Incels (or “involuntary celibates”) are part of an online subculture primarily comprised of heterosexual men who, despite wanting a romantic or sexual partner, are unable to find anyone. The subculture is most present on Reddit forums and Tumblr blogs as well as less popular alternative websites, like 4Chan. According to spectrumnews.org, “the men on these sites obsess over their looks, exchange edgy memes and mine psychological studies for proof that the dating universe is viciously tilted against average-looking men.” Their presence on social media is usually accompanied by harsh misogynistic language, especially when referring to women as “female humanoids” or “femoids”. The community has been known to be well versed in memes, irony, and inside references, some sources even comparing the community to online neo-Nazi movements.
As mentioned before, the community consists of mainly heterosexual males. The average age of men in this community falls somewhere between 16 and 30, according to vox.com. Almost all the members self-identify as incels, often described as young and friendless introverts. The size of the various incel communities around the internet varies from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands and many sources have stated that the community predominantly consists of white men.
Over the years, as the community has grown, key ‘facts’ have been shared amongst every chat, forum, and post. The first: women they regard as attractive but promiscuous are referred to as “Stacys”. Secondly, the group commonly mentions the idea of a stereotypical alpha male who the Stacys usually end up in a relationship with instead of them. These men are known as the “Chads”. Chads are said to be attractive, muscular, and extremely masculine. The community believes that Chads, especially on appearance-based dating apps like Tinder, use their looks to attract (and ultimately conquer) all the Stacys. Chads are the reason Stacys give up on men, because Chads, being the kind of men they are, usually leave them after having sex. Thus, ruining the Incels’ chances with the Stacys in the first place. In turn, the Stacys are labelled as shallow and stupid for going for the Chads instead of the incels.
Obviously, this entire view of dating is extremely warped, but it’s warped and wrong in an interesting and informative way. The problem with this community, however, is that their ideologies translate into very real and very violent attacks away from their computers and IRL.
In May of this year, a 20-year-old self-identified incel allegedly went on a shooting spree in Arizona. He targeted couples in the area to vent his frustration and anger over the fact that he was not in a relationship. During the same month, following another attack which took place in February, a 17-year-old boy in Toronto was charged with an act of terrorism after allegedly killing a woman with a machete. Toronto, unfortunately, is very familiar with the threat the incel movement poses. An attack in 2018 – in which a cargo van was driven into pedestrians along one of Toronto’s bustling streets – resulted in 10 people losing their lives. According to foreignpolicy.com, the driver now stands accused of 26 charges of first-degree murder.
The scariest part of all of this is that these men are regarded as heroes to the community. Their usernames hailed all over the forums and social media platforms in which they were present.
There are two ways to approach the Incel movement. One is viewing them as men who, due to societal pressure and potentially mental illness, have come to loath everyone (especially themselves). This is so much so, that they are now shells of human beings who should be getting psychiatric help as they are unable to communicate their feelings in any way other than violence. The second approach is that these men must be observed closely by organisations such as the FBI and CIA and stopped at all costs. Their community, however, remains interesting: one tier above the NiceGuys of Reddit and Tinder and one tier below being the real-life version of Fight Club.