Summary of Erotic Capital

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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. With little apparent fear of running deeply against popular thought, 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.

About the Author

Catherine Hakim, a British sociologist and expert on women’s issues, is a professor at the London School of Economics.



A Tale of Two Sisters

The story of sisters Isabelle and Pamela illustrates the power of “erotic capital.” The girls grew up in a loving, privileged home and received the same advantages in education and extracurricular activities. The siblings are now in their 40s, and their differences are striking. Isabelle is attractive, confident and outgoing, while Pamela is dowdy, awkward and defensive. Isabelle was a beautiful child, socially adept and had a large group of friends. She excelled at school, and, usually achieving the goals she set for herself, became a successful businesswoman.

Pamela was an attractive child, although not conventionally pretty. She had to repeat school years and had difficulty making friends among her classmates. As she grew older, she became overweight. Pamela worked unfulfilling jobs, and her insecurities affected her relationships with her husband and others. Isabelle’s personality and outlook took shape already from the cradle. People’s constant positive reactions reinforced her confidence enormously as she progressed through life. Although Pamela was never ugly, her prettier sister still received much more positive attention. Pamela’...

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