats on either side of an aisle, and this is what it looks like on a busy day:

\__/\__/\__/\__/
\__/\__/\__/\__/
\__/\__/\__/\__/
\__/\__/\__/\__/
\__/\__/\__/\__/
\__/\__/\__/\__/

"Excuse me" generally doesn't work, because most of the young mens' attention is concentrated on the phones in their crotches, so you have to just sort of plow and/or climb, depending on how nimble you are and how much you're carrying. Some day when I'm feeling particularly sociable (and not averse to a sudden topple) I'm just going to plop myself down on the set of conjoined knees in the first row of the aisle and see what happens.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:22 PM on July 8


Well if your vag extends as far as my balls do then I would be able to understand better.

If sitting with your legs together hurts your balls you probably have some kind of serious infection or something and should see a doctor immediately
posted by shakespeherian at 1:32 PM on July 8 [6 favorites]


Nah they've been checked out. I have big muscular thighs too, but I appreciate your concern!
posted by Big_B at 1:38 PM on July 8


I'll just leave this here.
posted by yeolcoatl at 3:04 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


More data
posted by yeolcoatl at 3:07 PM on July 8


> Maybe we need a tumblr with roosters in place of women's crotches

If women rudely taking up more than more of their equal share of the seat becomes a widespread problem, then sure.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:20 PM on July 8 [6 favorites]


..um

I always assumed as an able bodied young man who only experiences physical strain when they pay for it, it was my responsibly to stand in the subway whenever possible so I don't take up seats other people might need more.
posted by The Whelk at 3:52 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Well if your vag extends as far as my balls do then I would be able to understand better.

As has been mentioned, there are about a bajillion reasons that a person who doesn't have balls might find it more comfortable to have a wider stance, from hip problems, to injuries, to straight-up balance issues.

And yet ladies are expected, and sometimes forced, to yield.

This isn't just about genitals.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 4:13 PM on July 8 [15 favorites]


I'll just leave this here.

Yup, notice how they take as much room with the dangling boot as a mild-to-middle-tier lavaballer? (You'll also notice the big, beefy guys standing.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:55 PM on July 8


evidenceofabsence, I totally agree. There was no reason for those two guys I sat between to be so irate that they had to be violent about it. It was perfectly fine for them to take up three seats on the train, but not fine for me to sit down between them.
posted by Yellow at 4:10 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Maybe we need a tumblr with roosters in place of women's crotches

OH MY GOD IT'S THE LAST EPISODE OF M*A*S*H* ALL OVER AGAIN
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:11 AM on July 9


You are a bad person and should feel bad.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:13 AM on July 9


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