Sexual Capital

I’m going to present you with an analogy. Before I do, let’s get on the same page about how an analogy works, since I plan to argue something with one in this piece.

Example: Object A = “cat” Object B = “CAT” (the object is what you see between the quotes)

A and B share myriad characteristics despite being different in a number of others. Let’s say you and a friend are concerned about the basic meaning of A and B. It’s a bit unrealistic, but let’s say someone disagreed with you about what B meant, but they were fortunate enough to agree on the meaning of object A. You say “B is actually a lot like A; they even share the property of being the 4th, 15th, and 7th letters of the alphabet in that order. Therefore, because A means [that meowing pet], B means the same thing.” This argument would be less successful if your friend were concerned about the sizes of A and B on the page and you used analogy to argue that A and B are the same size. Why is this?

All analogies are questionable in that they compare two non-identical entities; if a dissimilarity should significantly impact the characteristic of interest (meaning or size, above), then the analogy fails. Let’s call an analogy convincing when the characteristic of interest in A is only dependent on elements of similarity. In such cases, the dissimilar elements should be necessarily insignificant.

So to make the argument above tighter, I could precede it with: “Premise: the only characteristic of a word that establishes its basic, dictionary meaning is its sequence of alphabet letters. I suspect you share this premise.” Stating this is courteous because I am explaining why I feel entitled to project some characteristic of interest of A onto B, as opposed to just throwing an analogy at you and preying on your emotions.

Onwards: I invite you to look around and see that different people have different levels of physical desirability. Let’s call this "sexual capital" and, upon inspection, it's remarkably similar to our conventional notion of capital ($, property, goods). I’d like to show a bunch of similarities before I pick out the basic, significant factors that will allow me to make assertions, about things we disagree about regarding economic capital, based on notions about sexual capital that we share. “Capital” when left unqualified will henceforth be used in statements applicable to both forms.

Observations about capital you might agree are valid:

1. You're, more or less, dealt your hand at the start of life. You can put in a lot of time/effort to acquire somewhat more capital, but significant factors (face, race, height, healthy weight, in the case of sexual capital) aren’t very malleable at all. (And, these days, who has the time after an exhausting 8-hour shift for a few painful, humiliating gym hours when the TV is there, beckoning?)

2. Almost always one tries to 'trade up' in exchanges. It would be a peculiar sight to see a ‘bombshell’ soberly acquiesce to being hit on by someone conventionally unattractive, like witnessing someone paying $40 for a stick of gum (in these cases there is more at play then what's superficially visible, most would assume).

3. People see this capital as a route to happiness. Not only, do our advertisers tell us, will we be happy if we have a lot of money, but we need to have sexual capital and satisfaction for life to be fulfilling. It seems people tend to always want more.

4. There is a force towards dating and marrying into capital; though it’s not necessarily the strongest force, one typically lists negative things that made them reject someone rich or attractive in spite of that capital. This force’s strength seems both culturally and historically dependent.

5. Kids of parents with ample sexual capital often have a disproportionately large amount themselves when they come of age.

6. People with good sexual capital have lower barriers to finding companionship/gratification (more self-esteem/confidence/happiness/experience = more desirable). A positive-feedback loop of capital (analogous to the maxim "it takes money to make money").

7. There’s no absolute ‘value’ of a good the way there is no absolute attractiveness. The price of something is a reflection of how much the seller thinks she can get and is more the consequence of which people are looking at it, than the thing itself.  ‘Attractive’ or ‘expensive’ simply mean the owner of that capital has significant bargaining power, on average, when dealing with peers.

These parallels are condensed below:

a.   People have this thing to offer which they can trade/bargain with in voluntary exchange.

b.   Despite a meritocratic component, how much you have is largely due to factors determined at birth or otherwise outside your control.

c.   Not everyone has an equal amount, and that makes many people sad because they can't exchange what they have to offer for the stuff they want. A lot of problems in life are simply easier when you have it.

All people equally deserve happiness, and life oughtn’t be drastically easier for some due to unearned circumstance, we accept as premises. So we look upon this poor, inequitable situation in horror. I believe the crucial aspects of capital that make ‘wealth inequality’ a current social justice issue are encapsulated in a, b, c. I also hope I have shown a, b, and c are equally applicable to sexual capital. Should we accept that there is a societal ‘problem’ of economic capital inequality requiring our intervention, there must also be a problem of sexual capital inequality that we were blind to, purely because we weren’t repeatedly and explicitly told it was a problem. It’s especially a problem, given that finding companionship, physical connection, and love seem to be more intimately intertwined with one’s happiness and emotional well-being than money.

Now, how do we solve this problem? With economic capital, solving the problem of inequity has been attempted by redistribution. How does one redistribute economic capital? Well, let’s say you are the state: you annually tell each citizen to send you their intimately private economic information and a big check along with it. Why would anyone ever voluntarily do either of those things? Well, they wouldn't; there is an implicit threat of force backing those requests, made explicit with SWAT once a mere citizen stubbornly ignores your will and strongly-worded letters.

It requires a touch of imagination, but an analogous solution could be put in place for our newfound problem. If it sounds peculiar, whereas the above situation did not, I would postulate that the difference in your reactions is mostly the product of you growing up in the former, being told it is normal and simply the way things are.

Analogously, if you wanted to redistribute sexual capital, you would need to tell your citizens to provide you with records so you can gauge their capital – records of the year’s sexual history, height/weight, perhaps a nude picture or two. For the actual redistribution, you could mandate “assignments” to your citizens that could range from holding hands to third-base to a rocky 3-month relationship, according to the needs of your physically impoverished citizens, grappling with existential loneliness. Once again, the more sexually privileged only stand to lose from this redistribution and will not participate voluntarily, and in your noble goal of fairness and providing equitable happiness you have no choice but to have an implicit threat of SWAT for those who resist.

Of course the system would be imperfect in many of the same ways the current economic redistribution plan has imperfections. Dodging taxes, manipulating politicians into giving loopholes, inefficient transfer of capital to those who are in need, arguments over the proper tax rates and bracketing, etc., but those problems are trivial compared to the ethical motivation driving the whole machine onward: since no one chooses how wealthy/attractive they will become when they're born, we ought to level the playing field for the sake of equal opportunity and equal happiness by facilitating both material and amorous exchanges.


So, simply due to the sad nature of things (i.e. we can't seem to shake this premise of egalitarianism while simultaneously living in such an unequal reality) we are posed a dilemma. We are saddened by inequalities of capital, which seem to lead to gross disparities in happiness and opportunity due to factors determined largely at birth. But we also feel strongly against people being coerced to give their own capital up to rectify the situation. But there is no dilemma in most minds; they are dead set on intervention and redistribution in one case versus pure laissez-faire anarchy when dealing with sexual capital. Hitherto there was no need to justify these opposite stances, as the fundamental parallels were not brought to your attention.

If you think the analogical reasoning was invalid or simply dislike the conclusion:

You must try to show differences between the two forms of capital. My introductory treatment of analogies hopefully explained why (a,b,c) are the significant congruencies, so you ought to aim your cannons there. Certainly another solid plan of attack is to suggest that the argument for why wealth inequality is a social justice issue goes beyond (a,b,c) and significantly includes dissimilarities. I imagine some will manufacture plausible things they might otherwise not have thought of in a deliberate effort to preserve preconceptions, but so it goes.

Imagined terse counterarguments followed by terse responses:

"They can always work out", yet claiming they can always work harder and make more money would be considered laughable.

"They just need to lower their expectations", would only sound unreasonable when discussing economic capital.

“A single night of government-mandated amorousness is rape”, yet to claim a $1,000 bill levied without consent (with the threat of force if one doesn't comply) is 'theft' gives one the irredeemable label of neo-con / anarchist / libertarian nut-job.

If you think the analogical reasoning was, more or less, valid:

I try to show the ethical dilemma between realizing egalitarianism versus realizing nonaggression, but I don’t religiously declare one to be superior to the other. All I can do is point to a symmetry between the sad nature of sexual and economic capital and propose that it is hypocritical to hold opposite stances on the two issues. If you desire to construct complex beliefs from fundamental principles rather than the dogma of your particular time and culture, then avoiding this hypocrisy would be important. You might feel compelled to drop either egalitarianism or non-aggression as a moral axiom, since you might be uncomfortable with holding both. To keep both, you might seek nonviolent ways to redistribute capital, to think of innovative ways to give to empower those who are disadvantaged without resorting to the crude solution of giving an organization unbeatable firepower and trusting them to use this force to unilaterally take and redistribute.