Rather disturbing of late is the media attention to the so called incel world. First let me offer how the media is defining incel. An incel, an abbreviation of “involuntary celibate,” is a member of an online subculture of people who define themselves as unable to get a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one. Discussions on incel forums are often characterized by resentment and hatred, misogyny, misanthropy, self-pity and self-loathing, racism, a sense of entitlement to sex, and the endorsement of violence against women and sexually active people. The American Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) described the subculture as “part of the online male supremacist ecosystem” that is included in their list of hate groups. Incels are mostly male and heterosexual, and are often white. Estimates of the overall size of the subculture vary greatly, ranging from thousands to hundreds of thousands of individuals.
At least eight mass murders, resulting in a total of 61 deaths, have been committed since 2014 by men who have either self-identified as incels or who had mentioned incel-related tropes in their private writings or social media postings.
What occurs to me is to what degree incel thinking and behavior existed before the label incel and are we looking at something on the rise or just an existing phenomenon that has been enhanced by the internet? Thinking about my coming of age sexually and the stories I have heard facilitating men’s groups many men have had non-violent incel periods in their lives.
I remember a time between 13 – 16 where I was desiring a girl friend and meeting little success. I had a difficult time talking to girls and started feeling self conscious about my appearance. I was not alone with these feelings and except for a few of my peers most of us were terrified of rejection and therefore did not cross the room and ask a girl to dance at a social function. If there were an internet I might have felt some affinity towards incel postings. Often men going through divorce will voice dislike of women and feel that there is a gender conspiracy against men when dealing with the legal aspects of divorce. Subsequently, even though they are desirous of a sexual relationship they avoid post divorce dating and could be labeled as having an incel moment in their lives.
My point is that if we remove the strong hatred and desire to be violent aspects of being an incel, many men will attest to having incel feelings at some point in their lives. Frankly, given the sense that women are more open about their sexuality and more likely to reject previous norms about casual sex, I wonder if the incel movement is really growing? My take is that instead of focusing on incel as a phenomenon we should focus on the best ways to deal with violence against women and enhancing the importance of men’s work to assist men in gaining the self confidence to seek female companionship in a respectful and healthy manner.