Trigger Warning: sexual violence and mass violence
Incels or involuntary celibates refer to members of an “online sub-culture” who define themselves as individuals unable to find sexual partners. The members of this community are largely white, male, and heterosexual, and their dialogue with one-another is often riddled with misogyny, self-pity, resentment, and an entitlement to sex.
The ‘Incel Rebellion’ came to the fore in 2014, when after shooting and killing six students at the University of California, Santa Barbara and eventually taking his own life, Elliot Rodger left behind a 137-page manifesto lamenting his status as an involuntarily celibate. In this manifesto he raged against men, whom he considered to be more socially adept than him and blamed them for hogging all the female attention. He called these men ‘the Chads’. More importantly, his tone increased in violence when talking about women who have turned him down or ‘the Stacys’. He promised a ‘Day of Retribution’ for all women, during which he would put them through intense torture and then kill them. This mass shooting gained Elliot aka the Supreme Gentlemen a cult following within the incel movement, and he was labelled a hERo – the ER being emphasised because they are the initials of his name. The incel rebellion has also been linked with other instances of mass violence, such as the Florida high school shooting and a mass running over of pedestrians in Toronto.
The Incel Rebellion came to the fore in 2014, after Elliot Rodger shot six students in Florida and left behind a 137-page manifesto lamenting his status as an involuntarily celibate.
The incel presence can be found all over the Internet, from Reddit to 4Chan. They even have their own website called incels.me, which has over 5,000 members. Most of their threads involve the severe degradation of women, and have men discussing fantasies revolving around the violent sexual assault of women. Incels usually refer to women as femoids (a combination of female and humanoid) or roasties (referring to female genitalia as akin to a roast beef sandwich). One rant on an incel message board reads, “Society has become a place for worship of females and it’s so fucking wrong, they’re not Gods they are just a fucking cum-dumpster”. To say these men are misogynistic is a grave understatement. It is bitterly ironical that the term ‘incel’ was coined by a woman.
Several conversations pertaining to the control of the incel rebellion centre around the redistribution of sex, meaning that everyone would be able to experience sexual pleasure – should they wish to do so – instead of sex being exclusive to certain groups of people. It must be noted that sex is often treated as a commodity rather than a feeling – as stated by Andy Martin, “We live in an age of sexual capitalism”. When sex is exchanged in a deregulated marketplace, it gets concentrated amongst certain groups of people – abled, white, cis, hetero, thin, tall and rich. Therefore, sexual redistribution should be able to curb the anger of this group of self-admittedly unattractive and socially awkward men. However, what incels want is not the redistribution of sex – they could not care less about the marginalisation of trans people, or women who are not conventionally attractive. What they want is to be able to have sex with young and conventionally beautiful women whenever they desire to. They believe it is their natural right to receive sexual pleasure when demanded.
Incels believe it is their natural right to receive sexual pleasure when demanded.
Where does this feeling of entitlement stem from? The answer lies in a structure of oppression that all women are well-acquainted with – the patriarchy. Patriarchy purports the idea of all women as sexual objects, meant to spend their lives in the service of men. It is because of male power that the worth of a man is associated with the beauty of the women he ‘acquires’. Note that the use of the word ‘acquires’ is further indication of a woman as a commodity to be possessed. Therefore, when a man fails to receive enough attention from the women around him, his masculinity is challenged. This perceived challenge to their masculinity by women, causes certain men to react in violent and misogynistic ways. Sociologists Rachel Kalish and Michael Kimmel consider the aforementioned reaction as the product of “aggrieved entitlement”, defined as the ‘dramatic loss’ of what men believe to be their privilege.
While the term ‘incel’ is not widely used in India, there is a subset of incels from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal called currycels. Many members of this group are Indian-Americans. In accordance with the larger incel movement, these men believe that feminism is to be blamed for their inability to find a sexual partner. Many of these men also express a racial insecurity in their violent misogynistic tirades, accusing women of not wanting to have sex with Indian men because Indians are of an inferior race. Moreover, they also accuse women of not being able to understand the concepts of loyalty and honour; according to them, if given a chance an average Indian woman would cheat on her partner with a white man.
These men believe that feminism is to be blamed for their inability to find a sexual partner.
Regardless of whether the term ‘incel’ is used in common parlance, India is no stranger to violence being meted out to women by men who feel slighted. For example, Swathi was killed with a machete by her stalker in a railway station in Chennai, Sreepriya was attacked by Rohit Kumar on her way to church; Kumar had been stalking her for a while and had professed his love for her shortly before slashing her face with a razor, Radhika Tanwar was shot to death by a man named Vijay, who she had rejected several times, and Riya Gautam was stabbed seven times by Adil after turning down his marriage proposal; he had been stalking her for a year and a half. The list of women killed or violently assaulted by snubbed men is a long one. These perpetrators too share the ideology of the incel, that it is their right to possess a woman if and when they so please.
The incel movement cannot be resisted by sexual redistribution because both ideologies have the same assumption – that women’s bodies are akin to commodities. Our bodies cannot and should not be redistributed because we are not objects, we are human beings. The only way to do away with the incel ideology is to bring down the very structures of oppression which are predicated on the inequality between genders. Structures which concentrate all the privilege with men by encouraging the subjugation of women and other genders.
Featured Image Credit: Illustration by Daniel Zender via Newyorker