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The INCEL phenomenon: the "involuntary celibates" who hate women



During these years of study of the hikikomori phenomenon, I had the opportunity to deepen my knowledge about the different problems that are sometimes associated with voluntary social isolation, such as, for instance, existential depressionvideo game and internet addiction, school phobia and social phobia.

Yet, another phenomenon is drawing my attention more and more: I'm talking about INCELs, an expressionthat was coined from the English terms "INvoluntary" and "CELibates".

I will tell you what I have understood so far about this phenomenon and what are its possible connections with hikikomori.

Who incels are?

Incels are heterosexual males who experience great difficulties in relatingwith the opposite sex. These difficulties generate in them a great frustration that sometimes translates into misogyny. Women are in fact "accused" of being exclusively attracted by physical appearance, money and status (hence the "LMS theory", an acronym that stands for "Look, Money & Status"), therefore those who do not excel in these variables will inevitably have no chance to be interesting in their eyes.

INCELs include themselves in three categories:

- virgins: those who have never had sex (those who have had sex often declarethey turned to prostitutes);

- kissless-virginsthose who have never had sex nor kissed;

- hugless-kissless-virgins: those who have never had sex, kissed or even hugged a potential partner.

Incels seem to be particularly obsessed with appearance: they generally have low physical self-esteem and perceive themselves as unattractive. In their perspective, beauty is an objective variable which can be measured through the observation of precise physical dispositions (e.g., jaw structure, or thickness of wrists, etc.).

Yet the main element that makes them uninteresting to the opposite sex is probably related above all to personality aspects and more specifically to an underlying insecurity that represents a serious handicap in modern society, not only in sentimental and sexual relationships, but in relationships in general.

Incels often call themselves "redpilled" (expression derived from the famous scene in the movie Matrix), which means they have become aware that society is actually ruled by women, who hold more privileges than men, despite media and common sense would lead us to believe otherwise. Not all incels, however, embrace the "Redpill Theory", just as not all redpilled are necessarily incels.


Why do incels exist?

If wedo not go beyond the more or less grotesque theories incelsare associated with, we could make the mistake of underestimating and trivializing the issue, yet we are faced with a real social phenomenon, related to social changes that have occurred in recent decades, especiallywith respect to gender roles.

If we take as a reference the history of human civilization, we will realize that the "romantic" couple, namely the one formed exclusively on the basis of the equal will of both parties, is a quite recent custom. In the past, engagements and marriages were combined and decided by families for utilitarian purposes (mainly economic). This was mainly at the expense of women, sometimes forced to mate at a very young age.

Even in more recent times, despite the progressive extinction of these customs, women have continued to suffer a strong socio-cultural pressure to settle down, mostly by the family, at times finding themselvesup against the wall, and having to force their own choices of mating.

Today things are fortunately changing. In fact, women are progressively acquiring higher decision-making autonomy as well as economic independence, affording to select their partners with greater freedom. This however implies on the other side, that is the male side, an increased competition, with much more difficulties for those who do not have the necessary skills to make themselves attractive in the eyes of the opposite sex.


Why do incels suffer from their condition?

The difficulty in having sexual partners represents for the straight man, even more than for the straight woman, a great source of suffering and frustration, not so much because of the impossibility of satisfying one's sex drives, but rather due to socio-cultural pressures related to gender roles.

For straight men, sex is culturally linked to power and social status, meaning that the more skilled and accomplished you are in this area, the more positively you will feel to be perceived. Conversely, any deficits could lead to feelings of inadequacy and failure: the label of "virgin" is particularly stigmatized in modern society.

Among women, socio-cultural pressures are different and having many sexual partners generally represents a source of shame and guilt. The result of this alteration of instincts related to gender roles is the onset of strong imbalances between sexual "supply and demand": on the one hand, males will feel the pressure to have as many partners as possible, while on the other, women will be more selective.


What is the connection between incel andhikikomori?

The two phenomena are naturally very different, starting from the fact that the term "incel", unlike "hikikomori", was self-conceived by those directly concerned. This is not a detail to be underestimated since it clearly expresses the need to find an element of aggregation, useful to share and alleviate, at least partially, the great frustration that comes from their status.

Yet, I see some similarities between the two phenomena:

1.      the thought developed by incels seems to be a defensive psychological mechanismaimed at relieving social pressure as well as perceived guilt, by attributing one’s failure in relating with the opposite sex to external and uncontrollable factors, such as women’s preferences or physical appearance. In the case of hikikomori, there is a similar psychological mechanism, with the difference that the negative and out of control element is often represented by school, parents, peers or society as a whole;

2.      The hikikomori phenomenonarises because of the strong pressures of social achievement generated by modern society dynamics. Among these pressures, sexual pressures play an important role as they constitute, as we have seen,full-fledged social pressures.

Socially inhibited people will struggle to establish satisfying friendships with their peers and, perhaps even more extremely, will fail in romantic relationships with the opposite sex. When sexual pressures are the dominant ones within the spectrum of social pressures that lead a straight man to isolate himself, an attitude of strong hostility towards womenmay arise in him as a psychological defensive mechanism.Consequently, he might fall within the incel phenomenon. This would help to explain why hikikomori are mostly males.

That being said, from my observations I could see hownot all hikikomori will experience the absence of sexual relationships with particular anxiety and sense of failure. Many of them, for example, profess to be asexual or demisexual, namely sexually attracted to a partner only in the presence of a strong emotional bond. Therefore, the overlap between the two phenomena, if present, is only partial.



The incelphenomenon deserves much more attention from social researchers because the levels of suffering and frustration that can be hidden behind this condition are not negligible and might give rise to forms of self or hetero-directed violence (there are already some murder caseswhere self-styled incelswere involved).

As with hikikomori, it is important to raise awareness of the topic and invite those who suffer from it to seek help from properly trained professionals, particularly sexologists.

We must be aware of how the constant increase in social competition, combined with the resulting pressures for personal fulfilment, can have varying repercussions depending on everyone’s personal predispositions. Some people will end up taking it out on society, some on women, and some others on something else. Feelings of inadequacy and failure lead us to point the finger in a desperate attempt to reduce suffering and guilt that come from one's condition.

Like it or not, these are the rules of the current model of society: those who are able to handle pressures and use them to their advantage will perform at their best, achieving high levels of personal success. For others, there is nothing left but learning to live with the pressure, or trying to change the rules of the game, long asthe latter option differs from the first.

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