In a recent episode of Fox’s new sitcom The New Girl, Zooey Deschanel’s normally-frumpy character, Jess, is asked by a male roommate to accompany him as his date to a wedding in order to make his ex-girlfriend jealous. For the occasion, the male roommate tells Jess that she needs to wear a dress that will basically turn heads.
She does, and the episode descends into a zany, mischievous lark, where the ex-girlfriend does not get jealous, but rather happy that the male roommate has moved on and has apparently found somebody else. Jess’ experiences bring up the idea of “erotic capital” – that women (generally, although the concept can apply to men, too) can take advantage of their looks and sex appeal to persuade and coerce.
Catherine Hakim might say that Jess leveraged her erotic capital in an attempt to affect a social situation. Hakim is the author of Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital, a recent book that has been making waves among some book reviewers and social critics.