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Dublin: 11 °C Saturday 7 December, 2019

What are 'incels' and why the hell is everyone talking about them?

The people that view sexual activity as income.

THERE’S BEEN A lot of chatter in recent weeks about a group called ‘incels’.

What is an incel, you ask? Incels – short for ‘involuntary celibate’ – are (usually male) members of an online community who define themselves as being unable to find a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one.

However, some harbour more sinister views, advocating for rape to be legalised and the use of violence against women.

Ok, grim, why are they in the news?

Last month, a man killed 10 people by plowing a van through a busy sidewalk in Toronto. In a Facebook post just before the attack, he identified himself as an “incel.”

Alek Minassian announced that “the Incel Rebellion has already begun,” and praised another self-identified incel: Elliot Rodger, who killed six and wounded 13 in a shooting spree in Isla Vista, California, in 2014.

Like Rodger, Minassian seemed to blame his violent act on sexual rejection by women, linking himself to the misogynistic culture of “incels,” that has sprung up online.

In response to incidents like this, Ross Douthat wrote a column in the New York Times suggesting that the “unhappiness of incels” might eventually lead to a public debate on the distribution of sex. Naturally, this didn’t bode over well with the general population of the internet.


How did the movement start?

Politco reports that the word originates from a web site founded in the 1990s by a woman called Alana, titled: “Alana’s Involuntary Celibacy Project.” There, incel was originally defined as, “someone who is unable to initiate or sustain an intimate relationship, s/he has the desire to experience such a relation, and there are no external circumstances preventing such a relation”.

On coining the term, Alana told Politico: “The concept of being a lonely virgin is not a nice identity.

Finding a more friendly term helped people say, ‘Hey, I belong to a group. I’m not alone.’ And by belonging to a group, people can help each other.”

Alana eventually moved on from the site, and has seen the term hijacked by aforementioned groups, with offshoot groups forming. In response, she set up Love Not Anger, “a project to research how lonely people might find respectful love, instead of being stuck in anger”.

Fundamentally, incels believe that sex is a right.

It, however, is not. Similar to the concept of the ‘friendzone’ (not a thing, btw), you do not owe anyone anything for meeting the lowest bar set for humans – being nice. You cannot justify hatred for a group of people based on sexual rejection. People should be expected to play ‘devil’s advocate’ to a group that views sex as income.

What should I take away from this?

It goes without saying buuuuuuuuuuut:

  • You do not owe anyone anything, especially not when it comes to sex.
  • You should not be made feel bad for turning someone down if you are not interested in them.
  • Have conversations with your friends – especially your male ones – about these attitudes. See if they understand how toxic these views are at their core.

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