On a popular dating subreddit, two women are sounding the alarm about the fundamental unreliability of men. “If I could relay one thing to women about men, [it’s that] they are liars,” redditor thowawaywookie writes. “[Women] especially shouldn’t believe anything [men] say when first dating. Men will say and do anything to get sex.”
“This,” responds BasieSkanks, who is a community moderator. “It’s easy to believe that the nice guy is who he really is, which is why so many women end up chasing their own tail trying to get this nonexistent man to come back. This truth is, men don’t change, they get comfortable. Comfortable enough to show you who they really are.”
Welcome to /r/FemaleDatingStrategy (FDS), the first and only dating subreddit exclusively for women that’s focused on the trials and tribulations of dating men. The 114,000-member-strong community aims to empower women with effective strategies for seizing power in romantic relationships. FDS has a similar “play hard to get” ethos to self-help classics like The Rules and Why Men Love Bitches, which are frequently cited as guiding texts; the overarching theme is that women should maintain high enough standards to filter out low-value men (LVM), leaving only high-value men (HVM) as potential partners.
FDS makes for compulsive reading, and posts can be hilariously strident in tone, such as “Detaching From the F*ckboy You Slept With: Overriding Oxytocin”; and memorably stated community rules abound, like that “slanging pussy to fuckboys creates male entitlement.” Members can also often be found roasting men in colorful terms (“fugly, young, redditor-tier males”) and the community employs a unique arsenal of jargon. To that end, it’s common to see someone railing against “pornsick scrotes” and encouraging the user base of “Queens” to “level up” and avoid being a “Pickmeisha” or a “bangmaid” at all costs (#KickHimOut2020).
There’s an overt community hierarchy as well, with members being awarded a “flair” — a kind of prominent label next to their username — depending on their seniority and involvement. Moderators are called Ruthless Strategists, and they’re at the top, followed by FDS Strategy Coaches and FDS Disciples. The mid-range members are FDS Apprentices and FDS Newbies, and the lowest tier users are assigned At-Risk Pick Me Youth and Pickmeisha™ flairs.
Ruthless Strategists rule the roost at FDS, and they’re unabashed in their pickiness. “If a man wants to take me to a restaurant that I don’t find date-appropriate, I tell him frankly that I’m accustomed to nicer places,” one advises the community. “He can either find a restaurant that would please me or he can find another date.” You can’t separate the wheat from the chaff, these Ruthless Strategists say, without insisting on high-effort dates for which the man always pays; rejecting polyamory, BDSM and casual sex; and eliminating men who are financially insecure, watch porn and aren’t “marriage minded.”
If that sounds traditional or sex negative, FDS doesn’t care. This is a community that vigorously challenges the sacred cows of third-wave feminism, especially the idea that women can be empowered by casual sex, or even benefit from it at all (“Fucking Ain’t Fair, Act Accordingly”). FDS is difficult to pin down politically and says it’s motivated by no particular ideology, but in many ways, it’s a version of radical feminism updated for the dating-app era: There are frequent digs at “libfems,” and it holds many classically second-wave positions, such as a strident condemnation of pornography and a strong pro-abortion stance.
The FDS worldview sees dating men as a bleak, zero-sum game. “Another thing about being high maintenance [is that] you really have to know what game you’re playing, the game men have created and control,” a Ruthless Strategist advises. “Pretending to be naive, stupid or giving riffraff a chance against your instinctive better judgment only cements your position as a ‘loser’ in this game.” FDS asserts that “women have more to lose in romantic relationships” because of factors like the burden of pregnancy, the likelihood of experiencing domestic violence and the unique stigma for women who engage in casual sex. As such, they encourage women to immediately ghost low-value men, guard their finances with their lives and give no second chances to men who aren’t treating them like queens.
It sounds grimly motivating, and at times it can be: The comments are often full of users congratulating each other for sticking to their standards, thanking each other profusely for elucidating a common relationship problem or “male depravity” and commiserating about their Pickmeisha pasts (“Stay strong, sister!”). And some of the core points of FDS seem like healthy relationship advice for anyone, like that it’s better to be single and work on yourself than to be in a shitty relationship just for the sake of it, and that you may as well be upfront about your standards to avoid wasting everyone’s time.
But FDS has a darker side, too.
The advice can occasionally be overly restrictive, and even paranoid. Users are warned, for example, against coffee dates, any sex without commitment, having boyfriends in their 20s and men who aren’t in careers they enjoy. “It’s always better to cut a man off too soon than too late,” a Ruthless Strategist warns. “There’s no such thing as applying too much caution when it comes to men.” The mods also tolerate little debate about these strictures, and openly punish dissent by assigning the Pickmeisha™ flair to commenters who disagree with them. “This sub can be toxic,” comments one woman who says she was labeled a Pickmeisha™ for the sin of saying she enjoys casual sex. “I usually refer to this sub as the meanest female-only place on the internet,” says another.
Sometimes FDS even feels cultish, with its religious observance of strict rules, 12-step language, focus on the community over the individual (“Do it to make FDS proud!”) and warnings against communicating with outsiders. (When I reached out to the moderators for comment, they didn’t respond to my messages but pinned a notice warning community members not to speak to journalists). It’s clear from the comments, too, that FDS is populated by many hurt women who are perhaps overcorrecting from a past full of terrible disappointments. “[Having a boyfriend young] made me feel special and loved and chosen because I had a horrible family and an abusive father,” one comments. Another says, “I might of killed myself or done really poorly in school had it not been [for] the relationship.”
In many ways, FDS is reminiscent of, and responsive to, the Red Pill community for men. FDS is often targeted by trolls from the Manosphere — “we still occasionally get an influx of comments from incels,” the sidebar reads — and instead of ignoring or rising above Red Pill ideology, FDS engages in a childish to-and-fro with it, even publishing a whole series of tactics to counter common Red Pill strategies. FDS and the Manosphere often feel like two sides of the same coin: Both use jargon similarly, both are steeped in a deeply pessimistic and gender-essentialist view of the opposite sex, both see heterosexual relationships as an ultimate prize requiring ruthless strategizing and gaming (MGTOW excluded) and both seem to appeal most to the lonely, vulnerable and romantically unsuccessful.
But despite these limitations, FDS is enormously popular, and its appeal is only growing. On a post warning women not to have boyfriends in their 20s, an 18-year-old FDS Newbie weighs in to agree with the advice, prompting another member to comment that she’s “praising God that this sub is reaching 18-year-olds.” “It will, if we keep it civil enough,” a third member responds. “It can keep growing and be untouchable.”
“Red Pill spread like wildfire,” she adds. “This is like Red Pill for women, and it will spread too.”