Tall men, skinny women

A speed-dating study uncovers more dirt on the physical attributes men and women find attractive.


Page Rockwell
November 21, 2006 2:09AM (UTC)

Thank goodness for research grants! A team of academics at England's University of Essex recently set out to answer some important questions about men, women and speed dating, and turned up the unsurprising finding that women tend to prefer taller men and men tend to prefer thinner women, Asian News International reports. Researchers found that "for every inch taller a man is than his 'rivals' at speed-dating sessions, the number of women who want to meet him again increases by five per cent." And "a woman ... with a body-mass index (BMI) of more than 25 is selected by 70 percent fewer men" than her competitors. It's been demonstrated that, at least in the industrialized world, shorter men and heavier women tend to earn less than their taller/thinner peers, and are also less likely to marry; some speculate that these biases have an evolutionary basis. Shorter women also tend to have greater reproductive success. It's unfortunate that some men and women face hardship because of their physical attributes, but there's no real news flash here.

Still, a couple of results from the speed-dating study did pique my interest: First, that "women who are unhealthily thin, with an index of less than 18.5, are no more or less successful than women of normal weight." And, conversely, "being fat makes little difference to a man's success." Beauty standards tend to follow the food supply; experts say our culture's preference for thin women may be related to our abundant resources. But it's interesting that women are penalized for being overweight but not for being excessively skinny, while paunchy men fare as well as their thinner peers. Why don't women put the kibosh on heavy guys? Do women have different standards, or does a man's extra heft signal something beneficial? We hope the University of Essex team will keep us posted.

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Meanwhile, there's some good news for educated women bamboozled by John Tierney into worrying about their romantic prospects: The study found women with college degrees garnered 10 percent more interest than their less educated peers.


Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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