The term 'high-value dating' has 136.6 million views on TikTok, while related phrases such as 'hypergamy' (132m) and 'high-value woman' (106m) are also thrown about regularly. Trying to secure a high-value partner might sound like something from a Jane Austen novel, which Austen herself would have satirised and scoffed at, but no. It’s 2022 and high-value dating is a thing.
High-value dating is an ideology that pushes for women to position themselves in a way that attracts the interest of high value (read: usually high-earning and successful) men. According to modern social media users, today's answer to Prince Charming is a 'high-value man': someone who is self-confident, takes good care of themselves and is financially stable.
According to various online dating and love coaches (a job for which, you’ll be unsurprised to learn, you do not need a formal qualification), securing one of these high-value men is no easy feat. It requires time, dedication and impeccable attention to detail regarding your behaviour as well as aesthetics.
In order to do so, they should be what these 'experts' call a 'high-value woman'. So who exactly is she, this high-value woman?
According to TikTok videos like this one, a high-value woman "doesn’t do drama", "doesn’t nag'' and "doesn’t overreact". She is "feminine" – which means that she takes care of her appearance – and emotionally stable. Is this good common sense or does it sound rather a lot like the description of a Stepford wife?
Ask Nelly is one of TikTok’s "favourite female dating coaches". In one video she advises her followers of "three easy ways to lead with feminine energy so that they can become a magnet for men".
Number one, she says, never plan dates. "If he asks you out, let him pick the place and plan it out because it gives you the opportunity to see if he can rise to the occasion. And the only thing you should be stressed out about is what you are going to wear."
Number two: "Don’t lead with your resume. I know you’re accomplished and you should feel proud of that but this isn't an interview, it's a date."
Number three: "Stop resisting and start receiving. That means if he offers to call you a car or pick up the bill, just say thank you with a smile."
On the face of it, some of the core points here sound like decent relationship advice for anyone. The idea that it’s better to be single than to be in a sub-par relationship just for the sake of it, for instance. That you may as well be upfront about your standards to avoid wasting everyone’s time.
Yet while the label 'high-value dating' refers primarily to emotional maturity and self-respect, much of the content online which has sprung up around it, either overtly or covertly, centres around the idea of bagging a rich husband.
Flashback to 2019. Chidera Eggerue, known as The Slumflower, and her controversial dating advice are inescapable on social media. You may remember viral tweets such as: "I only date men on my terms (money, gifts, food, Addison Lee’s) and this works for me because I am THE PRIZE."
TikTok accounts which speak to these ideas have sprung up recently, gathering hundreds of thousands of views for teaching women how to recognise high-value men, the behaviours that will attract high-value men and, most importantly, how not to scare them off. These ideas equate a man’s worth to his ability to buy your love materially and they are easily bought into, particularly if you’re going through a tough time.
Canadian dating expert and coach Rikki Dymond, 38, came across high-value dating in 2018 when she was going through a divorce.
"I was heartbroken and seeking answers to why my marriage ended. I realised that in order to have meaningful relationships I had to first learn to love myself and build my own happiness," explains Rikki. "To bring myself up to a high-value state so that I could live life feeling full and in turn attract a man who was vibrating at the same frequency."
It’s obvious that high-value dating advice can appeal to anyone who is trying to find answers to the struggles in their relationships. Once she started living "in a high-value state", Rikki began to attract "a different calibre of men: men who wanted to pursue and court and move towards love and long-term commitment."
Acknowledging your worth isn't the problem. What is a problem is when high-value dating advice pushes a socially conservative approach that’s critical of women and their behaviours, placing limits on how they should act and what they ought to seek from a relationship. In the same way that the model determines whether men are 'low' or 'high' value, it deems women 'low value' for behaviours that don't live up to its standards, reflecting repressive norms about women’s sexuality and policing other women’s behaviour in the name of winning a man. And when you break it down, dismissing anyone who doesn’t have a high earning capacity as 'low-value' is hugely problematic.
Like pickup artists, high-value dating can objectify the opposite gender and turns dating into a game to be won, with a high-value partner as the prize. The ruthlessness of assigning 'objective' values to potential partners and to ourselves, with little regard for the ways in which that framework might be weaponised, can result in a warped outlook on love.
In an article for The Atlantic titled "If You Want a Marriage of Equals, Then Date as Equals", professor of sociology Ellen Lamont reported that many women she spoke to enacted strict dating rules. "It’s a deal-breaker if a man doesn’t pay for a date," one 29-year-old woman told her. A 31-year-old said that if a man doesn’t pay, "they just probably don’t like you very much." A third woman, also 31, told her: "I feel like men need to feel like they are in control, and if you ask them out, you end up looking desperate and it’s a turnoff to them."
"We should understand this dating approach as reactionary to frustrations with both the dating market and avenues for upward mobility," Lamont tells Refinery29. "It is certainly socially conservative in the sense that it positions women to be economically dependent on men. And asking men to pay for everything undermines egalitarian goals in that it is premised on certain gendered assumptions about men and women and their respective roles. But my assumption is that it is a reaction to dating norms that leave women feeling devalued. Men often use narratives of feminism not to treat women as equals but to treat them poorly. This is the flipside of the coin of benevolent sexism."
Lamont’s findings are similarly evident on social media. In a TikTok video with over 10.5k likes, @ask.nelly states: "Men should never let a woman pay for a first date because if you're asking a girl out and then going Dutch, it just shows you're cheap, you weren't raised right, you're not chivalrous and you're dating outside of your price range."
Perhaps it's unsurprising that such a neoliberal ideology would permeate our dating lives in a context where it costs to be single. The world is experiencing a cost-of-living crisis, with millions of people not knowing how they will make ends meet, feed themselves or heat their homes.
The single tax is real, with single people on average are spending $9,312 a year more than couples on basic household outgoings — and it’s only set to worsen. Dating is an expensive game, with no guaranteed payoff. Is it any surprise that women are adopting more stringent measures to secure themselves a man, and a rich one at that?
Dating and relationship coach Kate Mansfield believes that financial pressure should never be a reason to be in a relationship. Her take on high-value dating does not focus on attracting wealthy men, although attracting a man who is on the same or a higher level as you financially can be part of it.
"High-value dating, for both men and women, is about having integrity, being authentic and seeing the value in someone as a rounded person," explains Kate. "Primarily, I teach my female clients how to date from a place of emotionally high value, which involves positioning themselves with very strong boundaries in order to get their emotional needs met."
Now that sounds like the solid dating advice we all need.
In an ideal world, the high-value man or woman is subjective. One person’s high value might be a high salary; another person might care only that their future partner is emotionally intelligent or can hold their own in a conversation. Maintaining your standards is important but at the same time, romantic chemistry is hard to predict. The best advice? Detach yourself from meticulously crafted checklists and keep an open heart and mind.