What are we to make of “incels,” the oddball community of frustrated guys who go online to complain about how they can’t find women who want to have sex with them?
Gee, I wonder why?
There’s room for all sorts of opinions on the web, I like to think. But this one has turned deadly. An incel, which stands for “involuntary celibate,” is blamed for driving a rented van that jumped the sidewalk and plowed into pedestrians on a Toronto street on April 23.
Police charged Alek Minassian, 25, of Toronto with killing 10 people and injuring 15, most of whom were women. Before the attack, authorities say, he posted a message on his Facebook page to announce his incel ties.
“The Incel Rebellion has already begun!” it said in part. “We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”
That’s incel-speak. “Chads” in their world are guys who are cool and good-looking enough to attract what incels feel unfairly denied, sex with attractive and sexually active “Stacys.” “Supreme gentleman” and “perfect guy” is how Elliot Rodger, perversely an incel patron saint, described himself in a lengthy manifesto before he killed six people and injured 14 others in a 2014 shooting rampage in Santa Barbara, Calif.
He wrote a manifesto blaming women for his loneliness and the fact that he was still a virgin.
Now, that sad, delusional loner appears to have posthumously inspired his own sick, posthumous personality cult — and at least one copycat, Minassian.
Other mass murderers are treated like heroes in the looniest incel chatter. “Going Sodini,” for example, refers to George Sodini, 48, who opened fire in a women’s dance class at an LA Fitness gym near Pittsburgh, killing four — including himself — and wounding nine others.
Incel postings sometime include disturbing reverence for Marc Lépine, a Canadian who opened fire at the Ecole Polytechnique, a Montreal engineering school, in 1989, killing 14 women and wounding 10 other women and four men before killing himself.
Incels evolved out of the men’s rights activism that emerged on the heels of the 1960s feminist wave to advocate for such legitimate issues as men’s rights in child custody cases.
Since then we have seen an array of online communities — men’s rights activists, pick-up artist “seduction” communities and others — amounting to “male supremacist” movements, according to Alex DiBranco, a Yale doctoral candidate who writes about incels and other extremist groups for The Public Eye, a progressive publication of the progressive Political Research Associates.
She sees a sense of “aggrieved entitlement” at play in explicitly misogynist attacks similar to white supremacist groups “which tell white men that they have been unfairly deprived of their rightful place in society,” she told me in a telephone interview.
Kimmel, citing former prison psychiatrist James Gilligan, also has observed that shame and humiliation underlie virtually all violence: “Because I feel small, I will make you feel smaller.”
What is to be done? Robin Hanson, a George Mason University economist, provocatively argues that “the desire for some sort of sexual redistribution” may be no more ridiculous than the notion of redistributing income to the less advantaged.
Sex adviser Dan Savage proposes the incel phenomenon offers an argument for loosening our laws and attitudes toward professional sex workers. Others have proposed stepping up development on sex robots.
None of these alternatives strikes me as particularly satisfying in the long run. Among us “normies,” incel slang for normal non-incel folks, young people often discover that their desire for sex masks an underlying deeper desire to be loved. An inability to love and care about other people may be the real tragedy of the incel world.
Writes for Tribune Content Agency.
About the Author