Interview: Honey Money author Catherine Hakim

By Louisa Emery on August 31, 2011 2:55 PM |

catherine hakim142.jpgDressing to impress has taken a back seat according the Dr Catherine Hakim and it is about time we realised its value.

The social scientist has just had her book Honey Money: The Power Of Erotic Capital published and it's raised the hackles of professional women, including those writing in the national press.

Dr Hakim said: "Comments have been very negative. I have been really surprised by the reactions, people have been quite personal. I'm arguing that women have to exploit their erotic capital to catch up with men who have been profiting from knowing how to exploit it.

"When people meet you for the first time there is an instant reaction and it has nothing to do with background or class or academic achievements.

"People form an opinion about you within the first 30 seconds of meeting you. It is about being positive in that first 30 seconds. It's a factor in life and I see no point pretending it isn't."

Dr Hakim is a based at the London School of Economics. Her book is an academic text rather than a self help book and she coined the term erotic currency.

The study began life as a paper published in the European Sociological Review. Accused by some reviewers of adopting a '50s attitude she argues the opposite.

"Erotic capital is more important now," she said. "As society gets richer we can afford more luxuries and the demand for luxuries increases.

"Looking good is one of those luxuries and there will be a rising demand for people to look attractive as well as be intelligent.

"Women have been holding back because focusing on your looks has been considered superfluous and shallow and young people, who can extract the highest value from their looks, are more likely not to bother with them. Fresh out of university all focus is on mind, brain and intellect."

She said she has found readers respond differently to her work around the world. In the US the title of her book is .Erotic Capital: The Power Of Attraction In The Boardroom And The Bedroom, which she believes more closely reflects her message. She also believes it is a matter of changing our ingrained outlook.

She said: "It isn't the taboo subject it is here in Brazil, Italy, France or Spain. Why? Partly feminism. Feminists are anti good looks. There is a big difference trading on your looks when it's the only thing you have. Now women have a choice. You can have education and qualifications and also trade on your looks. Men exploit their erotic capital more systematically - they know their worth. Men bargain harder and women sit back and wait for rewards. It is the waiting to be asked to dance mentality."

For Wharf women, whose dominant office outfit remains the black or grey suit, Dr Hakim has some advice.

She said: "Some women look good in black but it is much more noticeable when they wear a coloured dress, some jewellery and have well cut hair. I'm appalled when women do their make up on the train. No-one is ever ugly. It's just a matter of presentation and making the best of what is good, working with what you have got."

Honey Money: The Power Of Erotic Capital is published by Allen Lane, £20.