There’s an infamous scene in Shaquille O’Neal’s 2003 MTV Cribs episode where he opens the door to his bedroom and smugly points to his 30-foot wide, perfectly circular bed. Though his three children rush in to jump on it like it was the world’s largest trampoline, you can tell from Shaq’s flirty intonation that there’s no question what actually goes down on that thing — that gigantic bed is where the “magic” happens.
Looking at photos of O’Neal and any one of his vertically challenged ex-girlfriends, though, it’s tempting to wonder exactly how that “magic” works. The Shaq Attack is 7-foot-1; his shortest ex on record, Nicole “Hoopz” Alexander, is 5-foot-2. And so, the question is more or less obvious: How do two people fuck when one is a skyscraper and the other is a garden-level walk-up?
According to MEL Editor-in-Chief Josh Schollmeyer, fellow veteran of an extreme height differential relationship, not always easily. At 6-foot-4, he dwarfed his college girlfriend, who, at just over five-foot, often had to be picked up off the ground to kiss. “Some sex positions were more challenging, or simply off the table,” he explains. “I remember 69-ing once for about a nanosecond, but we stopped immediately once we realized it was impossible for our bodies to align in a way that our mouths would be on the proper areas and not simply licking or sucking some piece of random flesh far from even the most enlightened love’s erogenous zones.”
In the same vein, a redditor who responded to a series of prompts I posted on Reddit’s r/sex and r/tall forums lamented being much taller than his partner made it hard to “suck on a nip during missionary,” while another, who reported he was a healthy foot-and-a-half taller than his girlfriend, said their height difference made switching positions a more complicated affair.
Every now and then, the smaller person can even feel smothered under their much larger partner. For instance, Stacy, a 4-and-a-half-foot tall adult store employee, says there are times when she’s having missionary sex with her boyfriend when his weight is a little too much for her. “He has to be totally propped up on his hands or he’ll kind of crush me,” she says. “My head also only goes up to his chest in that position, so it’s kind of hard to kiss when he’s on top.”
Slight irritations like these are usually solved with thoughtfully placed pillows, stepping stools and a little creativity and communication. Noah, a woman whose 6-foot stature places her about a head above her shorter male partners (who she prefers for the “chicness and glamour”), says because standing-up sex is out of the question for her, she usually opts for more horizontally oriented positions. “I’ve never felt restricted by my height when we’re lying down, but it’s pretty much impossible to have sex against a wall for obvious reasons,” she explains. “I just have to communicate that more when the guy is much shorter.”
That said, Schollmeyer assures me that he found plenty of ways to make the height differential work for him and his ex. “Now that I think about it, I really loved having sex with her while standing up and being able to wrap her around my whole body, holding her up the entire time,” he says. “It made me feel powerful and much stronger than I really was. Sort of like a bodybuilder.”
Five-foot-two redditor damnfinechaxi echoes Schollmeyer’s love of portability, writing that the tininess she feels when she’s with much taller men is a major turn-on, especially if they’re “really strong and can pick [her] up and move [her] around easily.”
Mainstream porn has really capitalized on depicting scenes like this. A larger person picking up their much smaller partner and moving them around in the fashion described above is the theme of a vast and diverse category of porn that’s broadly called “lift and carry,” though that’s really only a fraction of the “magic” that happens in it. Performers in this canon can be seen towering over their partners in an erotically imposing manner, having sex in mind-expanding positions only suited to tall/short pairings and practicing athletic types of oral sex most of us can only dream of. This isn’t stuff any old couple can pull off — these acts of passion are exclusive to people with extreme height differences (or are who are extremely strong). If you think otherwise, try hoisting your partner onto your shoulders, then dangling them down by their legs to your genitals so they can give you head without breaking a lumbar vertebrae.
Hearteningly, there’s a vast degree of variation when it comes to the genders, sexual orientations and racial makeups of large/small porn actors. In fact, there’s really something for everyone: “huge men fucking tiny women,” “tall women punishing tiny men,” videos of Amazonian women hoisting their diminutive, pigtailed female partners off the ground and hulking gentlemen making consensual mincemeat out of smaller gentlemen’s behinds. More fetishistic iterations of this theme include macrophilia and microphilia, which convey a sexual desire to be much smaller or larger than a partner or the rest of the world.
Fetish or not though, these desires appear to play into people’s innate height preferences overall. Not much research has been conducted on tall/short sex and fantasies, but according to Justin Lehmiller, research fellow at The Kinsey Institute and author of Tell Me What You Want, the desire for someone much larger or smaller than you is one of the more common ones. He surveyed more than 4,000 Americans about their sexual fantasies, and found that heterosexual women said they fantasize about men who were 6-feet tall on average, while heterosexual men fantasize about women who were just tall enough to get on this ride — right around five feet.
Lehmiller offers several explanations for why this may be. For one, it might just be a novelty to have a much taller or smaller partner. “Novelty and newness can be a major turn on,” he explains. “Also, the simple juxtaposition of smaller and larger body parts could be arousing to some because of the contrast they create (for example, a penis is likely to look bigger than usual when grasped by smaller hands).”
For some people, tall/short pairings can also convey a power dynamic that can be especially alluring in the context of BDSM. “Extreme height differentials may symbolize power or status differences, which could create a dominance-submission dynamic, with the taller partner assuming a more dominant role and the shorter partner assuming a more submissive role,” says Lehmiller. “BDSM is another extremely popular fantasy theme, so that could very well be part of what’s going on here.”
“I’m in it for the power dynamic,” says Stacy. “I like that I can (consensually) be totally taken over. It’s like my boyfriend’s size is part of his dominance.” On the flip side, porn has lots of examples of tall women dominating their shorter partners, which can act as another way to subvert the gender role that women are small, meek and fragile.
All that said, many people involved in tall/short relationships say that other than having difficulty 69-ing and being particularly turned on by picking each other up, their height has no real effect on their relationship or their ability to do naughty things to each other. The same things that make sex good for more similarly shaped partners make sex good for those whose heights differ by more than a few inches. As Schollmeyer says, “I’ve been a tall man in a small person’s world for most of my life so all of the slouching, bending over and shitty posture required to hold hands, kiss, etc. wasn’t that dissimilar to how I typically move through the world. In fact, I never thought about it too much.”
Still, he has one piece of advice for anyone who finds themselves towering over their sexual partners: “The key to a good sex life is upper body strength.”