Incels are men and boys with extreme and misogynistic views about women and relationships.
They largely operate as an online subculture, although some incels have turned to violence and murder. Most are white, heterosexual and under the age of 30, and their politics tend to be at the extreme end of right wing, such as the alt-right in the US.
What does incel mean and who created the term?
The term incel is short for ‘involuntary celibate’. Surprisingly, it was coined by a Canadian woman who, in 1997, started a website called Alana’s Involuntary Celibacy Project aimed at people who wanted to form relationships but were unsuccessful.
How did the idea of what an incel is change over time?
The term was gradually co-opted and is now used to describe a boy or man who feels entitled to have a girlfriend or sexual partners, but who believes that equality and feminism prevent this. Some describe themselves as KHHVs (Kissless, Handholdless, Hugless Virgin).
Incels objectify women and resent the way that society works today, as they believe it is stopping them from having relationships and sex. They want to see a return to a time when women did not have agency and were at the behest of men. They are virulently anti-feminist and anti-movements such as #MeToo.
What do incels believe?
Incel ideology is that women have too many rights and freedoms in today’s society, including choosing who they want to partner with romantically and sexually. They believe that 80% of women only want to date the most desirable top 20% of men, in order to achieve status – they call this hypergamy.
Incels share messages on online noticeboards such as 4chan, 8kun (formerly 8chan) and Reddit, often on the dark web. Their communications are toxic, anti-feminist and misogynistic, and they harbour deep grievances against women, believing they have too much power in relationships.
On incel forums, the men that women want to date are described as Chads. They are seen as confident, rich and good looking. The women who incels would like to date but who turn them down are known as Stacys. Incels hate both Chads and Stacys, although they aspire to be like Chads and date Stacys.
There are many incel forums, some with tens of thousands of members. They are filled with hate speech and violent threats as well as self-loathing language and evidence of body dysmorphia, eating disorders and depression.
Beneath incels’ coded language is a seething anger towards women and a deep well of self-loathing. This is immediately evident on incel chat rooms and other online forums, which are inundated by suicidal and homicidal rhetoric and threats.
What is ‘reverse rape’?
Reverse rape is the term used by some incels to describe the situation when women refuse to have sex with them. In a perverse and dangerous view, they consider it as negative as rape itself.
What is the ‘Manosphere’?
Incels are considered a subset of the Manosphere: an umbrella term for online sites that are hostile to women, which also includes groups like Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs), Pick Up Artists (PUAs) and Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW).
Are incels dangerous?
Incels are not only dangerous for sharing their extreme and negative views about women online. There have been many attacks against women carried out by incels and, in some cases, murderous rampages that have killed several people.
In recent years, incels have been behind the wounding and killing of many people, including a 22-year-old incel who killed six people and wounded 14 near the UC Santa Barbara campus in the US in 2014. He killed himself after the murderous rampage, but his actions and manifesto have since inspired further attacks.
Other attacks include 10 people murdered and 16 injured by a 25-year-old incel, who drove a car into a crowd in Toronto, Canada in 2018.
Why do people identify as incels?
For men who are struggling to form relationships, there is comfort in knowing that they are not alone and finding someone to blame for their situation. They also struggle to accept that women are equal and feel strongly that this will lead to social collapse.
Incels are commonly thought of as a North American problem, but there are many people from the UK and elsewhere in the world who are active on forums popular with incels. As their comments often advocate rape and violence against women, these extremists are a disturbing cause for concern in our society.