Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Erotic Capital is Right on the Main Point

Catherine Hakim's new book, Erotic Capital, makes an interesting case that beauty, charm, and sexiness are an important personal asset - right up there with money, education, and connections. 

She further argues that erotic capital is the great asset that women have more of than men. She thinks this is so in part because women work more at developing their attractive assets.  Mostly, though, women's advantage comes from the fact that, on the whole, men desire sex more than women do.

Hakim cites studies showing that beauty confers an advantage in pay of 10 - 20% across industries.  This is comparable to the pay advantage that comes from being taller.

Hakim thinks that an unholy alliance of patriarchy and radical feminism has suppressed the idea that erotic capital is powerful and is just as honorable as any other kind of capital.

The book, as a whole, is disappointingly thin in its empirical support.  Nonetheless, I think the basic idea is true and worth developing.


Brendan said...
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Brendan said...

This interview with Hakim from the Guardian backs you up on her lack of empirical evidence; I found it darkly funny, if not exactly neutral.

Diane M said...

Well, this is a theory I hate. There may be a professional advantage to beautiful women, but I think trying to take advantage of it beyond dressing neatly for work is wrong. The idea is basically manipulative and cold.

It's also a disastrous theory for women in the long run. Erotic capital, unlike most human capital, decreases with age. Women are much better off if they invest in their education, experience, and relationships.

Using erotic capital is also not fun for young women and works against their sense of self as an accomplished person (check out the blog on erotic capital on the Good Men Project). I think it would also work against women gaining a positive sense of their own sexuality as something they want and not something they use to get what they want.

gruntled said...

Diane, I mostly agree with your conclusions. Nonetheless, I think Hakim is right as a matter of empirical description that attractive people, men and women, always have benefited from that fact, and always will. And that what makes us attractive to others - which is not just, or even mostly, our basic looks - can be developed.