Where do you think you fall on the SMV scale?’ Kim asks me.
‘Um.’ I google SMV. Sexual Market Value is ‘a measure of desirability for sex in the eyes of a person of the opposite sex’, according to the online male supremacist community Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW). ‘Don’t know,’ I confess. ‘How would I?’
‘Well, it’s hard to judge yourself and often we don’t know exactly how we are perceived. It’s not uncommon to inflate or devalue one’s attractiveness. But as a woman it is often said our SMV goes up if we control our weight.’ She adds: ‘Ultimately, your SMV can only really be told to you by men, and even then it’s subjective. You might be an 8 to one guy and a 5 to another.’
‘I see. So do you know yours?’
Kim tells me that she went from size 20 to size 14 in one year after joining the Red Pill Women, a female anti-feminist community on the discussion platform Reddit. ‘I am sure it helped, since I am treated differently. But I am not stopping traffic or anything. My face is average or even below average, which probably keeps my SMV low even though I’m skinny now.’
I stare at her brutal self-evaluation. This is a typical discussion in the forum. Kim is one of roughly 30,000 self-described Red Pill Women or Trad Wives (short for Traditional Wives). Like the MGTOW men’s-rights activists, these women perceive gender roles as the result of ‘sexual economics’. The heterosexual community, they believe, should be seen as a market place, where women are sellers and men buyers of sex. A woman’s single most important resource is therefore, according to them, her SMV.
This radically simplistic view of gender relations is used to legitimise the objectivisation of women; to make it acceptable, even necessary, to rate, trade and replace women – like market goods. This is now my third week talking to the Trad Wives and I have started to get used to their endorsement of openly misogynist statements. ‘Women’s highest value to men is her sexual value, and she’s most valuable when she’s in her sexually pristine state,’ I am repeatedly told. To see where you stand in terms of sexual value, Kim recommends trying some apps that allow you to get rated anonymously: from the old-school Hot or Not to a more sophisticated attractiveness rating service on Photofeeler.
‘Okay […] but what about other factors like being funny, educated or having exotic passions?’ I ask, half knowing the answer.
‘Oh come on. Health, age and femininity are the single most important qualities that appeal to men,’ Kim says. ‘Education, career or workplace does not influence a woman’s SMV. Think about it, they don’t enhance the sexual satisfaction of her male partner.’ This is in line with MGTOW’s assessments: ‘The SMV of a woman is given by birth and her achievements in life do little to increase it,’ they claim.
‘Oh and your SMV also goes down if your N-count goes up,’ a woman named Marie adds.
‘The what count?’ I ask her, starting to feel a little stupid.
‘The N-count. You know, her cock count,’ Marie explains. ‘While being sexually experienced may increase the physical pleasure of her male partner, being sexually inexperienced actually increases satisfaction.’ Marie is in her early thirties and married. Apart from being a ‘good wife’, she sees her mission as giving tips on dating, relationships and marriage to fellow Red Pill Women on Reddit. She appears to be one of the most frequently consulted coaches in the community. Many women drill her with questions ranging from ‘How do female duties change upon pregnancy and childbirth?’ to ‘Is chastity before marriage necessary?’
Marie is convinced that feminism has brainwashed men and women into believing that the N-count doesn’t matter. ‘But human nature will always prevail sooner or later,’ she tells me. ‘And human male nature is to have less and less desire for a woman as her N-count rises. Eventually, this lack of desire will turn to outright disgust.’ She gives the example of ‘a smoking hot, 10/10 bombshell beauty’ who has had sex with a thousand men. ‘How many men will want to marry her? Very few. Why?’ Before anyone can respond, she continues: ‘Because women are the gatekeepers of sex. Sex is the main thing that men need from women. Therefore, it’s the prime value that a woman has. Each time she gives this value to a man, her value is diminished.’
The Trad Wives movement is a small but growing internet phenomenon that developed as the female equivalent of The Red Pill (TRP), a Reddit community that the New Hampshire Republican state house member Robert Fisher anonymously founded under the nickname pk_atheist in 2012. TRP promised ‘discussion of sexual strategy in a culture increasingly lacking a positive identity for men’ and counted roughly 300,000 subscribers before being banned by Reddit in 2017 for its toxic, dehumanising and threatening content.
But TRP is only one part of a much bigger misogynist online community, the so-called ‘Manosphere’, which played a key role in the creation of the alt-right and is made up of a range of sub-cultures: from the secret seduction community of the Pick Up Artists (PUA), who seek to learn how to manipulate women’s minds to get them into bed, and the anti-marriage community MGTOW, which teaches men to stop caring about women, to the male supremacist Men’s Rights Activists (MRA) and the vengeful Involuntary Celibacy (Incel) movement of men whose main goal is to punish the women they make responsible for their sexual frustration. While these groups pursue different strategies to ‘reconquer’ male power, pride and privilege, they all share an outright hostility towards feminism, liberalism and modern gender roles. They ridicule movements like #MeToo and denounce women’s-rights activists as ‘feminazis’.
After reading Angry White Men by Michael Kimmel I was convinced this was an almost exclusively male phenomenon. But the more time I spend immersing myself with the Red Pill Women, the more I understand that anti-feminist movements aren’t just made up of men. Female men’s-rights activists who want to return to traditional power roles and exaggerated notions of masculinity and femininity have adopted the rhetoric of the Manosphere. ‘Feminism is attacking the white male,’ the Russian-American alt-right activist Lana Lokteff claimed on the white supremacist Radio 3Fourteen.
The Red Pill Women community is ‘open to all women wanting to improve themselves and their relationships’, but it does have a few official rules, most notably:
Rule Five: No feminism. This is an anti-feminist community, and as such, we are not interested in being ‘saved’ by feminism. Anybody stopping in to weigh-in with the feminist perspective will be shown the door, as it is off topic.
Instead, conversations should be based on traditional evolutionary psychology or an anti-feminist premise.
‘I’ve been learning and growing, becoming more virtuous through God’s grace and learning to follow my husband and submit instead of making demands and arguing […] It’s beautiful, really. The biggest thing I’ve done is to just say “yes”. Yes to what he asks for or wants […],’ one woman writes after having been indoctrinated by the Trad Wives for several weeks.
This excerpt from Going Dark, The Secret Social Lives of Extremists by Julia Ebner has been published with permission from Bloomsbury Publishing.