Chances are if you’ve heard the term “incel” in the news, it’s in the wake of April’s Toronto van attack, which left 10 dead and 16 injured after a man drove a van through a busy sidewalk in the Canadian city. Shortly after the incident, a Facebook post from the driver in question went viral for referencing the terms “involuntary celibate” and “the Incel Rebellion,” along with praising the Isla Vista massacre’s perpetrator, Elliot Rodger. But what is an incel, exactly? And what do they believe?
The incel community is composed of socially alienating men mourning their inability to have sexual relationships with women. Incels’ beliefs seem to encourage anti-feminist values that imply women’s time, bodies, and sexual desires should be primarily centred around men. It’s easy to see how that can lead to violence against women on both a small and large scale. But what is “involuntary celibacy” anyway, and what do incels really believe?
Why incels are nothing to laugh at
On the popular incel messaging board Incels.me, the site’s admin says “incel” is short for “involuntary celibate,” or a person who “can’t have sex despite wanting to.” Incels believe that they are inherently disadvantaged from having a romantic or sexual partner because they are unattractive, insecure, not masculine enough, or too mentally ill, among other reasons. Most incels are straight, cisgender men.
One former incel named Doug told the Daily Dot that he fell into seldom during the mid-2000s after growing up isolated from others during his younger years. In the late ’90s and early 2000s, he found himself cut off from his friends after dating a narcissistic abuser. This was when incel beliefs began to appeal to him.
Alek Minassian isn’t the first Incel to kill people. Elliot Rodger, referenced in Minassian’s post, was another self-described “incel” who murdered 7 people after leaving a video describing his intent to kill “every stuck up blond sorority slut” who would not date him. He remarked, “I don’t know why you girls are not attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it.”
This kind of rhetoric isn’t surprising to any of us who have had to deal with members of this corner of the manosphere. It may be to others.
At first, a lot of people are probably apt to sympathize with men who are lonely. People will tweet things like: “I’m not defending Minassian if this narrative is even real. Frustrated, lonely people are sad cases that deserve some sympathy and constructive advice, not dogpiling mean-girl demonization.”