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Can We Ever Overcome Tall/Hot Confusion?

Straight women keep reminding themselves that height doesn’t always make the man

Go ahead and picture a man. Not a man you know, but one you’ve built up mentally, from scratch. Now assign him this physical attribute: He’s easily over six feet tall. You see him?

Once you’ve done the work of visualizing this tall man, I have a follow-up question: Is he hot?

Attraction is weird, and there’s no accounting for individual taste. But it’s commonly accepted that tall men have it made where dating is concerned. The psychological research tells us they “have higher self-esteem (whether or not deserved), are happier and are less likely to feel jealous toward other men.” Tall people in general make more money and are automatically perceived as “more dominant, healthy and intelligent.” Archetypal gender roles being what they are, tall men therefore enjoy an amplified aura of masculinity and a clear sexual advantage. 

Except, as so many straight women have pointed out — for whatever reason, it seems gay men don’t have this issue, or don’t really care about it — height can be deceiving. Assessing whether a man is actually cute, hot, handsome, sexy, etc., or merely above average in vertical dimension has become a notable challenge of the times. The cultural bias toward tall guys is just that strong. Yet the repeated agony of understanding you’ve fallen for another lousy giraffe-sized dude is so keen as to produce an equal and opposite Newtonian reaction: a knee-jerk skepticism about the value of towering men. The New York Knicks offer a collective example.              

And if you think the backlash stops with potential Tinder hookups, you’re quite mistaken. This week, the celebrity gossip blog Oh No They Didn’t! — also the largest community on LiveJournal — published a brutal takedown of supposedly hunky celebrities, explaining how each has had his appearance overhyped thanks to physical stature. Among the “tall, not handsome” casualties are Nicholas Hoult (6-foot-2), Alexander Skarsgård (6-foot-4), Tom Brady (6-foot-4), Chris Hemsworth (6-foot-3) and Armie Hammer (6-foot-4), who allegedly only scans as hot because “[w]e saw him and ‘his twin’ in The Social Network and were drawn in by the potential for being spit-roasted by the two of them.”

Wow, okay then! Does this mean tall guys are finally over?

Not so fast.

Recently, leftists on Twitter have been enamored with a protester who showed up to Black Lives Matter protests in Washington, D.C., decked out in riot gear, to intimidate cops and throw back canisters of tear gas they fired into the crowd. He appeared to be in the neighborhood of 7 feet tall, according to some viewers — I’d estimate 6-foot-7 to 6-foot-9, but we can have a little hyperbole, as a treat. Either way, his height helped him go viral, and thereby generate a ton of thirst. Men in masks have claimed significant horny attention of late, yet the point remains: You can’t see his face. How can you tell if he’s hot?

It would seem his politics and tactics, combined with an elongated frame, are reasons enough to make that call and start simping. Tall = attractive.    

The “7ft protester” tweets also emphasize what an unusual time it is for the hotness discourse, at least with respect to tall/hot confusion: Because of the isolation and distancing that came with the coronavirus pandemic, casual sex with a new partner is basically verboten, and we aren’t having as many of the in-person encounters where height influences our opinion of a person. The adjudications are mostly virtual these days, and we have to manage with context clues.

A man on Twitter might project “tall guy energy,” however you want to define it, but that glowing impression is a mere shadow of what the tall guy achieves by simply standing next to you. In fact, as the country tentatively reopens and (limited) social gatherings resume, we may discover that tallness has a newfound novelty to recommend it. When was the last time you had to look up at a 6-foot-5 man to carry on a conversation? You’ve missed it, haven’t you.

And so the trap is sprung.

So be careful getting back out into the world, everyone, and not just by wearing a mask: As hard as we’ve all worked to separate the concept of “tall” from “sexy,” quarantine may have drastically lowered your tolerance to the effect of a dude who can reach the top kitchen shelf. And you know that tall men are itching to flaunt their height at the gym, the beach and the club again. Don’t be hypnotized by such lankiness — short kings need love too, remember. And they won’t put a cramp in your neck.