Incels’ misogyny goes beyond everyday sexism.
TW: This essay contains discussion of sexual violence and gendered violence against women. It also contains passages from men who express extremely abusive, dehumanizing, and violent misogynistic beliefs.
Incel – (n.) involuntary celibate or involuntary celibacy
The incel community is a monstrosity far worse than “nice guys” and those who lament about being trapped in the mythical “friend zone.” Incels not only believe that they are entitled to sex and relationships with women, but they also blame women for their loneliness and want to punish us for it. In short, they are misogynistic extremists.
This extremism existed long before the likes of Elliot Rodger, the Santa Barbara shooter who murdered six people before dying by suicide because he was angry about being a virgin. While we might think of Rodger as the most well-known incel, I believe that men like him have even more infamous and even more degrading ancestral kin.
Believe it or not, the term incel was coined by a woman named Alana. She created the term in the early 1990s during her time as a undergraduate student as a way to talk about her own inability to connect with people romantically as she was exploring her sexual and romantic orientations and coming into her queer identity. However, her vision became twisted when the website that she set up became populated by men who were “prone to antagonistic, repetitive complaining,” and then became even further perverted by redditors like Elliot Rodger once they got a hold of it a few years ago. They had finally found a word to attach to their already festering hatred towards women, society, and themselves because of their perpetual singlehood and lack of sexual experience.
Being single is hard for a lot of people. It’s now even classified as a disability by the World Health Organization. The difficulty of singlehood is not only due to the assumptions that people immediately make about your character, but is also due to lack of touch and emotional support. In male-female relationships, romantic, familial, or otherwise, the brunt of the emotional labor falls onto women because gender cultivation indoctrinates men into a kind of masculinity that forbids emotional intelligence on their part. Therefore, they rely on the women in their lives to provide the emotional support that all humans need to foster emotional, mental, and physical well-being.
We place far too much emphasis on sex and romantic relationships, and our widely accepted expectations and permissions of adult platonic and familial relationships, especially among men, largely preclude the kinds of physical intimacies that are accepted and expected with romance, like cuddling, back rubs, massages, and hand-holding. Skin hunger is real. Lack of regular human, skin-to-skin contact is linked to anxiety, increased stress levels, and depression, as well as heart disease, inflammation, decreased immune system, and high blood pressure. The pain of loneliness can manifest itself in ugly ways, and skin-to-skin contact can help curb some of that pain.
The one thing that the incel community is right about is that being alone, when you so desperately don’t want to be, is devastating and excruciating. But because expectations of masculinity dictate that men can/should express their emotions only through dominance, aggression, and violence, and because patriarchy and paternalism dictate that women are for male consumption, and because misogyny dictates that women deserve to be punished, the incels channel all of their frustrations in the only way that they know how: by taking it out on women.
But this form of inceldom did not begin with redditors. I believe that it begins with Ed Kemper, the star serial killer of Netflix’s new crime procedural, Mindhunter. This isn’t to say that Kemper is the first incel in all of history. I’m certain that there were others preceding him, but he may be the first contemporary, recognizable figure who displayed the same sentiments as today’s incels when he explained why he killed women.
“My frustration, my inability to communicate socially, sexually; I wasn’t impotent but emotionally I was impotent. I was scared to death of failing in male-female relationships.”
A behemoth of a man, towering over the world at 6’9, Kemper murdered six co-eds in the early 1970s, along with his mother and her best friend, after having shot his grandparents to death some years prior at the age of 15. Not only did he trap young women in his car, terrorize them, and kill them, but he also “humiliated” their corpses afterwards by engaging in sex acts with them. And it was all punishment for his own lack of social and sexual aptitude. A true psychopath and necrophile, Kemper perfectly fits the definition of an incel.
So does David Berkowitz, better known as Son of Sam, the shooter who some consider to be ground zero for the “lone gunman” narrative. He killed six people in New York over the span of a year, between 1976 and 1977, because of his hatred of women, which partly grew out of his inability to form relationships with them.
“I want to be a lover to women, but I want to destroy them too…Especially women who dance. Them I hate. I hate their sensuality, their moral laxity. I’m no saint myself but I blame them for everything.”
By their own admission, their motives for the destruction that they carried out are no different from the motives of Elliot Rodger, and their social and sexual ineptitude mirrors that of the self-proclaimed incels who rant online about how their lack of connection with women is never any fault of their own, but always the fault of women. Elliot Rodger is a direct descendant of Ed Kemper, and they have many, many kindred spirits.
Incels are, by far, some of the most vile people on the face of the earth. Their offenses include, but certainly are not limited to, advocating for sex slavery, claiming that women consistently falsely accuse men of rape, manipulating the definition of rape in order to benefit those who commit sexual violence, demanding that women in abusive relationships be imprisoned for what they see as being actively complicit in inceldom, insisting that treating incels for depression should be a punishable crime, celebrating the deaths of “normies” killed in the recent Las Vegas shooting, suggesting that the government pay women to date them, identifying sexually active fat women as the ultimate oppressors (because how dare we enjoy sex while they remain virgins when we’re the ones who are supposed to be undesirable), and threatening hunger strikes until the government assigns them a girlfriend.
One Gandhi-inspired would-be hunger-striker also believes that women cannot experience inceldom, despite the fact that the term was coined by a woman (though, I’m sure that fact is lost on him). We also are incapable of experiencing basic human emotions, because according to him, we are not human at all.
“Women can’t be lonely, sad, depressed, mentally ill, humans, smart, loyal, faithful, respectable, or INCEL…Women can be whores, sluts, prostitutes, property, items, livestock, possessions, cum buckets, sex dolls, or maids.”
A redditor formerly known as The Incel Blogger offered this quote in a lengthy blog post following Elliot Rodger’s killing spree:
“What happened is a proof that incel murders people. Society that will claim incel didn’t cause his pain is a sick society which thinks males should be ok with this hell… What happened is punishment [for] evil and violence of feminists and liberals.”
The extent to which these men feel entitled to have access to women is simply astounding, and the extent to which they will go to deny responsibility for their solitude is even more astounding. They took a completely valid term and perverted it with the misogyny and violence that already existed in their world.
The incel community is a cult of hatred, feeding on toxic masculinity, misogyny, and a host of other disgusting belief systems, and we should count some of modern history’s most abominable serial killers like Ed Kemper and David Berkowitz among them.