Hours before Alek Minassian drove a rented van onto a crowd in Toronto and killed 10 people, police say, a Facebook account linked to him announced, “The Incel Rebellion has already begun!” It praised “Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger,” a 22-year-old who killed six people in a stabbing-and-shooting spree in 2014.
“Incel,” or “involuntarily celibate,” isn’t so much a movement as a label used by a group of people drawn together by the same frustration — the inability to attract sexual partners — who blame their lack of conquests on the women who deny them sex and the men supposedly cornering the market.
Most people never heard the term before the Toronto attack, but it has been used for years in online forums. And it flags a culture we should take very seriously because of its potential for violence.
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Toronto Sexuality Centre Director James Cantor says incel is not “some organization that is joined by some common principles” but rather “a group of people who usually lack sufficient social skills and they usually find themselves very frustrated.” This frustration is voiced on online forums, such as 4Chan and Incels.me, where angry men convince other angry men that their collective inability to land dates is a vast, unjust conspiracy.
“And when they’re surrounded by other people with similar frustrations, they kind of lose track of what typical discourse is, and they drive themselves into more and more extreme beliefs,” says Cantor.
Those beliefs include encouraging acid attacks, rape and murder in retribution for society’s failure to make sex easy for them.
There’s more at the link.
That seems so warped and weird that I find it hard to wrap my mind around it . . . but it makes a certain weird kind of sense. Most of us have a hard time admitting our own faults and failings. I suppose someone who hasn’t had much luck finding a girlfriend, much less losing his virginity, might prefer to blame women, or society, or the faceless, nameless “them”, rather than himself – even if that makes no logical sense whatsoever. Logic isn’t the thing here, after all. When men start thinking with their “other brain”, the drives are anything but logical!
My biggest concern about that approach is that it removes humanity from the equation. The person isn’t important – only the act of sex. To me, that’s crazy. I was brought up in a more old-fashioned family, to be sure, but I’ve always been attracted more to the person inside the body than to the shape or proportions of that body. The most physically beautiful woman in the world would hold no charms for me if she turned out to be a foul-mouthed harridan. I know a lot of men regard sexual access to a woman’s body – “what” she is – as more important than appreciating and understanding “who” she is. Perhaps “incel” is merely that attitude, taken to a deprivation-induced extreme.
One wonders whether there might not be a common root between men convinced that “incel” is a thing, and those who become fanatical Muslim terrorists. After all, the latter culture also makes it very difficult, to the point of impossibility, to meet women and – in particular – to have sexual relations with them. Some societies, including some versions of Islam, have developed work-arounds (e.g. the custom of “temporary marriage“), but many others haven’t. Is sexual frustration at the root of both varieties of violence? Are the same kind of men attracted to both, for that reason? I’m no expert, but that seems like a working hypothesis from where I sit.
Is there a female version of “incel” – i.e. women who get frustrated because they can’t get men to have sexual relations with them? If so, I’ve never heard of it.