The new toxic male : inside the minds of the Incel movement
Updated: Jan 25
By Staci-lee Sherwood
Over the past couple of years we’ve heard a lot about toxic masculinity. Thanks in part to the outlandish behavior and over the top statements by Donald Trump we all think we know what the meaning of misogynist toxicity is but do we really ? While many women will tell you that most males are simple creatures at heart they’re actually far more complex creatures than are given credit for.
Figuring out some of the hidden meaning behind many a statement is akin to trying to finish a jigsaw puzzle without all the pieces. Our culture encourages boys be raised as strong and aggressive, to be the go-getter the leader that gets what he wants. In order to do this other traits like compassion and patience are cast aside because they’re seen by many men, and women, as a sign of weakness and something that will slow them down. In one’s pursuit of either a career or mate a little compassion can go a long way yet most men are raised to think in the bubble of false manliness. Often times the drive to attain their goal is touched with violence.
In American culture this is often rewarded with praise and accolades bestowed on someone who is seen as a winner. We see this with athletes far too many times when their bad behavior makes the gossip column but because their earning power is prioritized it’s overlooked and swept under the carpet This sends a subtle message to both men and women that this type of behavior and bullying of women is accepted and in some cases rewarded. Hard to counter that with a simple message of non violence especially to teenage boys who look to these athletes as role models. Professional scouts for sports teams can sway a young mind that no matter what he says or does as long as his athletic skills draw crowds and money anything goes. Many times the final touch comes in the form of a sports car to clinch a deal.
Incels have shifted the landscape with their new bolder take on masculine toxicity. As if dealing with the standard fare of centuries old put downs and abuse wasn’t enough to contend with along comes a new version on an old theme. Introducing the Incels which stands for “involuntary celibate”. Just what are incels you might ask ? Well these are high school and college age young men who years ago we might have called nerds or losers. Clearly not the nicest of descriptions but surely nothing that could have led to the current scourge that Incels have let loose.
Incels are no longer satisfied with sticking with the casting couch theme in the workplace. Since women entered the workforce many were forced to contend with their male bosses wielding power over them by demanding sexual favors in exchange for job security. This new crop of toxic males feel emboldened to go further by taking what they want. By that I mean many chat rooms have screen shots of members claiming their entitlement and what they perceive as unfair denial of their sexual demands. Some members felt free to ponder whether they should just go ahead and rape whatever woman they wanted claiming this as a right of men. Their sense of ‘manliness’ is skewed and with the internet filled with images and groups catering to even the most obscure desires it’s easy for these incels to find support from other like minded and displaced young men. As these incels meet in chat rooms they encourage each other no matter how insane the ideology and feed off each other.
Like a runaway rollercoaster this movement has caught the attention of women, police and even the FBI. So dangerous are some of the more extreme members they’re now considered a domestic terrorist threat. There have already been shootings and like many of the white supremacist groups do not appear to be slowing down or going away any time soon. For any female between 18-40 the warning signs are shining bright and the message clear to steer clear of anyone identifying as an incel. Of course that’s not so easy as this movement is more like a random collection of online rants and threats rather than an official group with members. Still with each new shooting or attempted assault those that call themselves incel do bind all those other young men who feel the same way together.
The more extreme incels look to those who commit such crimes as martyrs. As with other terrorist groups the cycle begins that trap so many with the allure of camaraderie . For a lonely insecure teenage boy finding his way to a group like this can be very comforting with the promise of brotherhood. While those of us on the outside looking in might think this is a new phenomenon the truth is these feelings were no doubt always simmering just under the façade of civility. Who knows what might have happened in say the 1600s had the internet been around back then.
Though a relatively new movement it has taken this country by storm. For those reporting on the ever increasing violence they cause it has taken their breathe away as to how quickly they have radicalized. Social media of course help disenfranchised men from across the globe connect, complain and plan attacks. In a nutshell the incel ideology rails against “Stacys,” the idealized women they desire but believe deny them sex, and “Chads,” the idealized males who are blame for hoarding all the best women for themselves. An interesting not is the how the name ‘Stacy’ is spelled using the male version, while the female version is spelled ‘Stacey.’ Whether this is sloppy spelling or something more subconscious it is another piece in this jigsaw puzzle.
There have already been a few high profile cases of murder, some even mass murder, perpetrated by incels. Their hatred for women is fueled by both their real and perceived rejection by women they hope to attain while combining it with a jealous rage of the men they perceive as taking them away. This is what drives some of the incels to such violent acts. This is not a trend that will vanish when people get bored and move on. Rather this is here to stay. It’s a symptom of a greater deeper problem within our culture of growing entitlement combined with greater acceptance of violence as the police and courts scramble to keep up with this latest domestic terror threat. All these ingredients come together for a very dangerous brew that could spiral out of control since the public is still pretty much in the dark about the severity and complexity of this problem.
Ironically the word ‘incel’ was first coined by a woman way back in the 90s. She called herself a late bloomer in the dating world and started her website to engage other like minded late bloomers. She had no idea this would be taken over by throngs of angry violent young men who would take the chats a step further and implement violent attacks like murder. You could say the very act of men taking over the word and meaning of incel to exploit to their own advantage is the very definition of toxic masculinity.
In a BBC interview from 2018 Alana, the Canadian woman who first brought the term incel to world discusses how it all began. She started with her website ‘Alana's Involuntary Celibacy Project,’
"I noticed people would talk about the
'lonely virgin' and make silly jokes
about people who didn't start dating in
their teens," she said
The current incel movement has nothing to do with the innocent idea Alana had when she started typing to the world looking for support and hoping for answers. No one could have anticipated the hatred that would stem from people talking about their lack of experience and dating.
There is a lesson to be learned of course in everything we do. We live in the age of information, fast often false and misleading information. Though our intentions may be good and despite our desire to keep our ideas, fears and hopes to a small controlled circle that is no longer possible once you put those feelings down on the internet. They will stay there forever living in cyber world for anyone to latch onto and use as they see fit. Next time you take to your keyboard perhaps asking yourself if this is really something you want the whole world to read or is it better suited for a small circle of people you know in real life. A few seconds of pausing could make all the difference in the world.
My final thought on the history of the name. The name ‘Stacy’ was first seen on a 4chan board /r9k/ where it was used as slang for the female version of a Chad around 2011. It’s thought to be based on the then-popular Scumbag Stacy meme, which depicts young women in various states of undress with overlay text about them leading men on.
Also published on Daily Kos community January 25, 2022 https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2022/1/25/2076643/-The-new-toxic-male-inside-the-minds-of-the-Incel-movement