Monthly Archive for September, 2010

Have you got erotic capital?

In recent posts, I discussed the ugliness factor and how being tall meant you didn’t just make more money, but you’re smarter than shorter people. How’s that for provocative? Today’s post takes the discussion to the next level with “erotic capital” that can be just as valuable as a university degree—especially for women.

This article was originally published in prospect magazine. I’ve reproduced most of it here with additional commentary to put it into the context of this blog which focuses on Exponential strategies to advance your professional career (and business if you’re an entrepreneur or business owner).

Erotic Capital - WomanMichelle and Barack Obama have it. Carla Bruni and David Beckham have it. Paris Hilton has even made a career from it. So great is the advantage “erotic capital” can bring to the labour market—especially in sport, the arts, media and advertising — that it often outweighs educational qualifications.

It’s a term I coined to refer to a nebulous but crucial combination of physical and social attractiveness. Properly understood, erotic capital is what economists call a “personal asset,” ready to take its place alongside economic, cultural, human and social capital. It is just (if not more) as important for social mobility and success.

Erotic Capital - ManErotic capital goes beyond beauty to include sex appeal, charm and social skills, physical fitness and liveliness, sexual competence and skills in self-presentation, such as face-painting, hairstyles, clothing and all the other arts of self-adornment.

Most studies capture only one facet of it: photographs measure beauty or sex appeal, psychologists measure confidence and social skills, sex researchers ask about seduction skills and numbers of partners. Yet women have long excelled at such arts: that’s why they tend to be more dressed up than men at parties. They make more effort to develop the “soft skills” of charm, empathy, persuasion, deploying emotional intelligence and “emotional labour.” Indeed, the final element of erotic capital is unique to women: bearing children. In some cultures, fertility is an essential element of women’s erotic power.

And even though female fertility is less important in northern Europe (where families are smaller) women’s dominant position in this market has been reinforced in recent decades by a much-lamented phenomenon: the sexualisation of culture.

Since the contraceptive revolution of the 1960s, surveys from around the world reveal a dramatic increase in sexual activities, numbers of partners and varieties of sex. London now hosts an annual Erotica fair, showcasing the new diversity of sexual lifestyles and tastes. World Health Organisation research shows that humans see sexual activity as essential to quality of life — but men still rank sex as more important than women.

Indeed, rocketing global demand for sexual activity of all kinds (including commercial sex, autoeroticism and erotic entertainment) has been far more pronounced among men than women. Sex tourism is essentially a male hobby, while erotic magazines for women often fail.

This creates an effect that should be familiar to any economist: the laws of supply and demand raise the value of women’s erotic capital, in particular their beauty, sex appeal and sexual competence. It is happening in Scandinavia as well as Mediterranean countries, in China and the US. The pattern is confirmed even in countries that are sexually “liberated” such as Finland and France. Men are two to ten times more likely to have affairs, buy pornography, seek lap-dancing clubs and erotic entertainment. Call girls’ earnings can exceed wages in nearly all the professions, despite working shorter hours.

It is true, as feminists argue, that some of these relationships can be exploitative. And, to a degree, women’s new advantage is concealed by the explosion of sexual activity among both women and men under 30, many of whom now regard one-night stands and flings as normal. In this age group there is a parity of libido, but the imbalance returns among men over 30 — surveys around the globe find that women over 30 steadily lose interest in erotic games.

Continue reading ‘Have you got erotic capital?’

Taller = richer and smarter

WhoTallareyouIn a previous blog post I discussed a hot topic called “the ugliness factor”. Today’s post is along the same lines – how tall you are determines how much you make AND how smart you are! Read on.

While researchers have long shown that tall people earn more than their shorter counterparts, it’s not only social discrimination that accounts for this inequality. It seems that tall people are just smarter than their height-challenged peers, a new study finds.

“As early as age three, before schooling has had a chance to play a role and throughout childhood, taller children perform significantly better on cognitive tests,” wrote Anne Case and Christina Paxson of Princeton University in a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The findings were based primarily on two British studies that followed children born in 1958 and 1970, respectively, through adulthood and a U.S. study on height and occupational choice.

Other studies have pointed to low self-esteem, better health that accompanies greater height and social discrimination as culprits for lower pay for shorter people.

But researchers Case and Paxson believe the height advantage in the job world is more than just a question of image.

“As adults, taller individuals are more likely to select into higher paying occupations that require more advanced verbal and numerical skills and greater intelligence, for which they earn handsome returns,” they wrote.

For both men and women in the United States and the United Kingdom, a height advantage of four inches equated with a 10 percent increase in wages on average.

But the researchers said the differences in performance crop up long before the tall people enter the job force. Prenatal care and the time between birth and the age of 3 are critical periods for determining future cognitive ability and height.

“The speed of growth is more rapid during this period than at any other during the life course, and nutritional needs are greatest at this point,” the researchers wrote.

The research confirms previous studies that show that early nutrition is an important predictor of intelligence and height.

“Prenatal care and prenatal nutrition are just incredibly important, even more so than we already knew,” Case said in an interview.

Since the study’s data only included populations in the United Kingdom and the United States, the findings could not be applied to other regions, Case said.

And how tall are the researchers?

They are both about 5 feet 8 inches tall, well above the average height of 5 feet 4 inches for American women.

You can’t afford to be ugly


We all hate to admit it, but we judge a book by its cover and judge people on how they look.

You’d agree that when you look good, you feel good. But, looking great can also be a HUGE bonus to your bank account.

Attractive people earn more money than their less attractive peers. This has been researched scientifically and is called the ‘ugliness penalty’.

Surprisingly, men are MORE subject to the penalty than women. In a Canadian and American survey, ugly men earned -9% of average income, while ugly women earned -6%.

Why does this happen? Are attractive people smarter? More qualified?

Continue reading ‘You can’t afford to be ugly’