On May 23, 2014, 22-year old Elliot Rodger murdered 7 people in Isla Vista, California, before shooting himself in the head in his crashed BMW.
The killings were part of his so-called ‘Day of Retribution’ – a killing spree motivated by revenge for his perceived lack of romantic and sexual ‘success.’
Rodger’s rage had been brewing for a while. He had grown sick and tired of being ‘ignored’ by girls for so long, left to ‘rot in loneliness” and witnessing girls pick ”obnoxious brutes” over himself – the self-proclaimed ‘Supreme Gentlemen’. After his death, he became the patron saint of a new, dark, disturbing internet community known as ‘involuntary celibates’ or, simply, incels.
Although the word ‘incel has been around since the late 1990s, the community has gotten much more attention in the last six years or so due to number of high profile events which I’ll get in to as we go on. Incels believe that due to certain factors (such as height, appearance, ethnicity, and mental health) they are unable to attract a partner. Although the first incel website was created by a young woman (and was named Alana’s Involuntary Celibacy Project), the movement is now almost entirely comprised of young, heterosexual men. It has also gone from dealing with compatibility issues and social awkwardness to now being near-exclusively fixated on sex (or the lack of it).
Incel websites are, as you would expect, extremely misogynistic, racist, self-pitying, and have large amounts of self-entitlement and narcissism thrown in, too:
Incels subscribe to the ‘black-pill’ philosophy – that they are all decaying, helpless creatures who have been shunned by society, and are destined to live miserable, hate-filled lives at the hands of the women who didn’t ‘choose’ them sexually. Women are referred to as ‘femoids’, and attractive, desirable men and woman are dubbed ‘Chad’ and ‘Stacy’ respectively. A big part of incel culture is the notion of the ‘incel rebellion’ – an imagined time when incels take control of society and overthrow the ruling Chads and enslave the Stacies as sexual objects against their will. Rape and sexual assault are endorsed on incel forums, and decent, respectful men are labelled ‘faggots’ or ‘normies’. According to incels, women lead easy, problem-free lives,and feminism is derided as a ‘cancer’ as it, in their minds, gave women choice and autonomy that they don’t deserve. Political correctness is also condemned, and incels often use extremely anti-Semitic and racist terminology. A strong, almost obsessive, fixation on the shape of human skulls is also highly present in the incel community. They, incels, believe that ‘Chads’ have more desirable bone structure than incels – and that the unchangeable nature of bone structure is one of the main reasons why incels fail to find a sexual partner:
The incel community steadily grew and grew on websites such as 4chan, Reddit, and the now-defunct incels.me throughout the 2000s and 2010s. However, the greater incel community received wide media attention following Elliot Rodger’s 2014 killing spree. Elliot was the son of film director Peter Rodger – and his attacks followed a disturbing and cautionary video posted on his YouTube channel the evening prior. Titled Elliot Rodger’s Retribution, the video details his plan to kill every ”stuck up, blonde slut” on campus, to get revenge on couples, and to ultimately have the last laugh on those who rejected him in the past. His manifesto, titled My Twisted World, was also mailed to his family and therapist in the preceding hours and detailed his long-standing hatred of women, ‘Chads’ , and his parents.
The attacks were lauded by the incel community. Rodger became a de-facto martyr for everyone who embraced the ideology, some calling him a ‘hero’ and a ‘saint’. In 2018, Alek Minassian killed ten people during a van attack in Toronto, posting a Facebook update praising Rodger and stating that the ”Incel Rebellion has already begun!”. In 2015, the Umpqua Community College shooting was perpetrated by Christopher Harper-Mercer, who also praised Rodger and had often spoke about the perils of virginity. Harper-Mercer, like Rodger, killed himself before police could catch him.
I think it’s necessary to explore where this ideology comes from. Whilst incel culture is horrendously racist, sexist, and xenophobic – not all incels are mass murderers. In fact, most are merely lost young men who have been brainwashed and, in some cases, bullied into the subculture. A big part of inceldom is the perpetual state of being alone, and the ‘black-pill’ philosophy condemns and rejects any, and all, forms of self-improvement. Young, impressionable minds are permeated by other incels, who constantly maintain that one will always remain an incel forever. Incels do not treat each other with respect and often advocate suicide to any follower who speaks about their depression. Indian or Pakistani incels are referred to as ‘currycels’, Chinese or Japanese followers are labeled ‘ricecels’ and black ones are called ‘blackcels’ by either whites, or themselves. The incel persecution knows no bounds.
Incel forums are part of the broader ‘manosphere’ which is an area of the Internet containing ‘men’s rights’ activists and pick up artists – who often share and promote ‘strategies’ to entice women into sleeping with them. The ‘black-pill’ philosophy is derived from the ‘red-pill’ – which is a worldview built on rejecting feminism, promoting conventional masculinity, and sexualising women to a high degree. As sexist and cringey as the ‘red-pill’ philosophy is, at least it promotes an attitude of self-improvement and sufficiency – something that the ‘black-pill’ rejects entirely. Angry young men enter the rabbit hole – and the usual complaints that one may have in regards to dating get progressively more extremist and reactionary the further one goes down it.
I think a case could be made that there are pressures on young men to be successful, attractive and sexually and socially confident – and a lot of young men don’t have an adequate support system to open up. Young men aren’t a finished article by any means, and it’s completely valid to feel lost and jaded – especially in a society where older men have a lot more status. However, the problems with the ‘red’ and ‘black’ pill philosophies is that the former attempts to mask these issues by being materialistic and promiscuous, whilst the other, of course, is simply hateful and bigoted. Both of these philosophies don’t actually encourage getting to the root of one’s mental struggles, and, to an impressionable mind looking for an answer, the idea of blaming everything on the Bogeyman of Western feminism becomes enticing.
Addressing the Incel
I feel it’s important, for a minute, to get inside an incel’s mind if any of us have any hope of removing the movement. The only way we can understand is if this sizeable subculture is understood first. From there, we can de-construct the movement and, hopefully, begin to remove it from our society.
The sinking feeling of being unwanted is one of the most human forms of pain we all have. Chances are – you, reader, have been rejected, stood-up, cheated on, walked out on, ‘ghosted’ or been in an unrequited situation at one point in your life. It’s not a fun feeling for anyone and, yes, it can lead to a state of self-loathing, social withdrawal, jadedness, or even misanthropy, in extreme cases. I believe incels take this very normal and very human pain and blow it up to almost unrecognisable and apocalyptic levels. The expected potential pain, that is part and parcel of any romantic or sexual relationship, is blown up to the maximum, and the importance of sex, dating and relationships are put on a pedestal so high – they become terrifying to incels to even think about pragmatically. I think dating is paradoxical in nature as the less time one spends thinking about it, the freer the individual becomes to develop true, intimate connections with the opposite sex. If everything is this massive, high stakes, or-all-nothing scenario, one would be frightened and stifled to talk to the opposite sex in the first place. The misogyny and racism comes in once the incel has viewed themselves as worthless, helpless specimens for a while, and they need something other than themselves to attach the source of the feelings to.
Perhaps the incel’s most fatal flaw, though, is their view on dating being some kind of marketplace built on meritocracy. That is, the ‘best’ man or woman gets ‘awarded’ sex or relationships based on how ‘good’ they are – akin to how employees are awarded for exceptional work in the office. Whilst qualities such as personality, appearance, fitness, and sense of humour have their place in their importance – simply stating that one person’s attraction to you is entirely based on a pragmatic decision is nonsense. Attraction is an intangible, abstract feeling that is not based on a critical thinking level, rather, an emotional one. You can appreciate a person’s attractiveness yet not be personally attracted to them, and you may not have a distinct reason why. The incel’s failure to address others’ emotional decisions is a big component in their overall feelings of rejection. Rarely, in the real, ‘normal’ world, is rejection a personal thing. Attraction is merely there or not there. A lot of incels, particularly Elliot Rodger, displayed a narcissistic temperament – he paradoxically thought of himself as ‘supreme’, yet continued to ‘rot’ in his self-inflicted ‘loneliness’. It’s almost as if he believed he was impervious to rejection but, deep down, thought nobody would ever want him.
This is where the incel shoots themself in the foot. The loneliness, rejection, ostracisation, neglect and defeatism are all self-inflicted. There isn’t a curse on these people disqualifying them from relationships by default – they do it to themselves, and their horrible attitudes to women and ethnic minorities are the real reason they don’t get any action. However, the negative feedback loop gets worse and worse as more and more people (often women) are disgusted by them, which only makes their hatred for others and themselves stronger. Add in a subculture built on bullying and ‘black-pill’ mentality, and it’s easy to see why incels exist in such high numbers. Fellow incels pull other incels down in to the deep, dark hole of rejection, and the learned helplessness keeps them chained to it.
We can’t help incels unless they help themselves – it’s a subculture set up to defeat its followers and to keep them chained in an imagined prison, and only they have the key. Not women, not Chads, not Stacies, not ‘normies’, but themselves. I suggest them to actually look inward for once, although – that’s probably asking a little too much.