A number of months ago British sociologist, Catherine Hakim, published Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom, a study of the benefits of employing one’s erotic capital in the workplace. As you can imagine, she caught a lot of flack for it. I wanted to wait to read all the comments before I shared my opinion.
There were certainly some eyebrow raising moments in the book, especially with regard to the sex trade. But for the most part, I found what she said to make a lot of sense. Of course, because of the Puritanical culture we live in, she’s going to get shit for endorsing sensuality in the workplace. And she makes no bones about fighting against the old-school feminist ideology that, she argues, is keeping women back.
At first blush, you’d think she’s promoting short skirts and sleeping with the boss to get ahead. Not at all. She’s just opening our eyes to the notion that how appear, like who we know, which schools we went to, which companies we worked at, and which projects we worked on, makes a difference. It’s certainly not the ONLY reason behind people’s success. But we need to all face the fact that it is a part of the mix. And frankly, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be.
Hakim broadly defines erotic capital to a mix of a few or all of the following: fitness, liveliness, social skills, charm, beauty, sex appeal, finesse, even smiling! It’s not just about being sexy or pretty.
Interestingly, its men, not women, who have benefited from it the most. Studies prove that the more hair, the taller and the better looking you are as a guy, the more likely you’ll get hired, promoted, and make more cash. Women actually suffer a bit from their good looks in short-term, as employers may regard them as “too feminine” and therefore not up for the “manly” challenge of some jobs.
There’s no question men and women must develop their intellectual and social skills in order to succeed in business and the world in general. But there’s no reason to make a bit of effort to look good too. And if it means it gives a little more edge over the next guy, why not?
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