The hot story in the dating world this week involved an online tiff between dating coach Kevin Samuels and a woman named Jessica who’d called into Samuels’ popular YouTube podcast.
You can watch the full exchange here.
The interview starts out with Jessica asking Samuels for tips on how to find a “high value man.” It devolves into Samuels humiliating for Jessica for thinking that any guy with a six-figure income would ever be interested in dating a woman like her.
“You’re average looking at best,” Samuels told Jessica, a 35-year-old with a successful business and a teenage son. “You’re an average looking woman with a 13-year-old son with a sketchy baby-daddy … and now you’re asking for a man in the top 10% of men? You don’t qualify for one.”
Samuels didn’t stop there.
“Women like you die alone,” he continued, “because you think you’re better than the men that you qualify for.”
But before I give you my own take on all this, you need to know a little more about Samuels and his philosophy. A former advertising executive who looks like a male model, Samuels presents as a high value man, and his coaching is built around teaching men how to become one and teaching women how to attract one.
So what defines high value men? Ninety percent of it seems to involve being wealthy, successful and attractive — but for my own purposes, the exact definition is less important than understanding how this phrase has worked its way into dating’s mainstream.
The concept of high value men was first popularized seven years ago by Rollo Tomassi, author of The Rational Male. Through his book and his blog, Tomassi soon emerged as a leader of the so-called Red Pill movement.
For those unfamiliar with the dark nether regions of manosphere, you’ll need to google “Red Pill” to get fully up to speed. But the bottom line is this: The Rational Male has morphed into a kind of manifesto for male pickup artists and for average guys who fantasize about becoming one.
Tomassi compares women to plates and high value men (or at least men who present as high value) to circus performers who can spin multiple plates at once.
“Never overtly tell a woman you’ve got other plates spinning than her,” he advises in his book.
Another Tomassi chestnut: “Women crave the chemical rush that comes from suspicion and indignation. If you don’t provide it, they’ll happily get it from tabloids, romance novels, The View, Tyra Banks or otherwise living vicariously through their single girlfriends.”
Given the questionable origins, I’m not surprised that a dating coach who drinks Tomassi’s Kool-Aid considers it acceptable to demean a woman whom he considers sub-par. Nor is it surprising that a woman like Jessica, who willingly dips her toe into this cesspool, finds herself dirtied in the process.
That is my first observation about the Samuels-Jessica kerfuffle.
My second observation involves what the language of high value and low value says about the state of our dating culture. As I said, these concepts have migrated from the dark recesses of the manosphere into dating’s mainstream, and my theory on how and why centers on the rise of online dating.
There’s nothing new about women and men gravitating towards partners with similar socio-economic backgrounds, of course. But fifty years ago, regular people didn’t throw around words like hypergamy, and women who hired matchmakers didn’t turn up their noses at guys who earned $200K instead of $400K or attended Haverford instead of Harvard.
As I discuss in Make Your Move (due out Feb. 2!), online dating has made courtship more like commerce, and everything about dating — including its lexicon — has become more transactional as a result.
Some people are high value.
Some people are low value.
Dating is just another market, like Nasdaq or eBay, where you angle for the best deal.
Writing in The Guardian, relationship columnist Stella Grey illustrates this mindset perfectly. “Midlife online dating is a buyer’s market,” Grey writes. “Women are the merchandise offered for perusal.”
My first book may bear some blame for this way of thinking. Date-onomics wasn’t about online dating per se, but it did help popularize the concept of dating as a market.
While I still believe market concepts can help us understand dating, I do not think it is helpful when singles behave like shoppers, treating each other like products instead of people.
Samuels responds to Jessica as if she were salesperson trying to pull one over on him, not as a flesh-and-blood human being trying to find love in cold world. If Samuels did not like Jessica’s question — he claimed it was off topic for his show that day — the kind thing to do would have been to simply brush her off and move on to the next caller.
Problem is, when it comes to modern dating, kindness is decreasingly part of the deal.