Home Male Psychology Misogynist Incels’ Radicalisation and Violence Pose a Growing Threat, Says New Study

Misogynist Incels’ Radicalisation and Violence Pose a Growing Threat, Says New Study

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In a comprehensive review published in the journal Crime Media Culture, the rising prominence of misogynist incels within academic, professional, and mainstream discourses is examined. This critical analysis, based on a systematic review of 47 studies, offers a nuanced understanding of the current directions in incel-focused research. It examines the community’s misogynistic ideologies, the complexities of incel masculinity, and the radicalisation pathways that pose a growing threat.

The term “incel“, a portmanteau of “involuntary celibate,” describes individuals, predominantly men, who struggle to find romantic or sexual partners despite their desire for such relationships. Originally coined in the 1990s by a queer Canadian woman to foster a supportive community for people facing difficulties in their dating lives, the term has since evolved. Today, it is closely associated with misogyny, male supremacism, and, in some cases, violence.

Misogyny and violence in incel communities

The review identifies three primary themes in the current incel-focused literature: incels as oppressors, incels as oppressed, and incels as threats . The “incels as oppressors” theme highlights the community’s use of misogynistic language and ideologies that dehumanise women. The “black pill” philosophy, a nihilistic worldview that emphasises the futility of self-improvement and the unchangeable nature of one’s social and romantic failures, underpins much of this misogynistic discourse. This ideology asserts that women will always choose the most attractive men, leaving “lower-tier” men, or incels, without partners. This belief system justifies the dehumanisation and objectification of women, often framing them as inherently deceitful, shallow, and responsible for incels’ suffering .

Research within the reviewed studies consistently points to the presence of violent and hateful language directed towards women in incel forums. This language serves to legitimise and normalise calls for violence against women. For instance, terms like “Stacy” and “Becky” are used to objectify and degrade women who reject incels’ advances, further entrenching misogynistic attitudes within the community .

The complexity of incel masculinity

The review also explores the complexities of incel masculinity, presenting incels not only as oppressors but also as individuals grappling with their own sense of marginalisation and victimhood. Many incels experience hopelessness and resentment as a result of feeling unfairly oppressed by societal norms of masculinity and attractiveness.

It highlights the concept of hybrid masculinities within incel communities, where elements of traditional hegemonic masculinity (such as dominance and aggression) are combined with traits associated with marginalised masculinities (such as intelligence and technological prowess). This blend allows incels to create a unique identity that both opposes and aspires to traditional masculine ideals .

Radicalisation and the threat of violence

A significant portion of the reviewed literature focuses on the radicalisation pathways within the incel community and the potential for violence. The echo chamber effect of incel forums, where participation is restricted to self-identified incels and moderated by community members, fosters a one-sided and increasingly extreme worldview. This environment can accelerate the radicalisation of its members, transforming personal grievances into broader ideological commitments to misogyny and violence .

High-profile cases of incel-related violence, such as the 2014 Isla Vista killings by Elliot Rodger and the 2018 Toronto van attack by Alek Minassian, have drawn attention to the dangerous potential of radicalised incels. Both attackers left behind manifestos expressing their hatred for women and their desire to punish society for their perceived injustices. These incidents underscore the lethal potential of incel ideologies when combined with personal grievances and a sense of entitlement to violence.

While significant strides have been made in understanding the misogynistic and violent aspects of the incel community, the research points out notable gaps in the literature. One critical area needing further exploration is the intersectionality of incel experiences, particularly how misogynistic incels’ language targets women and men along multiple axes of oppression, including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability status. Addressing these intersectional dimensions could provide a more comprehensive understanding of the diverse experiences within the incel community and the various forms of harm it perpetuates .

There is a call for more research into non-English-speaking incel communities and the global dimensions of the incel phenomenon. Studies focusing on incel forums in countries like Russia, France, and Italy reveal differences in how inceldom is discussed and experienced, suggesting that cultural contexts significantly shape the incel identity and ideology .

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