Sociologists have written a lot about “economic, social, and cultural capital.” One sociologist suggests adding a new category: “erotic capital“:
Even some academics are waxing poetic about the hidden value of sexual prowess. Sociologist and London School of Economics professor Catherine Hakim, author of Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom, believes that “erotic capital” is the fourth human asset, in addition to economic, social and cultural capital.
She defines it broadly as physical and social attractiveness, and says that flirting is one manifestation. “Charisma often includes flirting, when appropriate,” Hakim says, “and these days even CEOs are expected to display charisma.”
While the rest of this post is about “flirting gone wrong,” I wonder how other sociologists would view the idea of “erotic capital.” People have some control over their looks, particularly if they have money (which often enables better health care), but it is also predetermined. Additionally, there is pressure to conform to culturally-specific standards of beauty. All of us are socialized into particular patterns of attractiveness which could range from being well-mannered to flirtatious and dressy to roguish.
There are quite a few studies that discuss the effects of being attractive. I don’t recall Goffman’s dramaturgical work mentioning much about “physical or social attractiveness.” While such studies did account for power dynamics, certainly attractiveness plays some role in interaction. Can attractiveness be enough to overcome deficits in other areas of capital or would it be in fourth place in terms of importance about the types of capital?