Are You Playing Small?

The vast majority of women I know are attracted to men who are taller than they are – and I’m no exception. And while I’ve never thought of it as anything more than an evolutionary adaptation whereby women want their offspring to be as big and strong as possible, when brute force is no longer an indicator of survival skills, what does it mean when you literally want to be in a relationship with someone bigger than you?

I remember hearing Kim Kardashian say something about loving being with Kris Humphries because he made her feel small – and while the love part clearly didn’t last, her sentiment somehow stuck with me. In just the last week I’ve heard no fewer than three women tell me about how they like being with men who are bigger than they are, with men who make them feel small – and for the first time I was struck by what this means.

How to find Mr. Right!

Does wanting to be in a relationship with someone who is literally bigger (read: taller) than you, mean that you want to be in a relationship with someone who is bigger (read: better) than you? And is this still an adaptive reproductive mechanism or instead a way by which women “play small.” When we want to feel small, do we want to be small?

What do you think? Tell me below!



  1. Melanie Notkin Reply

    Good question, Alexis. To be fair, I’m 5′ tall and 100lbs so to date a man who is taller than I am or who makes me feel small, is not such a feat. I do like a manly man, but height isn’t the issue. In fact, some men have been too tall for me. If he’s 5’11, strong and burly but can’t pick the restaurant, I still don’t want to date him.

  2. Grace Gold Reply

    As the tallest kid in class through 7th grade (among both the girls and boys), height became something that genuinely excited me in a guy – and I went for six feet or taller until college. But as you get older, you realize those physical characteristics you think are your “type” are so silly, and not at all an indicator of how awesome a guy may be. That said – even though I date a wider range of heights, I still get a flutter from a guy who has height. I don’t know if it’s because of my experience in grade school – being the only one without a dance partner at school dances because I was taller than all the guys – or if it’s just simple evolutionary psychology. We may not need to be physically “protected” now as women, but we have thousands upon thousands of years of evolution programmed into us, from when we did.

  3. I don’t think it is a question of women being lesser than or by being smaller they are a weak little lamb lost in the woods. I think, and please know that I write this with a smirk on my face- no woman wants to feel fat. If I am with a a smaller guy, I feel like an elephant. Who wants that in the bedroom?

  4. Liz DiAlto Reply

    This is a really interesting question-like Melanie, I’m a small person so this is no major feat for me. As a woman who spends a lot of time in my masculine energy (personal trainer, business owner, New Yorker)…I love being with a man who’s “bigger” than me, not because it makes me feel small but because it makes me feel feminine. Although I don’t need a man to protect me, I love knowing that he could. And because my personality is very strong, I think I also appreciate the contrast of physical strength -it’s sexy to me and I definitely recognize some kind of primal instinct about it, too.

  5. It’s not necessarily feeling small, but there’s definitely something about feeling protected and secure…which is hard with someone the same size–or smaller.

  6. Kelsea Brennan Reply

    Women like to feel petite; tiny physically in comparison to the men they date. This relates more to our cultures obsession with weight and body image rather then our role in a relationship. Women in most relationships tend to play a big role. The power struggle was quite obvious in Kim K’s marriage, which is one (of the many) reasons in my opinion, it did not work

  7. I like to think that there is some balance overall and that we should try to not let anything define our tastes unless truly they work for us, at a deep soul level.

    I dont mind men that are the same size as me or petitie for me its an energetic and personality thing that evokes the feeling of wanting a man to be well a man that in some way protects me in an energetically masculine way. This is not to say that I will not protect him but more so in a feminine way.

    For me the balance is that we both man and woman come to a beautiful harmony WITHIN ourselves of feminine and masculine and some have more leaning one way more than the other- for the GENERAL there is something comforting about a man being strong its sexy, and something comforting about a woman being warm – this is not to say that the woman is not strong because as we know usually the woman is truly the strong one :) and that a man cannot be warm – by all means NO! but that there is something inherent and somewhat true about these roles and the balance of yin and yang energy and what makes us feel sexy, safe, and connected. balanced.

  8. Interesting question. Reflecting on my dating experiences- I have dated a few guys, some much taller than I am, others about the same height and one short dude hehe..

    I agree with both Victoria’s and Christine’s responses. I remember when I started hugging the short guy I felt like I was hugging my youngest nephew — kinda weird. For some reason or another I do feel protected and secure with a taller or same height guy.

    On the other hand Christine is right, the personality of a person make a huge difference as well. The guy can be a giant and be quiet as a mouse. So there definitely needs to be some sort of kind of balance in general- whatever that may be for you.

  9. Very much like how this was turned around. I was 6’00” tall by the age of 11 (when I stopped growing) and was also athlete-thick. I was often mistaken for a teacher by visitors, because I was also bright for my age and dressed in older person clothes because, well, there wasn’t much else to fit.

    For men, I didn’t date until I was 18, and it was the tallest kid in my year in high school. Since then, I have dated men at my height, but am leaps and bounds more attracted to very, very tall men (6’6” +) and have dated a number of them. However, my first serious relationship was with a Malaysian Chinese man who was both younger than me, and the same height. And I played so, so, so small. I literally changed my demeanour, my style, my everything. And I developed a mean case of anorexia. I don’t blame him, but he was so lithe and fine-boned and had parents who expected me to act like a demure Asian woman, that I needed to shrink in all sorts of ways.

    I want to date men taller than me so that I CAN be my large, large self, without feeling like I am squashing my partner’s own physical or intellectual presence. I want to have legs of steel, and stand up tall, and wear heels, and be an outspoken activist and the extrovert that I am. And when I am with a tall man, it’s like I get to be that way without taking from them, without casting a shadow on them.

    So, Alexis, I get it, I definitely get it. But, I have now moved past that. If I were to date a short man with presence, then I wouldn’t have a problem. But…it’s not beeing something I have found.

    Great article.

  10. Honestly, I can say height is a really big thing for me. It does make me feel smaller/ more feminine. As a tomboy, that’s a pretty good feeling to know I can hang out with my guys friends, and still be a girl when it all comes down to it. But I also love the feeling during down time, when he holds me, and I feel encompassed and safe. I guess it is that millions of years of evolution, where I still just want a big strong man to hold me, even though I’m strong enough to hold myself.

  11. Jill Rudnitzky Reply

    Tony Robbins talks about polarity as the essence of attraction. When polarity fades, so too does the level of attraction two people feel for one another. Call me old fashion, but in my opinion, this polarity can be broadly boiled down to masculine vs feminine. By being with a man who is physically bigger than I, the physical disparity creates that instant polarity.

    That said, bigger is certainly not always better (you heard me!). A man with physical presence better have the back-bone and alpha-like qualities to back it up. I myself possess quite a bit alpha-female tendencies, while still entirely embracing my femininity. So to maintain that polarity on an emotional level, I need a man who is not only able to match that “go-getter” nature, but also challenge it.

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