Men want slender women. Women want tall men. Why the different social stigmas?

It’s common knowledge that men tend to prefer women who are somewhat slender. Before anyone objects, I know that not all men feel that way. I also know that men have different notions of what slender is, and that men don’t necessarily prefer the anorexic, waif-like look. We are talking about generalities here, so let’s acknowledge that and move on.

(And before anyone asks, I myself have been attracted to moderately overweight women before, especially those with pleasing personalities. So I’m not saying that I would never want to date an overweight woman myself; quite the contrary. I want to emphasize this right now, lets anyone put words in my mouth.)

It’s also common knowledge that women prefer men who are tall. Again, I know that not all women feel that way, and that there are differing notions of how tall men should be. Again though, as a general principle, this preference is widely acknowledged.

So why is it that society constantly laments the fact that men tend to prefer thinner women, and yet you seldom hear women being criticized for preferring taller men? In fact, I’ve seen many singles ads wherein women listed the minimum height requirements for the men that they would consider dating. I daresay that if a man were to list a minimum bodyfat requirement for the women he seeks, he would be considered shallow and overly concerned with appearance.

And just as I posted this, I realized that this would more properly belong in GD. Mea culpa.. Sigh.

The other touchy issue you (politely) didn’t raise is that one trait is (somewhat) within a person’s control, the other is not (absent radical HGH therapy or something).

It’s interesting. If you ask women, the answer you’ll most commonly hear is: “Well, we’d look ridiculous if I were taller than he,” or “I can’t very well dance with a guy who comes up to my chin.” Okay, those are legitimate (if shallow – but then social considerations often are) points. But:

(1) Most women who have height requirements (certainly not all – some have indeed told me that all they want is a guy at least their height) don’t limit it to “at least taller than I am.” More often, you hear a 5’ 6" or so woman demanding (or at least, strongly preferring) a six-footer.

(2) The “we’d look ridiculous” argument could, I’m afraid, equally well be applied by a fit guy to a somewhat sloppy girl – “But honey, you don’t understand – I’m in shape, you’re 25 lbs. overweight – you have to agree we’d be a complete spectacle on the dance floor!” While people are accepting of the “odd couple” argument when a girl’s objecting to a shrimpy guy, I’d bet most guys wouldn’t even dare to voice the corollary position as to her weight.

The height thing is probably because on average, men are taller than women anyway. I think there’s a built-in “survival of the fittest” mechanism whereby women in general prefer a man who is in some way able to be their protector. This may be height, strength, or status, or some combination of those.

I think there’s a similar mechanism whereby men tend to prefer women whom they perceive as healthy and fertile. In our society, slenderness is perceived as health, and also status. In earlier times, there was not often enough food to go around, certainly not enough for the average person to be overweight, so a plump and well-rounded individual was perceived as healthy, and a thin woman was probably undernourished and of sub-par fertility.

Please note that I’m not saying everyone is constantly thinking of baby-making and of protection from sabre-toothed tigers. But in the early days of our species’s development an individual who preferred a weak or unhealthy mate would not have many surviving offspring to perpetuate that preference.

I’m sure that’s all true. However, my question isn’t about why men like slender women, or why women like tall men. My question is why one preference is considered socially acceptable, whereas the other is widely considered to be a sign of immaturity and shallowness.

Huerta88, you raised some excellent points. To be honest, I thought about mentioning that one’s weight can be controlled, whereas one’s height cannot (barring radical hormone therapy, as you stated). I decided against it though, precisely because it is a touchy issue, as you likewise emphasized.

Maybe because women are generally more intelligent, and men are generally shallow anyway? :wink: Just kidding.

My take is that we sense that the woman is looking for protection so she and her children can survive. The man is just looking to gratify his basic mindless drive to procreate. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Might not the woman be looking to gratify her mindless drive to secure the most desireable genetic material to pass on to her offspring?

Yes. Once again though, I’m not asking WHY women prefer tall men. I already acknowledged the protection aspect.

I’m asking why one viewpoint is considered acceptable, whereas the other is regarded as a sign of immaturity or vapidness.

Ah, but you see, the woman is “thinking” of her offspring; the man just wants… well, you know what he wants.

Yes, seriously, you are correct, and the man is also looking to secure desirable genetic material for his offspring, too.

Also seriously, women can be incredibly shallow as well, preferring a man with a “pretty” face or a gorgeous body although he has a rottenly abusive or repulsively self-centered personality. And we think badly of them, too. Think of the bad reputation of “gold-diggers” who marry men for their wealth and/or power. Just as poorly thought of as the elderly tycoon with his “trophy” wife.

That part I don’t agree with. I think most women have their cutoff as “at least as tall as I am,” with guys who are shorter facing somewhat of a disadvantage. You might be seeing some sample bias if you’re focusing on the women who do list a height requirement in a personal ad.

I’m on the short side myself (5’3’’) and guys’ height was never much of an issue to me. I occasionally found especially tall guys to be “inconveniently distant.”

My taller friends (5’7’’ and 5’9’’) seemed pretty realistic, in that if they limited themselves only to taller guys they’d be missing some good ones.

More directly to the premise of the OP, I think women who refuse to date a guy only because he is not tall would be considered silly or superficial by their friends. Refusing to date someone very much shorter would probably be about as acceptable as refusing to date someone very much overweight.

I think it’s just part of the pendulum swing back we’re getting as a result of women being considered equals these days – like how dumb men ads are everywhere while dumb blonde ads are very un pc.

Some of the female nurses I work with were discussing some of the new male hires in ways that would result in a sexual harassment suit if the opposite was overheard. I think that’s part of the same phenomenom.

It’ll all even out in a decade or so.

Looking back, I think my previous post was a bit hasty. I now see that MLS’s recent response does address the different viewpoints to some extent. MLS says that women are motivated by the laudable desire for protection, whereas men just want to spread their seed and create children. The implication is that the former desire is socially acceptable, whereas the latter is not.

I don’t think that’s a very satisfying answer, though. For one thing, I don’t think men are particularly motivated to have children – no moreso that women are. And even if they were, that wouldn’t explain the preference for thinner women.

Finally, even if that premise were true, I don’t see why society would view that as a sign of immaturity. After all, few people seem to mind that women prefer more robust males. Why should it be socially unaccepable for men to prefer women who are not overweight?

Could be, but that’s not consistent with my own experience. And even if were, we hear plenty of public outrage over men’s preference for slender females, but nary a peep about women’s preferences for taller males. So even if your premise is correct, that doesn’t seem to be reflected in the media at large.

Heck, we constantly hear people complain about Hollywood’s preference for slimmer female leads. Why don’t we hear anything about their preference for tall male leads? (Even Tom Cruise is a respectable 5’7", after all.)

In one sense, men don’t specifically want to have children – they want to have sex. This can be perceived as (and sometimes is) predatory. Wanting protection is not predatory, it’s just wanting to survive.

I think people understand that both women and men prefer the most healthy and useful specimens of the opposite sex. When either ignores other characteristics, such as brainlessness or brutality, it usually is socially unacceptable.

If a gorgeous hunk o’ man settles down with a dumpy overweight lady, we wonder what in the world came over him. But when a graceful and beautiful woman takes up with a short dumpy guy, we think the same thing. Remember the TV show LA Law? I am terrible with actors’ names, but there was a tall and lovely woman who was involved with (maybe even married to?) a short dumpy guy both on the show and in real life. Everybody kind of thought “What the…?”

I think the previous poster’s observation that a short man probably can’t help being short, but we at least in part blame (rightfully or not) overweight people for being overweight has a lot of merit to it.

Gotta look back at the historical backdrop. Loosely speaking, a woman’s social and economic status depended substantially on her ability to couple with a man. Feminism, the social movement that most vocally raised the objections to this, is the source of the vocal objections to assessing women primarily as sexual property (i…e, perceiving her as only being useful for that along with, perhaps, ancillary wifely or girlfriendish activities).

The partial corollary would be men getting pissed at being assessed by women solely on the basis of their wallets or other aspects of social & economic status, since that behavior stems from the same arrangement (women’s status depending on being able to couple with a male, and therefore on the specific socioeconomic clout of the male she does couple with) — but a feminist would point out that it’s not mirror-image reciprocal since his social and economic status does not depend on getting a woman (cute or otherwise), and that (historically at least) we’re talking about the difference between being just able to survive and being able to live in moderate comfort or better — it made that much difference to a female to be able to acquire a male provider.

Stirred into the mixture, and not particularly feminist, are the attitudes and assumptions that a male is interested in abbreviated sexual contact and therefore cares mostly about the body, the fuckabilitiy quotient if you will, whereas the female is not interested in abbreviated sexual contact and instead wants an oingoing relationship and therefore is looking for mutual affection — and that therefore there’s an ongoing generic female gripe about males assessing females according to their body, whereas males are not being reciprocally demeaned and insulted by females assessing them only according to theirs. Now, in light of the previous paragraph, it’s easy to see economic and pragmatic reasons why women would be assessing males for long-term relationships rather than fuckability quotient — reasons other than simply “it’s in their nature”. The very existence of the personal ads cited in the OP indicate that women, given the social and economic freedom to do so, are a bit more inclined to make such assessments than these old notions give them credit (or blame) for. Another component in the mixture is the Looking for Mister Goodbar problem: given a dozen horny women and a dozen horny men, the women are likely to be a lot more cautious about toddling off to bed with guys simply because they look yummy to them because of the risk of physical violence. The men are not at appreciable risk from getting raped or killed as a consequence of their pursuit of casual sexual contact.

Does any of this excuse the inequity complained about in the OP? Absolutely not. There’s not much in life that a woman needs protection from that a man is more likely to be able to provide to her as a consequence of being tall. You run across any woman inisistiing on a tall guy, but who then turns around and berates one or more guys for insisting on a skinny chick, by all means let her have it, bust her chops for it.

Who knows?

I am 5’10" and have a vast collection of heels up to 3.5". I never specify a height requirement - it just doesn’t matter to me.

Imagine my dilemma, though. I had gastric bypass surgery in November, 2004, and I’ve lost 122 pounds thus far. Am I the woman who’s lost 122 pounds, or the woman who will probably lose another 40-50? (my surgeon’s esimate). Am I “thick”, “large”, “a few extra pounds”, “voluptuous”? WTF knows? All I know is once a man knows my dress size, the interest is totally gone. I actually had better success with men at my previous large size.

I think I’ll take up knitting. Less damage to the ego :stuck_out_tongue:


I think the complaints aren’t so much about slender female leads, but unhealthily slimmer ones. The lollipop brigade like Calista Flockhart or Lara Flynn Boyle gets criticized because they appear scarily underweight for their height. When Courteney Cox and Jennifer Aniston went from trim and curvy to skeletal, and their celebrity increased at the same time, the backlash happens because there’s a perceived message being sent to impressionable young women that being underweight equals sexy/right/successful.

We don’t hear much about H’woods preference for tall leads because there doesn’t appear to be much of a preference to talk about. Averages for American adult males range in the 5’9" to 5’11" range, so Cruise is shorter than average. As is Michael J.Fox, Danny DeVito, Dudley Moore, Seth Green, Elijah Wood, Henry Winkler, Michael Douglas, Ben Stiller…successful careers, right?

Or just figure that a person who evaluates you for your size – regardless of what it is – is not worth your time.

I had a similar discussion with my daughter years ago. She was complaining about being short – she was the smallest in her class at the time. I pointed out to her all the people we liked who were short, including both her grandmothers and a close friend who was about 4’ 10." I asked her if she would like them any different if they grew six inches? Or if she would like any of our tall friends less if they shrank?

Heck, one can pair up with the most wonderful physical specimen in the world; he or she WILL get old and will inevitably lose many of those charms. If that’s all you want, you’re just SOL. Even without age, anyone can get into an accident, or get a disease.

Good point; however, I’m not convinced that these complaints arise solely from the unhealthily slimmer ones. (That is a legitimate concern, mind you, but I don’t think it’s the sole reason for the backlash against slim female celebrities.) Even before Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox went skeletal, for example, I heard all sorts of complaints about how men seemed to prefer their slenderness.

Well, first of all, several of those men are just a couple of inches below the 5’9" mark. So while they may be below average in height, it’s not by much.

Additionally, I wasn’t talking about male actors having a successful career. I was talking about their stock as leading men, which is an entirely different matter. Tom Cruise and Michael J. Fox are the only ones in that list who have built strong careers on being leading men, IMO (and in Michael J’s case, that was helped along by his comedic talent). The others weren’t generally known to be strong romantic leads, even when they were technicall “leading men.” (Dudley Moore did have his share, but he was hardly on the same level as Crowe, Pitt, Gibson and company.)

So while there’s tremendous merit in what you said, I think there’s still a bit of a double standard going on.

I am curious as to how you concluded either Jennifer Aniston or Courtney Cox’s “celebrity” increased when they got thinner. Neither has had a lot of starring roles lately; Cox, in particular, is not getting any star work at all. Aniston has stayed in the news almost entirely by being married, and then separated from, an A-list star. Boyle and Flockhart’s careers are colder than an Eskimo parking lot.

Another interesting example: Lindsay Lohan, who recently lost weight to an unhealthy degree, has had her latest star vehicle do unexpectedly poorly, and her press is increasingly negative.