Inceldom 101 & How You Can Help
By Joyous Njoku, Peer Educator
February 18th, 2021
**Content warnings: violence, suicidality, self-harm, mental illness
Today, I want to bring awareness to a specific internet subculture that has recently had a considerable role in our mainstream politics and culture in general. This blog post should serve as an introduction to Inceldom; we'll describe signs that signify someone is a part of this community or has a social network that has Incel beliefs permeating in shared ideas, conversations, and thoughts. To sum up our post, we'll cover a few bystander intervention tips to pivot our peers away from self-destructive or generally abusive behavior that may stem from participating in the Incel Community.
What is an Incel?
Incel is a shortened version of "Involuntary celibate." Incels are heterosexual men who blame women and society for their lack of romantic success and are known for their deep-seated pessimism and a profound sense of grievance against women. They are a subset of an online misogynist community that promotes an unhealthy view on masculinity and hostility towards women called the "manosphere." (1)
Who are Incels?
Incels are made up mostly of men and boys. They are considered the most violent sector of the manosphere and have perpetrated many deadly attacks against women. Law enforcement officials believe violent incels have murdered at least 47 people in North America in the last six years (2). That number is likely low, given how little we know about the incel community and how recently they have become a community of interest for law enforcement. Two well documented acts of violence caused by incels would include the 2009 Collier Township Shooting and the 2014 Isla Vista Shooting.
- On August 4, 2009, George Sodini opened fire at an L.A. Fitness health club in Collier Township, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (3). Three women were murdered, and nine other people were injured before Sodini killed himself. He purportedly expressed sexual frustration and complained of women's constant rejections on a website registered in his name. In the years following the shooting, Sodini has been embraced by some incel communities.
- Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured fourteen others before killing himself in Isla Vista, California, on May 23, 2014, near the University of California, Santa Barbara (4). These killings drew media attention to the concept of involuntary celibacy, and particularly the misogyny and glorification of violence that are a mainstay of many incel communities. Rodger self-identified as an incel and left behind a 137-page manifesto and YouTube videos. He detailed his involuntary celibacy and discussed how he wanted revenge for being rejected by women. He had been an active member of a community popular among incels called PUAHate (short for "pickup artist hate"), and referenced it several times in his manifesto. Although PUAHate shut down soon after the attack, Rodger became something of a martyr to some communities that remained and to some of those that emerged later. It is common to see references to "E.R." in incel forums, and mass violence by incels is regularly referred to as "going E.R. ." Rodger has been referenced by the perpetrators or suspected perpetrators of several other mass killings and is one of several attackers who regularly praise members of incel communities. There were eight additional major attacks other than these.
When did this first begin?
In the late 1990s, a young man logged on to the internet's early version of web forums looking for a connection online. A group of other young boys experiencing the same dating and sex issues converged together in a forum. They bonded and shared their similar experiences and began dubbing the observed phenomena as "involuntary celibacy," later shortened to incels [The term was coined by a young Canadian woman only known as Alana].
The forum was initially intended to be a welcoming place. One where men who didn't know how to talk to women could ask the community's female members for advice (and vice versa). The original creator, currently known as ReformedIncel, says, "Rage has completely taken over." Today's incels are almost entirely men and boys who pollute their online forums with posts blaming women for their sexless lives.
What do Incels believe?
The incel ideology is rooted in the belief that women have too much power in the sexual/romantic sphere and ruin incels' lives by rejecting them. A significant term that the incel community uses to describe this idea of women having too much power is hypergamy.
Hypergamy: A term based on the biological principle that women are sexually selective for self-preservation. The incel realm describes the belief that women seek out men who are of higher status – either physically or financially – than they are and reject all other men they view as consequently undesirable. Further, incels believe in the "80/20 Rule" which claims that the top 80% of women only go for the top 20% of men, leaving the bottom 20% of women for the bottom 80% of men.
"Blackpill," is another nihilistic worldview adopted by the incel community. A "Blackpilled" male believes that no matter what he does to improve himself, he will never find a romantic and/or sexual partner and is doomed to a life of unhappiness and rejection. The blackpill community segments men mainly into the segments below (5):
- Slayers- are the top .1% of all males. These individuals are conveyed to be the best looking, most intelligent, and socially likable.
- Chads- are the top 5% of all males. These individuals are considered to be still good-looking, intelligent, and socially likable, but I understood them to be a step down from "Slayers."
- Normies- are 50% of all males. These individuals are described as the average male, with an average look, intelligence, and social likability.
- Incels- are 30% of all males. These individuals are depicted as below-average looking men that are not intelligent and not socially likable.
- Genetic Trash- are the bottom 14.9 of males. These individuals are described as unattractive, unintelligent, and are not typically socially likable.
How can I tell if I am interacting with an Incel?
We've all probably come across a gloomier-than-average student or someone who is experiencing a rough patch in their romantic life. But how can we tell when we are interacting with someone who truly subscribes to this ideology?
These tips below do not always mean someone believes in all that the term "Incel" may carry, so do not go directly accusing the individual of holding harmful beliefs or assume that they are an immediate danger to themselves or others.
Incels are people who keep a deeply pessimistic view of the world which is formed from their own experiences. At some point, they may have experienced enough challenges and trauma to make them genuinely believe that they are perceived as "less than" in society. Please do not attack or berate these individuals or tell them to "just get over it."
Below are some ways to identify when someone has been highly affected by or participating in the Inceldom community:
- Have you heard them using terms that were mentioned in this blog to describe their world view or themselves seriously?
- Do they engage in a lot of self-deprecation but shun away completely from statements of high self-worth?
- Do they seem to judge those in relationships now?
- Have belittled women (or the opposite/desired sex) in their life or during conversations?
- Do they consider women (or the opposite/desired sex) to be more trouble than they are worth as a whole?
- Do they project their past experiences with individuals of the opposite/desired sex onto the rest of the individuals of the opposite/desired sex they meet?
What can I do as a Bystander?
If a friend, peer, or loved one is exhibiting signs of identifying with Inceldom, here are a few tips that can help you actively intervene:
- In conversation, take the time to immediately directly challenge any self-deprecating
comments they make about themselves and suggest new perspectives to the individual.
- For example, "Actually, Tom, you're really fun to talk to. I really enjoy spending time with you and I can easily see how you could find a romantic partner."
- Show gratitude for their personhood and traits.
- Bring up celebrities or famous people who are happy and have the same self-ascribed "negative" traits.
- If they demean women or devalue women in any context, directly challenge this thought as well.
- Encourage gratitude for relationships in the individual by actively stating your appreciation
for what relationships in your life give you, and NOT just the relationship themselves.
Instead of talking about having your romantic relationship (which may only be communicated
as gloating by the incel), talk about the relationship's benefits. Some key signs
and aspects of healthy relationships (romantic, platonic, etc.) include Providing
safety and comfort for both parties
- 1. Providing safety and comfort for both parties
- 2. Mutual Respect
- 3. Trusting that the other has your best interests in mind
- 4. Supporting one another's aspirations
- 5. Share similar values and visions
- 6. Have compatible love languages or ways of expressing love
- 7. Receive a lot more positive experiences than negative experiences by being with