Living

Do you have 'erotic capital'? If not, should you cultivate it?

Ladies, don’t lose heart. You may not own your own home; you may not have any savings to speak of (does an overdraft count?), and occasionally, you may find yourself so flat broke by mid-month that you have to put that box of tampons on your Visa. But did you know that you’ve got something altogether more valuable than money, real estate, cash and your pride?

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Ladies, don’t lose heart. You might not own your own home; might not have any savings to speak of (does an overdraft count?); and occasionally, you find yourself so flat broke by mid-month that you have to put that box of tampons on your Visa. But did you know that you’ve got something more valuable than money, real estate, and your pride?

That precious, potentially lucrative commodity is called “erotic capital”, and according to Catherine Hakim, coiner of the phrase and author of the new book Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital (via The Guardian), women should max it out. 

According to Hakim, a sociology professor at the London School of Economics, erotic capital is a combination of “beauty, social skills, good dress sense, physical fitness, liveliness, sex appeal and sexual competence”. (I got one out of seven. How’d you do?)

And why shouldn’t women work this angle, Hakim asked, in a recent article for London’s Evening Standard. Men do it and succeed all the time. (They do? Who are we thinking of here, Dr. Hakim, because I’m going blank.)  

One woman that suits the definition — in Hakim’s estimation, anyway — is newly appointed IMF head Christine Lagarde. (Here’s hoping she didn’t think former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was a choice erotic capitalist too.) 

The value of erotic capital can be significant, says Hakim, as human objects that are polished to a high shine find greater success. They “smile at the world and find that the world smiles back”, writes Hakim. 

In this current culture (i.e. doomed), which puts a premium on good looks, Hakim sees endless opportunity. She writes: “Studies show that attractiveness has a growing impact — on the way people are treated, on earnings, and on their success in attracting partners.”

Not surprisingly, Hakim’s ideas have provoked debate, with some praising her honesty and others coming down on the soullessness of her advice.  

I don’t find Hakim’s theory entirely realistic, or innovative. Her view of the “smiling world” sounds a little dopey for anyone over the age of six to endorse, and I’ve heard the same kind of advice from female relatives and/or creepy uncles more times than I care to count. 

Hakim may see Christine Lagarde as an example of her theory in action, but I find what she leaves out of the evaluation odd. What Hakim fails to mention when trumpeting the former French Finance Minister’s Parisian chic, is Lagarde’s impeccable education and C.V.

Then again, maybe Hakim has an inkling it takes more than a French manicure and highlights to parley with world leaders. At one point, she says that erotic capital only contributes “a small advantage” to workers. 

Hakim seems to think that small advantage is growing in importance, however, and so get with it gals — I can’t help thinking a better mind might have encouraged that trend to lessen rather than swell. 

Might be a better idea to ask Christine Lagarde for advice. 

What do you think of Dr. Hakim’s theory? Please share your thoughts here.