Research Proposal: Incel Community Ideologies and Mental Health

Published: 2021/11/18
Number of words: 1960

The internet is a vast network hosting many platforms that appeal to related people worldwide (Preston et al. 68). The benefit has allowed the forums and websites to create virtual communities with unique ideologies and sub-cultures, such as the Incel Community, an abbreviation of “involuntary celibate” (Speckhard et al. 435). “Involuntary celibate” is used to describe men affiliated with the Incel community and struggle to be intimate with people of their opposite gender. Incel communities’ members are exclusive and closely tied; they only acknowledge men and ideologies related to their own (Witt 676). Members of the community are characterized as men who blame women for their celibacy – in that, they do not engage in intimate relationships or sexual intercourse with women, even though they having the desire. Incels’ presence on the internet is strong and comprises men from across the world. It emerged purposely to promote anti-feminist beliefs and the importance of protecting men’s rights, especially those focused on parenting decisions and divorce. Besides the deeply-rooted misogyny permeating the forums, the community is identified for its hate and extremism. In multiple aspects, their belief systems are related to deviant subcultures as they create or oppose societal norms. The extremism or ideologically focused violence is mainly targeted to religious and minority groups in far-right radical groups. Alek Minassian and Elliot Rodger are popular serial killers who related their violent actions with the ideologies of Incel Community manifest hate and violence.

The roots of the Incel movement can be traced back to the 1990s, with the involuntary celibate community adopting its name from a website developed in 1997 by a young female student at Carleton University in Canada (Baele et al. 2). The website was named Alana’s Involuntary Celibacy. Among other modern internet platforms, the site aimed to provide individuals with a channel to express their frustrations on dating and sexuality while providing rehabilitation and support for romantically estranged people. According to Alana, many lonely people were unsure how to start dating because they lacked the social skills to help them achieve romantic relationships. Thus, she empathized with them as she had been through a similar situation. The first sites admitted both females and males, as “involuntary celibate” was simply a person who had not had sex for a while, although they had tried. However, the internet advanced in the twenty-first century, while it simultaneously developed a unique culture commonly reflected by incels. Some of the most popular incel forums include 4chan, developed in 2003, and Reddit, created in 2005. The sites promoted extremist declamations to acquire more visibility. Despite that, incel forums spread across the internet instead confined to those main platforms, they nevertheless began to adopt related edgy and sometimes extremist sentiment. Subsequently, there was a feedback loop where contemptible statements were aimed to create an escalatory spiral of responses and reactions that disguised the true aggressiveness – trolling. The two different forms of incel digital forums seem to have existed not more than a decade ago. One focused on supporting those frustrated or unable to establish romantic relationships, as the other became increasingly hostile and militant to women, posting offensive biologically deterministic posts and fostering open violence. The first exists in “IncelSupport”, a website, although the more extreme elements of the virtual community started to gravitate to another site, “LoveShy”, created in 2003. The messaging and rhetoric grew highly strident, and most of the members acknowledged mass killers and encouraged other forum members to commit murder. Some Incel groups and the content shared achieve negative attention by the public, as they are considered extremist groups with racist and misogynistic attitudes.

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A prominent attribute of the ideologies held by Incel men is the attitude of women and men and the relationship between them. Incel community members consider themselves a physically uninvited in-group persevering sexual exclusion, introduced to them by an external group of physically attractive women and men. Their ideology stalks from the ideology that feminism overrules western society; the freedom of choice for women in mating, making them choose only men of great looks and high status. The Incel men identify the men as alpha-males – masculine, handsome men, appealing to the opposite sex and effective in mating. Contrarily, “beta-males” are men low in status and looks, thus considered ineffective in mating. Incels believe that alpha-males outclass the beta-males because the alpha-males have a phenotypic attribute.

The Incel culture has adverse effects on mental health and suicide due to the affiliated personality profile. The notion of frustration with an individual’s sexual or romantic circumstances results in “love shyness” and self-rejection. According to Labbaf (28), incels have self-hatred and self-pity, while those who seek answers consider themselves undesirable or inadequate. Incels can be considered obsessively admiring themselves on pictures and constantly reminding themselves that they are unacceptable and physically inferior. They mostly have a negative notion that they cannot evade their place in society and consider themselves the lowest. Mostly, incels report emotional stress or long-lasting anxiety and depression. Accordingly, most of them end up considering suicide as most of their issues are not well-understood. Suicide rates increased by 35 percent between 1997 – the time Incels emerged – 2018, although there is still a gender gap between women and men according to the lifetime suicide risk.

According to Hoffman et al. (567), young men in their transition to adulthood are usually at the highest risk, and their suicide rate is usually 3.7 percent higher than that of females. Scholars identified that access to suicidal methods or social norms could explain how suicide differs between men and women. Gender differences are the lethality theory that identifies the differences in adopted used. Scaptura et al. (279) identified that incels prefer drugs, exanguination, and overdose as suicide approaches used for asphyxia and hanging. These seem to have an actual, negative effect on the Incel population on society. Like the Elliot Rodger attacks that Incels modeled, their several attacks, suicide, and murders associated with incels. Besides the violence, Incels dehumanizes women using unfavorable speech and appears to promote aggression and hostility, risk factors for anxiety and depression. In contrast, their posts often present a perspective of a community of individuals who are depressed and lonely and consider themselves isolated from society, and participate in self-loathing. Collectively considered, Incels appear to be a group that presents a threat to themselves and society.

Personality can be considered and evaluated in several approaches. One approach is using the Big Five personality traits, which captures personality in the constructs of neuroticism, openness to experience, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and extraversion. An extrovert is more assertive, warm, outgoing, sociable, friendly, and upbeat. However, neuroticism encapsulates emotional stability, turmoil, and distress. Openness to experience involves being curious about the world and related to being imaginative and being able to accustom personal emotions. Agreeable individuals have empathy and respect for others. Lastly, conscientiousness is concerned with the tendency to remain determined and organized and mostly focus on success and plans.

Regardless of the insufficient knowledge and research about the Incel’s personality, there are various descriptions relating to their feelings and moods alongside the research of men’s personality with misogynistic or prejudiced attitudes that can be adopted to infer the personality attributes of Incels. Incels are often reported to feel isolated without friends, and lonely. Those who are lonely are mostly low in extraversion and seem to avoid social interactions, which is an attribute of low extraversion. Extraversion projects happiness, while Incels tend to be depressed and unhappy, suggesting lower extraversion scores. The negative personality possessed by Incels is associated with low extraversion. Subsequently, it can be considered that Incels have lower extraversion compared to the non-Incel population.

Neuroticism also seems to be related to the attributes and attitudes of Incels. High neuroticism scores for Incels are suggested that neuroticism negatively affects peer acceptance while positively projecting loneliness. Loneliness is presented by anxiety and distress, concepts related to neuroticism. Subsequently, loneliness is associated with self-derogating characteristics and negative self-perception. People with high neuroticism tend to write much about body-related subjects in their texts. Moreover, 9999 identified a positive correlation between men’s misogyny and neuroticism. Accordingly, it is hypothesized that Incels have high neuroticism compared to the general population.

Agreeableness is also related to loneliness. When evaluating the language used in texts, inclusiveness is associated with high agreeableness. Since Incels are lonely, they tend to be low on agreeableness. When considering a prejudiced individual’s personality, it has a negative correlation with agreeableness. Equally, agreeableness is negatively related to sexism. Accordingly, it can be projected that Incels tend to have lower agreeableness. Additionally, conscientiousness seems to be significantly related to the attitudes and characteristics of Incels. Low conscientiousness seems to be related to low body image. When exploring the language in written texts used by Incels, those with conscientiousness seem to write more importantly more about their work and accomplishments, offering the interpretation that Incels, who consider themselves as low in wealth and status, and are low in this attribute. According to the findings, Incels are low on conscientiousness than non-Incels.

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Furthermore, Incels have a negatively related relationship with openness. A similar connection is established between sexism and openness. Subsequently, Incels have low openness to experience than non-Incels. Based on the identified personality analysis, there is a given personality profile that presents the Incel community. It is important to assume that people who fit in the personality profile could be highly active in the Incel community. Currently, activity is hypothesized to read posts on their websites or forums or develop posts because the Incel community is virtual. Accordingly, the closer the individual’s personality profile fits the identified predictions, the more engaged and he/she would be in the Incel community based on the identified posts or developing the posts themselves.

Accordingly, I propose that the Incel Community is a platform that perpetuates a toxic perception of women and the entire society, and their pervasive nature of loneliness and self-loathing is encouraged and well-enforced among its members that it promotes unhealthy mentalities among the men. By understanding and elaborating the Incels’ online perspectives combined with ample research on their mental health and history, I would identify their harmful impacts on mental health and find potential approaches to remedy them.

Working Bibliography

Baele, Stephane J., Lewys Brace, and Travis G. Coan. “From “Incel” to “Saint”: Analyzing the violent worldview behind the 2018 Toronto attack.” Terrorism and Political Violence (2019): 1-25.

Hoffman, Bruce, Jacob Ware, and Ezra Shapiro. “Assessing the threat of incel violence.” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 43.7 (2020): 565-587.

Labbaf, Farshad. “United by rage, self-loathing, and male supremacy: the rise of the incel community.” INvoke 5 (2019).

Preston, Kayla, Michael Halpin, and Finlay Maguire. “The Black Pill: New Technology and the Male Supremacy of Involuntarily Celibate Men.” Men and Masculinities (2021): 1097184X211017954.

Scaptura, Maria N., and Kaitlin M. Boyle. “Masculinity threat,“incel” traits, and violent fantasies among heterosexual men in the United States.” Feminist criminology 15.3 (2020): 278-298.

Speckhard, Anne, et al. “Involuntary Celibates’ Experiences of and Grievance over Sexual Exclusion and the Potential Threat of Violence Among Those Active in an Online Incel Forum.” Journal of Strategic Security 14.2 (2021): 5.

Witt, Taisto. “‘If i cannot have it, i will do everything i can to destroy it.’the canonization of Elliot Rodger:‘Incel’masculinities, secular sainthood, and justifications of ideological violence.” Social Identities 26.5 (2020): 675-689.

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