New report investigates the emotional life of incels
This poorly understood community is about more than sexual rejection
Incels — or involuntary celibates — have become the subject of intense media attention in recent years. Since 2014, there has been a spate of violent attacks involving incels like Elliot Rodger and Alek Minassian, spawning an interest in this obscure and under-researched internet subculture.
The incel community (or inceldom) is primarily comprised of lonely young man who gather online to discuss their feelings of romantic rejection. But, according to new research, incels are not — despite their name — ‘exclusively rejected sexually; rather, sexual rejection is just one of many forms of social exclusion that they experience’. In fact, on a range of differing mental and health metrics, incels score far higher than non-incels, giving a more rounded picture of this poorly understood community:
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Based on a small sample of undergraduates at an unnamed institution in the Canadian Prairies, researchers interviewed 67 self-identified incels alongside a group of 103 non-incel males. Interestingly, it was taken during the Covid-19 pandemic, where enforced lifestyle changes (more time indoors, fewer social interactions etc.) might actually have reduced the differences between the two groups. This was, after all, a period in which rates of depression, anxiety, and isolation were seen across general populations.
But as the chart shows, incels score higher on almost every emotion metric, ranging from ‘fear of being single’ to different forms of anxiety. It is worth mentioning that the chart represents average scores across each measure, which can vary based on the number of items in each scale and response options, but the differences between incels and non-incels are stark.
What the researchers go on to find is that only two metrics uniquely predicted incel group membership: avoidant attachment and perceived mate value. Avoidant attachment types are typically highly independent and uncomfortable with intimacy, which is a major reason for why incels struggle to build relationships with women. In turn, the researchers warn that this can lead to woman-hatred, where incels depict women as ‘devious’ or ‘conniving’ — ‘a somewhat ironic twist, given the reluctance of avoidantly attached persons to form close emotional bonds’. Perceived mate value (or lack thereof), which relates to the self-esteem metric, is a well-documented characteristic of inceldom too.
“These findings correspond with my own from talking to hundreds of incels over the years,” says Naama Kates, creator of the Incel podcast. “It’s worth noting that insecure attachment (anxious or avoidant) are associated with personality disorders too,” another area where incels are disproportionately represented. “Incels have trouble forming healthy attachments while simultaneously valuing them very much, and it causes a great deal of distress,” Kates adds. “Maybe understanding this can inform a better response to their grievances than ‘Get a better personality and stop harassing women, you evil inkwell’”.
Even incels sitting in their parents basements reading this article will be highly underwhelmed by the ‘Revelations’ of this story..They they suffer ”avoidant attachment and perceived mate value”
OK………that brings this picture into sharp focus; we can close the chapter now and move onto the 1000 other odd social sub groups who are neglected in the Tabloids.
I would like some articles on Furries, Female Antifa, and my favorite, the Hikikomori:
”Hikikomori: Why are so many Japanese men refusing to leave their rooms?’‘ (they say 700,000 of them! and some women too)
The dozens of radical earth Warming zealot cults, the BLM crazies, the very bizarre Tick-Tock subgroups, Tinder weirdos, and (I rather not learn of them actually) the gender crazies of many stamps, and the millions of Middle Aged woman who have decided they never wish to live with a man – just so many kinds who are even more sad and more problematic than these ‘Incells’. Basically society is breaking down and unraveling….. it is like anything goes now days….but for what has worked for the 10,000 years since man first began to occupy urban settings.
We need a genuine Great Reset, like reset to the Neolithic period. Start from the basics; Gods, Mortals, Sky, Earth. And big stones. Lots of big stones. No time to worry about your gender identity while you’re pushing 5 tonnes of granite up a hill.
I support this. We all have waaaay too much time to spend “looking inward” and it’s ended up being a sad waste of time for most people.
First world problems.
But isn’t it a fitting end for the end of civilization that is coming to pass via climate change?
My ‘civilisation’, will adapt while we watch yours, lemming-like, bankrupt yourselves, make many homeless, stunt your off-springs mental and physical growth and probably kill each other in a futile attempt to achieve pie-in-the-sky targets set by people whose main claim to fame is having “earned” a lot of money.
The author refers to the “incel community” and “sexual rejection is just one of many forms of social exclusion that they experience”.
I suppose this is now going to be another oppressed minority that should have special anti-hate status. No doubt we will have self appointed incel community leaders, that will be earnestly listened to by the police and other authorities, who will bang on about how oppressed they are and that mass shooters are an untypical minority that don’t represent the community but who nevertheless have been driven to their desperate acts by societies failure to accommodate their special needs.
Next we will be expected to celebrate incel week and told about famous incels who have contributed great things to society despite their oppressed minority status. Posters online that are insufficiently respectful of incels will be prosecuted for hate speech. The first out incel to be elected to parliament will be lionised etc. etc.
Wrong gender to get sympathy. Their fate is demonisation and gross exaggeration of their numbers and importance.
Kids nowadays eh? It’s never easy to be a gawky young lad, but we managed – and we didn’t have phones and screens to hide behind. We went up and spoke to women, and we made hopeful ‘phone calls on rickety house phones, heart pounding lol. So, you got shot down in flames – so what! Go again! Big issue with these guys is they lack a sense of humour. I don’t want to listen to them whining on – and neither does any women. Girls just want to have fun as the old pop song said.
Andrew Tate is exploiting these geeks which just feeds into their misogyny.
Never underestimate the fear of rejection and how demoralising it can be (especially persistent). You seem to be in a very small minority of people who can take it on the chin and go again. Frankly, good for you.
However, I do think in this day and age it’s not just the fear of being rejected in of itself, but also the potential fallout that comes with it. Granted this was an issue when I was a youth some 12-17 years ago as rumours spread and such which people talked about it if it got found out about. What wasn’t as much of an issue was that it could easily get blown up over social media and before you know it, all your friends and classmates know about it. No wonder these guys don’t ask women out in person anymore.
These days in the US if you ask a girl out in the wrong way you can get excluded from all social groups and doxed on social media. The downside for failure has become much much larger. I have a wonderful girlfriend, but she’s from my home country, where it’s still possible to ask people out without the risk.
The Sparks et al. (2023) paper linked is interesting with respect to the content but also as a kind of ‘cultural document.’ While clinical psychology’s explicit aim is to reduce distressing behaviour/thoughts, the discipline also ‘sets the tone’ about what social behaviour is unacceptable and deserves attention. I was surprised that someone had developed a specific Incel Traits Scale!
What the incel forums sound like are psychology focus group sessions but with no clinically trained moderator. Due to the left-leaning nature of the clinical psychology sphere, it would be difficult to find a conventional, university-trained therapist able to listen for long enough to guide these men into productive cognitive-behavioural patterns. 🙁
I wonder if at the ‘incel problem’s core is society’s tendency to scrutinise and judge individuals based on their level of sexual experience. No one should feel obliged to disclose or explain something so private…
When I was 17 and that was 50 years ago,and no,we weren’t all wearing crinolines back then and sexual intercourse had recently been invented,in 1963,as Philip Larkin said, I had the impression gained from the insidious and subliminal message in pop songs and much tv,that not only was being sexually active a badge of your adult status and also being perceived as sexually “valid” gave you full acceptance into society but also that the first sexual experience,by which I mean the age old conventional,dare I say normal one was your passage through the gate into adulthood. A”rite of passage”. Needless to say I found out I was wrong as many have found out before and since. The fallen girl has been a trope all through history. I suspect a lot of these young men have imbibed this exact same wrong message,it’s hard not to when tv for instance is full of Love Island and First Dates and trash like that. I suspect it’s not really about the sex,it’s about the status. Sadly I never did make it into adult status and now I know I never will and do you know I was not that far wrong on one of my points ie that you don’t gain full acceptance into society if you are not perceived as sexually “valid”,not active as such. I can’t analyse it any further but it’s true.
It seems like these two defining characteristics, trouble forming healthy attachments while at the same time VALUING healthy attachments (i.e. mates) are completely at odds with each other. Someone who has trouble forming healthy attachments but DOESN’T value healthy attachments won’t suffer the conflict of the two, and is probably very happy being a loner. It is the person who can’t figure out how to form healthy relationships (due to personality problems like bad temper, etc.) etc, but who WANTS what he perceives to be the benefits of a mate who is going to be desperately unhappy until he (or she) learns how to relate to others.
One of the first steps to maturity is for the incel to realize that no woman (or man) OWES him (or her) a happy relationship. It is up to the person himself to change the way he relates, and stop imputing deviousness or any other hateful characteristic to the women with whom he struggles to relate. Only when the incel takes it upon him to become an attractive mate will he find an attractive mate.
And generally, women are pretty understanding and forgiving with someone who is TRYING. It’s the men who assume they are God’s gift to women who will continue to have a hard time with involuntary celibacy.
All that rings true to me… except the last bit. Finding a partner is so dominated by the dating apps if you’re young (or youngish), and what has resulted is a buyer’s market which operates in the interests of the women and a relatively small percentage of the men who are on them (the ones that the women find attractive). A majority of the young men who are on the apps are being overlooked – they are certainly not thinking they are God’s gift! And it is that group that the incels are coming from. Btw I don’t think this is anyone’s fault, it’s just the way the online dating game has played out.
The sad thing is we don’t get to choose our genes and the INCEL thing is genetic. Anyone who is familiar with The Enneagram of personality will know that INCELS are type six. It’s the old nature versus nurture thing. Much can be done to improve personality but a geek is a geek.
This piece is really very poor. Come on, Unherd: standards!
Maybe you need to give some constructive criticism instead of just complaining.
You aren’t an incel by any chance, are you?
i must say as a poor South African i had to rustle up money to join Unherd and since then i have not seen one good article
“Maybe understanding this can inform a better response to their grievances than ‘Get a better personality and stop harassing women, you evil inkwell’”.
I don’t feel inclined to respond to their “grievances”, except to say “How sad. Never mind”.
I neither know nor care who or what incels are..
Losers, in plain English?
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