Abstract In crustacean species with precopulatory mate-guarding, sexual size dimorphism has most often been regarded as the consequence of a large male advantage in contest competition for access to females. However, large body size in males may also be favoured indirectly through scramble competition. This might partly be the case if the actual target of selection is a morphological character, closely correlated with body size, involved in the detection of receptive females. We studied sexual selection on body size and antennae length in natural populations of Asellus aquaticus, an isopod species with precopulatory mate guarding. In this species, males are larger than females and male pairing success is positively related to body size. However, males also have longer antennae, relative to body size, than females, suggesting that this character may also be favoured by sexual selection. We used multivariate analysis of selection to assess the relative influences of body size and antennae length in five different populations in the field. Selection gradients indicated that, overall, body size was a better predictor of male pairing success than antennae length, although some variation was observed between sites. We then manipulated male antennae length in a series of experiments conducted in the lab, and compared the pairing ability of males with short or long antennae. Males with short antennae were less likely to detect, orient to, and to pair with a receptive female compared with males with long antennae. We discuss the implications of our results for studies of male body size and sexual dimorphism in relation to sexual selection in crustaceans.