The incel dogma centers on a simultaneous lust for, and deep hatred of, women.
“On the day of retribution, I’m going to enter the hottest sorority house of UCSB and I will slaughter every spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see inside there….”
“All those girls I’ve desired so much, they would have all rejected me and looked down upon me as an inferior man if I ever made a sexual advance towards them while they throw themselves at these obnoxious brutes. I’ll take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you…”
These are words from the chilling warning posted online prior to the 2014 Isla Vista killings, in which 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six people and wounded 14 before turning the gun on himself.
The video, titled “Retribution”, is an almost seven-minute long tirade against women who Rodger believed rejected him, and the men they chose to have relationships with instead of him – the “supreme gentleman”. As well as leaving behind a series of deeply troubling Youtube videos in which he bemoans about his virginity and lack of attention from females, on the day of the shootings, he sent his family, therapist, and friends his 107,000 word, 137-page manifesto titled “My Twisted World: The Story of Elliot Rodger”.
The manifesto outlined the 22 years of his life, and was filled with violently sexist and racist vitriol, his plans for “The Day of Retribution”, and his desire to create an ideal world without women. It details incidences such as the time he threw coffee on a couple he was jealous of at Starbucks, when he splashed his latte on two girls at a bus stop when they didn’t smile back at him, and when he attempted to shove a group of girls over a ten-foot ledge at a party after they didn’t show romantic interest in him.
In Oregon in 2015, 26 year-old Chris Harper-Mercer shot 9 people and then himself at his Community College. He also left behind a manifesto, lamenting that he was “26 with no friends, no job, no girlfriend, a virgin”, and praising people who were elite, like him, and who stood with the Gods. Among the people listed was Elliot Rodger.
And again, in April of 2018, 25 year-old Alek Minassian drove a van into a crowd in Toronto, Canada, killing 10 and leaving 14 people wounded. In a Facebook post created before the attack, Minassian warned his followers of an ‘incel rebellion’ and praised the ‘Supreme Gentleman’, Elliot Rodger. Minassian attempted to incite officers on the scene to shoot him so he could commit suicide by cop, but instead, he was arrested and is currently awaiting trial.
What all three of these young men have in common is their affiliation with the once-hidden online community of ‘incels’ – which means ‘involuntary celibate’ – who have now become part of the conversation around toxic masculinity, misogyny and gendered violence.
While “involuntary celibate” literally means someone who isn’t having sex but would like to, there are plenty of people who want sex but don’t have it. There is a much more insidious motive behind the ‘incel’ group. Incels aren’t seeking sex; they want total male supremacy.
The men who lurk on these online forums lament at their lack of sex with attractive females, who they feel they are “owed”, spitting hate at those who are more sexually active than them and blaming society for their circumstances.
They covet the ‘glory days’ of the 1950s and 1960s, when, as they believe, men were men, and women were submissive to their husbands and far less promiscuous than today. They split the world into “Chads” (attractive men who find sexual partners easily), and “Stacys” (attractive, sexually active women). They share the common trait of “sexual rejection”, fantasizing about a world where they, like their hero Elliot Rodger, can punish Chads and Stacys of the world for the sin of being sexually attractive.
While feeling sexually inadequate is a common and universal feeling many people across the globe struggle with daily, incels see their lack of sex with young, beautiful women as an injustice. They have turned their perceived unattractiveness into a violent political ideology, often subscribe to notions of white supremacy and are, above all else, horrifically misogynistic; “What are some ways we can devalue the pussy so roasties don’t respect themselves, because they shouldn’t to start with,” one user posted on one of their message boards. A ‘roastie’ is a woman who has had “sex so much her pussy looks like roast beef.”
While most incels will, in part, blame themselves for their lot in life – they are open about their unattractiveness, and often refer to themselves as ‘subhuman’ – the majority of blame goes on women and society. Women are hyper-sexual ‘femoids’ who fuck for status, money, and power. And they get away with it because the rise of feminism has encouraged women to seek equality, shown women they have worth outside of typical and restrictive societal expectations of them, and are more sexually empowered than ever. This combination of facets has resulted in men not having the access to women’s bodies they may have had in earlier times.
To an incel, sexually active women are ‘whores’ (“By age 25 a woman has had hundreds of dicks inside her which is why right after you cum, you punch her in the face, that way she never forgets you”), makeup is a form of fraud that men just don’t have access to (“Femoids can make themselves go up in attractive points with makeup but we are destined to remain ugly”), and short skirts and crop tops are forms of male torture, because the women who wear them are inviting gropes and gawking, but get upset if someone touches them without their consent (“Roasties dress like sluts and are confused when the level of rapes mysteriously rise up”). They talk about women not like human beings, but as sexual objects. They routinely fantasize about violently raping and murdering women and don’t try to hide their deep disgust at seeing white women dating other races. The incel dogma centers on a simultaneous lust for and deep hatred of women.
Once someone has become part of this community, they enter into a toxic echo chamber where hundreds of others confirm this ideology and confirm that yes, women are the issue, says a former incel, Zed*.
“Being an incel is awful. It’s an awful predicament with an unhelpful community to back it up. When a guy feels like he can’t get a girl to save his life, it’s easier to blame some underlying social issue than himself. This has an effect on your entire social life, not just the intimate aspect. You don’t feel important. You don’t feel valued. This starts to play on your self-esteem and is partially to explain for the very self-hate, low-IQ trotting nature of the community. And those in the community do nothing to fix their issues and only reinforce ones already held beliefs. So you’re someone who feels like you can’t get a girl and are shunned from society to various degrees and you go online to find people like you. When you get there, you find false explanations for your problems and an echo chamber of your ideas. You confide in this group and as a result, you start to inherit some of that group think and ideas. These ideas don’t help you in the real world but rather make things worse. It’s a downward spiral,” Zed explains.
Elements of this ‘group think’ have leaked out of the incel community and into op-eds published in the wake of this year’s Toronto attack. Most famously, The New York Times published a column by Ross Douthat, who argued that perhaps the incel thought experiment of “sexual redistribution” was not far-fetched, and if we simply handed women to these men to use for their sexual purposes, they would stop wanting to murder them. There have also been articles proposing giving incels sex robots to use for their pleasure.
But these ‘solutions’ – if the horrific notion of assigning women as sexual partners to violent and hate-filled men can be called a solution – implies that the issue with incels is their celibacy, and not their deeply rooted misogyny and hatred of women. It is this hatred and anger which is the issue that is hardest to change, and not the lack of sex.
“Getting out of the community is really difficult. When I finally came to my senses, it involved me throwing out all of my previously held beliefs and ideologies. In theory, it sounds easy enough, but if you’re a Democrat or Republican, imagine making the intellectual leap from one side to the other. It’s like doing that. You’ve been told to despise women and the attractive guys that get those women and now you have to take all of those beliefs and conclude that they are all wrong and you need to listen to the other side. And all the while, the community that you have around you are pointing to reasons why you shouldn’t make that ideological leap. My journey from that community took years of standing the corner at parties, getting rejected by girls and getting into fights. It was painful. But from my experience, the pain is worth it,” says Zed.
The incel community is no longer hidden away in the dark underbelly of the internet, largely because the men committing horrific crimes in the name of inceldom have thrust the group into the media. Because of the violently misogynistic nature of their posts, their forums are regularly shut-down and it is becoming harder for them to huddle together, reaffirming each other’s beliefs again and again. This will hopefully make it easier for incels like Zed to look outside of the toxic group-think and change their perspectives.
But dig deep enough and you can still find corners of the web where incels are congregating, calling for more Elliot Rodgers’ and Alek Minassian’s to cleanse the world of sluts and whores and spark an incel rebellion. While way these men think might leave most people feeling horrified, it inspires others to kill, and it’s not unlikely that we will soon hear of another young man murdering people because he believed he was owed sex.
This is the terrifying reality we live in.
*Name has been changed.
Comment: What do you think about the incel community?