Last month a man drove into a crowd of pedestrians in Toronto and killed 10 people. It was later reported that this man, Alek Minassian, identified with an online community made up primarily of men who have given themselves the self-appointed title Incel.
While there had previously been some debate and scrutiny on the issue, it was the incident in Toronto that catapulted the subculture into the mainstream news and public attention.
What is an Incel?
The word itself stands for ‘Involuntary Celibate’. It was originally coined in the early 90s and was initially intended to be an inclusive way in which people who found themselves lonely, or unequipped to deal with the romantic or sexual world, to talk and share experiences.
It has, however, since morphed into something much more sinister.
Today’s Incels are mostly straight men who class themselves as such and generally believe their looks and/or personality are the reason for their celibacy. The blame, they say, falls on women and feminism.
Women’s ability to choose a partner for themselves and the rise of women’s rights have, in an Incel’s point of view, led to the decline in sexual opportunity of which these men feel entitled.
Incels gather on online forums (the titles of which have been excluded from this article) to discuss theories, thoughts and experiences. The majority of these are incredibly misogynist and often racist.
One post details an experience in a park wherein a member describes increasingly disturbing and menacing behaviour towards a woman he does not know. In the post, the woman is often referred to in derogatory and vulgar language.
He writes how he enjoyed having ‘that much power over her’ and found pleasure in scaring her. It escalates to the point that he is following her through this park until she starts sprinting.
This man then goes on to state that the reason she ran and did not want to engage with him is due to his appearance. He suggests that it may have been different if he was conventionally good-looking. There was no understanding that the behaviour that he exhibited was in any way a factor.
If the extent of the Incel activity was contained to complaining online, it could perhaps be easy to brush aside. The internet allows like-minded people to connect and interact – the problem is that like-minded is not always a good thing. A lot of these men glorify scaring women, hurting women and – in some cases – killing women.