It’s no secret physical attraction is a major part of dating and sexual experiences. What people prefer in a partner varies, but researchers from Clemson University wanted to know if the size of our bodies — both height and body mass index (BMI) — is in any way correlated to the number of sexual partners we have. Some of the most common conceptions about size and sex (tall men are believed to have more sexual partners, for example) were partly true, while other findings weren’t as easily explained.

Over 60,000 heterosexual men and women were surveyed and asked to give their height, weight, and number of sex partners. Participants were split into six categories ranging from very short (5-foot-2 or less for men, 4-foot-11 or less for women) to extremely tall (6-foot-5 or taller for men, 6 feet tall or more for women). BMI was divided by the CDC’s guidelines, ranging from underweight (less than 18.5) to morbidly obese (over 40).

With regard to men, the findings only partially upheld stereotypes that tall men are the most attractive to women. The shortest men in the participant pool reported the fewest partners, consistent with the idea that height is a factor in the mating market. Across the rest of the height spectrum, though, there was little variation in the number of partners. Researchers found this difficult to explain.

“Research has repeatedly shown that women prefer men who are slightly taller than they are,” said Dr. David Frederick, assistant professor in psychology at Chapman University and lead author of the study, in a press release. “It is possible that for most women there is a certain minimal threshold of height, after which they will consider a male as a potential sex partner, and thus men above that height will end up with similar numbers of sex partners.”

When it came to BMI, it was men in the “normal” to “overweight” range of the spectrum that reported the most sex partners, as opposed to “underweight” or “obese” men. Researchers noted it may seem surprising that overweight men reported the highest number of sexual partners, but an overweight BMI “does not necessarily map onto the social perceptions of who is overweight.” They added that previous studies have shown men in these middle-BMI categories can be perceived as muscular, athletic, and powerful.

On the women’s side, the researchers’ analysis of height when compared to sexual partners was exploratory. The results revealed no associations or very weak ones at best. And the only recognizable correlation was between very short women who had fewer partners when compared to other women, though even this effect size was considered small.

In the same vein, the examination of women’s BMI didn’t reveal very much either. Underweight women reported fewer sexual partners than other women, which researchers thought may be attributed to dissatisfaction with weight or suffering from anorexia and a resulting motivation not to expose one’s body.

Researchers made sure to point out an issue with the study when it came to what the number of sex partners actually indicated. “It is not a measure of reproductive success and it is not a direct measure of sexual strategy,” they wrote in the study. “We took number of sex partners to be one rough indicator of men’s appeal on the mating market, but multiple factors influence number of sex partners.”

They said that the findings raise questions about how popular preferences map onto actual sexual behavior, and how men with below average heights adjust their mating strategies.

Source: Frederick D, Jenkins B. Height and Body Mass on the Mating Market. Evolutionary Psychology. 2015.