The premise of Catherine Hakim’s “theory of erotic capital” is the idea that alongside economic capital there are other forms of capital, for instance social and cultural capital. Hakim takes French theorist Pierre Bourdieu as her starting point here.
For Hakim, patriarchal society has systematically denied women knowledge of their erotic power. However, this is not the main problem for Hakim. The main culprits in denying women access to their erotic capital have been the feminists.
According to Hakim, men naturally enjoy sex more than women. They are therefore continually suffering from a “sex deficit” that women should exploit in order to get ahead in life. Feminists have denied this deficit and have consequently disempowered women the world over.
Early in her book Hakim asserts that her theory is based on fact and scientific research. She then continues to draw on the most ridiculous anecdotes and uncritical presentation of social stereotypes in order to “prove” it.
Hakim describes how the British ambassador to Japan marries a Japanese woman. Nobody can understand why he would put his fabulous career in jeopardy in this way.
But fear not, for at the ambassador’s ball, guests meet the ambassador’s new bride. Apparently, “By the end of the evening, the consensus was that the new wife was irresistibly lovely and charming and would prove a great social asset in the ambassador’s future career.”
But Hakim does not stop there. She goes on to claim that, “Lesbians are not famed for exceptionally high levels of erotic capital and sexuality. In contrast, among gay men, a great body and sex appeal are overwhelmingly important”.
To put it politely, this runs the risk of playing into sexist and homophobic sterotypes.
Sadly the attitudes in Honey Money do not appear in a vacuum. A number of similar books have been published in recent months and seem to be advocating an extreme version of raunch culture. Commodity fetishism is taken to its most terrifying with those like Hakim arguing that all people and relations should be commodified.
The way in which gender roles have been constructed over centuries plays absolutely no part in Hakim’s theory.
Honey Money presents itself as a work of serious and scientific social research, but its hard not to conclude that it’s just a repackaging of old prejudices.
Honey Money is published by Allen Lane, £20
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