Last summer Ann Sterzinger asked me to participate in a podcast with alt.right writer Andy Nowicki in which we discussed incels. “Incel” is a portmanteau that combines the words “involuntary celibacy.” Incels, mostly young, alienated men, had (and have) been in the news due to several deadly rampages committed by young men with links to or assumed to be part of incel culture. This conversation took place shortly after the Santa Fe high school shooting, wherein a young man shot and killed ten people. Sometimes the media got it right – Alek Minassian, the man who ran a van into a crowd in Toronto, was undeniably part of incel cultur. The affiliation was far less clear with Dimitrios Pagourtzis, the young man who shot up the high school in Santa Fe, Texas, even though one of his victims was a girl who had refused to be his girlfriend. Either way, both attacks were presented as incel rampages in the press and suddenly all across the Internet people were talking about incels, as each month seemed to bring a new attack committed in the name of incel-ery.
The discussion with Andy dealt more with the macro of incel-ery, the big picture of how it is we’ve ended up with a group of unhappy and often unstable young men who loathe women, successful men, feminism, and the modern world. I tend to focus on the micro, the individuals who make up movements, so I’m unsure how much I added to the conversation. I wish I had been more on the ball because Andy Nowicki asked a very good, very humane question that this article is going to attempt to answer.
Andy wanted to know why it is that people find it so easy to mock and deride incels when they share what for them is very real, very tangible pain regarding their role in the modern world. We laugh at these young men in a way we would not laugh at women who share their own pain. Though there are a lot of ideas that “incel” covers, the primary issue boils down to men who are angry or sad that they cannot have the sorts of sexual relationships they prefer with the sorts of women they prefer.
Incels of course bemoan their lack of sexual success but when you look at the whole of what fuels this sort of discontent, you see a group of human beings who feel like the modern world has stripped them of all dignity, decent employment prospects and possible family life. Plenty focus their anger on the lack of sex that named the subculture but they also speak in depth about humiliations they experienced or perceived when just trying to talk to a woman, apply for a job, speak in class, go to a gym, pay for cigarettes and on and on.
It’s a litany of human misery and it’s interesting that among leftists who decry “toxic masculinity,” those very people find it easy to mock men who report crying when being rejected or rebuffed, who reveal vulnerability when they report their inability to reach basic cultural milestones. It’s a question worth asking – why do we mock these particular men who reveal their weaknesses?
There are several answers to this question. Among them: chivalry isn’t dead yet and we live in a culture in the West wherein we punish emotional response in men while rewarding it in women. But it’s curious that many still mock incels even after seeing the harm these disenfranchised young men can do.
Initially, when people see the entitled whining some incels engage in online, people mock them because if you aren’t experiencing youthful angst yourself, reading it wears thin and can seem ridiculous. But we continue to mock them after seeing incel mass murders because there’s something inherently ridiculous that anyone would consider sex such a natural human right that they can justify murder in the name of libido.
This is a very long article, tl;dr on a grand scale. The rest is under the cut.