The other day YouTuber Rachel Oates made a video exploring the opinions and beliefs of a small community online called “Incels”. Given my background, which I will explain in further detail in a bit, I was quite surprised to find that this is an actual community and felt compelled to write about it.
Incel stands for involuntarily celibate. These guys, for whatever reason, can’t get into or maintain a romantic relationship.
There’s an active forum for these guys (which you can find here) from which Rachel takes the source material from for her video. At face value you would expect this forum to feature threads about overcoming shyness or tips for when meeting new people, which maybe was the initial purpose of this forum. However, parts of that forum have twisted a long, long way from that and the darker sides of the forum have been garnishing a lot of media attention.
Before we begin, I’d like to make it known that what we are studying here is only a percentage of the people on this incel forum and not all. It is also a very very minor percentage of people experiencing social isolation. The forum itself states that violence and hate speech is unacceptable and will not be tolerated if caught.
The views portrayed are pretty extreme though, which is why the mainstream media and other online channels have been focusing on these views.
Have a look at Rachel’s video. There is a lot of shocking stuff mentioned so viewer discretion is advised. I will be responding to some of the stuff she says and some of the stuff that is brought up in the video so to get the full picture I do recommend watching it.
To give you a little background perspective on myself I first attempted suicide at the age of 12, just as I was entering secondary school. I spent a lot of my time in a classroom called C6. In there I could study but wouldn’t have to deal with the other kids who at the time I found problematic.
Whilst in someways it helped, in others it meant that I never really learnt how to make friends during my years of puberty. I was kind of awkward around people and didn’t really know to socialise with people my own age properly.
I think my first ‘love interest’ was at the age of 16/17. I was super into her but she wasn’t into me and just wanted to remain close friends. Which is totally fine retrospectively but at the time I just couldn’t process that she didn’t like me that way.
I began to follow the hateful thought patterns of the people within these forums. Thankfully not to their extremities, but I resented people who were in happy relationships and thought that there was some sort of inherent problem with woman and society rather than with myself. It led me to a lot of upset, confusion and a lot of destructive patterns of thinking.
Thankfully, when I was experiencing this, I had no knowledge that there were more people who thought the way I did and I certainly no knowledge of this forum. Over time I changed my pattern of thinking. Met lots and lots of wonderful people, of both genders and of all ages, through motorsport, through my voluntary mental health work and through regular work. I learnt how to make and maintain proper friendships with people my own age, how to flirt and how to approach new people.
Had I known of other people that thought the same way that I did and had known of an online forum discussing these thoughts then I would have found it much more difficult to get out of that frame of mind. One would begin to build rapport with the other forum members over these shared, negative thoughts and feelings. The deeper these bonds get the less likely that you’ll want to give up those thoughts and the more likely these thoughts of “no one in the real world likes me” becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. As you’ll program yourself to not give people a chance.
I also think the label ‘incel’ itself is damaging. Things happen for different people at different times. Be that losing your virginity or finding true love. Labelling yourself in such a way that makes it appear you are somewhat of a failure for not having experienced these things seem daft to me.
As bad as I believe these forums to be I also believe that media laughing at the whole of the incel community calling them virgins and ugly etc can also be damaging. It’s reinforcing the negative thoughts that these people have of themselves and will cause them to further isolate themselves. It may also cause them to think defensively. Even if they had never harboured misogynistic or violent thoughts being told that there is something wrong with them if they are still a virgin at 17 may cause someone to begin thinking these unhealthy thoughts.
Maybe as a society that’s what we can take away from all of this though. As a collective, if we didn’t emphasis so much on sex and who is and isn’t getting it then maybe we wouldn’t have forums like this. Young men wouldn’t feel ashamed of not having a girlfriend and would realise that quite frankly there’s more to life.
If there’s anything I’d like to say to the incel community it’s this. You are good enough for people. You are too good to identify yourself with this stupid label and you can be happy without a significant other. Heck, once you learn to be happy yourself then maybe you can make someone else very happy.
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By Richard Francis