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‘I hate women’ – the world of the ‘in­cels’

Amelia Tait in­ves­ti­gates the on­line sub­cul­ture of ‘in­vol­un­tary celi­bates’, whose rad­i­cal misog­yny has come to Bri­tain

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These words were posted by El­liot Rodger (be­low) be­fore he em­barked on a mur­der­ous ram­page at a Cal­i­for­nia univer­sity in 2014. The ‘in­cel’ move­ment of ‘in­vol­un­tary celi­bates’ has since boomed on­line, where thou­sands of sex­u­ally frus­trated men vent their ha­tred of women – lead­ing to fur­ther killings. Now the phe­nom­e­non has reached Bri­tain. By Amelia Tait

James wishes women would stop smil­ing at him on the street. ‘What is the point of go­ing out and smil­ing at me or even glanc­ing in my direc­tion if it just means lit­tle to you?’ He raises his voice in frus­tra­tion. ‘Just stop. If it doesn’t mean any­thing to you then please, stop it. It means ev­ery­thing to me.’

It is a scorch­ing Wed­nes­day in July and as the rest of the coun­try gath­ers in pubs and parks to watch Eng­land’s first World Cup semi-fi­nal in 28 years, 19-year-old James sits alone in his bed­room in his mother’s house in Wi­gan, re­flect­ing on his all-con­sum­ing ob­ses­sion with sex. ‘Ev­ery de­ci­sion I’ve made about cloth­ing is for the pur­pose of prob­a­bly hav­ing sex, or prob­a­bly get­ting some at­ten­tion what­so­ever… I feel lust to­wards nearly ev­ery woman I see. I don’t ac­tu­ally have any stan­dards. I like women, prac­ti­cally all women. They just don’t seem to like me.’

James plans to study phar­ma­col­ogy at univer­sity but doubts he will ever have a suc­cess­ful ca­reer. Speak­ing over the tele­phone us­ing a pseu­do­nym, he de­scribes how re­peated re­jec­tions from women have led him to ex­treme self-loathing. Be­sides go­ing to col­lege – where he stud­ies bi­ol­ogy, chem­istry, and psy­chol­ogy – and his shifts as a sup­port worker car­ing for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, he rarely leaves his bed­room. The walls are cov­ered in grey wall­pa­per with no posters or pic­tures, and there are few per­sonal ob­jects ex­cept for a Playsta­tion 4 – he spends his time play­ing a fan­tasy role-play­ing game, Ni no Kuni II. ‘I have no ac­tual friends, no close re­la­tion­ships to what you would de­fine a friend... I don’t go out… I don’t do the things that other teenagers do. Be­cause, it is so much…’ He pauses. ‘It is so much of a men­tal strain per­son­ally to en­gage with peo­ple.’

James calls him­self an ‘in­cel’, short for in­vol­un­tary celi­bate. The term was coined in 1993 by a Cana­dian woman named Alana who used it to de­scribe her ex­pe­ri­ences as a col­lege-aged vir­gin, but in re­cent years it has come to mean some­thing al­to­gether more sin­is­ter. It is now short­hand for an on­line com­mu­nity of men who want ro­man­tic or sex­ual part­ners but can’t find them, so they blame women, con­sid­er­ing them ma­nip­u­la­tive and slut­tish ‘Sta­cys’ (one of many words in the in­cel dic­tionary). ‘It feels like be­ing the sci­en­tist who fig­ured out nu­clear fis­sion and then dis­cov­ers it’s be­ing used as a weapon for war,’ Alana said in an in­ter­view ear­lier this year.

Al­though many in­cels ex­press long­ing for fe­males, a sense of re­jec­tion of­ten turns that de­sire to vi­o­lent ha­tred of women. The bat­tle­grounds are on­line fo­rums where in­cels vent their anger and fuel each other’s. ‘I f—ing F—ING HATE women !!!!! They don’t de­serve any rights be­cause they are not even hu­man, they are poor im­i­ta­tions of a hu­man be­ing there­fore they should be treated like shit,’ reads one re­cent post on a pop­u­lar in­cel web­site, In­ On the same site, some­one re­cently posted a video of a young girl, roughly four years old, re­ject­ing a boy who tries to dance with her at a party. ‘Ab­so­lutely dis­gust­ing,’ the user wrote. ‘She won’t be laugh­ing when he snaps one day and goes on a ram­page.’

Jacob Davey, a re­searcher at counter-ex­trem­ism think tank the In­sti­tute for Strate­gic Di­a­logue (ISD) in Lon­don, says that in­ter­net cul­ture has been ‘weaponised’ and likens in­cel rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion to vul­ner­a­ble teenagers driven to ex­tremes on pro-anorexia fo­rums and those con­vinced to join Isil via so­cial me­dia. ‘In their ide­ol­ogy women are of­ten seen as sex­ual gate­keep­ers, and in­cels imag­ine a power dy­namic where women ac­tively ex­clude them from achiev­ing a sex­u­ally ful­filled ex­is­tence, re­in­forc­ing an en­ti­tled at­ti­tude to sex, which can go as far as the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of rape.’ Or, in some in­stances, mur­der.

In 2014, El­liot Rodger, the 22-year-old son of a Hol­ly­wood film-maker, went on a stab­bing and shoot­ing spree killing six peo­ple in the col­lege town Isla Vista in Cal­i­for­nia, be­fore turn­ing the gun on him­self. A day ear­lier, he sat in his car and recorded a video in which he de­scribed his plan to tar­get the ‘hottest’ soror­ity house, Al­pha Phi. ‘For the last eight years of my life, ever since I hit pu­berty, I’ve been forced to endure an ex­is­tence of lone­li­ness, re­jec­tion and un­ful­filled de­sires all be­cause girls have never been at­tracted to me,’ he said. ‘Girls gave their af­fec­tion, and sex and love to other men but never to me… I’ve never even kissed a girl… It has been very tor­tur­ous… It’s not fair, you girls have never been at­tracted to me… I will pun­ish you for it.’

The pre­vi­ous year Rodger had dis­cov­ered a fo­rum called Pua­ which he de­scribed as ‘a fo­rum full of men who are starved of sex, just like me’. He never used the word ‘in­cel’ – at the time few hubs purely for in­cels ex­isted – but he left be­hind a 100,000-word ‘man­i­festo’, and four years on, Rodger’s name con­tin­ues to crop up on in­cel fo­rums reg­u­larly. ‘No won­der El­liot Rodger did what he did. Women should ap­proach me, and they should show a mod­icum of em­pa­thy and re­spect,’ wrote one user re­cently on In­ ‘He brought light to the hi­er­ar­chy in our so­ci­ety. Un­like man­i­festos that aren’t backed up by so­ci­ety’s ac­tions, El­liot’s were in some way cred­i­ble,’ agreed an­other. More trou­bling still, some in­cels note that Rodger gained some fe­male at­ten­tion af­ter his at­tack. ‘At least in­cels have a chance [of get­ting no­ticed by women] if they achieve a good kill count.’

Then, on 23 April this year, 25-year-old Alek Mi­nas­sian, a re­cent grad­u­ate and soft­ware de­vel­oper, hired a white Chevro­let van and drove it into lunch-go­ers in Toronto, killing 10 peo­ple and wound­ing 16 oth­ers. He was ar­rested and charged with 10 counts of mur­der and 13 ac­counts of at­tempted mur­der, and is cur­rently await­ing trial. Min­utes be­fore the at­tack, he posted on his pub­lic Facebook wall: ‘The In­cel Re­bel­lion has al­ready be­gun! We will over­throw all the Chads and Sta­cys [sex­u­ally

Many in­cels ex­press long­ing for fe­males, but a sense of re­jec­tion of­ten turns that de­sire to ha­tred of women

suc­cess­ful men and women]! All hail the Supreme Gen­tle­man El­liot Rodger!’ The in­ter­net’s largest in­cel hub, Braincels, re­sponded by declar­ing it did not ‘sup­port, en­cour­age, or glorify any vi­o­lence or phys­i­cal harm, or those who com­mit such crimes’. But three months later its mem­ber­ship had tripled.

Over the last four years the on­line in­cel move­ment has boomed. Google searches for the term ‘in­cel’ have risen 100 fold, and there has been a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in peo­ple search­ing for other words in the in­cel dic­tionary such as ‘Black­pill’ – the term for in­cels’ over­ar­ch­ing be­lief that women are shal­low and only sleep with at­trac­tive men.

The largest in­cel fo­rum on the dis­cus­sion web­site Red­dit grew from just 11 mem­bers in 2014 to 42,000 mem­bers by the time it was banned in 2017. It was re­placed on the site by Braincels, which now has 35,000 sub­scribers, while In­ has roughly 7,000 mem­bers. Most are young men.

As in­cels cor­re­spond anony­mously, it’s im­pos­si­ble to iden­tify them, but an in­ter­nal sur­vey of 300 mem­bers on In­ found that half are white and most are in their teens and 20s – just 9.9 per cent are over 30. The same sur­vey showed that 40 per cent live in Europe. Based on that sur­vey, Davey roughly es­ti­mates, that the num­ber of in­cels in the UK could be be­tween 1,000 and 2,000.

Pre­dictably, in­cels are highly se­cre­tive – many fre­quent the web­sites un­be­known to friends, col­leagues and fam­ily. James’s fam­ily don’t know he is an in­cel, and he doesn’t talk to his mother about girls or re­la­tion­ships. One 30-year-old in­cel, who lives in Hamp­shire and works in the tech sec­tor, ini­tially agreed to speak to me in per­son on the con­di­tion of strict anonymity, but can­celled the in­ter­view when he dis­cov­ered an ar­ti­cle I had ‘liked’ on Twit­ter about the #Metoo move­ment. ‘I gen­uinely hate women,’ one of his on­line posts reads. ‘Women ex­ist in a bizarre and un­nat­u­ral po­si­tion within Western so­ci­ety where their view­points are given equal weight­ing with male opin­ions. This is not ten­able and will lead to so­ci­etal col­lapse.’

Eigh­teen-year-old Robert, from the West Mid­lands, also keeps his on­line life a se­cret. ‘My fam­ily doesn’t know as I feel too ashamed to ad­mit that I can’t get a girl­friend,’ he says. His friends know he is lonely, but are unaware of the ex­tent. He de­scribes him­self as ‘ugly ob­vi­ously’ and he says he has mild autism, a stut­ter, low self-es­teem, de­pres­sion and so­cial anx­i­ety.

In Septem­ber 2017, he stum­bled upon an in­cel com­mu­nity on Red­dit. ‘Af­ter see­ing they were in the same boat as me, I joined. Al­though I was shocked by a few posts, I mainly saw they were lonely, de­pressed guys who can’t get a date, such as my­self… I’ve al­ready known why women kept re­ject­ing me, the in­cel com­mu­nity just pro­vided a place to vent my prob­lems.’

Al­though many on Braincels are teen boys like Robert, posts show some are older and have pro­fes­sional ca­reers.

Mar­cus can pin­point the ex­act mo­ment he re­alised he was an in­cel. Ten years ago, the 41-year-old Amer­i­can was stand­ing in a queue be­hind teenage boys in a fast food restau­rant. ‘The thing I was shocked about was how sex­u­ally ac­tive they were, dis­cussing es­capades,’ he tells me over an on­line mes­sag­ing ser­vice, us­ing a pseu­do­nym. ‘One boy was com­plain­ing about how it was hard to find space in his par­ents’ house to have sex. I dis­tinctly re­mem­ber think­ing that this child had no in­come, no ca­reer, noth­ing re­ally go­ing for him out of the or­di­nary, yet here he was with a happy girl­friend who liked him enough that she was will­ing to put up with all sorts of prob­lems. And, then I thought, “Has any­one wanted me so badly?”’

Out­wardly, Mar­cus’s in­cel sta­tus isn’t ap­par­ent. Now re­tired, he has served in the air force and worked as a tech­nol­o­gist in the de­fence in­dus­try and owns his own prop­erty near ‘a ma­jor met­ro­pol­i­tan’ city. Re­cently he’s tried to get into hob­bies – square danc­ing, paint­ing, some classes at com­mu­nity col­lege, yet he has never had any in­ti­mate or sex­ual ex­pe­ri­ences.

‘I have noth­ing of in­ter­est to of­fer to a woman,’ he says. ‘I am nei­ther at­trac­tive, nor funny, nor do I kin­dle any sort of spark.’ He de­scribes him­self as 5ft 8in, Mid­dle Eastern, ‘heav­ily bald­ing’ and with an un­kempt beard. ‘The most a woman could do with some­one like me is use up my mea­gre re­sources and toss me aside. And maybe out of pride, or stub­born­ness, or just fool­har­di­ness, I refuse to stoop to that level.’

Be­cause he came to on­line in­cel spa­ces as a grown man, Mar­cus says his opin­ions on women haven’t changed. ‘I don’t hate women nor am I a rag­ing misog­y­nist, but “alien” is prob­a­bly the best way I would de­scribe women,’ he says, ex­plain­ing that he feels greater em­pa­thy with his cats than most women he meets. Yet Mar­cus does say that what he sees on­line of­ten makes him de­pressed. ‘A few days ago, I saw some am­a­teur pornog­ra­phy on Braincels, where a young lady was en­joy­ing her­self with her part­ner, and I sim­ply could not deal with it,’ he says. ‘I ended up clos­ing the PC and just curled up on the sofa for al­most a week.’

Like Mar­cus, not all in­cels are vi­o­lent. ‘If I had one wish, it would be for blow job. But I wouldn’t risk any­thing for it,’ says James. He says that he rarely fre­quents in­cel cha­t­rooms, pre­fer­ring to ‘in­ter­nalise’ his hate, and he also de­scribes how deeply he loves his mother, the only woman in his life. ‘I can’t ever imag­ine do­ing any­thing to hurt her.’ But later he adds, ‘It is not com­pli­cated to un­der­stand how dis­gust­ing, misog­y­nis­tic thoughts about rape come about – that is not a con­fus­ing thing.’

Davey says that those who aren’t an­gry may risk be­com­ing so when they get drawn into misog­y­nis­tic on­line spa­ces known as the ‘manosphere’. ‘Peo­ple suf­fer from an is­sue and go into

A rough es­ti­mate gives the num­ber of in­cels in the UK as be­tween 1,000 and 2,000

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