Abstract

We present a new theory of erotic capital as a fourth personal asset, an important addition to economic, cultural, and social capital. Erotic capital has six, or possibly seven, distinct elements, one of which has been characterized as ‘emotional labour’. Erotic capital is increasingly important in the sexualized culture of affluent modern societies. Erotic capital is not only a major asset in mating and marriage markets, but can also be important in labour markets, the media, politics, advertising, sports, the arts, and in everyday social interaction. Women generally have more erotic capital than men because they work harder at it. Given the large imbalance between men and women in sexual interest over the life course, women are well placed to exploit their erotic capital. A central feature of patriarchy has been the construction of ‘moral’ ideologies that inhibit women from exploiting their erotic capital to achieve economic and social benefits. Feminist theory has been unable to extricate itself from this patriarchal perspective and reinforces ‘moral’ prohibitions on women's sexual, social, and economic activities and women’s exploitation of their erotic capital.

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