Why beauty, social interaction, vitality, elegance, sexuality and fertility are the secrets of success

Catherine Hakim - Basic Books - 2011 - 304 pages

Erotic Capital

2022 March 16 | by Arduino Mancini Staff management - Women and Men

In 1986, the French philosopher and sociologist Pierre Bordieu claimed, in his book The forms of capital, that the three personal resources of each person are economic capital (money and related goods), human capital (knowledge and skills) and social capital (knowledge, friendships, social status, etc.).

In this book, Catherine Hakim, sociologist at the London School of Economics, argues that Bordieu neglected a fourth, very important component: erotic capital.

The book will be helpful to those, women and men, who want to answer questions such as:

  • What is erotic capital?
  • And what is it made of?
  • Should women use sex appeal in their careers or not?
  • Why do we have a critical sentiment of women who do this, when men are the first to use charm as a ‘facilitator’ for social climbing?

For Catherine Hakim, erotic capital is made of seven components:

  1. beauty
  2. sexual appeal
  3. ability to interact socially
  4. vitality
  5. elegance
  6. sexuality
  7. fertility.

What value can erotic capital have in a person’s life? Is it worth investing in it?

For the author, erotic capital has the same value as other forms of capital and is under-exploited by those who hold it most: women.

Through an enormous amount of rigorous research carried out all over the world, the author presents an original and, in many ways, surprising picture, giving a close-up look at a world in which we can see:

  • erotic capital is not only beauty and sexual appeal, and can be cultivated by everyone by improving the quality of life;
  • for men, beauty and height are rewarding factors for career and salary, while for women, beauty can even be a handicap;
  • attractiveness has a decisive influence on our lives from an early age, creating a gap that can have a positive influence throughout our lives;
  • the male sexual deficit, understood as the greater sexual desire registered by men compared to women, plays a fundamental role in prostitution and violence against women in many parts of the world;
  • women are paid less than men even when they are better prepared and could aspire to more interesting positions, but they prefer not to ask and wait for their value to be acknowledged;

For women, erotic capital is the least critical component of human capital and is systematically devalued; therefore, the attainment of positions of power or attractive salaries too often leaves the suspicion that they have exploited their attractiveness.

These are just some of the points you can learn more about by reading this book, in which even the most sceptical will find a reason to reflect that beauty and intelligence can coexist in a person, and even in a woman.

“Erotic Capital” is a book that must be read without prejudice and with openness to what we might find different from our own convictions: a book that should not be missing from the desk of every consultant and every HR manager.

To close, two notes:

  • I very much appreciated Catherine Hakim’s pragmatic attention to the quality of the research, which often led her to argue with colleagues who were not rigorous enough;
  • I would have liked to read in the book a reaffirmation of the importance of human capital which, in my opinion, is essential in the construction of a more effective erotic capital.

Not to be missed.

Here is a clip where Catherine Hakim talks about erotic capital, then we’ll go through the contents of the book.



Title Page
Table of Figures
List of Tables

PART I – The Fourth Personal Asset and the New

  • Sexual Politics

CHAPTER 1 – What Is Erotic Capital?

  • The Six (or Seven) Elements of Erotic Capital
  • The Fourth Personal Asset
  • Can Money Buy You Erotic Capital?
  • Can Erotic Capital Be Measured?
  • Erotic Capital as a Performance
  • The Rising Importance of Erotic Capital

CHAPTER 2 – The Politics of Desire: The Difference Between Men and Women

  • The Sexual Revolution
  • Let’s Talk About Sex
  • The Male Sex Deficit
  • Sexual Lifestyles
  • Personal Stories
  • Long-term Relationships and Differing Levels of Desire
  • How Important Is Sex?
  • “Superior Goods”
  • Gay Communities
  • Women’s Second Advantage… and Its Suppression

CHAPTER 3 – Denial: Why Erotic Capital Has Been Suppressed

  • The Male Bias in Perspective
  • The Role of Religion
  • The Male Sex Right
  • The Failure of Feminist Theory
  • The Elitist Bias
  • Victim Feminism
  • Sex and Gender
  • The Unholy Alliance
  • The Erotic Playground

PART II – How Erotic Capital Works in Everyday Life

CHAPTER 4 – The Lifetime Benefits of Erotic Capital

  • Two Sisters
  • Cinderella Goes to the Ball
  • Childhood
  • The Golden Glow View of the World
  • The Social Benefits of Erotic Capital
  • Beauty and Brains
  • Social Skills and Emotion Management
  • Charisma and Leadership
  • Erotic Capital in Sport
  • The Two Ugly Sisters
  • The Social Magic of Smiles

CHAPTER 5 – Modern Romance: How Erotic Capital Changes

  • Relationships
  • The Rising Status of Women
  • Self-Service Mating Markets
  • Modern Mating and Marriage Markets
  • Power Within Relationships
  • Affairs
  • Sexuality and Successful Lovers
  • Gays and Geishas: Homosexual and Heterosexual Cultures
  • The X Factor in Relationships

CHAPTER 6 – No Money, No Honey: Selling Erotic

  • Entertainment
  • The Erotic Appeal in Advertising and Marketing
  • Party Girls
  • Erotic Entertainments
  • Slipping In and Out
  • Buying Erotic Capital
  • Men Who Buy Sexual Services
  • Trafficking, Drugs, and Pimps
  • The Value of Erotic Capital
  • Personal Benefits

CHAPTER 7 – Winner Takes All: The Business Value of Erotic

  • Capital
  • Good Looks in Management and the Professions
  • The Beauty Premium in the Labor Market
  • Social Skills and Emotional Labor
  • Sumptuary Laws, Uniforms, and Dress Codes
  • Public-and Private-Sector Differences: Selection Effects
  • Issues of Fairness: Height Versus Attractiveness
  • Ancient Gods and Modern Celebrities
  • Winner-Takes-All Economies

APPENDIX A – Measures of Erotic Capital
APPENDIX B – Recent Sex Surveys
Copyright Page


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