Standing in my bare feet, I’m 6ft tall — and scrape door frames if I wear 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 have been charming, intelligent and certainly no slouches when it comes to sex.
Nevertheless, I always felt uncomfortable on the odd occasions when we were photographed together.
I would bend my knees a little to try to close the gap (and fail). It must have looked ridiculous, but I’d grown up brainwashed into believing that standing up straight next to a smaller partner makes him look a bit less manly, so if you love him, you shrink yourself to enhance his status.
Pictured: Janet and her partner Peter. Janet Street-Porter explains that she was brainwashed into believing that standing up straight next to a smaller partner makes them look a bit less manly
I used to pick unflattering shoes with low heels rather than the saucy ones I preferred, and my size 9 feet looked like huge flippers.
How pathetic! If someone loves you, they should accept your height difference, not expect you to wear flat shoes. A tall woman is never going to blend in.
In any case, it turns out I was decades ahead of the latest Generation Z trend: social media is full of posts showering praise on ‘Short Kings’ — men below 5ft 8in. The hashtag #ShortKing, coined in 2018, has more than 340million views on TikTok and Twitter. Picking a shortarse is nothing short of fashionable, so much so that we are Social media is full of posts praising ‘Short Kings’ — men below 5ft 8in sdfs Janet StreetPorter with her partner Peter Spanton living through what’s being called ‘Short King Spring’.
The truth is, most of my boyfriends didn’t mind my height — or at least, they found the fact that I get recognised in public (and they didn’t) more challenging.
Their own lack of height, on the other hand, has always been a very touchy subject. The majority of my four husbands would claim to be the same height as me (a total lie), adding at least two inches extra if anyone asked.
Still, I chose my partners because they were opinionated, smart and could cope with me. Height didn’t come into the equation. And I have never been knowingly rejected for my height, either.
Pictured: Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner. Janet says to go from being seen as dating rejects to ‘kings’ is a huge turnaround
In fact, there are some creepy men who actually seek out tall women because it turns them on. Once, I wore an Alexander McQueen floor-length leather coat with high-heeled boots to an art opening, and a man in a smart suit (the wrong side of 50) sidled up and asked if I would go back to his flat so he could sit and ‘admire my wonderful height’. I politely declined. At the Cannes Film Festival one year, I wore very high heels and a stunning designer dress to a party, only to attract a lot of very short men offering me drinks (and a lot more) down at waist level.
Of course, once you’ve got your clothes off in bed, height is of no consequence. And yet men have been conditioned to think that tall 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 that tiny bit more masculine
The myth persists that short men are more aggressive, keen to throw their weight around. And some high-profile short men — former Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone (5ft 2in), for example — have reputations for being combative and controversial. Thrice-married Bernie’s two most recent wives (Slavica and Fabiana) tower over him.
Have short men really got a chip on their shoulder? Putin is routinely surrounded by much taller henchmen but there’s no doubting who wields the sinister power. President Macron is short, with a wife who is taller in her high heels, but he seems unperturbed, despite coming across as laughably vain.
The Hollywood elite take vanity to new levels, of course. Movie stars regularly add half an inch to their true heights to appear that tiny bit more masculine. They are carefully photographed so their true height is concealed — it’s remarkable, once you look, how rarely tall female stars like Elizabeth Debicki (6ft 3in) are pictured looming over their male co-stars. In The Night Manager, her height was emphasised but she was playing a highly neurotic girlfriend rather than a conventional love interest. In The Crown, she has been cast as Diana to Dominic West (6ft) as Prince Charles — but don’t expect that difference to be highlighted, quite the reverse.
Social media is full of posts praising ‘Short Kings’ — men below 5ft 8in
Even the biggest male stars seem to have extremely thin skins when it comes to stature. Tom Cruise always wears built-up shoes for public appearances to add extra inches — extraordinary, considering his success. Nicole Kidman has married two men much shorter than herself: Cruise and the country singer Keith Urban, who (like Cruise) used to resort to builtup heels on the red carpet. Luckily, Keith seems to have got the modern message that short is fashionable, and ditched them at the recent Academy Awards.
Encountering these real stars in the flesh can be a bit of a shock. I remember meeting Matt Damon at a private dinner and being astonished that the star of the Jason Bourne thrillers was some distance below my eye level when we shook hands. He claims to be 5ft9in tall.
But a new generation of stars is blowing this constricting mindset out of the water, and embracing their role as ‘Short Kings’. That change has required some brave role models and their (taller) partners, notably Tom Holland (5ft 8in) and Zendaya (5ft 10in), who met while filming SpiderMan. They seem perfectly cofortable posing on the red carpet, her in heels, and frequently joke about their height difference in interviews. Last December, Holland ‘liked’ an Instagram post claimed shorter men are more sexually active than their taller counterparts.
Pictured: Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban. Janet says the truth is, short men are guilty of all the same shortcomings as tall ones
At The Academy Awards, singer and actor Joe Jonas (5ft 7in) seemed perfectly happy beside his wife Sophie Turner (5ft 9in), wearing a flamboyant suit to match her stunning Louis Vuitton red dress.
To go from being seen as dating rejects to ‘kings’ is a huge turnaround. Could it be Gen Z are simply uninterested in 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. Haven’t we been impressed by his straightforward manner and his brilliance at communication, despite the fact he’s not that tall (5ft 7in)?
In the past, picking a partner shorter than you was often seen by your mates as a bit odd, as if you couldn’t get anything better. But as a very tall woman, my teenage years were a time when I was made to feel weird anyway. So I quickly learned to ignore what people thought about my love life.
In some ways, I applaud the #ShortKing movement as a wellmeaning attempt at a rebrand. But going too far the other way and hailing short men as ‘kings’ is just plain ridiculous. The truth is, short men are guilty of all the same shortcomings as tall ones.
Yet according to a study in the Journal of Biological Psychology, women are twice as likely to pick tall men for flings, rather than as long-term partners.
Perhaps we knew all along (well before Short Kings were a thing) that the shorter fellows are more dependable.