Erotic capital and erotic dividends

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Sexualities scholars have developed the idea of erotic capital, that is the characteristics that make someone sexually desirable in specific contexts. While much of the literature focuses on those who either possess or lack erotic capital, and how erotic capital manifests within sexual and dating situations, few studies pursue what happens after erotic capital is used to attract a partner or how individuals feel about others’ interpretations of their erotic capital. Therefore, we advance the literature by developing the concept “erotic dividends,” which we conceptualize as the yield or outcome generated from erotic capital. By exploring erotic dividends, we highlight the importance of recognizing that erotic capital is highly situational/dependent and we complicate assumptions that erotic capital routinely engenders beneficial sexual experiences. To explore erotic dividends, we draw on in-depth interview research on the development of sexual selves with samples of straight-identifying U.S. men and women in their 20s–60s conducted with straight men and women in the United States. We suggest that while some might possess erotic capital, this does not automatically guarantee they will produce benefits, and may ultimately reinforce broader structural inequalities, particularly those related to gender and race. Overall, we argue that the concept of erotic dividends helps to clarify how power, desirability, and inequalities operate within sexual situations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Anthropology

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