The internet occasionally produces something truly worrying.
One such troubling phenomenon to emerge recently is the “Incel” or “involuntary celibate” movement - an online community of angry young men who believe that the world is rigged against them to ensure that they are the permanent losers in all things connected with sex.
While it would be easy, and justifiable, to simply condemn Incels – doing so will not make them go away and may, in effect, make them feel more persecuted.
Essentially, someone, or more accurately a group of someones, has to do something about it – and that group is men.
For the uninitiated (I’d stop reading here, some of this is pretty gross) Incels exist almost entirely online, in particular on Reddit message boards, and their beliefs are repugnant.
A mix of misogyny, racism, self-hate, paranoia, defeatism, and persecution complexes, Incels believe that they are destined to get the short end of the “sexual distribution” economy because young, attractive women (Incels are almost universally heterosexual) or “Stacy” are only attracted to a particular group of stereotypically stupid but conventionally attractive men, or “Chad”.
There are many good articles that take a deep-dive into Incel culture but all the surface reader needs to know is that it includes suicide fantasies, bigotry, an obsession with height, the objectification of women and sex, and a bleak thought-device known as the “Black Pill”. It makes for compelling study, but I recommend having something nice to watch on Netflix afterwards … try Queer Eye.
But why does the task of fighting the Incel movement fall to men?
Firstly, and this is an unfortunate truth, there is nothing in the Incel mindset that will listen to anyone who is not a man. It would be great if Incels were open to listening to women, non-binary folks, and everyone else who is not a man but a cursory glance at their forums and the statements of those Incels who have gone on to commit heinous acts will show that they won’t. This is not to legitimise their beliefs, which are a combination of sad and scary, but we have to take these men as we find them and that means sending in the individuals with whom they will plausibly deal; blokes.
Secondly, there is a responsibility that we men need to take when it comes to dealing with Incels. Despite what some may think, men are good at relating to one another. We are capable of getting inside each other’s head and thinking about what we would do in the other guy’s position. Just as women understand the female experience, only men grasp fully what it’s like to be a man and that male empathy, inevitably wrapped-up as joking and teasing because that’s how we relate, will be our most useful tool.
In practical terms, there are two strategies that this ant-Incel chap army can deploy.
The first is simple – we need to police one another online as we do offline. While it usually goes spoken, part of being a man is knowing that other men will keep you in check and whom you have to keep in check in return. As Christopher Hitchens put it, any man “worthy of the name” has, at some point, said to another guy, “Look, you heard the lady – back off!”. Whether it means stepping on to message boards to tell Incels that what they’re up to is just not on or more public acts - such a practical male response needed urgently.
Secondly, there is the more complex and long-term solution.
As men, it’s time to admit that things can be a little rough when it comes to sex and dating. Many of us have, at some point, been in the situation where it has felt like there was a conspiracy against us, that we are somehow fundamentally lacking in looks, resources, or ability and therefore barred from dating success.
All of us, if we’re being honest, have looked on enviously as “Chad” appears to swoop in and take the object of our affections from us. We’ve all had knockbacks, made mistakes, misconstrued things, and generally made a complete mess of dating as some point. However, part of being a decent man is bouncing out of those moments, correcting ourselves, and going back to dating lives in which everyone is treated with respect, autonomy, and as worthy individuals – including ourselves.
The majority of men are NOT Incels in waiting but there is a part of their caricature pessimistic outlook on life to which we can all relate; and once you relate, you can begin to mount a challenge.
Hopefully, a combination of waving a big stick and a firm but open approach can consign the Incel movement to the dustbin of history – where it belongs.