Being an incel is the result of complex factors such as social isolation, past trauma, societal pressures, or mental health issues.
What is an incel.

In the recent decade, the word "incel" has been thrown around, gaining more attention from younger generations. Often associated with online communities, incel groups have been called out for being radical, sexually violent, and having questionable misogynistic ideologies.

Is this the case? The short answer is no.

With all the misconceptions stirring around the internet, it's important to get the facts straight.

In this article:

Note: Read the whole article or scroll down to the KEY TAKEAWAYS section at the end of this article for a short summary.

What Is an Incel?

It refers to a person who expresses no romantic or sexual desire for a woman.

In simplest terms, incel is a slang word to abbreviate "involuntary celibacy".

It refers to a person who expresses no romantic or sexual desire for a woman.

Often, incels are known to have hostile or aggressive views towards both women and men who sexually engage with women. However, this does not appropriately classify everyone in this community.

How It All Started

The term "incel" dates back to 1997 when a sexually frustrated female named Alana created a website to address her challenges in the dating world. As she came to discover, she was not alone in these struggles. Alana's Involuntary Celibacy Project marked the first of its kind, inspiring thousands of people to join the community, sparking the incel movement.

Interestingly, this original incel community was quite diverse, encompassing individuals of different ages, genders, and sexual orientations.

When Alana handed the reins down to other members to take over, incel communities began to shift to becoming a male-dominated group that "shunned" all our women, blaming them for their sexual frustrations.

The Incel Ideology

The incel ideology is quite fluid and may change depending on who you speak to. For example, specific online subculture communities characterize incel culture as being violent, aggressive, and misogynistic.

While not everyone subscribes to this singular incel identity, the term has gained a negative connotation from these extreme views.

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5 Common Misconceptions about Incels

It's important to understand that not everyone within an Incel community subscribes to the same beliefs and values.

There are a ton of misconceptions that have stemmed from the nuanced nature of Incel ideologies.

Unfortunately, many misconceptions are incredibly harmful and may tarnish the name entirely. We are here to dispel some of the common misconceptions about Incels in the hopes of fostering understanding, compassion, and support for this group.

1. Misinterpreting the term "Incel" for something else

Incel is often misinterpreted as being a bad or violent person. Although involuntary celibacy is understood as having no choice in practicing sexual abstinence, Incel is reduced to people holding extremist views or those that engage in harmful behavior.

It's important to understand that not everyone within an Incel community subscribes to the same beliefs and values. Though there are violent Incels who fall into the Incel rebellion category, others may be more sexually selective and are continuously learning to navigate their desires.

2. All Incels are violent individuals

Another common misconception is that all Incels are violent and may pose a threat to the community. As mentioned, Incel ideologies vary pretty substantially, so it's best to avoid generalizing a community as a whole based on the actions of a few.

Research has noted that there is often more attention directed to the Incel violence and sexual aggression that takes place in Incel forums, as many who have written have followed through with attacks.

With this, we overlook the experiences and challenges faced by Incels who do not engage in such behavior. That is why there is such a thing as an "Incel subculture".

3. Only men can be Incels

As you might remember from the history of Incels, the community itself was invented by a woman!

While the group has shifted to include primarily heterosexual men, women may also experience involuntary celibacy, along with many of the same emotional struggles and societal pressures.

4. Being an Incel is a voluntary choice

As the name describes, "involuntary celibacy" implies a lack of choice in one's celibate state.

It's important to recognize that humans desire connection, both on an emotional and physical level.

Members of the Incel community rarely want to be a part of this group. They would instead prefer to have fulfilling romantic and sexual relationships.

However, there is a barrier they are facing that is keeping them from this.

5. Incels are all misogynists

Although Incel communities are infamously popularized for their misogynistic views, including some Men's Rights Activists, assuming that all Incels hold these same ideologies oversimplifies the complex experiences and challenges faced within the group.

Both men and women who identify as Incels are grappling with a range of personal challenges that extend beyond gender dynamics.

Not all Incels blame women for these complications, and instead, are looking to seek support to connect, learn self-compassion, and discover a sense of normalcy in their lives.

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What Causes Involuntary Celibacy?

Ultimately, having a strong aversion to romantic or sexual relations is shaped by a complex interplay of influences.

Several contributing factors cause one to identify as an Incel.

Some common causes include:

  • Social anxiety
  • Decreased self-confidence
  • Past traumas
  • Mental health conditions, such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Societal or cultural pressures/expectations
  • Limited social circles

Ultimately, having a strong aversion to romantic or sexual relations is shaped by a complex interplay of influences.

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Health Repercussions and Support

Individuals struggling with relational intimacy may have underlying problems that have forced them into this lifestyle.

Often, when these individuals utilize online platforms to seek support, they instead find themselves exposed to increasingly extreme beliefs and attitudes related to violence, misogyny, and even suicide.

Recognizing our grievances and needs is an essential step toward healing. For example, individuals who have lost the desire for romantic or sexual connection may feel pressured by society to belong, to feel normal or secure, and even to avoid being ostracized.

Research notes that this can profoundly impact our mental health through:

  • Isolation
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Self-critical rumination
  • Sexual entitlement
  • Loss of secure attachment

Seeking professional support is often necessary to alleviate these symptoms, heal from past trauma or challenges, and rediscover a healthier and more fulfilling approach to relationships.

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FAQs

What does Incel mean?

An Incel is an individual, typically male, who has never experienced sexual attraction to women. They are involuntarily celibate.

What is an Incel boyfriend?

An "Incel boyfriend" is someone who is in a romantic relationship with another person while also identifying as being involuntarily celibate.

They claim to be unable to feel romantic or sexual feelings or desires for their partner.

Is being an Incel a personal choice?

Self-identified Incels do not immerse themselves in this community by choice. Often, becoming involuntarily celibate is the result of complex factors such as social isolation, past trauma, societal pressures, or mental health issues.

What drives individuals to join or identify with Incel communities?

Access to online forums is a great way to meet like-minded people who share your interests (or disinterests). An Incel community can help you understand the motivations and challenges behind your identifications, offering support to those who may be struggling.

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Incels have become a popularized term used to describe individuals, often men, who do not desire romantic or sexual relations
  • Incel communities have become more radical in their beliefs, causing people to assume they are all violent, sexually aggressive, or hateful of women
  • Many Incels face social isolation, low self-esteem, and mental health struggles, often needing some form of support
  • If you're struggling with these symptoms, it's important to reach out for professional help
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Medical Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to give medical advice or substitute for the medical advice of a physician.

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