February 4

Emotional manspreading

To what extend do you think a man own you after you have had one glass of wine with him?

If you think that this is an odd question, then we are completely aligned. However, I ask because over a shorter period of time I have had these three text conversations:

Man number 1:
“You have been way too much in Jutland!”

“Too much in Jutland?”

“Yes, you are stingy with your messages, emojies and not least the dirty ones… that is so like Jutlanders”

Man number 2:
“I respect your position, Emilia, but I am surprised that such a socially intelligent human being such as yourself, have decided to end a conversation by text.”

Man number 3:
“But you could damn well have been a little more receptive!”

All three men are nice and proper and so have I been in my contact with them, of course. However, when I realised that it did not lead to neither a great romance nor fanny flutters, I ended it – because that would be the right thing to do.

It was when the third man commented on my lack of receptiveness that I started to realise a pattern in their behaviour, which I have named: Emotional Manspreading.

Some years ago, the term manspreading became well known. It covers the phenomenon about men spreading their legs wider than their own seat making the ones sitting next to them scoot together if they do not want to be rubbing their legs with theirs. The fact that it mostly occurred when it was women sitting next to men might explain why manspreading was prohibited in New York in 2014 and in Madrid in 2017 in public transportation. It even led to some arrests (which later was dropped though). The term has afterwards been used as a metaphor in other occasions where men spread themselves far beyond their abilities, knowledge, and power etc. and thereby tries to make their reality the most valid.

After having talked with multiple women about “my” three men’s behaviour, I found that it is quite common. Therefore, I think that there is basis for an expansion of the term manspreading.

The most interesting and also a little scary is that they apparently feel like they have the right to own my reaction.  This is even though I only met up with them one single time and had one single glass of wine with them – the most intimate moments shared being childhood anecdotes.  However, because they apparently had different feelings or interests at stake, my non-existing emotions towards them were wrong and ought to change in order to fit theirs. So evidently they felt entitled to spread their own interpretation of the situation beyond mine.

You can shake your head at their strategy, which actually just is a very normal human reaction to rejection. However, the problem is that most women are trained culturally to be social and look out for other’s feelings rather than their own. Immediately women tend to look at themselves as wrong if they do not live up to other’s expectations of what she should give of herself. So, instead of it being about what it actually is: two people who just doesn´t fit together, it shifts into being about one being a looser or wrong – which has nothing to do with the truth.

Sometimes, it simply doesn’t click – and that is just how it is. Like the fact that some are turned on by Brad Pitt and  others by Daniel Craig (me! ;))

So, you can´t control biology, but you can control your own behaviour. That is why I might whisper these naughty words in the ear of the next man who chooses to apply emotional manspreading:

“Sweetie – you catch more flies with sugar than with vinegar!”

By Emilia van Hauen, cultural sociologist, author and boardmember
Published in Femina 25.06.2020 


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