Catherine Hakim, a sociologist and research fellow at the London School of Economics, has an idea about how women can get ahead in the workplace: Flaunt it.

In her new book, Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom, Hakim argues that women should use their natural sexuality, or “erotic capital,” to succeed at work.

For Hakim, erotic capital is defined as a “combination of six qualities, including beauty, sex appeal, social grace, liveliness, social presentation, and sexual competence.” According to Hakim, erotic capital doesn’t involve sleeping your way to the top, but rather entails staying physically fit, dressing well, and looking your best at all times.

Although Hakim’s premise seems counter to what we’ve always been taught by our feminist foremothers—to simply work hard and try your best to compete equally with men—Hakim, a self-described feminist, and says that most radical feminists get it wrong.

She told Slate:

“As I see it, patriarchal men, but also to a larger extent, radical feminist women, which women seem to listen to more than men, say that beauty is only skin deep, it’s trivial, it’s superficial, it has no value, and you should be ashamed of yourself for trying to exploit it. And the whole purpose of my book is to say, for men and for women, there is absolutely no reason to feel ashamed of exploiting it and no reason at all for you to be embarrassed at saying this has value. Having erotic capital isn’t something you sort of turn on and turn off like turning on a tap or faucet, in the same way that intelligence isn’t something you either switch on or switch off. It’s there as part of the sort of person you are: in your style, in the way you talk to people, in the way you dress every day, in the hairstyle you wear every day. And it’s really a change of perspective that I’m recommending, that women should know that all of this has value.”

Research has already suggested that “good looking,” thin people go further in the workplace, but Hakim argues that anyone—no matter how they look—can have erotic capital if they work (or pay) for it. For Hakim this involves being in shape, buying expensive clothes, and always looking flawless

But what happens when women don’t have erotic capital? Should they be penalized on the job?

Hakim explains:

“People who are stupid are penalized. Discrimination is part of life itself. Discrimination is part of being an intelligent and thinking person. And I can’t see any possible reason for saying if erotic capital has genuine social and economic value, then those who don’t have it will not be winning in that area. They may win in other areas. They may be very intelligent, and therefore getting that advantage. They may be very gifted in music or sport or politics or some other area of activity, but they’re certainly not getting the benefit of high erotic capital.”


What do you think? Should women capitalize on their “erotic capital” at work? Have you? 

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  • I’m feeling this and not feeling this all at the same time! LOL

  • Miss September

    Yes, I think women should use their natural assets to get ahead. I believe if you got it flaunt it; it’s not the woman’s fault if her male boss/peers find her attractive.
    To clarify, using your looks does not equate sleeping with your boss or peers.
    Men are visual creatures and the first thing they notice about a female is her physical attractiveness, I say play it up.
    I think let that “erotic appeal” get you in the door, but your intelligence keep you there.
    Keep in mind, that attractive women are a dime a dozen, so if you don’t have the intellect to back it up; you will probably be quickly replaced.

  • Steph

    Thanks for this article! I enjoyed it! I find the discussion of women athletes and their looks interesting. There’s something to be said for being a good looking athlete, just like male athletes, but it shouldn’t override their abilities. There’s a good discussion of this over at TC Huddle. I found your article looking for more opinions on this.

    This is a good article. Thanks! Here’s the article if you’re interested: http://www.tchuddle.com/2011/07/women-athletes-and-the-need-to-objectify/

  • Will

    I think that’s the sort of thing that ought to get you fired. The woman who uses sex to get power is no better than the man who uses power to get sex, especially in the work place. If you lose a promotion to a less qualified woman who’s shaking her assets in the boss’s face you should also be within your rights too sue the pants off of the place. If you can’t deny someone a promotion because they won’t have sex with you, you shouldn’t be able to because you think someone else will.

    • Taylor

      Exactly. If your physical assets don’t contribute to helping out the business that you are working for then you shouldn’t use them to get ahead. If your line of work involves having a nice body to get ahead, being a model for example, then that’s fine, but if you’re in a line of work where your physical assets don’t contribute positively to the business that you work for then you should be fired if you try to use them in attempt to get ahead.

  • adam

    Any women who uses her “assets” to get ahead in the wage department is just doing it the lazy way/easy way, taking short cuts. If women knew how hard men work for what we get on a daily basis then maybe they would stop with this slutty behavior, but eh, women never seem to get it through their thick head.