Erotic capital

I’ve just read Catherine Hakim’s very interesting article on Erotic Capital. Hakim’s argument is that in addition to economic capital, social capital and cultural capital there is erotic capital. Each of these different types of capital provide us with resource through which we can conduct our lives and succeed within society.

Hakim says that erotic capital is not merely about looks or beauty but is made up of the following seven elements

  1. Beauty
  2. Sexual attractiveness
  3. Social grace and charm
  4. Liveliness, both physical and social
  5. Social presentation (dress, make-up etc)
  6. Sexuality (sexual competence and enthusiasm)
  7. Fertility

Taken together these seven elements can be described as erotic capital and if exercised carefully can provide a strong resource for personal advantage. Hakim reviews various other studies that look at the impact of these factor on people’s performance in attracting a mate, within a relationship and within the education system and labour market. The evidence all points to the fact that good-looking, charming, sexually attractive do rather better for themselves than the rest of us.

This is obviously of some interest to those of us who are in education and career guidance. Hakim claims that facial attractiveness accounts for as much in personal success as qualifications. So if you are gorgeous you can probably give the PhD a miss!

Understanding the factors that lead to success in education and the labour market is important, what we do with this is rather more difficult to say. The opportunity to run courses in “flirting for interview success” is one that I’ll pass on, but I’m sure there are .others that won’t. The message to career guidance clients in this as in other areas has ultimately got to be that you have to do the best with what you’ve got. Life isn’t fair but you do have the chance to have an impact on how others see you in a whole host of ways.

Hakim’s paper finishes off with a very interesting discussion of why feminists have struggled to embrace the concept of erotic capital. Hakim argues that this is a mistake as erotic capital is one area where women routinely out perform men. The concept of erotic capital potentially provides a weapon which can be turned against patriarchy and the objectification of women.

I’m not sure that I’m qualified to comment on the last assertion, but the paper as a whole is certainly worth a read.



  1. Should we think of forms of capital as distinct entities, or as interrelated in complex ways that can shift historically and according to context? It’s easy, for example, to see how forms of erotic capital may be influenced by personal wealth or social background. How do we determine which forms of capital are dominant at any one place or time?

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