Originally published in Redbrick (redbrickpaper.co.uk)
It’s called ‘Honey Money’, which appropriately brings up the alluring image of bees in a honey-trap. Catherin Hakim, author, has written this book on the subject of her newly coined phrase, ‘erotic capital’. Now, without even defining this term, I think I can assume that everyone already prescribes to this theory, or at least understands the premise behind it.
Hakim has studied the simple, unwritten principle of humanity’s (unfair?) basic instincts: those who are more attractive get further in life. It’s a fairly obvious sounding rule, although this is the first time that such an issue has been so directly addressed. While other studies have considered that we are, for example, more sympathetic towards people we consider more attractive, none have so blatantly described how advantageous it is in our society to be well put together in an aesthetic sense.
Using ‘hard evidence’ (I’ve yet to read the entire book, and so unfortunately cannot be the judge of this), Catherine points out how ‘erotic capital’ is an overlooked human asset that can be just as influential as intelligence, riches, education
or connections in terms of opening doors for ourselves in the social and professional world. ’Erotic capital’ is a conglomeration of not just pretty features, but also sex appeal, presentation skills and social skills. This deadly combination is in constant use, she argues, but remains side-lined – we often consider economic or social capital when we value a person’s worth, but the hush-hush rule that the prettier person is more likely to get the job seems to be an unspoken taboo. And rightly so, perhaps? It would be incredibly un-PC for an employer to admit that they chose, out of the equally qualified candidates, the one who was considered more beautiful. However, it also seems glaringly obvious that this would be the case – as judgemental as it may seem, an individual who puts time into their appearance and gives off an air of health and attractiveness is perhaps likely to be seen as a better person inside and out.
Whilst we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, it’s only natural that, as human beings, sometimes our instinctive behaviour takes over. Take one of Hakim’s examples, Anna. Anna lost her dead-end job and took it upon herself to have a personal overhaul. In the space of three months, Anna lost weight, got a modern, flattering hair-cut, bought new suits that complimented her slim figure, and then landed a job that paid 50 per cent more. A similar story was featured in Graziarecently – the overweight girl who (having worked hard at her job for years and never progressed professionally) lost several stone and was instantly given a promotion and a position dealing with important clients face to face. Her increase in erotic capital increased her value as an employee, so it seems.
This all begs the almost painful-to-bring-up questions: could we, do we, and should we use erotic capital ourselves? Are you buying your way into higher places with ‘honey money’? Perhaps most interestingly, Catherine Hakim found that it is actually men who benefit more from using their looks than women. Is it an unjustifiable act, in this day and age, to put potential friends, employees and strangers through such a shallow audition process? No matter how much I’d like to join hands with fellow humans and sing about self-worth coming from the inside, I strongly believe that Hakim’s ‘erotic capital’ is a booming economy that will only ever be on the rise.