Incels. By now, most of us have heard about them. Following the 2014 Isla Vista killings by Eliot Rodger, and the discovery of his manifesto wherein he outlines his extremely misogynistic views, the world was suddenly confronted with an ideology of which they had, until then, very little knowledge of. Public scrutiny only increased after the Toronto van attack by Alek Minassian, who stated that the ‘incel rebellion had started’.
Now, a lot has been written about incels since then. Most of the writing has focused on their highly misogynistic views on women, and rightfully so: it is by far the most dominating feature in their movement, and certainly provides fertile grounds for a variety of analytical approaches. I could write entire essays on how they refer to women as ‘foids’ (female humanoids) and ‘holes’, or how they enjoy posting stories describing how they managed to inconvenience women in their daily lives.
But I would like to look at a different aspect of incels and their ideology, one that has seen relatively little coverage over the years: how race is viewed within incel circles.
Over the past few months I’ve closely followed a number of incel forums on the internet, though a few of these have been banned since then (like Incels.me). From this rudimentary research, I did some very curious discoveries, some of which were quite surprising.
For the most part I’ll assume readers have basic knowledge on incels, but for those who don’t I’ll give a very brief outline. ‘Incel’ is a portmanteau for ‘involuntary celibate’, referring to people who want to be sexually active but are not for a variety of reasons. However, incel in the context of contemporary discourse refers to a specific ideology on the internet which is practiced almost exclusively by males, and preaches a nihilistic outlook on life. They claim that sexual attraction is almost exclusively decided by looks, and that ‘ugly’ people like them never stood a chance to begin with. This theory is referred to them as the ‘black pill’, which they claim can be backed up with science. As they blame women for the existence of the black pill, the movement is primarily defined by its extreme misogyny.
That Men’s Right’s movements have become fertile breeding grounds for alt-right ideology is well known. Similar to how Steve Bannon used the Gamergate movement to create the foundations for the future alt-right, Men’s Right’s movements today have their feelings of anger and victimhood exploited by the alt-right to bring them into the fold.
Thus, when looking at incels, one might suspect this to be the same case. A group of angry young (often white) men who feel that they are disproportionately targeted in life? The ingredients are certainly there. But surprisingly, incels have proven a bit more complex than your average MRA movement when it comes to race.
At it’s core, ‘inceldom’ is open to all individuals, regardless of ethnicity. Throughout my wanderings online, I have encountered incels from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, though the biggest group by far remains white men. All incel forums care about is that you are someone who shares their world view, and who has not been sexually active (despite wanting to).
Well, that’s the theoretical part. In practice, things aren’t as straightforward.
To begin with, incels describe each other (and themselves) in terms that some might consider problematic. While white incels lack a specific tag, black incels (and black people in general) are called ‘Tyrone’, Asian incels are called ‘ricecels’, while incels with an Indian background are known as ‘currycels’. Considering these are terms used to describe members of their own in-group, it is clear that this is part of the self-deprecating style of humor incels like to employ (such as casually telling each other to ‘rope’ over minor inconveniences, i.e. hang themselves). However, the fact that these non-white individuals describe themselves in terms that obviously originate from a racist white Western perspective, can hint at the presence of internalized racism in this community. Especially when one considers the absence of such a racially loaded label for white incels.
Because of their stringent belief in the ‘scientific’ black pill, which espouses that looks are all that matter when it comes to sexual attraction, incels also believe in a strict, undeniable hierarchy in sexual attraction between races. Often times, Caucasians stand at the top of these lists; they believe white men to have an inherent advantage compared to other races when it comes to sexual attraction. According to them, women of all races would date white men; but the reverse, a white woman dating say, an Indian man, is much more rare.
From this arose yet another incel term: ‘Just be White’(JBW). They believe that simply being white gives one an inherent advantage when it comes to (sexual) relationships, though this view is somewhat controversial (likely due to the fact that a large number of incels are themselves white). In this, comparisons can be made with the concept of ‘white privilege’ found in social theory, though in this case they view it as an actual, tangible benefit, rather than the more abstract ways social justice groups utilize the term.
Thus, while the racist labels used to describe each other might be in good humor, there does exist a real belief in the inherent superiority or inferiority of certain races in the context of dating.
To understand the next point, we have to make a brief diversion to a particular term incel forums are prone to use: ‘suicide fuel’.
Suicide fuel refers to specific examples in everyday life that incels feel prove the soul-crushing reality of their situation. These anecdotes are thus ‘fuel’ or motivation to commit suicide. Examples of these can include seeing attractive women mocking short men, or seeing women in relationships with violently abusive men (the suggestion being that even abusive men are preferable to incels).
However, these forums also occasionally have ‘life fuels’, which, naturally, are anecdotes that show that those people incels believe to be unattractive can in fact have fulfilling relationships. Ostensibly a positive counterpart to the morbid suicide fuel, one cannot help but notice that a large number of these ‘life fuel’ posts show a male minority in a relationship with a white woman. The sheer possibility of dating a white woman as a minority is to them ‘fuel’ to continue on living; in other words, motivation to not commit suicide. More than anything, posts like these show how insidious the racist elements in incel ideology really are. Non-whites have been conditioned by their peers to perceive their own race as inherently inferior in looks, to the point where the ultimate goal for many of them is to have a relationship with a white woman. Similarly, they are often advised to just ‘settle’ for someone in their own race, and discard their dreams of dating a white woman altogether.
Incels also have an apparent obsession with cuckoldry. Unlike today’s alt-right, which uses the term as a blanket insult without any real meaning behind it, incels generally use it in it’s traditional context. Despite the fact that people consider ‘cuckold’ to be a racially neutral insult, its roots can be found in racist stereotypes. In popular culture, especially in porn, cuckoldry often has a racist element to it; it is generally a large black man who emasculates a timid white man by sleeping with his wife. It hearkens back to the racist colonial stereotype of the ‘black brute’, who was always on the prowl to violate white women. Wandering through incel forums, one repeatedly sees ‘memes’ concerning this subject.
Race is a very strange and often contradictory subject in incel circles. They use racist terminology, propagate racist stereotypes, and believe in racial superiority in the context of sexual attraction. However, this belief is to them more so rooted in what they believe to be actual hard science and data, rather than any real dislike for certain races. Indeed, there have been investigations that have shown that incels might not be too far off with their views on racial attraction when it comes to dating. For instance, black women and Asian men are routinely found at the lower ends of graphs that chart sexual attraction. The difference is that incels would blame this wholly on bodily features (and ignore the role men play in this process), even though there are a host of sociological and historical factors at play.
Thus, most of the racism in incel circles is internal and a by-product of their belief in the black pill, rather than a true hatred of other races. It is a hopeless resignation to what they perceive to be the undeniable truth of reality, and you can either accept it or live your life in blissful ignorance.
The danger of having their movement become a gateway for the alt-right like with some of the Men’s Right’s movements is perhaps less present in incel circles. While the presence of racial tension is at times certainly there, it is often counteracted by a vocal call for unity in the face of what they perceive to be a society set out to divide them.