A friend and I were discussing this very issue today while having lunch in an outdoor cafe. We decided to count couples and see how many had a taller man and shorter woman, and how many had a shorter man and taller woman.
There were over 20 couples and all of them was of a taller man with a shorter woman.
This is all fine and good but not very scientific. What does science say about this important issue?
A study by Gillis and Avis in 1980 found that for every 100 couples, only 2 are likely to have a taller woman and shorter man. This suggests that in general, men tend to choose women who are shorter than they are and/or women choose men who are taller than they are.
Do Men Really Like Shorter Women?
The Gillis and Avis study shows that couples very frequently consist of a taller man together with a shorter woman.
However, this does not necessarily mean that men like shorter girls. In fact, one can argue that the height preference largely comes from the woman’s side. Perhaps the man has no height preference, but simply dates shorter women because shorter women find them more attractive.
To get a more comprehensive view of this tall vs. short women issue, I also examined data from Yahoo Answers!. In particular, I did a search for “tall vs. short women” questions.
I collected a total of 54 responses over about 20 related questions. 29 of the responses were from men, and 25 from women. Of the men,
- 52% said that they like shorter women,
- 31% said that height is not an issue, and
- only 17% said that they like tall women.
These figures seem consistent with the results of my Attractive Women Survey which showed that only 19% of voters like tall women.
Of the women,
- 24% said that men like shorter women,
- 36% said that height is not an issue,
- 40% said that men like tall women.
What is especially interesting about the Yahoo! Answers data is that the woman’s view differs so greatly from the man’s view. Upon greater examination though, we found that of the 10 women who claimed that men prefer taller women, 7 were 5’8”-5’9”, and 1 was 5’5”. Therefore, the relatively small data-set and abnormal height distribution of respondents likely skewed the results.
Data from more rigorous scientific studies also support the hypothesis that men have a preference for shorter women.
“We found that shorter, slimmer females with long slender legs, a curvy figure and larger breasts are more attractive,” said lead researcher Dr William Brown of Brunel University.
Nettle’s study on 10,000 people born in the UK in 1958 also showed that –
Shorter women are more likely to have long-term relationships with men, and more likely to have children …
Why Do Men Like Shorter Women?
Most female models are very tall. Based on this female ideal, it seems that all of us have a preference for the tall, thin, and willowy look.
Therefore, why does the survey and scientific results show that men like shorter women? It seems that here, at least, there is an inconsistency between the media feminine ideal and our real-world feminine ideal.
Certainly tall women have the following advantages –
- Clothes fall and drape more naturally on taller women.
- Tall women can handle extra weight much better than shorter women.
- Tall women get noticed more easily because they naturally stand out in a crowd.
All of these attributes make taller women especially suited for the modelling profession. We want models to stand out from the crowd and we want them to look especially good in a wide range of dress styles.
However, a woman’s greater height becomes more of a liability during mate selection because height is often associated with strength and power. These are traditionally traits that are highly regarded in men but less so in women. A tall woman may therefore have an emasculating effect on a shorter man.
In addition, while women frequently select mates based on strength, success, and power; men are more likely to select mates based on fertility. Nettle further pointed out that –
… girls with late sexual maturity will be taller than those who mature early, because they are growing for longer.
According to Nettle, taller women become fertile at a later date when compared to their shorter counterparts. This could also be another contributing factor to a man’s preference for shorter women.
Don’t Men Want Tall Sons?
What’s strange is that I would like to be taller and I would like my future son(s) to be taller. So it would really make more sense to choose a tall mate with genes that will produce a son who is tall. And yet I’m attracted to short women.
Another related factor to this tall vs. short women question is the height of our resulting children. If men do indeed select based on fertility, it seems that part of that fertility question would involve the strength and power of the resulting offspring. As was pointed out in the comment above, selection of a taller woman would increase the chances of producing a taller son.
However, based on all the data it seems that the attributes of our offspring are less significant than the social effects of having a taller female spouse, as well as possible maturity issues as related to height.
Are Tall Women Out of Luck?
Finally, it should also be mentioned that height selection and preference is a relative thing.
Most men like women that are shorter than they are and most women like men that are taller than they are. Men who are over 6 feet tall will have less problems dating tall women because they will still be the taller one in the relationship.
However, the distribution of heights for men and women follow the usual bell-curve shape. This suggests that tall women will have a smaller selection of men to choose from.