Meet the incels

Have you heard about the people who calls themselves ‘incels’? Me neither, until today. It is shorthand for ‘involuntarily celibate’ and the full name makes it pretty clear who they are. This article says that there were 40,000 of them on a sub-group of Reddit until the site was shut down today.

Reddit has banned a community dedicated to the “involuntarily celibate” that was largely populated by men who appear to hate women and in some cases advocate rape.

The 40,000-strong community was nominally a “support group” for people who lack romantic relationships and sex. “They are involuntarily celibate or ‘incel’.” However, popular posts from the last few months include ones titled “all women are sluts”; “proof that girls are nothing but trash that use men” and “reasons why women are the embodiment of evil”.

Members describe women as “femoids” and the men they have sex with as “chads”. There are many examples, documented on a watchdog subreddit called IncelTears, where incels have condoned or advocated rape, or described it as a made-up construct.

I can well imagine that it is very hard for people who have not been able to form close and intimate relationships with other people to deal with their loneliness. This is especially so in a culture that is swamped with films, TV shows, advertisements and the like that seem to suggests that everyone is having a great time with a special partner except for them. What seems to be the case with the incels is that they seem to think that it is exclusively men who are in this situation and that the blame for their plight lies entirely with women who are inexplicably spurning what they have to offer.

Since sexual services are readily available in western countries, I assume that these people could have sex if they want to and what they feel they are deprived of is someone who wants to have a close personal relationship with them that includes sex. I am by no means an expert on relationships but they do not seem to realize that a sense of entitlement, that others should like and want you, is not a very attractive quality in a person and tends to be obvious and off-putting.

I wonder how these incels view the recent avalanche of revelations of people who are rich and powerful using those qualities to impose their sexual will on others. Does this feed their sense of grievance even further, that it is simply their own lack of money and power and social status that is preventing them from achieving similar ‘success’ and tempts them to think that force alone might compensate for that lack? The Reddit group seems to have been feeding that fantasy.

The internet has enabled those who might feel otherwise isolated to form communities of like-minded people. In general, this is a good thing. But it can also create a negative dynamic in which people feed off one another’s grievances and misinformation.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    Since sexual services are readily available in western countries, I assume that these people could have sex if they want to and what they feel they are deprived of is someone who wants to have a close personal relationship with them that includes sex

    What they feel deprived of is someone who will let them do it to them for free. They resent being in a position where if they want it, they have to pay actual money. What they don’t seem to realise is that those of us getting it “for free” pay in another way -- by being, e.g. y’know, actually interested in the other person beyond what sexual services they can provide for us. But they don’t want to make that much effort.

    Nobody whose identity is entirely about sex or the lack of it is interested in “a close personal relationship”.

  2. Glor says

    Sadly, I’ve heard of them before. And I have to disagree, it’s not really sex or intimacy that they want.
    It’s what they think “having sex”, or “having a girlfriend”, or whatever, means -- “being a real man”, “successful”, blablabla.
    Paying a sex worker would mean “failing at manhood” (whatever the F… that means), so it’s a no go.
    In other words, they’re a prime example of toxic masculinity. For an extreme example of that kind of thought, look up the manifesto of Elliot Rodger.

  3. johnson catman says

    re Glor @2:
    Rodger was the first time I had heard the term “incel”. One of the problems with people like this is that they have a really warped sense of entitlement. There are potential partners that are available, but those potential partners don’t meet the impossibly high standard that the incels feel that they are worthy of. Plus, as mentioned already, they don’t really care about a relationship. They only want to be able to have sex of their liking on demand. The other person might just as well be a sexbot.

  4. says

    If some of the men I’ve come across in life are anything to go by, part of the problem is that not only do these guys feel entitled to a woman, they feel entitled to a “hot” woman.

    There was a conversation I had years ago that always stuck with me. The guy was complaining that women won’t look past his exterior to see what he’s like inside. When I asked why he doesn’t do the same thing with women he replied, “I’ve got to be turned on.”

  5. Onamission5 says

    I have to agree with #2 and #3. It’s not so much that these guys come off as lonely and craving true companionship or intimacy, it’s that they feel they are being denied the status of decorative sexbot owner they believe is their birthright. Rather than look inward to figure out why women won’t go near them with a 10 foot pole, they cast the women they perceive as withholding that status from them as shallow and selfish.

    The phrase aggrieved entitlement covers it nicely.

  6. Curious Digressions says

    @ 4 Tabby
    What you said. To paraphrase an exchange one of these guys brought into a mostly women’s online conversation the other day:

    Guy: You women are shallow. I’m ugly, broke, and fat and I can’t [rude description of making a connection with women]. My friend is hot and rich and he’s rolling in hot [rude description of anatomy].
    Community member (presumably a woman): Have you tried asking out fat, ugly, broke women?
    Guy: Why would I do that?

    The guy acknowledges he doesn’t have looks or resources. His behavior demonstrates that he doesn’t have tact or interest in women as people. Still, he’s only interested in getting his entitled share of hot [redacted] from an ideal woman. And he’ll be so bitter when it doesn’t happen. He may even go and shoot up a campus. Yuck.

  7. lanir says

    Sex or lack thereof is just an excuse. I don’t think anyone casually wanders into treating other people that way. That looks like the kind of talk that requires sustained effort to dehumanize other people. Sounds like the group was all about investing in that effort together.

    When you don’t respect the people you’re with, you can always dream up something to complain about.

  8. Chris Smith says

    I’m very glad the sub was shut down because there was a lot of hateful content.

    However, as someone on the autism spectrum, there isn’t a lot of scientifically validated dating advice out there. Everyone else says “just meet people”, but it’s hard for me do to so because I have difficulty communicating with people, and difficulty maintaining friendships.

    The only way at this time would be for me to join an autism support group, which I tried, but they didn’t take my employment difficulties and career aspirations seriously, saying I should not talk about it and should just be obsessed with being autistic. I got offended and left.

    We still don’t know a lot about how the human brain works, even in the 21st century. We could prevent a lot of problems if we knew more about how we think.

  9. Mano Singham says

    Chris Smith @#9,

    I have been thinking about your situation for a few days. I have no suggestions as to what might be a solution but I was wondering how you might feel if your family and friends ‘rented’ a friend for you without your knowledge and you only discovered it much later. Would the pleasure you had during your period of ignorance be sufficient to overcome your disappointment that this person was playing a role? It is a hard hypothetical to answer, I know, so feel free to ignore it.

  10. jack jones says

    Perhaps some incels think it is only men who are incel, but the truth or falsehood of that notion is a minor tangent. One could, if there were sufficient interest, discuss the difficulties of being a female incel. Having said that, the vast majority of incels are clearly male. The author is attempting to deflect any possible sympathy by bringing up this tangential argument.

    Prostitution,while certainly worthy of mention is really not what this is all about. Sex is not just sex. If incels were simply in need of sex the way a bone needs to be set, they would just pay for it from time to time. But of course, sex is ultimately about connection and acceptance, things that sex with a prostitute cannot provide. So telling them to simply buy sex (never mind that it is illegal) is nothing less than a cold hearted attempt to dismiss them and avoid the real issues underlying the circumstances that cause one to be incel.

    And then the article goes on to demonize them for their anger. These men have been cast out by society. Isolation of any kind is about the most severe punishment available. These men have been the victims of abuse. So yeah, they are going to have anger and that anger will not always be well managed. I think what people forget is the fact that these men were outcast and ignored BEFORE they started feeling hatred of women or feeling entitled. It is also really important to realize that such men often become terrified of approaching women. Some have made the reasonable argument that they should go for unattractive women. And while I agree that makes sense, some incels are even ignored by these women. Furthermore, nobody seems to ever think that women could pursue them. The bottom line is pretty simple. When a man has been rejected and ignored, it causes immense emotional pain and damage. Asking a person with 2 broken legs to walk 5 miles to the hospital is unrealistic and cruel. The normal means of doing things can be outside their skill set. These men need HELP NOT SCORN.

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