Sex and Success: Erotic Capital

There are at least two things we all want to have in our lives: sex and success. According to the new book, Honey Money by Catherine Hakim, the key to both is erotic capital. Hakim defines erotic capital as a combination of beauty, sex appeal, and skill which makes some people attractive and agreeable as colleagues, as well as attractive to the opposite sex. She argues that men and women shouldn’t hesitate to use these factors to their advantage. Disclaimer: I haven’t actually read the book, as it has only been released in the UK; however, I think it is worth commenting on some of the issues raised by many reviews of the book.

Looks and Success

Hakim’s argument that physical attractiveness and social skills are a resource that can help us get ahead is well established. Statistically speaking, it is well-established that people who are more attractive earn more money and get promoted faster. The book, the Beauty Mythby Naomi Woofe, published in 1991, documents these benefits and then challenges the stereotypes that contribute to this benefit. Instead, Hakim appears to be arguing that women should take advantage of their “erotic capital.” She asserts that women have an edge on erotic capital because men crave sex more and are more visually stimulated than women. Most professional women will tell you being physically attractive is a thin blade to walk on. Women’s looks are still judged more harshly than men’s. Yet, being too attractive, especially dressing too sexy, often limits a woman’s success because she isn’t taken seriously. Women must find the balance between being attractive enough their looks are an asset, but not so attractive they lose credibility. Hakim appears to be unaware of this limitation. And this argument should also anger men, as it reduces them to mindless, sex-driven monkeys.

Sex Jason Patel via Compfight

Web 2.0 and Image

Yet Hakim’s viewpoint may have a special importance in the age of branding and user-generated content. We live in a world where there is more content available than ever, which means we humans rely more and more on shortcuts to decide what deserves our attention and support. Young people connect via Facebook and Twitter, two platforms that show only our physical attractiveness and social skill. Individuals are now encouraged to consider their personal “brand” with the same kind of awareness as corporations. This reality strengthens Hakim’s argument, at least in terms of the significance of image. Yet her argument that women have a sexual edge is disturbing.

Sex and Young Girls

Humans crave goodness and beauty. We enjoy being around people who are pleasing to look at and easy to interact with. However, arguing women have an edge sexually reinforces the damaging idea that a young woman’s value lies mostly in her physical charms. This summer, there was an outcry about sexy bikinis designed for and marketed to 5 year old girls. Girls start to diet at younger and younger ages. The conventional, media-fueled definition of attractiveness hurts the self-image of 95% of all adolescent girls. Girls start their first “diet” at younger and younger ages. I wonder what standard of beauty Hakim would use to describe erotic capital? Twiggy or Marilyn or both? Young women unconsciously understand how much value their emerging curves have, long before they have the maturity to manage the results. Do we really want to encourage them to worry even more about how they are exploiting their erotic capital? At the same time, I hate how much we judge and disparage the woman who does use her physical attractiveness to get ahead. I might actually read this book just to see what Hakim has to say about how our Puritan ideals limits our experience of human sexuality.

Healthier Solutions?

Healthier solution: Encourage all people, men and women alike, to dress attractively and fuss with their appearance for their own pleasure. Research does suggest that taking the time to dress well does improve how we feel about ourselves. I think focusing on this internal gratification is a much healthier route than worrying about how others will respond. Feeling good about ourselves gives us all a boost and a foundation of confidence, whether we meet conventional beauty standards or not.

By | 2016-06-02T22:03:23+00:00 November 6th, 2012|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Sex and Success: Erotic Capital

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