What Makes a Short King?

A new episode of The Sex Lives of College Girls provides a timely response to The Discourse™.

What Makes a Short King?
Amrit Kaur as Bela; with her short king (Igby Rigney); and Eric (Mekki Leeper). Screenshot:HBO Max/YouTube

There are many short men, but slightly fewer short kings, The Sex Lives of College Girl posits in a new episode that dropped last week. Bela, Mindy Kaling’s charming semi-autobiographical avatar on the show about four messy college freshman roommates, embarks on an unexpectedly fulfilling sexual journey with a man who is two inches shorter than she is, sparking the following conversation with her BJ Novak-lookalike love (or at least hook-up) interest, Eric:

“Wait, do you think you’re a short king?” Bela asks him.

“Well, I’m 5’8″, so maybe,” Eric responds.

“Eric, sweetie, you’re not a short king. You’re like a nerd prince, you’re like a straight twink,” Bela replies. “Short kings are thick and meaty, they’re not guys who get pushed away by the wind.”

Prior to this episode, I hadn’t given much thought to the precise definition for a short king; if a man is short and we like him, he is, I understood, a short king. But to Bela’s point, there are apparently some parameters around this. To qualify for the “short” part of the label, experts agree that our short king should be 5’8″ or under. The rest—specifically, what makes one qualify for the “king” part—seems open to interpretation, but confidence; being generally pleasant to be around; and, certainly, taking the “short king” moniker in stride all seem to factor into the equation.


There are many, many different “related” questions when you Google “what makes a short king”—as I did to research this crucial question. (See: right.) I’m honestly dumbfounded by some of them. But my best attempt to come up with a definition comes down to this: Short king status is, more than anything, a state of mind, if you will; an openness to everything that life at a slightly lower altitude has to offer, which can apparently be a lot. As Bela points out while singing the praises of her shorter lover’s sexual prowess, “The blood flow’s way more efficient in small guys.” Short kings embrace who they are and who their partners are; they treat everyone, including themselves, with respect.

An episode dedicated to supporting short kings feels appropriate coming at the end of this year, when #ShortKingSpring took off on TikTok, and online searches for “short king” spiked after tall women and their shorter male partners—including Sophie Turner (5’9″) and Joe Jonas (5’7″), and Hunter Schafer (5’10″), who, in her heels, was at least a couple inches taller than Dominic Fike (5’11″)—walked the red carpet at Vanity Fair’s Oscars party.

On The Sex Lives of College Girls, Bela’s candid appraisal of Eric’s body as that of a “nerd prince” who could “get pushed away by the wind” prompt him to question why he, as a man, can’t make similar comments about her: “I think it’s not fair that you can talk about my body shape but I can’t say anything about yours,” he says. Bela eggs him on (“Oh really? Well come at me”), prompting a flirty little squabble about who, between them, has the bonier pelvis. (Of course, the actual answer to Eric’s question, which I’d wager that both he and Bela already know, has to do with the patriarchy, uneven social power structures, and outdated gender ideals.)

But there really is no need to sell short kings (ahem) short. Sexually, they’re doing just fine, if not better than their tall counterparts: A 2014 study that found that men under 5’9″ are having more sex than taller men resurfaced and went viral last year, after Tom Holland (5’8″), who’s dating Zendaya (5’10″), appeared to like a post about the study on Instagram. Go off, king.

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