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Online dating coaches spark debate for pushing women to embrace traditional gender roles

Online dating coaches are polarising viewers as they increasingly encourage women to embrace traditional gender roles.

In her videos, 24-year-old dating coach Karla Elia often tells her one million followers that they should only date men who can “afford” them, playing into the idea that men are providers while women are receivers.

Elia’s videos have been highly criticised among viewers, but her antiquated advice has resonated among a community of heterosexual women who see relationships between men and women as transactional.

“I see the dating scene and relationships as a business, because it is,” Elia explained to NBC. “A lot of people don’t like to admit that relationships are transactional, but they are.”

In one TikTok video, Elia noted that her husband had a separate savings account specifically because he knew he was going to date an “expensive woman”. She added that he had a “provider mindset” from the get-go.

Her comment section was flooded with women asking where these kinds of men were as well as several “sprinkle sprinkle” comments - which is TikTok code for transactional relationships. However, some noted that they wanted to accomplish their goals and be able to provide for themselves before they sought out a “provider”.

“I get the financial end, but you have to seek more,” one person wrote. “I don’t want a man seeing me as ‘expensive’ more like ‘worth it.’”

Others dismissed Elia’s advice as archaic, with some saying they’d rather provide for themselves.

“I’m able to afford me and it’s all that matters, I take zero pride in a man paying everything for me,” someone wrote.

“Do it yourself ladies!” another added. “No one is coming to rescue you, be your own hero.”

Elia isn’t the only dating coach alleging that women should approach romantic relationships as transactions, with many influencers in the same space advising that women should seek the “princess treatment”. They encourage women to tap into their “feminine energy” by being nurturing and soft but reject so-called masculine traits such as paying the bill.

Dating influencer Abigail Siu claimed that her “elevated dating advice” is meant to cater specifically to the emotional needs of women, which she told NBC was because she believes men and women are fundamentally different.

“I don’t believe that men and women are equal apart from the fact that we should have basic human rights and that we should be able to get paid the same wage working in the same position,” Siu explained to the outlet. “But apart from that, we really are different biologically, physically, and emotionally.”

The popularity of these dating coaches isn’t surprising, according to Cécile Simmons, a researcher studying the rise of “anti-feminist influencers”. With the rise of the “tradwife,” or traditional wife persona, and the “stay-at-home girlfriend” on social media, she explained to NBC that there’s been an uptick in dating coach influencers espousing ideologies that mirror anti-feminist dialogues that can be found online.

This wave of internalised misogyny has emerged in tandem with what Simmons called the “manosphere,” referring to online spaces in which men trade largely misogynistic advice on how to become an “alpha male”. Within these spaces, men often deliberate what constitutes a “high-value woman” and what indicates their “sexual market value”.

“In these really misogynistic communities, there’s this idea that all women want is a rich guy. The incels and all these communities hate women for that,” Simmons said. “So then you have some women reclaiming that, saying, yeah, I want a rich guy and I’m entitled to that — a bit like the manosphere guys would say they’re entitled to an attractive woman.”

By selling a lavish lifestyle as an escape from the burnout of a 9-to-5, and tapping into the brewing resentment among women in the dating landscape, these influencers are capitalising on the backlash against the girlboss feminism of the 2010s. But tapping into your “feminine energy” won’t free you from the daily grind and societal expectations, in fact, Simmons noted that it’s more of a bandaid than a solution.

“It just provides a kind of quick and easy solution to a few women, but it doesn’t liberate women as a whole,” she said.