Why Women Prefer Tall Guys

Scientists find more clues to what women look for in men

File this one under animalistic urges. New research from the University of Utah explains why we like stand-up guys -- and we mean that in the most literal sense possible. In a study that could only have been devised by men, researchers pummeled a padded block to determine the most effective fighting posture. What they determined: man hits harder standing on two legs than he does crouched down on all fours. These findings, say the researchers, may help explain why our ape-like ancestors started walking on two feet and why women prefer tall men.

The scientists enlisted a group of boxers and martial arts fighters to hit a punching bag that was fitted with a sensor to measure the force of impact. The men, who took aim from both a standing and hands-and-knees position, were directed to hit the target as hard as they could. The research, published in the journal PLoS ONE (an open access, peer-reviewed journal from the Public Library of Science), found that standing on your hind legs and striking downward packs a much more dangerous punch than aiming skyward.

You might think that has nothing to do with you if you're a woman, but the pugilistic scientists disagree. On the contrary, they say, it has everything to do with you. Whether we realize it or not, the choice of men we want to canoodle with is greatly influenced by our evolutionary urges. Even though we like to think of ourselves as highly evolved, our mate selection process is much more Neanderthal-istic.

"Our ancestors adopted bipedal posture so that males would be better at beating and killing each other when competing for females," said researcher and biology professor David Carrier, in a written statement. “It also provides a functional explanation for why women find tall men attractive." Taller creatures could better defend their mate and their offspring, which is an attractive proposition to anyone without suicidal tendencies.

Of course, one study in The Quarterly Review of Biology suggests that our so-called preference for the biggest and strongest mates could simply be a matter of default. If the biggest brute chases off all of its competition, the female isn’t really left with any other options.

Even if height is a factor when it comes to attraction, it's not the only one: female mammals often decide who’s worthy of shacking up with by the male’s smell. A woman’s nose can help her determine which men are genetically dissimilar to her. So, in the world of genetics, opposites really do attract. The wider your gene pool, the better your offspring’s chances of survival. As we know from all those in-breeding jokes, mating too close to home doesn’t always yield the healthiest child.

When it comes to my personal preferences, I’m going to have to side with the smell over size theory. Here’s the thing: I’ve never been into tall men. That’s not to say I choose guys who could rest their chin on my cleavage (assuming I had any to begin with), but I do prefer being able to look my partner eye-to-eye.

A guy’s scent, on the other hand? I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I kind of love sniffing my husband. It used to confuse him when I’d lean in, as if for a hug, and just press my nose against his neck instead. Now he endures it, though I’m quite sure he finds it odd and perhaps a little disturbing. He, after all, has absolutely no use for my sweat glands, and is properly disgusted when I try to hug him after working out. “You should love my smell,” I jokingly protest. But, it appears the traits men look for in women are dictated less by body odor and more by signs of fertility and attractiveness. So as long as he finds me beautiful, I won’t begrudge him his scent preferences. And I also won’t hold it against him that he’s only 5-foot-eight, and probably punches like an ape.


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