Journalist Jonathan Wells carried out an experiment on women’s preference for tall men and wrote about it in my paper yesterday. He needn’t have carried out the experiment because he could have gone gone directly to . . . ayi.com dating site, which keeps statistics on these things. It could have told him that, in the UK, a 6ft man is 33% more likely to be contacted by a woman than someone who is just 5ft 8in tall.
He might then have asked himself whether a 6ft 2in man would attract more women than a 6ft man. Very likely. Would a 7ft man do better? Unlikely I’d have thought. He’s past the optimum height for maximum return is my guess. I remember reading about an 8ft 6in man the other day (who seemed perfectly normal from his photo) who said that he’d never had a girl friend and was complaining that he’d be never likely to find one.
Wells’s experiment, by the way was the simple one of advertising himself twice on a dating site with the same name, same biography and the same photo. But in one he’d put his height as 6ft 3in and in the other, as 5ft 7in. He received far more replies from the first as from the second (11 to 2). However, it seemed that the point of his article was not to demonstrate this well-known fact of life once again, but to simply to make the opposite point. When a tall women is attracted to a shorter man, she is likely to be rebuffed. Wells says she’ll call him a “superficial pig”. M’mm . . . that’s a bit strong. I’m sure most tall women are more courteous than that but, just the same, tall women have to be more phiiosophical than women of normal height.
What I’ve noticed about tall women marrying shorter men (not that I’ve come across many, if any, in real life) is that the man concerned is either very rich (Bernie Ecclestone, the F1 multibillionaire, is a good example) or that he has a very confident personality (John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons). It seems that men need to feel they can boss their wife. Or is it that women like to be bossed? I remember as a very unconfident young man that I shied away from a girl who was taller than me, but very attractive and talented otherwise.
However, any evolutionary biologists could have told Jonathan Wells what his result would be — but why, too. The fact is that, living on the dangerous African savannah for 180,000 years when life was tough, a post-pubescent girl, longing to have a baby, must needs find a man who was fit and strong — tall being helpful in this regard — in order that she and her child would be well protected for several years. He needed to have other qualities, too, but fitness, and tallness would be high on her check-list.
In fact, as a general rule, while women usually choose men who belong to the same social class as she does (she can judge his other qjualities all the better), she will also — generally — choose men who are more intellligent than herself and more likely to be a better economic provider than the norm. Obviously, this can’t always be satisfied — or we’d have far fewer marriages — but it’s the general rule, and in all cultures so far surveyed, too. The surplus of unmarried men — that is, those unselected — is far greater than for unmarried women.
This also leads to a life strategy for some women that doesn’t apply to men. This is that a beautiful young woman who is intelligent enough and adaptable enough (particularly in her speaking voice and in her clothes sense) can trade upwards for men friends from one social class to another. She can get right to the top, even to marry a Prince if she really sets her mind to it — there have been more than one or two of these in recent years.
In the 1930s, the French used to call beautiful women who were seen in the very best quality shops and restaurants of Paris dames horizontales. Also in the 1930s in this country we had the Gaiety Girl phenomenon when rich American men coming over to this country would marry beautiful chorus girls. Also its obverse when rich American young women would come over here and marry titled land-owning aristocrats whose estates were in danger of going bust. She’d supply the money and become ‘her Ladyship’ in return. This was the central feature of Downton Abbey.
These days in this country, and I dare say in most advanced countries, we have escort agencies where beautiful girls are paid to go on dates with rich men — modern equivalents of geisha girls of Japan, I suppose. One particularly beautiful girl was interviewed on tv recently and, in contrast to normal social norms, she was totally unembarrassed by her activities. She was actually an undergraduate and didn’t want to do a part-time waitressing job to pay off her tuition fees. She was not only paying off her debts but, after graduation (she intended to get a good degree), she would return to escorting and would almost certainly marry a very rich man. What’s more, her mother, who also appeared on the programme, was fully supportive of her daughter’s strategy in life.