Growing up, sitting with crossed legs was a posture connected to wealth. My family members would often make comments like “See the way you’re sitting like a rich man who owns us all”. I’d gleaned the posture from glassy-looking models on the pages of fashion magazines, who exuded an aura of sophistication I loved.
But in senior secondary school, I’d learn — in the harshest way possible — of the connections drawn between a man’s sexuality and sitting posture. Comments like “Why is this one sitting like a girl?” from female classmates, and “Seat properly” from teachers instilling their version of Nigerian etiquette, would eventually force a consciousness on me when I was about to cross my legs in public.
A recent encounter confronted me with old, unpleasant memories and led me on a short quest to learn about the experiences of other men.
“I made it clear that sitting cross-legged isn’t just for women,” Faith*
About two weeks ago, I was at the reception area of a telco experience centre when a security lady approached me. She said something about moving to the next seat, but I also heard her make a snide remark about the way I sat. For context, I wore a pair of shorts way above knee level, and crossed my legs so that a large portion of my thighs were on display. I wasn’t going to let it go, so I responded and told her cross-legging isn’t for women only. She saw that I was visibly irritated and had a quick change of tone. According to her, she didn’t mean it that way and was only worried the content of my pockets would fall off. I let it go, but that’s one out of many such experiences.
“My colleague said it was too womanly,” Dave*
It was during NYSC on a Thursday (CDS). Our meeting was ongoing, but there I was bored and tired, so I crossed my legs. One of my colleagues said she noticed I did that a lot. She went on to say “It’s very womanly, and the fact that you look like a girl doesn’t help you either”. I laughed and explained to her that I have a weak left knee from an accident I sustained at 13, so I can’t sit too long without wanting to place my left leg on the right to rest a bit.
“I check if other men are crossing their legs before I do,” Ibrahim*
I had my university education in Osun state, and the culture shock was one for the books. Prior to school, I’d lived in Lagos my whole life, and in my house, crossing your legs was in fact a sign of affluence. I remember my mum making statements like “Wo bo se cross-leg bi olowo” (see the way you crossed your legs like a rich man), and that was all there was to it. But I was in for a rude shock when I resumed school in 100 level. These Muslim sisters in my level would make side comments and laugh whenever they saw me sit with crossed legs. I didn’t think of it until one of them approached me and asked why I crossed my legs like a woman. I wasn’t sure I heard well, so I asked what she meant. This girl took her time to explain that crossing my legs makes me look feminine, especially because I also wore skinny jeans. I laughed it off and just walked away. Now that I think of it, that experience made me more conscious of crossing my legs. Sometimes, I scan the room to see if other men are crossing their legs before I do the same. That way, I won’t be singled out.
“I wonder if I can sit without crossing my legs”, David Nkem
I cross my legs so much that I, sometimes, begin to wonder if I can sit without doing so. A woman once warned me to stop crossing my legs so I wouldn’t become impotent. According to her, crossing my legs brings negative energy to my balls. To date, I don’t know what she meant. My mum also used to bother before, but she doesn’t care anymore. A coworker recently reported me to “the cartel” at work. They called me for a meeting to say, “Men don’t cross their legs when they sit.” But, I feel comfortable and no longer give a fuck about it, to be honest.
“I’ll raise my eyebrows if I find a friend crossing legs,” Dave
I’ve found that in Nigeria, your sexuality will be questioned for so many flimsy reasons. From how you talk, walk and dress to how you cross your legs. People will always have reasons to raise their eyebrows when you look eccentric or out of place. As someone whose sexuality has been questioned on some occasions, I tend to be self-conscious. So, I personally self-check whenever I’m out in public. I don’t cross my legs. If you’re my friend, and you love crossing your legs, I might raise my eyebrows — before the Nigerian “sexuality FBI” extends their questions to me.
“No, but standing akimbo is feminine,” James*
Nobody don question my sexuality based on leg crossing sha. I think it is based on people’s background or environment during their formative period. It has nothing to do with sexuality or anything. Some people are just more comfortable crossing their legs while seated, either male or female. However, I have always felt weird standing akimbo. I always feel it is feminine, and I don’t know why. That’s just me digressing.