Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom


In 2010, pioneering sociologist Catherine Hakim shocked the world with a provocative new theory: In addition to the three recognized personal assets (economic, cultural, and social capital), each individual has a fourth asset?erotic capital?that he or she can, and should, use to advance within society.

In this bold and controversial book, Hakim explores the applications and significance of erotic capital, challenging the disapproval meted out to women and men who use sex appeal...

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Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom

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In 2010, pioneering sociologist Catherine Hakim shocked the world with a provocative new theory: In addition to the three recognized personal assets (economic, cultural, and social capital), each individual has a fourth asset—erotic capital—that he or she can, and should, use to advance within society.

In this bold and controversial book, Hakim explores the applications and significance of erotic capital, challenging the disapproval meted out to women and men who use sex appeal to get ahead in life. Social scientists have paid little serious attention to these modes of personal empowerment, despite overwhelming evidence of their importance. In Erotic Capital, Hakim marshals a trove of research to show that rather than degrading those who employ it, erotic capital represents a powerful and potentially equalizing tool—one that we scorn only to our own detriment.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This enthusiastic but unpersuasive book succeeds in marrying economics with eros, but suffers from its shallow analysis. Piggybacking on Pierre Bourdieu's concept of "social capital," Hakim argues that in addition to our economic and social privilege, our attractiveness (or lack thereof) plays a powerful role in the public as well as private sphere. While readers might expect Hakim's multidisciplinary approach to make surprising connections, her book, aside from its provocative premise, contains no eureka moments. The author, an expert on women's employment and family policy, has a surprisingly thin understanding of feminism's relationship with sexuality. She writes, "Even attractive feminists like Gloria Steinem, who once worked as a bunny in a Playboy club, have never championed women's erotic capital"—without addressing how the sex-positive movement explicitly addressed the positive side of women's sexuality (in and out of the workplace). Some of her reported research is fascinating—say, while attractive women and men are more likely to get hired, attractive women are less likely to be promoted than good-looking men—she rarely investigates the broader ramifications of such behavior. She falls back on such dubious claims as, "Physical attractiveness enhances productivity in management and professional occupations... mainly because attractive and agreeable people are easier to work with, and more persuasive." (Sept.)
From the Publisher
Publishers Weekly
“This enthusiastic book…succeeds in marrying economics with eros.”

Financial Times (London)
“Poets and novelists have always sensed that sexual attractiveness is a kind of capital…. But few sociologists have studied erotic capital outside the marriage market…. Hakim’s concept of erotic capital…offers insight into an age that has, as Philip Larkin once put it, ‘burst into fulfillment’s desolate attic.’”
The Observer (London)
“An extremely important new socio-economic concept….Hakim’s real argument is that in modern consumer societies the ways we define success (and hence the ingredients needed to achieve it) are becoming more fluid. Intelligence may still be one path do doing well…but there’s been an explosion of other routes….In marketing, public relations, television, even the law and banking, being physically attractive is the way to get ahead.”
The National Review Online
“Hakim provides a valuable framework for understanding the phenomenon [of erotic capital]. The attractiveness gap in earnings… suggest[s] that investment in erotic capital is a particularly shrewd strategy for those who suffer from deficits in economic, cultural, social, and human capital… Hakim’s concept of erotic capital is a useful reminder that inequality is a multidimensional phenomenon.”
The Australian (Sydney)
“Rarely do social theorists cause a public furor outside their ivory towers—except for Catherine Hakim.”

“This is controversial stuff.”
Telegraph (London)
“Hakim is absolutely right; more than that – her book should be read out to young girls as part of the national curriculum. Because it states something important that mothers have been frightened to tell daughters for fear of undermining their intelligence: that you can be a feminist, you can be strong and independent and clever, and you can wear a nice frock and high heels while you do this.”

Harvard Business Review “Force[s] us to confront a reality that American human resources departments…would like to ignore.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465027477
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 9/6/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 969,760
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Catherine Hakim is a sociologist and Professor at the London School of Economics. An expert on women’s employment and family policy and the author of numerous books and more than one hundred papers on social science, she lives in London.

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Table of Contents

Illustrations vii

Introduction: Erotic Capital and the Politics of Desire 1

Part I The Fourth Personal Asset and the New Sexual Politics

1 What Is Erotic Capital? 9

2 The Politics of Desire: The Difference Between Men and Women 31

3 Denial: Why Erotic Capital Has Been Suppressed 63

Part II How Erotic Capital Works in Everyday Life

4 The Lifetime Benefits of Erotic Capital 89

5 Modern Romance: How Erotic Capital Changes Relationships 115

6 No Money, No Honey: Selling Erotic Entertainment 135

7 Winner Takes All: The Business Value of Erotic Capital 163

Conclusion: The Power of Erotic Capital 189

Appendix A Measures of Erotic Capital 209

Appendix B Recent Sex Surveys 221

Acknowledgments 225

Notes 227

Bibliography 271

Index 293

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 4, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Catherine Hakim’s theory of “erotic capital” i

    Catherine Hakim’s theory of “erotic capital” is controversial, not least because women tend to believe that relying on looks and charm to catch a man or get a promotion are subterfuges best left behind in the 1950s. Hakim, a social scientist, proposes that all women should become as attractive as possible and then exploit their sexual power. She explains that the “male sex deficit,” the idea that men always want more sex than they get, raises the value of women’s erotic capital. Hakim claims that radical feminists, religion and patriarchal society currently foil this feminine advantage. Although the beauty bias is not a new concept, Hakim’s reinterpretation raises the stakes. Alas, though she supports women in general, Hakim proves consistently unkind to males, Americans, lesbians, feminists, the overweight and the religious. Nonetheless, for a new perspective on the advantages of attractiveness and on the gender conversation, getAbstract suggests Hakim’s thought-provoking thesis.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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