Incels, Violent Misogyny, and Why No One is Owed Sex

Stickers of social media platform, Reddit, where incels are rampant.

Trigger Warning: This article contains discussion of violent misogyny, gun crime, and murder

Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, used a shotgun and a revolver to go into a school in Texas earlier this month and kill ten people, injuring ten more. He was angry. When asked by the police, he admitted he didn’t shoot the people he liked and meant to kill the ones he targeted. Sadie Rodriguez, a mother of one of the victims, told the LA Times that her daughter Shana Fisher “had four months of problems” from the Santa Fe shooter. “He kept making advances on her and she repeatedly told him no.” A week before the shooting, she says, her daughter stood up to the shooter and “embarrassed him in class”. That, she believes, is why he murdered her daughter.

Alex Minassian, 25, was also angry he wasn’t getting laid. That is why, on April 23, he mounted a pavement with his van and murdered ten people in Toronto.

So was Elliot Rodger. In 2014, Rodger killed himself and six others, leaving behind a 140 page manifesto and threatening videos: “I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me but I will punish you all for it.”

Nikolas Cruz,19, applauded Rodger online before walking into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and fatally shooting 17 people earlier this year. The authorities have been quick to dispute all of these incidents as terrorist acts.

If you remain blissfully unaware as to what the concept of ‘incels’ (or involuntary celibates) are, I am envious. The term was originally coined 20 years ago by a woman known as Alana, on a chat forum to create a support group for fellow unhappy singles. She couldn’t have predicted what it would morph into. Incels now predominantly occupy space on Reddit and 4chan and have developed their own language and belief system. Central to the incels ideology is that sex — especially penetrative sex with a cis woman — is not a privilege but a right. They believe that if they are declined sex with ‘Stacys’ (their term for beautiful women) they will suffer an unacceptable degree. They essentially talk about sex as a survival mechanism like other people talk about access to food and water.

There is a reluctance to describe the “incel” movement as anything other than a fringe ideology, partially due to how bizarre a concept it is. Angela Nagle is the author of Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4Chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right. She writes:

“There is a really interesting irony in the incel style of quasipolitics – they rail against the loneliness and the isolation and the individualism of modern life, but they seem to advocate it as well, in that they love the language of the strong triumphing over the weak. But they themselves are the weak.”

She continues, “They’ll say how terrible it is that the left has won the culture wars and we should return to traditional hierarchies, but then they’ll use terms like ‘banging sluts’, which doesn’t make any sense, right? Because you have to pick one. They want sexual availability and yet, at the same time, they express this disgust at promiscuity.”

Elliot Rodger drew the incel movement into the public eye. Whilst police investigated his crimes, his videos and manifesto of ‘retribution’ against women that wouldn’t sleep with him and the men that would sleep with them were unearthed. It would seem that the threat that these incels pose appears to be minimal — a niche ideology adopted by many but acted on by the few.

However, earlier this month New York Times Opinion Editor, Ross Douthat, produced a piece under the title ‘The Redistribution of Sex’. Whilst Douthat didn’t suggest we leave our houses immediately and seek out the first sex starved man we can find, he stated this may be a reality in the future.

He said: “Right-thinking people will simply come to agree that (a right to sex) exists, and that it makes sense to look to some combination of changed laws, new technologies, and evolved mores to fulfil it.”

He cited Professor Robin Hanson as a “brilliant weirdo”. After the van attack in Toronto, Hanson argued that, if we are moving towards a more liberal society that believes in the redistribution of wealth and opportunity then surely the redistribution of sex is just as logical too?

“Those with less access to sex plausibly suffer similarly to those with low income, and might similarly hope to organize to lobby for redistribution along this axis,” Hansen wrote. What the women in this situation wanted, however, hasn’t been given much thought to.

And this is where Hanson and Douthat (and the incel movement for that matter) are wrong.

“Incels aren’t looking to have sex. They are looking for domination and rape on demand.”

The redistribution of wealth is the sharing of material objects in order to create a fairer society for all. Sex is not an object, it is an act. I know I am stating the obvious here but women are human beings, they’re not commodities.

This isn’t women getting their fair share. We are not talking about hot, single, well balanced, ambitious men being passed out to all the single ladies of the world. These are angry men, looking not for sexual satisfaction but control. Douthat argues that technology might placate the needs (or sexism) of incels but in reality they aren’t looking to have sex. They are looking for domination and rape on demand.

By spreading arguments like redistribution of sex we are only reinforcing that incels are not getting laid because women are too independent. We have all been lonely. We all know what it is like to see friends leave the pub in twos whilst you make the walk back to the bus stop alone. But the redistribution of sex has nothing to do with loneliness and everything to do with entitlement. Before another angry young man decides to go and shoot up a school or run down innocent bystanders in the street, we need to do something and making the ideology that radicalised them in the first place mainstream isn’t it.

Image by Eva Blue

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