Brighton student threatened with rape after designing award-winning 'anti-man-spreading' chair

The University of Brighton student has been shocked by the reaction she had receivedThe University of Brighton student has been shocked by the reaction she had received
The University of Brighton student has been shocked by the reaction she had received
A female University of Brighton student who designed an award-winning chair to stop "man-spreading" is being trolled by men who have threatened to rape her.

Laila Laurel, 23, won a major award after she created the piece of furniture to stop men from widening their legs and encroaching on other people's personal space.

She built the chair after she was fed up with men "infringing on her public space".

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How the two chairs workHow the two chairs work
How the two chairs work

The design shows two bits of wood which are cleverly positioned on the seat to physically stop whoever is sitting down from moving their legs apart.

However, since receiving the Belmond Award at New Designers in London, a major showcase of work from universities across the UK - she has received "unpleasant backlash".

She says she has been sent unsolicited photos of male genitals as well as receiving rape threats.

The 3D Design and Craft student from the University of Brighton said: "I have received a lot of explicit messages from men who seem to be under the impression that I hate all men."

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But she said it "couldn't be further from the truth frankly".

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She said: "I am getting a lot of comments on my Instagram page and lots of people are sending me private messages, they are mostly men.

"I am just getting a lot of pictures of men's genitals. It isn't nice and it is just bizarre behaviour.

"I am also getting explicit messages, threatening me about rape. To be honest I am trying not to read the messages any more.

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"Most of them are men in their late 30s or 40s, it is just really bizarre.

"Some are cropped pictures, I have stopped looking now. Honestly I don't know what is going on the world.

"There is obviously a really big problem."

The word 'man-spreading' was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015 following an online campaign against the practice since 2013.

The dictionary definition is the 'practice of a man sitting on public transport with his legs wide apart, taking up more space than he needs and preventing other people from sitting down'.

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Laila said the reaction from those who used the chairs was "brilliant and interesting".

She also made a second chair intended for women which encourages sitters to push their legs apart.

Laila added: "I guess I think people are annoyed that I made the female chair with the legs closed.

"The reason that I made those was to challenge the way how women and men think and to spark a conversation. Which I have definitely done.

"I think on one hand talk social issues.

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"I don't take myself too seriously, because for I really want my work to be both important and thought provoking, whilst also being engaging and funny.

"I think humour is a really interesting tool in order to tackle social issues.

"I think because I know my intent wasn't to degrade anyone, I am OK."

She has received thousands of abusive comments and messages on her social media accounts including Facebook, Instagram and Reddit.

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She said she was also inspired by the 'The Everyday Sexism Project,' founded by Laura Bates, which collects women's daily experiences of gender inequality.

Laila's prize includes a £1,000 bursary and the chance to design a product for a hotel and leisure company.