6 Ways You Can Get Sucked Into The 'Incel' Trap
It's entirely possible that we're all just a few life decisions away from being truly terrible human beings. In my case, I spent years as what we'd today call an "incel."
The online incel (involuntary celibate) community has been a thing for decades, but as with so many other phenomena, it only showed up in the headlines once people started dying. Elliot Rodger gunned down six people in 2014, then Chris Harper-Mercer killed nine in 2015. William Atchison killed two school students in 2017. Alek Minassian drove a van into a crowd in 2018 and killed ten. All four killers were attached to the "incel" community, and cited their virginity as the reason for their murder sprees.
I never got that deep in the darkness, but let's just say I was on a bad path.
Eventually, Self-Loathing Gets Projected Onto Others
Here's a mildly embarrassing fact about my life that I've never told anybody before, and now I'm revealing it to the entire world because fuck it: I didn't lose my virginity until sometime in my mid-20s. The average male surrenders his V-card around the age of 17, so I was almost a decade behind the curve. Trust me, that was plenty of time for the bitterness to set in. This was in the early 2000s, before incels really coalesced as a movement.
As it became clear everyone else was passing me by, I started to believe that it was all because I was physically unattractive. But here's the thing: I'm not. I mean, I'm not exactly a lost Hemsworth brother, but it's not like I'm as weird-looking as Willem Dafoe, either. (Wait, he played the sexy dude in an erotic thriller with Madonna? OK, maybe I just have no ideal what's attractive.)
Whatever the case, I had bought into the familiar incel talking point about how sex is reserved only for men in the top 1 percent of the attractiveness scale. (Whom incels call "Chads," if you were lucky enough to not know that already.) This is obviously ridiculous, as the species would have gone extinct if this was true (or we'd all be incredibly hot due to generations of Chad genes). Today, there are entire forums dedicated to "looksmaxing," with users critiquing each other's less-than-ideal facial features down to the smallest detail of jawline width or nose length in order to calculate the exact ratio that might grant you minimum access to the vagina lottery.
Now go look up some prominent incels on Google. Most of them look like pretty average guys, same as I was. Hell, Elliot Rodger, the poster boy of the incels, was a goddamn runway model compared to me. The problem isn't that they can't get sex; it's that they (like me back then) don't want to have sex with anyone who isn't a perfect 10. Which is, ironically, the exact accusation they throw at women. It's amazing what you can believe when you never look inward.
There's A Weird Double Standard When It Comes To Women
Between the milestones of puberty and my first boning, I can actually remember maybe around a dozen occasions where a woman flirted with me, but it didn't "count" because they weren't (to my eyes) solid in the looks department. I can't defend the stunning hypocrisy at play here, but I can try to explain it.
The weirdest and most underrated effect of unrealistic cultural beauty standards is that to certain guys, average-looking women just become invisible. So much of the worst male behavior will start to make sense once you realize this. Those women are there, in the same way that background extras exist in a movie. They just don't register as people. Their opinions don't matter, their feelings don't matter, their attraction doesn't matter.
I didn't just shun romantic attention from average-looking women; their advances weren't even on my radar. I was waiting for the head cheerleader to hit on me, even if we had nothing in common, as far as I knew. I had decided that extremely attractive women should put my personality ahead of my physical appearance, even though I was utterly incapable of doing the same.
In modern incel terminology, the sexual war is fought between incels and "Chads," and it's fought over "Stacys" and "Beckys." In short, Stacy is the amazing-looking girl that incels want, but she's too busy boning Chad. Becky is the less attractive girl that incels would settle for, but she's too busy pining after Chad. There's rarely any mention of the comparatively ordinary-looking women who, you know, make up most of the population.
And why would there be? They're not even important enough to earn a nickname, because they don't exist. Elliot Rodger, in his manifesto, didn't talk much about how average girls treated him, but talked plenty about how "hot blonde women" ignored him.
There's Power In (Sad) Numbers
Hate groups form because people who make themselves outcasts due to their shitty attitudes need to belong to something. In my case, incels didn't exist as an internet phenomenon, but we still found each other. I entered university and soon made friends with a bunch of other men who considered themselves permanent virgins. We were reinforcing our bad habits, like a bunch of addicts. The exact opposite of a support group, in other words. No one was interested in getting better.
We didn't consider ourselves part of a movement, but it still empowered us, in a certain toxic way, to know that we had this in common. So instead of helping each other escape a tough situation, everyone in the group started feeding into one another's delusions. That's when you get the social phenomenon known as a "crab bucket." If you've never heard the term, just imagine a bucket full of crabs. Every time a crab makes a move to escape the bucket, another crab tries to climb up its body, pulling the first crab back down. Ultimately, although any single crab can easily escape, none of them ever do. Their inability to comprehend the bigger picture keeps all of them trapped.
Social Media Amplifies Things To Insane Levels
One of the absolute creepiest corners of the internet is the so-called "Gang Stalking" community. These are people who believe that they are being personally targeted by the government, or the Illuminati, or the Deep State, or the Reptiloids, and that virtually everyone in their life -- the mailman, the elderly neighbor, the random jogger they see every morning -- is in on it.
It's a patently nonsensical paranoid delusion, yet there are plenty of forums on the internet set up to help supposed victims of gang stalking come together and share their experiences and shun the assholes who try to tell them it's not real. It's the toxic crab bucket anti-support group, only blown up to a terrifying scale. Any single person suffering from the delusion can find hundreds of voices in support. Enough to drown out their friends, family, and doctors many times over.
Whether you consider them to be ill or not, incels are also suffering under a delusion, and there is nothing worse for someone in that situation than to have that delusion reinforced on a daily basis. Psychology Today has written about this. The internet is stunning in its ability to lock delusional people into these feedback loops until this becomes central to their identity. History books may look back on this as the defining trait of our era, the mechanism by which radical movements were born and fed all over the globe. In fact ...
The Incel Mindset Winds Up Pushing Your General Politics To The Right
The deep connections between the incel community and the radical right are well-known. I suspect this is one of those connections that seems random to outsiders, like the weird link between the alt-right and anime. But yeah, my own time in the incel trap spun my general politics pretty hard toward the right.
It begins when you start blaming women for your lack of success (in this case, lack of success with women), which is based on the idea that A) women are morally inferior/shallow, and B) society is skewed to their favor. Next you begin seeking out media that reaffirms what you already believe about women, to keep reassuring you that you don't need to change at all. It's the women who are wrong!
But the pundits out there reaffirming those ideas are all on one side of the aisle, and they never stick to just the one topic. "Hey, now you know the truth about how men are victims, have you heard about how white people are also victims? And while we're on the topic, let's talk about the tragic plight of heterosexuals."
As an Australian, my conservative pundit of choice during my incel years was Andrew Bolt, an aggressively anti-feminist right-winger who frequently publishes columns in Murdoch tabloids like The Herald Sun (also, as an Australian, I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to the entire human race for Rupert Murdoch). Once I started paying attention to Bolt's views on women, I started paying attention to his views on other things. Like black people. And Indians, Asians, and Jews.
From there, I tumbled even further down into right-wing thought by becoming a devout conservative voter and spouting talking points about how climate change is a lie. As an aspiring writer, the first book I attempted to put together was a mountain of dumbfuckery about how climate science was all a hoax, and thank Christ I never got around to writing it, though thousands of words of cherry-picked bullshit research are still sitting in a cabinet somewhere in my mother's house. (I instead wound up writing a book about goofy conspiracy theories.)
Changing Can Feel Like Turning Your Back On A Cult
There aren't many elderly incels out there. It'd be nice to think that like so much other destructive bullshit, it's just a phase 20-something males go through. Plenty of them will surely settle down and become husbands and fathers, the rage getting dulled to the usual bitterness that adults numb with liquor and golf. As we've seen, though, some go too far off the rails to ever come back.
I was fortunate enough that circumstances let me meet other people and learn about other points of view. I had decided to get my degree in philosophy, which in addition to broadening my viewpoint put me in contact with some of the dreaded SJWs who have supposedly turned the fields of the humanities and social sciences into politically correct Marxist echo chambers. I lost touch with most of my incel friends, but that's part of it; I got to a place where I could lose touch with them. For others, that would mean losing their entire social circle.
I remember that whenever one of my incel friends got lucky and lost their V-card, we weren't exactly high-fiving about it in celebration. After all, if they turned out to be capable of normal relations despite both their unattractiveness and the supposed shallowness of females, what did that say about the rest of us? Have you ever sat in a car and had a close friend insist you've been brainwashed by feminists? I have!
And even then, I was fortunate enough to get out before this became solidified as a vast international online movement, complete with layers of detailed literature and dogma -- a rabbit hole deeper than I could have ever imagined in the days before social media. It took a degree, years of study, and a whole new circle of friends to break me out of this, and it's not going to be easier for these guys. But we as a society have to figure out how to do it, because fringe groups like this sure as hell aren't going away on their own.
S Peter Davis wrote a whole book about conspiracy theories. You can buy it on Amazon here.
For more, check out How 'Friends' Invented The Friendzone - People Watching No. 5:
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