When Alek Minnasian drove his van into groups of pedestrians, the world went looking for answers. A post on his personal Facebook page – one where Minnassian referred to incels, the Incel Rebellion and hailing “Supreme Gentleman Elliot Roger – seemed almost too perfect.
After all, 4chan boards like /pol/ have a long history of spreading hoaxes and misinformation after every recent tragedy and mass shooting. Faking a post – or an entire Facebook profile – for someone accused of the crime is well within the typical modus operandi of such groups.
Facebook confirmed that the post was real. Subsequent investigations found that Minassian was indeed part of the incel (short for “involuntarily celibate”) community – like Elliot Roger and Chris Harper-Mercer before him – and his rage led him to commit atrocities against innocents.
Since then, the media has been falling over themselves to discuss the incel community – who they are, what the existence of the incel community means for men, what drives them to such lengths, and so on. Many people have been asking what we can – or should – do about them.
The problem is: too many people are asking the wrong questions. We let ourselves get distracted, taking the name and their self-description at face value and, as a result, miss the real issue underneath.
The Origins of The Incel Movement
Like many groups – including the alt-right and GamerGate, the Incel community was forged online. Feeling socially excluded – that you, for whatever reason, are unable to find love, sex or intimacy – can be incredibly isolating. It’s very easy to feel as though you are the Last American Virgin, the sole inhabitant of the Isle of Misfit Toys.
It can be difficult to admit to these feelings in person. After all, we live in a society that stigmatizes sex and sexual inexperience. Men who are still virgins past a certain age are seen as deficient or unmanly. Finding others who feel the way that you do is empowering. Finding others who struggle with the same issues as you feels incredible. You realize that you’re no longer alone. There are others out there who understand you. Like many groups, the incel community was formed under the idea of mutual support and understanding. The person who coined the term “involuntary celibacy” did so in order to help others find mutual support, even to find answers.
However, as so many groups do, the community grew and mutated past its origins. The men who joined the community were far more antagonistic and vociferous in their complaints than the women were. Many of the men were far more ready to blame the world for their circumstances than to work for a solution.
Indeed, the incel community that spurred on Elliot Roger was known as PUAHate – named so because its members had joined the Pick Up Artist community without success. Their anger at PUA gurus and dating coaches (including, well, me) came from the fact that incels had followed the instructions and still couldn’t get laid. But while pick-up may have provided them with false hope, it was women who were the real enemy…
The Taxonomy of the Incel
Part of what separates the incel community from other young men who simply have a hard time dating is the outlook. Incel culture is incredibly insular, forming its own hypotheses and theories around why incels can’t get laid.
To a certain extent, incels believe that they are genetically or structurally inferior. Among incels, the world is divided between incels and Chads (attractive men who get laid without trying) and Stacies (the beautiful women who cruelly deny sex to incels). The difference between incels and Chads is, in the incel philosophy, bone deep… literally. Incels have a long list of features and deficiencies that dictate whether someone is a Chad or an incel.
Do you have a strong “lower third” – one’s jawline – then you’re a Chad. If you don’t have the right brow-ridge, the right canthal tilt or even the right eyebrows then you have “beta face”, the indelible marker of an incel.
Don’t have “hunters eyes”? Then you may as well give up now; you’re doomed to a sexless existence.
But while many incels see themselves as doomed, genetically, their true resentment is held for women. Women, according to incels, are the sexual gatekeepers. Women – in incels’ view – never have any problem getting laid. For women, sex is like hailing a taxi; all she has to do is hold up her hand and someone will swing by to pick her up.
Never mind that women have just as many problems finding love or sex as men. Never mind that there are women who are older virgins or that the person who founded the incel community was a woman. The fact that women get to decide who gets to have sex and who doesn’t is inherently unfair. This becomes significant because of the underlying logic of toxic masculinity: your worth is measured by your sexual value. Your sexual value is measured by who you’re capable of getting to sleep with you. Therefore, if you’re sleeping with the hottest person in the room, the transitory properties of sex and value mean that you are the most important man in the room.
But since women “get” to decide who has sex and who doesn’t, women “get” to decide who’s valuable.
This makes incels very, very angry.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when discussing incels is that they focus far too much on the idea that they’re young men who just can’t get laid. The mistake is taking them at their word, that there is an epidemic of sexual inequality, that men are being forced into chastity by women who have increased sexual choice. Sex isn’t being “unequally distributed”, no matter how many galaxy-brained would-be philosophers like to posit that it is.
Nor is their lack of sexual experience driving them to murder. No PUA guru could have saved Alek Minnasian’s victims by teaching Minnasian how to “sarge”, any more than they could have stopped Elliot Roger by taking him out to the bars.
Many more have suggested that legitimizing and de-stigmatizing sex work could help incels by providing them with an opportunity for sexual satisfaction. The problem with all of this – and it’s layered in its wrongness – is that sex isn’t the problem. Not only does this ignore women’s consent and put the onus on women to “fix” these men, it misses the fact that sex is the excuse, not the cause.
It takes only a moment to recognize the inherent lie within incel culture. Being an incel isn’t the result of losing the genetic lottery. Nor is it a matter of poor social skills or the need for sex causing psychosis. Nor is it the outcome of a society that treats certain members as sexually disposable. Their chastity is entirely self-inflicted and voluntary.
Considering that incels – theoretically – understand the pain of being judged and excluded based on arbitrary1 criteria, one would think that they would be more sympathetic to women who don’t meet society’s artificial and impossible beauty standards. But incels are among the first to complain about the mere existence of any woman they consider unattractive. Is she fat? Then she’s a land-whale. Is she a 3 out of 10? Then it’s a crime that she’s allowed to walk around with her head uncovered by a convenient potato sack. Incels will complain about being deprived of sex and then turn around and complain when an overweight or post-wall (25 or older) woman is friendly with them. Who would want to stick their dick in that ewwwww.
Worse are the Jezebels who stride across the Earth, using trickery and the sorcery of makeup to fool men into thinking she’s hotter than she is.
That’s not an exaggeration, by the way. To many incels, the idea that women are able to “improve” their looks means that they’re overturning the established order.
The significant part here is the idea that women are capable of “fucking with men above their league”. To many incels, women who are equal to or below a man’s level should be automatically receptive to those men. By improving their looks – or changing societal standards – women are further cheating men out of what is rightfully theirs.
By the same token, one would think that a man who has difficulties finding a sexual partner might appreciate a woman who’s more open to sex with men she has only just met. Again: you would be wrong. Like Red Pill devotees and other MRAs, incels rage against women who “ride the cock carousel”, referring to sexually active women as “roasties”2 and other epithets. It makes sense… if you squint. After all, if a man’s value is intrinsically tied to his sexual value and ability to attract a partner, then sex with an “easy” woman conveys no value. The fact that she slept with a particular man doesn’t mean that he’s special or worthy. She’s willing to sleep with anyone and therefore she’s, in effect, robbing his value from him.
Sex workers are especially looked at with anger and hatred; they not only are part of the system that unfairly allows women to decide who has sex and who doesn’t but they profit from it. They are both gatekeeper and slut, being paid for their desirability. Incels are loath to visit sex workers because it would have a negative effect on their value, a tacit supplication towards sex, bribing women in order to give it up instead of earning it through their inherent value and masculinity. This becomes doubly infuriating, being forced to supplicate to someone they see as inherently inferior in every way.
And that is an insult too great to be borne.
All You Need Is Hate
The defining trait of incels isn’t a lack of sex – millions of men and women lack for sexual partners – but hate.
Incel communities aren’t formed around an inability to find sex, they’re formed around hate. That hatred gets directed in all directions – inward and outward. The self-loathing of incel culture can’t be overstated. Several forum threads focus on “suifuel”, threads designed to encourage incels to commit suicide or self-harm.
But more often than not, the hate they feel is directed outwards – especially to anyone who isn’t an incel.
It’s not just that women are choosing to have sex with people they’re attracted to, it’s that those Stacies are depriving incels of what they deserve. It isn’t just that incels have been cursed – by genetics, by the universe, by whatever you care to blame – it’s that women are denying them something that is theirs by right.
Even a brief, cursory exploration of incel forums – incel.me, r/braincells, etc. finds far more posts about hatred – of normies, of Chads, of Stacies and of themselves – then support or the search for solutions and relief. Their time is spent raging against the ones who sail through life with ease or – worse – who get sex that should be going to incels. Chads are bad enough… but Tyrones, Chadreets and Changs are worse still. The racial hierarchy of incel culture is profoundly racist; Chads banging Stacies may hurt, but it’s understandable. The fact that Stacy may choose a Tyrone (black), Chadpreet (Indian sub-continent) or Chang (East Asian) instead goes beyond insult and to a level bordering on criminal.
Part of what drove Elliot Roger to murder was his anger at seeing white women with Asian men. Asian men are supposed to be less “masculine” than white men, and thus less worthy. Women who chose Asian men as partners instead of a SUPREME GENTLEMAN like Roger were insulting him personally and had to pay.
The fact that Elliot Roger was mixed-race himself made his own internalized hatred that much more ironic and worse.
In many ways, Elliot Roger is the model of what the incel community has become. Prior to Roger, incel communities had already eclipsed their initial purpose and curdled into toxic resentment. Incel forums like wizardchan and /r9k/ were among of the groups that preceded GamerGate. However, Roger became a lightning rod and focal point for many incels. Calling him Saint Roger or The Supreme Gentlemen, Roger’s massacre became a rallying cry.
To be sure, there had been spree-killers who targeted women before. The shooter behind the Ecole Polytechnique massacre targeted women in revenge, for example. However many incel forums have become increasing hotbeds of violence. Forums like incel.me rejoice in the deaths of “normies”, praying for higher bodycounts. Just as 4chan spreads the hoax of Sam Hyde being the suspect of every recent mass shooting, incel communities race to claim mass-killers as their own. Every mass killing is celebrated as a sign that the fabled Incel Revolution has finally begun.
Still more are celebrating Minassian’s massacre and dreaming of future attacks, ranging from “ER-rapes” or acid attacks.
“Us incels spend most of our time inside, there’s no way we would ever be victims of an attack. But normies must now live with fear for the rest of their lives, they can’t go to school, the mall, or on a date without having to fear another incel attack. And they should fear it, this is what happens when you leave us without any love or companionship.”
It’s easy to try to dismiss this as “ironic shitposting”. We want to say that not all incels are like this. We want to say that most are just sad or frustrated young men blowing off steam. There’s an understandable impulse to treat this as being unimportant. It’s just more noise on the Internet, sound and fury signifying nothing.
But this is predicated on the idea that the Internet isn’t real, not like the physical world. And while forums may not be real, the hate is. The communities spur on that hate to greater and greater levels. Each participant tries to top the previous with their performative anger and extreme position.
We can pretend that these words are hot air, but only if we forget how many assaults and murders have been planned online. Then we just have to ask the victims of GamerGate if this is just “shitposting”. We ask the patrons of Comet Pizza whether an armed man storming the building was just ironic posturing. We should ask the family of Heather Hayer. Or the families of the victims of Alek Minassian.
Sex Isn’t The Solution
When we talk about the trouble with incels, we need to remember that sex isn’t the cause. Neither is it the solution. These are distractions.
To be sure, we live in a society that treats certain segments of the population of as disposable. We try to minimize the sexual needs of handicapped and disabled people, just as we try to pretend they don’t exist. We try to ignore that people with mental health issues or are intellectually disabled are sexual beings too.
But when we discuss incels, we illustrate a stark double standard. We forget that men aren’t the only ones who have a hard time finding sex. Women who have difficulty finding sexual partners are seen as being deficient. They’re told to lose weight, put on makeup and maybe lower their standards a little. But we treat men’s lack of sexual fulfillment as a crisis.
The issues that incels have with sex isn’t that they aren’t getting laid, it’s that women are allowed to choose who they sleep with. Many incel “solutions” are predicated that incels deserve sex and that it should be provided to them – consent be damned.
Whether the solutions are the government “providing” partners or “allowing” incels to have access to corpses, we are blaming women for not fucking someone they don’t want to fuck.
Even those who talk about sex workers or the redistribution of “sexual inequality” are demanding women solve a problem that has nothing to do wtih them.
Worse, these solutions ignore women’s rights to consent and to safety. Expecting sex workers to “heal” angry young men takes an endangered population and puts them even more at risk.
Believe me, I have nothing but sympathy for those men who truly struggle, who feel lost and stuck. But the incel community isn’t the answer. It’s not a place of support, it’s a place of resignation and anger. They exist to provide targets for rage, not solutions or help.
If we want to actually help incels – and prevent future attrocities – then we need to deal with the real issues. Forget about the sex and focus on the anger and hate. We need to address the root causes – that we live in a society drenched in toxic ideas about masculinity.We need to empower and encourage men to seek help for their pain.
Just as importantly, we need to fix the way that we market sex and masculinity… and the way we treat women as consumable commodities. Generations of men grew up being taught that women were their reward for being “a man”. Much of that anger comes from feeling cheated by women who can pick their own partners.
Getting them laid won’t fix things – if every incel had sex tomorrow, they would have new reasons to hate.
And we need to come to terms with the fact that this hate is real. It’s not just hot air or words on forums, they have real-world consequences. Incel forums have become havens of radicalization. They’re echo-chambers, amplifying discontent into hatred and rage.
There are no easy answers. We need systematic change, on many levels. And until we accept this as real, there will be more Alek Minassians. More tragedies.
And more innocent victims.