“If we can’t solve our problems we must DESTROY our problems…One day incels will realise their true strength and numbers, and will overthrow this oppressive feminist system. Start envisioning a world where WOMEN FEAR YOU.”
– Elliot Rodger, Isla Vista Terrorist
With the statement above, Elliot Rodger officially declared his war on women before launching a murder spree around Isla Vista, California in 2014. This event brought national attention to the Involuntary Celibacy movement , also known as ‘Incel’, that had largely existed online until this moment. The incel community originated in the 1990s as a support group for those who lacked romantic and sexual success, but once the support groups migrated online, it did not take long for some of these groups to manifest into an online ecosystem of virulent misogyny and male supremacy.
Today, the Incel movement is far-reaching and diverse, motivating self-proclaimed incels across North America and Europe to launch their own violent attacks in retribution for their perceived romantic and sexual rejections. However, beyond their misogynistic motivations, these attacks were in large part sparked by the accelerationist rhetoric that exists within the Incel movement. Whereas the incel identity is determined by the involuntary celibacy that has been imposed upon them and their hatred for women, the Incel movement is more broadly determined by their belief that women and liberals are launching a war against men. Despite their claims of being in this war involuntarily, a concerning amount of incels agree that the only solution is violence. This Insight will focus on exploring the justification the Incel narrative purports that leads incels to support and engage in accelerationist violence.
The quotes provided are gathered from incel channels, comments sections, and forums that will remain anonymous as to not promote these sites or users.
The Allure of the Incel Movement
“In a society that hates on males in nearly all aspects of life, why do people actually seem shocked. The hatred is clearly visible in Education, the Courts, in Media and employment. The disgusting way boys are treated in education is truly disgusting. Some men get strong and walk away from this overt hatred, other men struggle.”
The difference between the Incel movement and typical misogyny is that incels have framed their misogynistic worldview through the lens of there being an existential sexual crisis against men and the conspiracy to intentionally deny men access to women. In the last decade, men have flocked to the Incel movement as a reaction to growing progressivism in the West and due to feelings that men now serve as society’s scapegoat. To incels, masculinity, traditional gender roles, and biological male supremacy are what liberals and women are launching large-scale attacks against. To accelerationists, particularly the neo-fascist currents of accelerationism, these are familiar themes championed by historic figures like Julius Evola and contemporary figures like Jack Donovan.
Incels are ruled by their sense of failure with women and entitlement to sex, love, and marriage. Incels attribute their failure with women in particular to two things, the first being the theory of female hypergamy, and the second being the rise of feminism. Female hypergamy claims that women are evolutionarily predetermined to be more sexually selective and marry up when choosing a mate, and otherwise will choose to remain single over being with undesirable men. It is these undesirable men who become involuntarily celibate and are therefore denied their supposed given rights to sex, love, and marriage. It is this idea that sets the foundation of incels’ dehumanisation of women, which in turn leads to their justification of violence against them as well. According to Incel ideology, womens’ hypergamous nature used to be checked by traditional societal structures where women were given few opportunities outside of marriage and motherhood. However, with the rise of the feminist movement, women have been given the right to vote, seek higher education, work, and become homeowners without a man. In other words, women have gained autonomy and are no longer required to marry or date incels, thereby forcing celibacy onto incels and affecting the sanctity of the nuclear family.
While the #MeToo movement created a space for victims of sexual assault and harassment to come forward, it also led to a counterreaction by some men who believe women are falsely accusing men of these crimes. This sentiment is matched by many far-right extremists in the so-called manosphere, with Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes and Wolves of Vinland co-founder Paul Waggener serving as prime examples. Incel philosophy commonly purports that women are highly irrational and erratic, and within the context of sexual assault and harassment claims, incels often argue that women are highly emotional and unable to control their sexual desires. Incels believe that women acted on these desires and later regretted it, causing them to lie to save face. This reinforces incels’ beliefs that womens’ innate nature makes them dangerous and corrupt, and thus why they must be controlled by a patriarchal society. The most concerning argument used in these situations is that women, such as the women who spoke out against notorious figures such as Harvey Weinstein and Andrew Cuomo, made these allegations in order to abuse the system, gain fame, advance their careers, or take out male politicians who fight for men’s rights. These claims ultimately feed into the longstanding Incel belief that men serve as society’s perpetual scapegoat and women either instinctually take out men or work collectively to strategically abuse them.
An essential element in Incel rhetoric is that society is now gynocentric, meaning that it exclusively concentrates on women and their point of view. Incels claim that this corruption of society started when ‘beta’ men allowed for women to have more rights in an effort to gain female attention and receive sexual favors. This type of wooing is said to have gone too far, and now has irrevocably shifted the gender balance dynamics against men. This narrative that we live in a corrupt, gynocentric society is fundamental in the strategic construction of there being an existential threat against men, which should be considered extremely dangerous. This is a view synonymous with philosophy espoused by Julius Evola, a deeply influential voice in neo-fascist accelerationist communities. The framing of an enemy as posing an existential threat is replicated in other extremist milieus that often lead to violent action against vulnerable groups, such as Jews and immigrants. For example, the promotion of The Great Replacement theory, or white genocide, provides justification of white violence in the name of self-defense. This rationalisation is applicable to incels’ perception of women and progressives involvement in the decimation of masculinity.
A War on Men
“The time is coming when men will have to act as men. Not as beta male followers, but as alpha male leaders. This society isn’t at the tipping point, it is well past it. Civil discourse is gone. Societal stability in the family is gone. Traditional gender roles are gone. If one studies history, this type of behavior in a society inevitably goes to a very dark place. Buckle up men. Things are about to get real as the saying goes.”
Beyond playing the scapegoat, a large number of incels are moving towards the belief that women and liberals are abusing the system with the ultimate goal of enslaving men. Dystopian narratives proliferate on incel channels and forums, with men claiming that there will soon be a ‘Bachelor Tax’ that unmarried men will have to pay, specifically targeting incels who cannot attain marriage in an effort to eradicate them. Incels have also peddled scenarios of a feministic future where men will be raped for reproduction, forced into unwanted marriages, and otherwise abused. This rhetoric has led towards some incels becoming ‘preppers’ and going off the grid in order to escape this future, or others claiming they should fight back by blowing up sperm banks, self-castrating, committing suicide, or accelerating the destruction of society.
The narrative is clear: women and progressives are the enemy who are engaged in a war against men and the ideals that they hold dear. At best, men are denied what they believe they are entitled to, such as sex and love, and at worst they are enslaved, abused, and deposed of all rights. Fitting with far-right sentiments, incels believe that there is no political solution, and that the media and education are complicit in these endeavors, hence why there is no incel representation. Ultimately, these narratives are crafted to motivate incels towards accelerationism. Prior to the popularisation of accelerationism, incels peddled the phrase ‘cope or rope’, meaning suffer as an incel for life or commit suicide. Now, with accelerationism on the table, a subset of incels want to accelerate the collapse of society to restore the gender balance and destroy the destructive forces of progressivism and feminism.
Misogyny’s Mobilisation to Violence
“Civilization is collapsing and isn’t worth saving at this point, only rebuilding. Bring on the accelerationism. I’m voting this time for the worst Democrats that I can find. And if you Republicans don’t like that, you should have used your second amendment rights to stop them from stealing the election. You had your chance to fix things, a million strong at the capitol, the traitors in your hands, and you just walked away. You get what you f**** deserve.”
Incels who commit heinous acts of violence become martyrs, or ‘Saints’, within the community. Incel violence is promoted and glorified on incel channels and forums, with many pushing other online users to “Go ER” (commit a murder-suicide as Elliot Rodger did in Isla Vista). Alek Minassian, who murdered ten people in 2018, was inspired by Elliot Rodger, posting on Facebook, “The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger.” That same year, Scott Beierle targeted a yoga studio, shooting six women and killing two before ending his own life. In videos found after the attack, Beierle conveyed that he was also inspired by Elliot Rodger and felt as though he could relate to the same sentiments. In 2021, five people were killed in an attack in Plymouth, UK serving as one of the deadliest mass shootings in Britain in over a decade. The perpetrator, Jake Davison, was subscribed to incel channels and confessed that women had poorly treated him in the past, leading to this attack. In addition to incel attackers, incels also commend other mass killers who do not adhere to the incel ideology. Stephen Paddock, who killed 58 people in Las Vegas October 2017, is often applauded by incels for his work in taking out ‘normies’.
Whereas many extremists do not identify as an incel, many of them support facets of the Incel movement’s narrative, causing it to bleed into other spaces. A villianisation of feminism and modernity in general are staples in the far-right accelerationist community. The messaging to motivate incels towards violence is very similar to what is preached in far-right extremism. For adherents of far-right and incel ideology, accelerationist violence serves as a way to restore their masculinity. Incel culture surrounds the idea that they are emasculated betas and have had their masculinity stolen from them from alpha men and feminists. In the manner of WSE, recruiters maintain the position that men should join them if they want to “feel like a real man.” Through violent action, both milieus are retrieving what they feel they lost and are reconnecting with what they are supposed to be, setting them on the path to be heroes, either for men or the white race as a whole. To call men to restore masculinity is an implicit call to action, seeing as their preferred and possibly only approach is through violence.
Incels’ glorification of violence mixed with the growing belief that society is irreparably corrupt due to the influence of feminism motivates the accelerationist idea that incels must destroy society in order to rebuild it in their image. Incel accelerationists are one of many extremism currents in the insurrectionary accelerationist and anti-modernity fight using misogynistic frameworks and narratives to return society to a traditional state. Fantasies of keeping women uneducated, revoking their right to vote, and even legalising rape are some of the changes incel adherents seek. Despite law enforcement’s recent fixation on the incel community following more recent attacks, the nexus between incels and accelerationism (particularly how incel narratives have spread beyond the Incel movement) continues to be neglected. This oversight leaves liberal societies exposed to a growing accelerationist threat.
Erica Barbarossa is the Research Lead for the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism (CTEC).