Erotic capital?

This Zoe Williams interview is a joy to read.

Catherine Hakim is a sociologist at the London School of Economics, who has written a book called Honey Money. “The world smiles at good-looking people, and they smile back”, is its subtitle, and it goes on to posit this theory: that we have erotic capital, and this divides into six categories: beauty; sexual attractiveness; social skills like grace, charm and discreet flirtation; liveliness, which is a mixture of physical fitness, social energy and good humour; social presentation, including dress, jewellery and other adornments; and finally, sexuality itself, competence, energy, imagination.

We meet in Covent Garden, over fancy tapas. She arrives and says, “I must go and brush my hair,” which she really needn’t have done, because I don’t buy her theory. I don’t care what someone’s hair looks like, I find hair neither impedes nor accelerates a discussion about ideas. I did not say so, thank God, even in jest, otherwise our encounter could have been even worse than it was.

The theory that there is something which could be called “erotic capital” and that having it might help one in certain ways is obviously not a crazy theory. But MANY of the claims along the way are shockingly naive and unsupported. And Williams does a great job of demonstrating this. (Even though I found the beginning of the interview, quoted above, very funny, I found it far less convincing than the rest of the article: if Williams were affected by Hakim’s hair, she might well not have been aware of it.)

4 thoughts on “Erotic capital?

  1. This really brightened my Monday. Especially enjoyed “People who know more about this than I do have said so.” which kind of sums most of the argument up, I think.

  2. Ugh. Good piece but I can’t say it was a ‘joy to read’. Just reading it stressed me out so much it made me want to go buy a punching bag shaped like Hakim so I could let off some steam.

  3. So, do older women have “erotic capital”? Or is “erotic capital,” in an ageist society, something that one loses after one passes, say, the age of fifty–or forty?

  4. Meryl Streep is 62, and many individuals I know (including many much younger than 62 themselves) just grind to a slack-jawed stop when she appears on the television screen. I think erotic capital attaches, as the article says, to something like charisma, warmth, a kind of magnetic enjoyment of life.

    I had to chuckle at the brief description of liveliness as a measure of physical fitness, though. Perhaps Hakim is describing herself, because for many of us as we age, our liveliness is NOT a measure of our toned bods! Heh.

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