Standing barefoot, I’m 6 feet tall and I scrape door frames if I’m wearing the proper high heels. Every man I’ve ever dated, slept with, or married has been shorter than me.
And guess what? For the most part, they’ve been charming, smart, and certainly not sloppy when it comes to sex.
However, I have always felt uncomfortable on the odd occasions when we were photographed together.
I’d bend my knees a bit to try and close the gap (and fail). It was supposed to sound ridiculous, but I grew up brainwashed into believing that standing next to a smaller partner makes him look a little less manly, so if you love him, you shrink to improve his status.
Pictured: Janet and her partner Peter. Janet Street-Porter explains that she was brainwashed into believing that standing next to a smaller partner makes him look a little less manly
I chose unflattering shoes with low heels rather than the sassy ones I preferred, and my 9ft size felt like huge fins.
How pathetic! If someone loves you, they should accept your height difference, not expect them to wear flat shoes. A tall woman will never blend in.
Either way, it turns out I was decades ahead of the latest Generation Z trend: social media is full of posts praising “Short Kings” – men under 5 feet 8 inches. The #ShortKing hashtag, coined in 2018, has more than 340 million views on TikTok and Twitter. Choosing a shortarse is nothing short of trendy, so much so that social media is full of posts praising “Short Kings” – men under 5 feet 8 inches tall Janet StreetPorter with her partner Peter Spanton living what it is called “Short King Spring”.
The truth is, most of my guys didn’t care about my height, or at least, they found it more challenging that I was recognized in public (and they didn’t).
Their very lack of height, on the other hand, has always been a very sensitive subject. Most of my four husbands would claim to be the same height as me (a total lie), adding at least two extra inches if anyone asked.
However, I chose my partners because they were opinionated, intelligent, and could cope with me. Height was not part of the equation. And I was never knowingly rejected even for my height.
Pictured: Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner. Janet says going from being seen as rejected for dating to “king” is a huge turnaround
In fact, there are some creepy men who are looking for tall women because it turns them on. Once, I wore an Alexander McQueen floor-length leather coat with high-heeled boots for an artistic opening, and a man in a smart suit (the wrong side of 50) sneaked up and asked me if I would go back to his house so he could sit back and ‘admire my wonderful height’. I politely refused. At the Cannes Film Festival one year, I wore very high heels and a gorgeous designer dress to a party, only to attract a lot of very short men who offered me drinks (and more) at waist height.
Of course, once you have undressed in bed, height doesn’t matter. Yet men have been conditioned to think that height is best, a badge of success, power and confidence.
Pictured: Tom Holland with Zendaya. Movie stars regularly add half an inch to their true heights to appear a little more masculine
The myth persists that short men are more aggressive, eager to throw their weight around. And some high-profile short men – former Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone (5ft 2in), for example – have a reputation for being combative and controversial. Bernie’s two last wives (Slavica and Fabiana) three times married tower over him.
Do short men really have a splinter on their shoulder? Putin is routinely surrounded by much taller henchmen, but there is no question about who wields sinister power. President Macron is short, with a taller wife in high heels, but he looks unflappable, despite the fact that he looks ridiculously vain.
The Hollywood elite takes vanity to new heights, of course. Movie stars regularly add half an inch to their true heights to appear a little more masculine. They are carefully photographed so that their true height is hidden – it’s extraordinary, once you look, how rarely tall female stars like Elizabeth Debicki (6 feet 3 inches) are pictured looming over their male co-stars. In The Night Manager, her height was emphasized but she played a highly neurotic girl rather than a conventional love interest. In The Crown, she was cast to play Diana and Dominic West (6 feet) for the role of Prince Charles, but don’t expect this difference to be highlighted, quite the opposite.
Social media is full of posts praising “Short Kings” – men under 5 feet 8 inches
Even the biggest male stars seem to have extremely thin skin when it comes to stature. Tom Cruise always wears shoes built for public appearances to add extra inches – extraordinary considering his success. Nicole Kidman married two men much shorter than her: Cruise and country singer Keith Urban, who (like Cruise) used to resort to high heels on the red carpet. Fortunately, Keith seems to have gotten the modern message that the short is in fashion and abandoned it at the recent Academy Awards.
Meeting these real stars in the flesh can be a bit of a shock. I remember meeting Matt Damon at a private dinner and being amazed that the Jason Bourne thriller star was some distance from my eye level when we shook hands. He claims to be 5 feet 9 inches tall.
But a new generation of stars is sweeping this constricting mindset out of the water and embracing their role as “Short Kings”. That change required some brave models and their (taller) partners, most notably Tom Holland (5ft 8in) and Zendaya (5ft 10in), who met while filming SpiderMan. They look perfectly comfortable posing on the red carpet, she in heels, and often joke about their height difference in interviews. Last December, Holland “liked” an Instagram post claiming that shorter men are more sexually active than their taller counterparts.
Pictured: Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban. Janet says the truth is that short men are guilty of the same shortcomings as tall ones
At the Academy Awards, singer and actor Joe Jonas (5ft 7in) looked perfectly happy next to his wife Sophie Turner (5ft 9in), who wore a flamboyant dress to match his gorgeous red Louis Vuitton dress.
Going from being seen as rejected for dating to “king” is a huge turnaround. Could it be that Gen Z is simply disinterested in the old stereotypes about power and ego?
Perhaps a less obvious recent addition to the #ShortKing pantheon is Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. He is often cited as a model of modern masculinity. Weren’t we impressed with his straightforward ways and communication genius, despite the fact that he’s not that tall (5 feet 7 inches)?
In the past, choosing a partner shorter than you was often seen by your friends as a little weird, like you couldn’t get any better. But being a very tall woman, my teenage years was a time when I still felt weird. So I quickly learned to ignore what people thought about my love life.
In a way, I applaud the #ShortKing movement as a well-meaning attempt at rebranding. But to go too far to the other side and greet short men as “kings” is just plain ridiculous. The truth is that short men are guilty of the same shortcomings as tall ones.
Yet, according to a study in the Journal of Biological Psychology, women are twice as likely to choose tall men for affairs rather than as long-term partners.
Maybe we knew from the start (well before Short Kings were a thing) that the lower types are more reliable.