Das erotische Kapital, volume IV: Unfortunate implications

Before I begin to take Hakim’s flimsy arguments to their logical conclusion, I feel like it is only right to provide some balance and say something positive about Honey Money. The book is printed on nice, thick paper which would probably make ideal roach-material or kindling for a small fire. It has a good weight to it, meaning it would also serve as a handy doorstop or a easily-carried weapon for braining enemies while looking suitably innocuous in a police search.

Niceties aside, upon reading Honey Money it becomes apparent that Dr Catherine Hakim has unwittingly created the most horrifying dystopia imaginable. Margaret Atwood should step aside, as Hakim has thoroughly trumped her.

Ultimately, it is a good thing that the central thesis of Honey Money is not rooted in the reality experienced by the vast majority of humankind. Hakim reduces sex to a scarce resource, a thing to be bought, sold and bartered; whether financially or socially. It takes all the sticky, sweaty naked fun out of sex, making it a cold, clinical transaction. An individual’s appreciation of another’s beauty becomes a power relation: the beholder beholden to the beheld. It leaves men as desperate consumers, utilising the assets they have to maybe, just maybe, have a go on someone’s tits; they are no longer agents, but end users.

As for women, what path is there? For the young and the beautiful, there is the quest for ultimate power: through prostitution and flirting, they may become rich, and then marry so they need never work again, provided they pump out a few kids, because their fertility is also a very important asset. In Hakim’s universe, erotic capital equates to empowerment, to true women’s liberation. This power is hinged on something fleeting: erotic capital is highest in youth, and as a woman’s looks fade, so, too, must any power she has accrued. This transient moment of glory is hardly a hook on which to hang one’s life.

The queer, the non-binary identified, the disabled, the old, all are swept away in Hakim’s world. There is nothing for them, for they are ugly. This is a world of heterosexual power struggle, and there is no place for them. Furthermore, there can be no place for them: almost all of the evidence Hakim presents focuses on those who are naturally beautiful, rather than those with the economic capital to buy erotic capital (which still leaves swathes of the population unable to “enter the market”). Without meaning to Godwin, Hakim is not the first to conceptualise a world where the tall, genetically-blessed people are encouraged to breed, while leaving everyone else out in the cold. It has never ended well.

It is a horrible vision of a horrible world, and that one person believes this could be a desirable state of affairs is a terrifying notion. Fortunately, many are unconvinced: the book has been largely poorly received, even by customer reviewers on Amazon. Not everyone is so critical, though: almost immediately after publishing Volume I, this comment appeared. Perhaps they are attempting to disingenuously capitalise on a poorly-argued thesis, or perhaps they are genuinely convinced. Either way, I hope in writing this series, I have killed the book once and for all.

Honey Money presents a nasty idea, poorly argued. It must not gain traction.

Das erotische Kapital:

4 thoughts on “Das erotische Kapital, volume IV: Unfortunate implications”

  1. I now have a vision of a rapist fapping himself erect screaming “the invisible hand of the market!”

    Actually, wait, that’s horrifying and triggering. Thanks, brain. Anyway, very, very good review.

  2. Thank you for this – I have avoided reading this book because of the points you have detailed and which echo other people’s opinions. Some comments on her assertions:

    a) is feminism supposed to offer an alternative to heterosexuality or marriage? I think not.
    b) where is the concept of the male gaze (Mulvey 1992) in all this?
    c) as an academic I cannot believe that this book was even published: it puts qualitative data gathering methods to shame
    d) is Hakim really a woman?
    e) gender equality = a sexually restricted culture: only if you think that rape culture is ok
    f) the majority of sex workers do not in any way resemble the Bell du Jour model.

    Again, thank you.

  3. Kind of standard practice these days though ain’t it? Some creep with some kind of qualification comes along and says “wait a minute, all your asinine prejudices are actually fine” and then you get establishment commentators (who generally have had to tow the line but still secretly hold some pretty fucked ideas) proclaim it “a breath of fresh air” or some shit and said creep starts getting loads of exposure. The really sad thing is that the kind of impoverished, hopelessly circumscribed worldview Hakim propounds is probably true for some people; there are always those who simply accept one form of victimization for another, peddling ideals and archetypes of the privileged in return for a modicum of status. What’s really galling is the disproportionate attention this kind of stuff get’s in the media. On the one hand, it’s clearly deeply conservative in nature so naturally reverberates well in the vast right-wing echo chamber that is so much commercial news media, on the other, the (understandable) consternation of critics can itself unwittingly draw as much if not more attention. We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

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