Spread legs or open(ed) legs refers to poses in which a person's legs are not together (so that the knees are touching or close to one another) but spread so that the knees are apart. Usually "spread legs" means the feet are apart too, but there are also poses where the knees are apart but the feet/ankles are together. These, too, will be called "spread" or "open" positions here.
The hip joint allows the legs to be opened or closed forward/backward or sideways, and this can be done in a variety of poses such as standing, sitting, kneeling, lying on one's back, lying face-down, legs up in the air, etc.
Depending on the situation, spread legs can symbolize:
- physical strength, fitness, self-confidence
- freedom, disregard of modesty
- exposedness, helplessness
- lewdness, readiness for sexual activities
A person or character may stand, sit or lie with spread legs to express that he or she is not afraid of opening his/her crotch, because they have nothing to fear. Stances in which the feet are apart are also stronger, more stable and allow for faster and stronger reaction, e.g. in a fight. "Strong" characters, e.g. superheros, typically take such stances.
Freedom, disregard of modesty
When a girl spreads her legs while seated, her inner thighs and underwear may show if she is wearing a short dress or skirt. Such a thing is traditionally disapproved, and girls are therefore traditionally trained to always keep their legs properly closed when seated, and to pay attention to the hem of their skirt covering their thighs tidily.
Such training was particularly strict in the Victorian and Edwardian era. An intended side-effect was to make girls generally more shy about their 'unmentionable' body regions. An unintended side-effect is that such training may draw particular awareness to exactly those regions.
A particularly strong effect is achieved when Victorian prudishness and exactingness in everyday life is combined with Victorian punishment methods that pay no regard at all to the child's modesty. A girl who is raised in a strict anti-carnal environment, always instructed to keep her legs together when standing or sitting, and her skirt firmly down so that her thighs won't show, will feel the double embarrassment when she is put in a punishment situation, over her governesses knees with her undergarments, or even her bare buttocks, exposed for a spanking. And the shame she feels is tripled when she is made to open her legs in this humiliating exposed position.
The same, of course, applies to boys.
In pornography, the most common erotic pose is that of a woman lying on her back, with her legs spread wide open, in a view that shows her thighs, genitals, and face. Somewhat less common are poses on all fours with her legs spread apart, offering a rear view of her genital region.
Spread legs in spanking and BDSM
Leg stretching uses standing with widely spread legs as a punishment.
Spread legs expose a spankee more and give better access to his/her inner thighs, genital and anal region. Spread legs also make clenching the buttocks more difficult. A number of spanking positions instruct or physically force the spankee to open his/her legs, such as:
- the half-standing position with spread legs
- the leaning position with spread legs
- the bent-over position with spread legs
- the grabbing-ankles position with spread legs
- the lunge position with spread legs
- the knees-and-chest position with spread legs
- the straddling position
- the bent-over-object position with spread legs (e.g. straddling a birching horse)
- the lying position with spread legs (e.g. on a bed or a spreadeagle table)
- the bongo position
- the handstand position with spread legs