Is the “Female Dating Strategy” the Counterpart to “Pickup Artists”?

Elle Silver

The "Female Dating Strategy" coaches women to demand the best from men. But is it also about putting men down?

FDS — or “Female Dating Strategy” — is on its face a good thing for women. Women are coached to stand up for themselves, set firm boundaries, and resist being doormats while seeking relationships with successful men who adore them. What could be wrong with that?

In our current cultural landscape where Tracy Clark-Flory, in her recent article on FDS in Jezebel, writes “women are up against everything from sexual assault to reproductive control,” a dating strategy that teaches women how to protect themselves from men who’d otherwise walk all over them can only be good for women, right?

Maybe not.

There’s a darker side that demonstrates FDS really is the female counterpart to “pickup artists.” Pickup artists use specific strategies to manipulate women. “Negging” is a tactic promoted by pickup artists to intentionally criticize women in order to knock them off their guard — and get them into bed.

If followers of FDS believe it’s a given that men will use women, they seek to play the same game. Laura Bassett, the editor-in-chief of Jezebel, recently tweeted: “FDS members have more in common with The Red Pill than they’d like to think.”

The Red Pill is the internet community for pickup artists. Pickup artists emerged from the belief that women have it easier in dating. FDS was founded on the same notion — only the opposite is true. Men have it easier — so it’s the woman’s job to take him down before he does it to her.

Vice calls FDS “toxic misandry.” But adherents of FDS also demean women who don’t follow their rules. If a woman remains hopeful after a man has ghosted her, she’s a “pickmeisha” — a woman so consumed with meeting a man, she’ll put up with his bad behavior.

While it’s great that FDS followers teach women to stand up for themselves and avoid abuse, they do so at the expense of other women. It’s no wonder many are calling FDS out for what it is: craven, exclusionary, and destructive.

The good parts of FDS.

As I already noted, a part of what FDS preaches is good advice. One of FDS’s six tenets is to coach women to be “high value.” A high-value woman “doesn’t revolve her life around men. She has her own career, hobbies, and a great social life that fulfills her emotional needs.”

Sure, this sounds lovely as do other FDS beliefs such as never trying to prove one’s value to a man. “He either sees your value or he doesn’t. The only thing that’s within your control is working on becoming your best self.”

Again, I agree. We can’t control what anyone else thinks of us. I also think it’s stupendous to advise that women ignore men who “exhibit subpar behavior.” But dig a little deeper into FDS ideology, and you’ll find a dating guide that paints all men as untrustworthy.

A woman must protect herself from men at all costs, even to the extent of becoming the oppressor. As I said, it’s great to advocate for yourself. But to treat men as pawns and dating as a game that must be won has its downside.

Such a mindset is counterproductive to what dating is all about: not just finding someone to love you but finding someone to love as well.

Experiencing love is about making ourselves vulnerable. It’s about taking a risk on another person by opening our hearts to them.

A woman can’t do that if she’s so scared a man is going to use her that she’s constantly in defense mode.

My FDS-style dating practice has backfired.

I tried to approach dating this way and I ended up alone. By asking men to jump through so many hoops, I didn’t increase their interest. Rather, I turned them off.

I came off as stuck up and cold. I sent mixed messages. Great guys lost interest in me because they assumed I didn’t like them.

Or because I had so many walls up, I was never successful in creating the chemistry needed to secure attraction. I came off as difficult, intractable, not someone any great guy would actually want to waste his time on.

Sure, adherents of FDS would say I was better off without these men. Perhaps — but dating only started working for me when I lowered my walls and let men in.

But this doesn’t mean I’m advocating being a doormat.

Become the best version of yourself.

The best takeaway from FDS is that the only way for us to effectively date is to first do our inner work. When we work through any past traumas and create a mindset where we feel great about ourselves, we build better boundaries naturally.

We’re not even attracted to men who would treat us badly because we feel so good about ourselves. We see right through pickup artists. Those men who want to use and abuse us — they’re not even on our radar. We would never waste time with men who just want to neg us, bed us, and move on.

We believe we deserve love. And we know how to give love, too. We recognize a great guy when we meet him. We feel confident enough to open ourselves up to him.

We treat him like a human being — someone we don’t feel like we’re pitted against in a game we must win.

If you should take away anything from FDS, it’s that it’s true — being successful at dating isn’t pretending you’re a “queen” but actually becoming one through self-improvement.

But as the best version of ourselves, we instinctually treat others as we want to be treated. We don’t stereotype an entire gender. By the nature of our enlightenment, we objectify and demean men less.

That’s the actual way women should be dating: respectfully because we demand the same kind of respect for ourselves.

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I'm a relationships expert with a focus on post-divorce dating and family. Everything I've learned about love, I've learned the hard way. You can learn from my mistakes.

Los Angeles, CA

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