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Sexual capital or erotic capital is a form of social worthiness granted to an individual, as a result of his or her sexual attractiveness to the majority of his or her social group. As with other forms of capital, sexual capital is convertible, and may be useful in acquiring other forms of capital, including social capital and economic capital.

DefinitionEdit

EconomicEdit

The first more economic-related definition is based on the “human capital” theory of Gary Becker, and predicts that people invest rationally in exhibiting their sex appeal when they can expect a return on their investments. This he defines as a form of health capital which is itself a form of individual capital.[1]

SociologyEdit

The sociological definition is based on the Pierre Bourdieu’s idea of “fields”.[2][3] [4] This definition builds on Pierre Bourdieu's concept of capital.[5] Green defines "erotic capital" as accruing to an individual due to the quality and quantity of attributes that he or she possesses which elicit an erotic response in another, including physical appearance, affect and sociocultural styles. Some of these attributes may be immutable, such as an individual's race or height, while others may be acquired artificially through fitness training, plastic surgery, a makeover, etc.[2] There is no single hegemonic form of erotic (sexual) capital. On the contrary, currencies of capital are quite variable, acquiring a hegemonic status in relation to the erotic preferences of highly specialized social groups that distinguish one sexual field from another. Importantly, this means that erotic capital is best conceived as a property of the field, and not an individual form of capital [2]

A second definition is developed by Catherine Hakim, treating erotic capital as the fourth personal asset. This definition is a multifaceted combination of physical and social attractiveness that goes well beyond sexual attractiveness that is the focus of the 'fields' perspective. Unlike the former conception of erotic capital, Hakim's erotic capital is an individual capital with no necessary referent to a field [6]

ImportanceEdit

Catherine Hakim suggests that erotic capital matters beyond the sexual field, and beyond private relationships. She has shown that erotic capital is important in the media, politics, advertising, sports, the arts, and in everyday social interaction, and includes:[7]

  1. Beauty
  2. Sexual attractiveness
  3. Social attractiveness
  4. Vivaciousness
  5. Presentation
  6. Sexuality
  7. Fertility

Catherine Hakim's theory of Erotic Capital argues that erotic capital is a valuable fourth personal asset, alongside economic capital, cultural/human capital and social capital; that erotic capital is increasingly important in affluent modern societies; and that women generally have more erotic capital than men because they work harder at it.[8]

Adam Isaiah Green finds that sexual capital may be related to both sexual and mental health, as when individuals with low erotic capital show diminished ability to talk about or negotiate condom use with a partner possessing greater erotic capital, and develop negative emotional states as a consequence of feeling unattractive.[9]

In broader theoretical terms, sexual capital is important for social theory insofar as it is one among other types of capital, including social capital, symbolic capital, and cultural capital which influence the status accorded individual members of the larger society. Sexual capital is convertible to other forms of capital, as when actors parlay erotic capital into financial capital or social capital (e.g. Marilyn Monroe),[2][7] or when attractive employees get raises and social connections from bringing in more customers by virtue of their looks.[10]

RaceEdit

Several studies suggest that sexual capital is closely associated with race or racial stereotypes of sexual attractiveness. Gonzales and Rolison argue that regardless of income US white men enjoy higher levels of “sexual capital” than black men, black women and white women, allowing them more sexual opportunities and more latitude for sexual experimentation.[11] By contrast, Green finds a more complex relationship of erotic capital to race whereby some black men are afforded high sexual status in the context of a gay sexual field in New York City precisely because they appeal to the racialized fantasies of some white gay men.[2] Susan Koshy argues that Asian women have gained “sexual capital” in the West through glamorous accounts of western male – Asian female sexual relationships in the media and arts.[4] James Farrer argues that white men living in China have enhanced "sexual capital" arising out of associations of whiteness with modernity, sexual openness and mobility.[12]

Class and genderEdit

Scholars suggest that sexual capital is closely tied to social class. Groes-Green argues that sexual capital and other forms of bodily power become important resources among disenfranchised young men in Southern Africa when their access to economic capital and jobs is diminished. Groes-Green further argues that the emergence of sexual capital is linked to gender relations, e.g. when poor young men build sexual capital by grooming their looks and improving sexual performance in order to satisfy female partners and in competition with middle class peers and older so-called 'sugar-daddies'. Thus sexual capital reinforces masculinity in the face of male disempowerment, and it often develops as a response to conflict between hegemonic and subordinated masculinities.[13]

ReferencesEdit

  1. Michael, Robert T. (2004). Sexual Capital: An extension of Grossman's concept of health capital. Journal of Health Economics 23 (4): 643–652.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Green, Adam Isaiah (2008). The Social Organization of Desire: The Sexual Fields Approach. Sociological Theory 26: 25–50.
  3. Martin, John Levi, George, Matt (2006). Theories of Sexual Stratification: Toward an Analytics of the Sexual Field and a Theory of Sexual Capital. Sociological Theory 24: 107–132.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Koshy, Susan (2004). Sexual Naturalization: Asian Americans and Miscegenation, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  5. Bourdieu, Pierre (1980). The Logic of Practice, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  6. Catherine Hakim. Erotic Capital. European Sociological Review. URL accessed on 2010-08-07.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Hakim, Catherine (2010). Erotic Capital. European Sociological Review 26: 499.
  8. Catherine Hakim, 'Erotic capital', European Sociological Review, 26(5) October 2010. doi: 10.1093/esr/jcq014 March 2010 20 pages
  9. Green, Adam Isaiah (2008). Health and Sexual Status in an Urban Gay Enclave: An Application of the Stress Process Model. Journal of Health and Social Behavior 49: 436–451.
  10. Hakim, Catherine (24 March 2010). Have you got erotic capital? (169).
  11. Gonzales, Alicia M., Rolison, Gary (2005). Social Oppression and Attitudes Toward Sexual Practices. Journal of Black Studies 25: 715–729.
  12. Farrer, James (2010). A foreign adventurer’s paradise? Interracial sexuality and alien sexual capital in reform era Shanghai. Sexualities 13 (1): 69–95.
  13. (2009). Hegemonic and subordinated masculinities: Class, violence and sexual performance among young Mozambican men. Nordic Journal of African Studies 18 (4): 286–304.

Further readingEdit

  • Michael, Robert T. (2004). Sexual Capital: An extension of Grossman's concept of health capital. Journal of Health Economics 23 (4): 643–652.
  • Green, Adam Isaiah (2008). The Social Organization of Desire: The Sexual Fields Approach. Sociological Theory 26: 25–56.
  • Martin, John Levi, George, Matt (2006). Theories of Sexual Stratification: Toward an Analytics of the Sexual Field and a Theory of Sexual Capital. Sociological Theory 24 (2): 107–132.
  • Farrer, James C. (2010). A foreign adventurer’s paradise? Interracial sexuality and alien sexual capital in reform era Shanghai. Sexualities 13 (1): 69–95.


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