Expanding on the “erotic capital” theory

Image of Natasha S from this gallery.

Yesterday I read two great articles about sociologist Catherine Hakim’s theory on “erotic capital.” One way by Hakim herself in the pages of Prospect magazine titled Have you got erotic capital? The other was an interview with Hakim called Making capital out of sex appeal, which explains that:

She defines its key elements as “sex appeal, charm and social skills, physical fitness and liveliness, sexual competence and skills in self-presentation”. Men and women with erotic capital can expect to earn 10 to 15 times more than those without, she claims.

It’s a pretty interesting set of qualifications, creating a definition for something a bit more believable than “she got the job advancement because of her big tits” or “he gets all the girls because of his accent.” While these things may be superficially true with superficial people, there’s something a bit more nuanced at work when you’re talking about the laws of attraction, chemistry, animal instincts, sex appeal — and how this all ties into success. Anyone can sleep their way to the top or chat a certain kind of chick into the sack. But not everyone can be truly successful, and stay relevant in their success. The question is, do you have the charisma and magnetism to endure?

I found all this by way of this weak AskMen (FOX) article, which to its credit, attempted to dole out a formula to help readers acquire erotic capital. They didn’t really have the cojones to tell us what we could really put in the bank, so to speak. That’s because one of the elements of erotic capital that are singled out is Sexual competence. This is kind of where you can see the writer went eeeksex! and failed to face talking about sex head-on. They really suggested Kegels. Um… huh?

To me, raising your erotic net worth when it comes to sexual competence comes down to a few key points. And it’s not about exercising your privates, or being able to trick someone into doing something sexual. I really believe that this stuff shapes your character in a playful, inquisitive, positive way that translates into increasing your overall appeal in both the boardroom *and* the bedroom.

Confidence in sexuality — your own and others. This would mean having a sense of humor about sexuality, not getting easily freaked out about sex topics, shedding certain insecurities and inhibitions about everyday sex topics (things that surface in the news, for instance), and tolerance: the confidence that comes from not being threatened or made insecure by gay people or gay issues. Not having to make sex jokes at someone’s expense, but still feeling okay with making sex jokes. Homophobes are not hot. They’re socially weak. Don’t make sexual orientation your character flaw.

Raise your sexual IQ by learning a practical thing or two about sexual pleasure. You don’t have to learn anything scary, or try to have sex like a porn star with techniques only people at Cirque du Soleil can perform. Or “tricks” to impress a lover. What impresses lovers most is when you ask them what they like — and you actually listen to their answer. Learn the basics of sexual pleasure. Learn how to kiss. Read about how orgasm works, and know your way around safer sex gear. Most of all, learn what gets you off. It’s different for everyone. How else are you going to know what to tell (or show) someone who really wants to give you pleasure?

Get really good at one thing you enjoy — in sex. What do you like to do to turn on (or get off) a sex partner? Here are a few topics to get your mind rolling: dirty talk, oral sex, hand jobs, spanking, kissing, anal sex, massage, selecting and reading erotic stories, curating erotic slideshows, stripping, footsie, naughty text messages… Pick something and research every angle on making yourself the best at it. Read books, watch videos, and be the best at one thing. The rest will follow.

Anything else?

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  • eeyore, I really appreciate the comment. and you may be surprised that I agree with you about most of what you said. what I was doing in the post was taking the hyooge net of assumptions cast over Hakim’s article and erotic capital theory *by AskMen.com, FOX and the other media outlets trying to turn it into currency* — take that and imagine it being done with integrity.

    that’s a lot of what I find myself doing these days. reading awful media treatments about sexual topics and imagine them done with a positive slant.

    no one else will — not in mainstream media. that’s why it seems ambivalent. outlets like AskMen.com just don’t care about anyone being happy or satisfied, or empowered, they just think that they can apply the ignorant “sex sells” formula to anything that comes across their radar. there are no intelligent discussions being had about sex in mainstream journalism. if I was to write about Hakim’s erotic capital theory cold, without riffing off of AskMen/FOX, it would be from a very different perspective altogether — and if for a major media outlet, I would get comments form both Hakim and people who disagreed with Hakim.

    do you see what I mean?

  • eeyore

    Violet – you are suggesting that erotic capital (and the various currencies that contribute to this capital) are sites of profound cultural work, and I don’t disagree. In fact, I heartily agree.

    My problem is this – you take Hakim’s article which in my reading is about broad social patterns (erotics are very much a part of how women are valued – thus their social capital is greatly tied to the various currencies of erotic capital) and use it as a formula for redressing personal, individual sexuality. To my mind, Hakim’s uncritical identification of a social pattern (see dr’s point) in which erotics are a form of gendered capital does not equate to the kinds of values/attributes that necessarily increase individual happiness or satisfaction, which is where you have taken up the topic.

    In other words, I think you have taken Hakim’s assertion that in broad social terms – sex sells, especially for women – to a new place. You have gleaned from it a sex-positive practice for people to live by. Okay. But you have done so without drawing any attention to the more difficult and problematic questions that arise regarding the limits and possibilities of either a) Hakim’s assertions around erotic capital; or b) the ways that erotic capital functions at the levels of society and the self.

    Please do write more extensively on this topic, because I think it is one that deserves to be dug into more deeply and with more ambivalence than you have done here.

  • I adore this line: “Beauty tends to be static. Sexual attractiveness is about the way someone moves, talks and behaves.”

    I think this goes back to your point about Confidence — so many people are unaware of their physical presence and, as a result, either don’t TAKE the space that’s rightfully theirs or else don’t know what to do with it. The classic example, of course, is the person who steps out of the way of another oncoming person who “owns” more than his or her space. Something as simple as choosing, head held high, to make that other person move out of YOUR way can utterly change how you carry yourself in so many other situations.

  • Ok, I actually did a forum post on this and what I came up with for you here are two things.

    1. Nonchalance – You boost your erotic capital by not really asking for it. You want to be someone others are comfortable to be around – don’t try to sell yourself. It’s a general turn on to others to not be on the market. If that makes any sense at all.?

    2. Difference in Interest – it seems as though we’ve implicitly stated that erotic capital is something females can rack up. Someone made a really good comment about that – they said that the reason is that its easy to identify men’s interest . That gives the edge to women, I think. Women do show interest but it isn’t always as obvious.

    There was some discussion over the dividing line between confidence, and arrogance. I took a few darts for you there. Hope it helps.

  • Max

    Some friends and I have discussed a ‘point theory.’ You get points for perceived power within a desired arena, wealth, intelligence, and a bunch of other things that could be summed up as ‘erotic capital.’ An abundance of points in any given area makes a person attractive to others. People in relationships that are solid seem to always match up point-wise.

    The article’s definition of erotic capital improves on the point theory because it shows why the fleeting and more superficial aspects of appearance aren’t really ‘capital.’ You could think of these surface aspects as a loan with an advantageous interest rate. If you don’t find a way to invest it to bring a greater return you won’t end up with more capital at the end of the day!

    In other words the guy with the chiseled body or the woman with the spectacular breasts gets a jump start in building their wealth. They must find a way to turn that relatively short term benefit into long term capital: social graces, learning to dress well, skills at seduction and sex, etc.. Otherwise the weight of years will turn them into the equivalent of the trust-fund baby who burnt through their cash by middle age and now can’t figure out what happened.

  • A cute new buzzword for sex appeal :-) Benjamin Franklin had it. You are correct that it is not all in the body, confidence manifests itself in many different ways, sexually, intellectually, emotionally.

  • dr

    I don’t have a problem with anything you’ve written here, but I think Hakim’s theory is problematic at best. Take another read and ask yourself if Hakim is questioning anything about received gender hierarchies. Just to note one contrast in worldviews, for you smart women are sexy while for Hakim women should rather be sexy than smart. Another contrast might be found by considering how homosexuality fits into received gender hierarchies.

  • who said you had to be an A student and not have erotic capital too? I should write out my observations on the rest of this ‘erotic capital’ theory. I think A students have capital in a big way. I guess my point is that it’s not just one thing (like boinking someone to get a job) that makes for win. the AskMen piece missed the point and made us feel like we had to trick women with sex (and exercise) to have erotic capital — when in fact it’s *not* all in the body.

    and Natasha, damn. ::sigh:: I thought she was too hot not to share.

  • criolle johnny

    Natasha S “Tesoro” … Doesn’t “Tesoro” mean “treasure”?


  • Steve

    I guess those of us who were A students at good universities will just have to keep working for a living. whoever said life was fair?