I first heard the word ‘incel’ (involuntary celibate) four or five years ago. I’d come across the term before infamous loser Elliot Rodger went on a murderous rampage in California in 2014, and it didn’t surprise me when it transpired that another alleged mass murderer had turned his thwarted sense of sexual entitlement into a violent attack against innocent people. What surprised me about the recent attack in Toronto was that people were surprised by its apparent motivation.
How nice it must be to be surprised by misogyny.
As a young-ish woman with an opinion on the internet, the existence of misogyny and its power to cause harm are profoundly unshocking to me. It’s been a long time since I was shocked by misogyny. Or it had been, until I decided to spend an evening on an incel forum.
Incels.me (and seriously, I don’t recommend going there yourself to check it out - I've added hyperlinks to this story, but I don't suggest clicking on them) is a popular web forum for people who identify as ‘incels’. I’m no ‘incel’ expert, but the basic gist is that places like incels.me exist so that heterosexual young men who feel entitled to have sex and outraged that women don’t want to fuck them can rant about ‘stacies’ (attractive women), ‘chads’ (attractive men who stacies want to have sex with), and ‘normies’ (normal looking people who aren’t stacies or chads but are probably still having sex - how dare they?).
Incels.me is the kind of place that I’d usually avoid like the plague, but given the increasing weaponisation of misogyny, ignoring forums like 4chan, reddit and incels.me means ignoring the danger that they pose. While angry, entitled young men wail at each other in cloistered echo chambers like inconsolable toddlers bashing their tiny fists into the floor and screaming “I WANT!” at the top of their voices, their twisted ideology (if you can call it that) goes unnoticed and unchallenged. Until it kills people.
Of course, misogyny has been killing people for millennia… only, those people have been women. Part of me despairs that the ‘incel’ movement and its evil rhetoric are being taken seriously only now that they have resulted in mass murders in public places. For many, many millions of women, the deadly threat of misogyny is being recognised far too late.
I’m complicit in that problem. Granted, I’ve always been aware of the existence of misogyny, and the potential it has to destroy lives, but I hadn’t taken the ‘incel’ movement particularly seriously until this week. I finally set out to learn more about the online spaces that I can’t help but see as a kind of ‘losers anonymous’ for people with no desire to seek help for their destructive beliefs and behaviours a few nights ago. My time with the ‘incels’ did little to dispel my preconceptions.
“By age 25 a woman has had hundreds of dicks inside her,” began a thread I stumbled upon. “She won't even remember you in a few years but for you it will be a lifetime achievement. Just fucking lol.”
There was an assortment of replies. Some angry, some sad, many wallowing. Then there was this:
“Which is why right after you cum, you punch her in the face, that way she never forgets you.”
Such comments are common on incels.me. It was concerning how quickly I became desensitised to them.
“Normies aren’t entitled to Being Alive/FreeAir,” said one commenter in a thread entitled ‘Normies aren’t entitled to safety’.
“I live in a no-trespassing area and I am allowed by state to use deadly force with warning if the perpetrator hasn't left my premises. And by deadly force, I'm talking about gunning them down. I am telling you now brothers to protect yourselves no matter what. This is only the beginning and the entire world is out to get us, round us up and kill us,” said another in a thread entitled ‘If incels start gaining extremely massive attention be prepared to protect yourselves’.
And, in a thread entitled ‘Women’s rights is bullshit’, “No one is entitled to anything. You have to pay your dues if you believe you're worthy of respect or rights. If you were all about equality as a lot of you pretend to be, you wouldn't expect men to bend over backwards for you every time you want something. It's about time you recognized that you have so far played a game which is rigged in your favour. You have used your female privilege with the sole purpose of taking advantage of men to gain more resources. You knew you couldn't overpower us physically, so you used the game of seduction to take ranks of men to your side. You have only advanced this far because other men have worked to place you where you now stand. You have used our own brothers to give you a head start in life. We don't deserve respect just because we are men. No, we deserve respect because we have created this entire world. Everything you see was created by men. On the other hand, you expect people to suck up to you just because you have a pussy. How pathetic is that! A bunch of sluts who do nothing other than spend 24/7 on tinder do not deserve respect. You deserve to be spanked with a leather belt.”
After a few hours of reading comments ranging from self-pitying to deranged I found myself in something of a trance. I’m not sure what did it, but a thread about college girls was the last straw. “Women shouldn’t be allowed to socialize with each other and congregate because only the worst comes out of them then, they start acting like complete sluts with 0 morals or regard for other people. And they might not be even attractive, it’s just that when they’re surrounded by their friends they turn into complete sociopaths. Groups like this should be dispersed with a grenade launcher.”
I closed the window.
What did I learn? Nothing I didn’t already know. There is a percentage of men who feel deeply entitled to women’s bodies. In their minds, their very existence should require women to have sex with them. When they find that no woman wants to have sex with them, they are consumed with hatred for the “sluts” they see as denying them their birth right.
None of this is new. Hatred of women has been around for a very long time. What is new is the way that the internet has provided a meeting place for angry, lonely men with the same gripes. No longer are the losers condemned to suffer alone; they can now vent their spleens to each other, egging each other on and normalising hateful rhetoric until someone in the community feels emboldened enough to take ‘incel’ ideas out of the online safe place and into the real world.
On one level, it’s incredibly sad. You can’t help but think that if the men crying into the online abyss of incels.me actually turned off their computers and started treating women like human beings, they might discover that women are people too. If they weren’t so fixated on sex, they might learn that there are so many other wonderful things in life; like friendship, family, volunteering, music, and a strange little concept called love.
I’m an empathetic person, but I don’t feel sorry for ‘incels’. It’s the complete absence of the concept of love that prevents me from feeling any sympathy. These men are not simply lonely people who want to be loved. They are embittered, arrogant, entitled people who believe that women are objects that are only good for sex. They are self-centred, nasty, sexist and sometimes downright frightening. They’ve created a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s little wonder that no woman wants to have sex with them. I wouldn’t want to be in the same room with them, let alone engage in that most intimate of interpersonal acts.
You just instinctively know that no sexual act with an ‘incel’ could ever be called lovemaking. It would be fucking. And likely terrible, selfish, male-dominant fucking at that.
‘Incels’ have been dismissed as a weird little internet subculture for far too long. Their brand of hatred has been ignored perhaps because it’s been viewed as an expression of impotence. Recent events, however, have proven how dangerous it is to overlook or minimise the extent of their misogyny. These are people who hate women so much that long, feverish descriptions of brutal violence against women are commonplace on their forums. It was really only a matter of time before the hatred splattered across ‘incel’ forums bubbled over into real life.
Sadly, I don’t think we’ve seen the last attack to be committed by an ‘incel’. I have a horrible feeling that this is only the beginning.Support Villainesse