Incels, terrorism, and preventative measures

There’s been conversation elsewhere about the Incel movement (“involuntary celibates”). Distinct from just any old sexually frustrated person, incels tend heavily toward the misogynistic and violent fantasist, with several having made the leap into straight-up terrorist murders of women.

Some questions that arose:

-In what ways does our culture treat women as somehow responsible for the emotional status and self-esteem of these “angry losers”?

-To what extent are these “angry losers” given a pass on a lot of their misogynistic rhetoric due to entrenched sexist attitudes in society?

  • Why do we tend to refer to these men dismissively as mere “angry losers” who “suck” rather than as “terrorists”?

-There are many, many women who are socially awkward, who don’t date, but somehow THEY don’t espouse hatred and want to kill because of it. So why do so many men turn this into hatred and terrorism?

I’ll post some thoughts later, but I thought this would be a good jumping-off point for discussion.

“Many” men?

If this is truly a thing I’d say that women are less likely to do horrible things is because even an awkward male has testosterone and is more likely to have a strong ego even if they are a loser, maybe ego and testosterone are inseparable. A lot of people who commit horrible violence fantasize about not only being a villain but also about being in the hero role in their fantasies, perhaps there is a good way to channel that energy into creativity and socially altruistic behavior instead of violence and death.

It’s just like the army: a bunch of power-hungry meatheads who reinforce each other’s unjustifiable point of view by sharing it, and by egging each other on.

I suspect that a lot of it comes down to directing your criticism internally versus directing it externally: do you blame yourself for being socially awkward, or do you blame society for not providing you with a mate? From what I’ve read, a lot of “incels” don’t look at themselves and say “OK, what I need to do to attract someone?” - which in my experience is to be a man that people would like to be with - but instead say “What does society need to do for someone to be attracted to me?”.

I don’t think our culture really does this. Although, a young man who can’t get laid is definitely a dangerous thing. That doesn’t mean women are responsible for sleeping with the “angry losers”.

I don’t think they get much of a pass, if they are espousing violence against women. Only perhaps in the deepest recesses of the incel dark web.

Well, the vast majority of them are simply angry losers. Not yet terrorists, until they’ve committed acts of terror.

Great question. Probably because sexual prowess is highly valued by men and not women. This could be a combination of traditional gender attitudes and biological imperatives.

It does seem that women, even shy ones, are able to find mates easier than shy, loner men. Perhaps that is generalized, but most women can “get some” if they really want to. There’s no shortage of men who will sleep with anyone that offers.

Incels: false nostalgia for when men had the kind of power the incels want. In fact, while men did have a lot of power, that wasn’t part of it.

Ah yes. Just like the army. Awesome.

Virgin shaming is a huge part, I think. Guys are still taught that their value has to do with whether or not they’ve had sex. While I’ve seen women discussing not being able to find a boyfriend and such, it’s not portrayed as a flaw in them, or a value judgement on the women. The gender role in our society remains “women are the keepers of sex, and men have to earn the right to have it.” And that belief starts the toxic cycle.

Hence, by those roles, the women are the reason they can’t have sex and have value. Therefore they direct their anger towards them. And while that anger may not start as full on misogyny or violence, it can become that, particularly if people gather together and create echo chambers. It’s also ripe for those who were already misogynists for other reasons to join in. And the “women are the oppressors” narrative allows for the violent to come in, because they fought back against the oppressors.

Granted, the male concept of always fighting back is also possibly an issue. Men are socialized to fight. They are socialized that, if people really hurt you, it is okay to attack them back. So, if these women are scheming against them, they think they have the right to attack back. In fact, fighting back is seen as a way to give them more value in their echo chamber community.

I think the only solution is to short circuit the concept before it starts this loop. We’ve got to actively stop the virgin shaming. Stop treating men like their value has anything to do with whether they’ve had sex. I can’t see any other point where intervention is possible: once the emotional part of the brain is engaged, you can’t be reasoned with.

The only other thing I could think of is trying to put those awkward women in contact with awkward men. But that’s already been happening a lot since the whole nerd takeover movement, where being a nerd was no longer a shameful thing. I don’t think it would be good at all to put any woman in contact with an incel until the incel has worked out their anger towards women.

First up: LHoD, huge thanks for starting this.

I think this is an unfair characterization of the military. I can see why you might make that characterization of the Incel “movement”, but I am hardly an expert. Do you have any cites to share about the bolded piece? I would be interested in learning more about the Incel culture. Is this an outgrowth of MRA groups, or something different?

This is the crux of it, I think. Part 1, see above, how do they become part of a group that reinforces their belief that they are entitled to sex, and furthermore that they are being denied it (cock-blocked, as it were). The agency has moved from them to an outside party. Part 2, within that group, how does a fraction become violent?

This is ridiculous. Virgin shaming has nothing to do with it–it’s not like women who are body-shamed go on killing rampages over it.

I wonder, although I’ve no proof, whether it has more to do with sexually frustrated young men just being in aggregate a more volatile group, whether terrorist groups in general draw no so much from the poor or from the oppressed as they draw from the sexually frustrated.

In order to confront this problem head-on, it’s crucial that we recognize that a dude who goes on a killing spree against women because of a reddit thread is functionally equivalent to a dude who goes on a killing spree against American tourists because of a shitty imam. The word “terrorist” needs to be used for this sort of ideologically-motivated attack on a class of people. The “angry loser” label may have some utility for identifying potential recruits and steering them somewhere less toxic; but when we use it after a murder, it obscures what’s going on.

  1. Women are usually naturally less likely to express frustration via violence. It’s biological.

  2. When one sees “everyone” around you having something (a mate,) it’s natural to think you should have it too. (Example: There was an IMHO thread a few weeks ago asking if “Amy,” a hypothetical student, deserves a cupcake just because the teacher gives every other student a cupcake except Amy. Most Dopers replied that yes, Amy does deserve one.) Never mind that many people don’t have mates - incels see having a mate as the norm, and not having a mate as abnormal, and want to be in the in crowd too.

  3. Mocking, ignoring or criticizing someone’s frustration does not make it go away. I cannot stress this enough. Mocking or berating incels for their feelings, thoughts or deeds is not going to make the problem go away, any more than Charlie Hebdo mocking Islam made Islamic terrorism go away.

On the contrary, virgin shaming has a HUGE part in it. BigT is spot on.

As for why women don’t go on rampages - women and men are fundamentally different. It’s much the same reason why most soldiers are men, why far more men own guns than women, why most school shooters and serial killers are men, why most Islamic terrorists are men, why 90% (or however many) of violent criminals are men, etc. Men are by and large the more naturally violent gender.

I think this is sort of an important point, as long as we remember that those who mock, ignore, or criticize someone’s frustration are responsible solely for their own shitty behavior, not for the behavior of the person they mock.

If someone commits murder, their feelings become a lot less important to me. Call them a loser and I won’t lose much sleep. But if you call them a loser for not getting laid, there’s some collateral damage, some folks you make feel shitty who never did nothin to deserve feeling shitty over. Way less terrible than murder, in case it needs saying, but still a crappy thing to do.

Okay, what do you base this on? Who murdered women who wouldn’t have done so save for being mocked for being a virgin?

Once again I fear we may be having a definitional issue. Self-described Incels are NOT in my mind men who are simply sexually frustrated involuntary virgins. They are those that have specfically taken that extra step to embrace a violently misogynistic attitude/movement. They are either violent or have active sympathy for violence. The analogy to members or active supporters of al Qaeda works fine. Or in other words Incel* describes a specific and repugnant ideology, not simply the involuntarily celibate in general.

Are you saying one shouldn’t berate the thoughts and deeds of terrorists or terrorist supporters? Because that is a sympathy bridge too far for me. Understand the origins, sympathize with the root frustrations - sure. Make the leap to not calling them out? Nuh uh.
*Props to monstro for suggesting we capitalize the word to reinforce this point.

Because all things are the same? Women don’t go on killing rampages as often as men about anything. I think virgin shaming is part of it, but not much, it’s closer to camouflage than causation. Another cultural theme is that some incident makes people act crazy, someone is so angry over some perceived slight that they concoct an elaborate plan to seek revenge. I don’t think there’s as much similarity between the people in question and any part of their dogma. It’s just the usual thing, what draws them together is their anger and the desire to hurt others because of their firmly held belief that it’s always somebody else’s fault. I wouldn’t even know of the existence of these people except for this thread and one other here on the Dope, but I don’t really need to, I’m sure they are working the same game as all the other nutbags, each one feeds the others anger, it’s not something like their hatred of women that bind them, it’s their desire to harm others, that’s the thing that increases their dopamine levels.

Everything I’ve been reading about incels says they’ve become misogynistic because they couldn’t get women to go to bed with them. Is that the consensus? It seems to me misogynistic men who can’t get women to go to bed with them (maybe for that very reason) become incels. They blame women because they already despise them. The rage and hatred come first.


Perhaps men are made to look stupid by the smart women in some commercials and TV shows. It’s fine IMHO, men have been pushing women around for eternity, so we get a (very) little of our own medicine.

If their self esteem is so low that they can’t handle a little bit of poking fun, they have issues to start with. A quick heads up to these people - the world/life doesn’t owe you sex or a life partner. You can ask for help on how to better socialize, overcome anxieties, and help to find a job. Glad to help. Not going to offer a class on how to score a supermodel though (which it seems like what these guys are upset about).

Who is giving them a pass? Other ‘Incels’?

I guess I don’t know much about this movement. They are being violent? Not just the assholes that have been around for ever?

Because those men are assholes and have a sense on entitlement. And power. And they are now losing the power to be assholes.

Groups like the white supremacists, nazis in general, and those that ‘Have’ and want to prevent others from prosperity have a bit in common. These so called ‘incels’ (and the others) see in the current political climate the one thing that they can now exploit. Being assholes. They can be assholes and demand that their so called needs must be met. They’re morons, just like their ‘leader’.

They’re just more cockroaches that trump is prying out from under rocks.

Nope, life isn’t fair. It was never meant to be. Not one of us hasn’t had something that tries to block our way.

“Incel/s” Involuntarily Celibate. Almost everyone has been an ‘Incel’ at some point. That they actually came up with a name for it and it’s some sort of movement is comical. I’m a 57 year old man, this has got to be one of the silliest thing I’ve ever heard of. “Incel”. Uh hu. Might want to try a little introspection there bud. The rest of the people on the planet aren’t here for you to exploit.

I probably shouldn’t go on, but I will. I suffered from terrible shyness around the opposite sex until I was about 30. Then I managed to slowly fix it, start dating and did finally find my Wife that I have now been with for 20 years. It sucked all through those many years. But I knew it was MY problem.

Simple, if ‘incels’ (that still cracks me up) perform illegal acts, arrest them and put them through the justice system.

Body shaming is not remotely the same concept. If you buy into it, then the outlet is already present. All you have to do is try to lose weight. And then, if you fail, you are much more likely to blame yourself, rather than someone else.

With virgin shaming, there is one outlet: try to get women to have sex with you. If you fail, it is much easier to blame the women. That makes them an easy target. That makes misogyny easier to take root.

Once even a little misogyny kicks in, then it’s easy for any other misogynists to jump in. But there must be misogyny in the underlying idea first for this to happen. The misogynists have to see something in the concept that they like.

And misogyny, as we well know, has a tendency to lead to violence. Not in everyone, but it doesn’t take everyone. Not when you have an echo chamber.

But they still are sexually frustrated involuntary virgins. You guys seem to be making some clean division that doesn’t exist. Both violent and non-violent Incels hang out in the same places. Yes, they are all misogynists, but they are not all violent or even all support violence. That is where the analogy to Al Qaeda breaks down, since Al Qaeda is inherently a violent organization.

And calling someone out is not the same thing as berating them. Of course we can call out misogyny and terrorism. But it is also true that no one will listen to you if they think you hate them. The line isn’t always obvious, but it exists.

That is actually the reason I am against the “angry loser” label. Have you ever been called a loser? I have. Was my reaction to try and become a better person? Hell no. My response was to get angry at them, and want to get back at them.

Even if you do treat them all as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers, has calling terrorist losers ever worked? That’s mocking. Has lecturing them at length for how bad they are ever done anything? That’s berating. And, yeah, I argue neither is remotely helpful.

Hell, mocking and berating a frustrated person might be what allows them to snap and make the jump from non-violent to violent. It’s not like violent people have a completely different emotion set than non-violent people, after all.