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An Exploration of the Incel Subculture

By Libbie Nicklin

Alongside the growth in the internet and social media, a new subculture emerged. They call themselves incels. I was first exposed to the idea of incels when I watched a documentary titled ‘Inside the Secret World of Incels’. I had no idea such a hateful, violent and misogynistic community existed. Whilst their views are shared in Youtube videos and Reddit forums, I was surprised to discover that not many people were aware this subculture existed. This blog therefore provides an overview of the groups views, its emergence and physical harm. All in all to create a greater awareness.

What is an incel?

Incels are referred to as a subculture of men who created a political ideology around the injustice of, in their opinion, young, beautiful women refusing to have sex with them. They often consider themselves to be unattractive and socially inept, often subscribing to white supremacy too and ultimately looking for male supremacy.

The word incel itself stands for involuntarily celibate. As highlighted by Tolentino (2018), sex for them is defined as dominion over female bodies. For example, they disapprove of sex workers and would not choose to have sex with them as they view them to be “whores”. Incels instead believe it to be their natural right to be able to have sex on demand with “young, beautiful women”. Ultimately, most incels adhere to the idea that women are purely defined by their ability to give sex to men.

The Emergence of the Incel Community

Ironically, the incel community was founded by a woman in 1997. It was originally established through a website designed for lonely people struggling to find love. It was a forum for those struggling to form loving relationships. It allowed anyone, regardless of gender, to talk about their feelings of loneliness, and to share their feelings about why they believed they couldn’t find a partner.

So from this harmless community emerged “a bunch of guys blaming women for their problems”. This is incels as we know them today. It is somewhat unclear why the incel community transformed dramatically, but it has been suggested that this change likely ties in with the continued growth and various waves of feminism.

Physical harm:

Whilst incels are notorious for sharing their harmful views on online platforms, some members of the incel community have caused physical harm. The incel ideology has inspired a number of murders globally. In 2018 Alek Minassian killed 11 people in Toronto, with his motivation coming from his hatred of women. Similarly, Elliot Rodger, who was hailed as a ‘hero’ within the incel community, committed mass murder in 2014 in California. Even the recent murders of 4 Idaho students has been said to be committed by an incel.

Whilst these murders were fuelled by a hatred for women, it isn’t always just women who are killed. Men are also targeted to incel violence, purely for their association with women; such as being in a relationship with a woman. Stemming from jealousy, some incels kill “sexually-successful men” who they refer to as “chads”. By chads they are referring to “muscular popular men” who are presumed to have sex with lots of women. Their frustration is therefore taken out on the ‘chads’ as they are presumed to be sexually successful with women whereas incels aren’t.

Final thoughts:

Overall, learning about the incel ideology is incredibly saddening and frustrating. Having an understanding of this community can definitely add to women’s fear of crime/of men. Ultimately though, this blog aimed to create greater awareness of this community. I understand that this may have been difficult to read and if you would like to discuss any of these topics in further detail, the team are available to talk on our instagram.

If you’d like to gain further knowledge about the incel community, there are many academic articles available online, as well as documentaries. More recently, the film ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ has themes relating to incels and is a great watch.


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