Dear Dr. NerdLove:
First off, I’ve been following you for a while and, as far as I’m concerned, nobody else on the internet can destigmatize male virginity as well as you can.
With that said, I think that the line between an incel and a sexually frustrated men is very thin, and all over the internet people use the two terms interchangeably. I also think that, even though I’m not an extreme misogynist nor do I have any desire to hurt or kill people, I still relate a lot to the incel community and their frustration with being unable to find a partner in our overly-sexualized society, where virginity is highly stigmatized, and where we are made to believe that everyone is having sex except us. I think that relating to this struggle makes me an incel automatically, and I think that finally finding someone to have sex with, even just once, would absolve me of having this “incel” identity, because I managed to achieve what none of them could and am therefore no longer “one of them.”
My other belief is that, as someone on the autism spectrum, I believe that a lot of incel traits and behaviors can be explained with an autism diagnosis. Autism would explain why these incel men are unable to make connections with people of the opposite sex and explain other things too. Autistics see things in “black and white” and they don’t have theory of mind, so that makes them believe things like “women only date tall men, and if you’re short, you’re never gonna get laid.” Autism is also the reason why a lot of these guys get it into their heads that they’re “owed” sex (because they watch movies and TV shows and assume that real life operates the same way), and why they will spaz out and behave violently if they don’t get it (because autistics have poor emotional self-control.)
For myself, I believe that being on the autism spectrum is the reason why I’m in my late 20s and never had sex or a girlfriend yet, and also why I have what most neurotypicals would consider to be a “naive” understanding of what love and sex are. Autism is really the only thing that makes me any different than the average guy, and that has to be the reason why I’m having a problem that only incels and autistic men can have. We know that Elliot Rogers was autistic, so was the van guy from Toronto, and so is Chris Chan, who some people say was the first ever incel. Even though I’m not an extreme narcissist, or a potential spree killer, I still think I have more in common with Saint Elliot than I would like to. Much like him, I also think that when I find someone to have sex with, that it’s gonna feel “heavenly” (as he puts it,) and I also find myself feeling envious of those who are in relationships, or who have had their first relationships at an earlier age than me.
I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that Chris Chan, the most bullied/ridiculed person on the internet, is on the autism spectrum. I hate that guys like him share my diagnosis, and I hate that most incels share my diagnosis. I know I dumped a lot on you, but I would like these toxic views to be disproven so that I can stop feeling shitty about myself and change the way I see my diagnosis.
Autistic and Frustrated
OK, AaF, there’s a lot to unpack with this, but I think the first thing we need to do is to clarify something: there’s a difference between someone who isn’t having sex but wants to and an incel. Yes, incel is a portmanteau of “involuntarily celibate” which, theoretically covers a wide range of people across the gender and political spectrum. It’s also true that, when the term was first coined (by a queer woman, I might add…), it was as part of an online community for folks who were late bloomers who struggled to find loving and satisfying relationships.
The problem, however, is that it evolved over time; even the original community that Alana created (and had walked away from) had devolved into what we refer to when we talk about incels today. When we talk about incels and the incel community, we’re not talking about folks who have a hard time negotiating the world of love, sex and relationships. We’re talking about people who feel that they’re being excluded from something that is rightfully theirs, who blame women for their plight and whose dominant philosophy is one of anger and hopelessness. This rage comes part and parcel with some absolutely stupendous racism, sexism and, of course, the weird obsession with new forms of phrenology to explain their lack of sex. And it’s important to note: this isn’t a change in definitions that was imposed upon them by popular use; this was, quite literally, something they embraced.
The plight of incels isn’t that they can’t make connections with people, especially of their preferred sex. It’s not that they’re genetic dead ends (that’s not a thing, especially on the individual level), nor is it that they have the “wrong” brow-to-jaw ratio, the “wrong” testosterone level, or the wrong whatever. Their problem is that they’re stuffed full of anger and hate like a turduken of choleric shit, and nobody wants to let Typhoid Gary in their personal space. Just as importantly, the incel community is a self-reinforcing, self-radicalizing and self-perpetuating bucket of crabs, where the ability to grow, change and improve is rejected, having hope for a better future is shouted down as being delusional and that the only thing that an incel can do besides “lay down and rot” is try to make other people feel their pain first.
It’s also important to note that this has nothing to do with being autistic. There’s nothing about autism that, for example, makes someone decide that “rape is infinitely less bad than NOT having sex” or that women are subhumans ruled by biology who either can’t control themselves around certain kinds of men (the mythical Chads) or are manipulative harpies who trick and cheat some men into raising cuckoos while going out and fucking all those Chads out there. Being neuroatypical doesn’t make you more prone to hate or make you more violent, nor does it mean that you’re incapable of critical thinking or that you passively accept pop-culture as reality. It doesn’t even mean you’re doomed to never have sex. As has been pointed out many a time before: autistic people have sex. Autistic people have relationships, get married, raise kids and so on. And the idea that autistic people have no emotional self-control or no theory of mind has all come from bad science and has been rather thoroughly debunked.
The examples you choose are, incidentally, not relevant. Chris-chan rather famously has and had a lot of mental health issues which had nothing to do with her being autistic, and much more to do with the perpetual and constant abuse from the chan-boards and subsidiaries who viewed her as a “LOLCow”. Elliot Rodger, on the other hand, was never actually diagnosed as being autistic, nor for that matter does it seem that he ever even referred to himself as being autistic or on the spectrum in his rather voluminous Internet history. It seems that the evidence for his being autistic was mostly speculation and heresay that was treated as fact.
What Rodger was, however, was incredibly racist and self-loathing, as well as being a screaming misogynist. It’s telling that much of his manifesto was about how much he hated seeing AAPI men with women, especially white women because those men were “less manly” than he was… despite the fact that Rodger was half-Asian, the son of an Asian mother. He saw his having a white father as something that was supposed to elevate him over Asian and Black men; he was, in his words, a “beautiful, superior Eurasian” and wrote extensively about how outraged he was to see “ugly, lowly, inferior” Black and Asian men with white women… women who he saw as being “rightfully” his.
That had nothing to do with autism or neuroatypicality. That was racism, self-loathing and violence wrapped up in the belief that he was being denied something that was rightfully his by birth – something that’s been a long-running theme amongst violent fascists, I might add.
And honestly, placing the blame on “this overly-sexualized society” is displacement as well because hey, the problem isn’t sex. The problem is, to paraphrase the sages, “toxic masculinity ruining the party again”. It’s not exactly like one has to be Sherlock Holmes to see this; part of the central complaint of incels is that they don’t qualify as ‘men‘. They quite literally call themselves “manlets”, amongst other things, because they supposedly never get to “be” men or even boys. The complaints about not having the right jawline or the right build or being the correct height are textbook examples of toxic and restrictive ideas around who is (or isn’t) a “real man”. Even the very name – involuntarily celibate – is baked into the toxic masculinity package; after all, when your value and status is based on how much sex you’re having or how many partners you’ve had, then not having easy access to sex means you’re less of a man.
The same goes for the virginity stigma which, in this case, is entirely aimed at men. Women who haven’t had sex at a certain age are seen as unusual or odd; men who haven’t had sex by a certain age are seen as inherently defective. This is, again, part of the toxic masculinity package. If you aren’t having any sex and never have… well guess, you’re not a man, huh, Stu? It also applies to being taught that men are owed sex. That’s not something that comes from movies or television, that’s something that’s been in our culture for generations. As a 20-something, you may not have seen the sort of dating advice women used to get, but ideas like “don’t order the lobster on a date” have been around since before I was born and only started to fade in the mid to late 00s. The implication, in this case, was “if you order an expensive meal on a date, you’re going to be expected, nay obligated to put out.” So too, for that matter, was the idea that if a woman got you aroused, then she had a duty to “take responsibility” for it, that a woman who went home with you had basically given up the right to say “no” or even if she didn’t say no the right way.
If we go back to “the problem isn’t sex”, let’s dig into something that you said earlier: that you feel like you could leave this all behind if you could have sex “just once”. Leaving aside that no, everyone is not having more sex than you (in fact, sexual activity amongst Millenials and Zoomers is down, prompting as many hand-wringing op-eds about the “sex recession” as about “toxic hook up culture”), this is eminently and easily achievable. You could easily hire an escort and get that taken care of by next week. If you are worried about the legalities or the possibility of hiring someone who’s been trafficked against their will, that’s easy enough to avoid: you can go the legal route by going to the brothels in Carson City and surrounding districts. Flights to Reno are relatively cheap and easy to come by. You can fly out on a Friday, get your ashes hauled, catch your return flight that night and be back home in time to get to work the next day. Hell, many of the brothels will send a car to take you to and from the airport.
But let’s be honest: would that actually change things for you? Or would there be reasons why that ‘didn’t count’? Say, because you paid for a service instead of someone “choosing” you? Well, ok, let’s say that paying a sex worker wouldn’t count (though this would likewise imply that eating at a restaurant ‘didn’t count’ for some reason). You can – and often will – find folks at last call at bars who don’t want to go home alone. Sometimes you don’t even have to wait that long; you may, depending on the bar, find someone who’s looking to get laid for a multitude of reasons and would be happy to have a quick one. Will they be someone you’re necessarily attracted to? Possibly not. Will the sex be any good? Almost assuredly not. But technically speaking, they will have chosen you and you will have lost your virginity.
However, I am here from the future to tell you that no, this wouldn’t actually make you feel better. If anything, it’ll make you feel worse. Because when you get right down to it, what most people want when they talk about being an incel isn’t orgasms with another person, it’s that they want validation. They want to feel like they were “chosen” by the person who slept with them, that having sex says something about them and their value as men and that they had more value than the other guys. Otherwise, as I said: paying an escort for a girlfriend experience would get the job done. In fact, it would probably ensure that you had a better first time than many whose first time was a random hook-up; you would, at the very least, be with someone who had an interest in your comfort, your pleasure and overall helping you have a good experience. But again: this would mean choosing the act of sex over what sex would represent. And what it would represent in that bar hook up… wouldn’t be any better, frankly because hey, you did it, you just had to turn your standards down to “breathing”, so hey, you can get chosen as long as you don’t mind “having to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find someone who’d be willing to touch your penis.”
There’s a reason I keep saying that women aren’t Mjolnir, man. They don’t only sleep with “the worthy”, and treating sex as a measure of your value or worth is a great way to just keep perpetuating that incel mindset you’re afraid of developing.
So now I’m going to pivot back to something I say all the time on here: the problem you’re talking about isn’t the problem you have. The issue isn’t that you’re a virgin, or even feeling envious of folks who haven’t had the dating struggles you’ve had. The issue, it seems to me, is that you’re equating being autistic as being broken. I mean, holy hopping sheep shit dude, look at how much you run yourself down by talking about other autistic people. Insisting that autistic people have no theory of mind, that they uncritically believe whatever they see on TV or lash out in violent tantrums whenever they don’t get their way? That’s some really fuckin’ awful shit to believe about people in general, but especially about yourself. I mean, do you, an autistic man, honestly believe that life is exactly like it is on TV? Do you have violent episodes due to poor emotional self-regulation? If you don’t… then why in pluperfect fuckery do you vomit out this kind of shit about other autistic people?
What you need, more than to get laid, is to get the ever-loving fuck off of Reddit, 4chan and everywhere else you’re picking up this crap. Even if it’s coming from other autistic folks, that sort of self-loathing horse shittery only serves to drag you down and convince you that there’s something fundamentally broken in you as opposed to the fact that your brain is wired differently, you have different needs than neurotypical folks and society is very bad at addressing those needs. You would be doing a far, far bigger favor by working with a therapist to unpack and unravel these negative beliefs about your diagnosis and yourself than you would getting balls-deep in some strange.
And it’s important to break those associations because, in the one place where autism and incel beliefs are overlapping in your particular Venn diagram is the belief that progress or improvement is impossible. Incels believe that they’ve been doomed by genetics and the shallowness of women; you seem to believe that you’ve been doomed by being autistic. That isn’t true at all. You might have to work harder in some areas than a neurotypical person might, or you might have to find workarounds, support structures or other ways of addressing autism-related hardships… but even if it’s difficult, that’s still a galaxy away from impossible.
If you truly think that sex would solve this problem (it won’t), and you want to get better at finding a loving relationship, start with yourself. Loving yourself enough to stop believing the worst about yourself and to get help uprooting those beliefs can be one of the most important and meaningful steps you could take towards getting laid. Letting go of this idea that you’re somehow incapable of growing or improving and connecting with others will make it much easier for you. Yeah, dating can be a messy, complicated business. Don’t make it harder than it already can be by having to fight past your own self-loathing first.
Sometimes the most important loving relationship you can have is the one with yourself. Everything else flows from there.