Wanted: Tall, dark and handsome MAN.
In America, we expect men to be slightly taller than women in romantic relationships – a phenomenon known as “male taller norm“. Tall men convey manliness, strength, and the ability to protect. Couples who don’t fit the norm tend to try and compensate to avoid the perception that the man is less than a real man.
Women’s preference for taller men is so strong that male-taller couples are found in real life much more often than predicted in statistical models. The height preference is so strong it may be the “cardinal principle of mate selection”. Dating sites such as eHarmony quickly learned to only pair women with taller men – or else face their female client’s wrath.
Tall men and short women prefer even more height difference in their partner than those of average height. Hence the reason we see pairings of super tall men with super short women. …Perhaps their height has become such a huge part of their identity that they emphasize it in their mate selection?
Interestingly – women appear to be the driving force behind the male taller norm. A 2008 study of 382 undergrads in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that 23 percent of straight men said they wouldn’t mind being the shorter party in a relationship. Only 4 percent of women surveyed said they’d be OK as the taller one.
Women are socialized that in order to be feminine, they must be small and dainty. Dating a taller, broader man makes women feel like a woman. No one wants to risk breaking her man’s knees if she sits on his lap or dwarf him in pictures. The nursery rhyme Jack Sprat comes to mind whenever I’m approached by a super thin man – I can’t help it.
“Weirdly, we still require men to be able to dominate their partner physically, even though there is no place for that in a modern relationship,” wrote Zoe Williams in a Guardian piece, What’s Wrong With Taller Women Dating Shorter Men?
Turning the male taller norm on its head is The Hunger Games franchise, where the female lead (Jennifer Lawrence) is much taller than her romantic interest, Josh Hutcherson (and spends most of the first movie saving him). Perhaps it’s a sign of things to come.