How Many Bones Would You Break to Get Laid?
May 29, 2019 5:11 AM   Subscribe

 
If they aren't also reshaping their horrid presumptions of gender roles, I doubt the latter will improve much.
posted by Gelatin at 5:12 AM on May 29 [124 favorites]


The perfect storm of white male entitlement and toxic masculinity. Rejection sucks, yeah, and it's hard, but don't let it turn you into a nasty person.
posted by rikschell at 5:28 AM on May 29 [4 favorites]


Or getting treatment for their mental illness?
posted by iamck at 5:28 AM on May 29 [24 favorites]


Cosmetic surgery - for men???!!!
posted by Segundus at 5:30 AM on May 29 [37 favorites]


Body dysmorphia is painful and difficult, especially when it's... let's say part of a larger set of delusions.

See also 'jelqing'.
posted by box at 5:34 AM on May 29 [14 favorites]


If you can blame all your problems on your looks (or your pickup technique), you don’t have to think about the fact that your personality is a void. It’s hard not to think that some of these guys just have too much time on their hands to be able to spend so much sitting around on these forums and staring at their selfies.
posted by sallybrown at 5:38 AM on May 29 [17 favorites]


Yeah my sense of incels' problem is not their looks but their misapprehension of the culture of people who have sex. The PUA culture which appears to be their dating/mating ideal is not what I would call a realistic long term goal for getting sex. As much cosmetic surgery as you want won't spackle the problems of insurmountable sexism and entitlement.
posted by kalessin at 5:38 AM on May 29 [16 favorites]


I read this yesterday, and it’s both fascinating and horrible. These men are so miserable, and they have so completely misdiagnosed their problem. And I don’t even know what to do with the plastic surgeon. On some level, I guess I respect his belief that people have bodily autonomy, and it’s not his place to question their motives, even if it’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that this deeply gifted surgeon is spending so much time catering to self-destructive (and other-destructive) toxic masculinity.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:41 AM on May 29 [44 favorites]


Internet is great at bringing people together, but not necessarily making them feel less alone. Incels and other similar communities bring you into contact with others but without making you feel much better about what brought you together. 2 mins of hate, probably feels great sometimes but not for a long time.

I empathize with anyone who hates their appearance and feels it's incompatible with the life they want. Anyone who wants surgery to help them feel more right with life. I'm fine with out and out vanity also.

So while incels are terrible and need help to re-frame their hate pile of a worldview, and how fantastical it is, I feel like this is maybe the least significant thing to hate on them about.
posted by French Fry at 5:41 AM on May 29 [21 favorites]


box: "See also 'jelqing'--or don't."

Y'know, if pulling on a penis repeatedly enlarged it, the world would have to have been retailored many moons ago.
posted by chavenet at 5:42 AM on May 29 [84 favorites]


The article is worth reading before commenting, if you can stomach it--not because it will change your view of incels or anything (they're still fucking awful), but because we should want to burn this whole garbage ideology to the ground.

Garden-variety misogyny is at the root of it, of course, along with male entitlement, but there are a whole host of cishet-male pathologies propping that up: self-loathing, inadequacy (compared to a masculine ideal), fear of vulnerability, fear of judgment, and so on. Depression and social isolation are clearly in the mix for a lot of these men too. I say none of this as an excuse, but rather to say it's on men (speaking as one!) to work toward a solution for this miserable mess of toxic masculinity.

I know it's a whole lot easier to say "lol what assholes" and move on, because hey, they are assholes! But they're also dangerous, particularly to anyone who isn't a cishet male, and the toxic masculinity that underpins much of their ideology and behavior is much more widespread--it's not limited to a few sad forums.
posted by duffell at 5:43 AM on May 29 [48 favorites]


Natalie Wynn, ContraPoints on Youtube (previously, generally NSFW), did a really great video on parallels (NSFW iirc) between behavior on incel forums and on trans forums, highlighting the similar focus on appearance and negative self-image derived from it. Surprisingly sympathetic, though she's appropriately scornful of the ideologies and rationales exhibited on incel sites.
posted by XMLicious at 5:46 AM on May 29 [45 favorites]


That was so depressing that I couldn't finish it.

It's difficult to unpick all that stuff - how much of it is men who would be terrible no matter what, how much of it is having your worldview reinforced by the internet, how much of it is treatable conditions like depression and body dysmorphia.

Setting aside the dominant issue of misogyny, I think we underestimate the power of the internet and the power of an endless flow of images. I've noticed in myself that spending time in tightly ideologized internet communities was really, really bad for me - I'm prone to depression, isolation and all that, so maybe I'm especially vulnerable, but it was really intense and only ended when I started therapy. (And I'm a grown adult who should know better!) I can well believe that spending hours and days in these forums with an endless library of images totally removes people from any sense of the simple material reality of the world around them. That was what it did to me, on a completely different ideological valence - I saw the entire world through this ideological framework that could not be corrected or modified by real-world experience, because I would go and be in the world for a while and then, whoops, another four hours on the internet would erase whatever real-world stuff I might have gained.

~~

I've known a few people who were extraordinarily good-looking (like, I used to know someone whose looks literally stopped traffic - it was weird) who did in fact have sex and relationships that they almost certainly would not have had if their personalities/social skills were the only things in the mix - people who were deeply troubled and/or very toxic who always had someone new around because their looks temporarily hid their character. This situation was not in fact good for them - it didn't heal or help them, and it just meant that they were constantly lurching from disaster to disaster, burning lots of bridges.

These incel guys are not wrong on one level - if they could get radical enough plastic surgery to turn them into male models, they would very likely be able to have short, horrible relationships with people who were briefly imposed upon by their looks. But then they'd just be miserable, hateful people who were constantly having high-conflict, angry relationships instead of miserable, hateful people who were constantly having high-conflict, angry interactions online.
posted by Frowner at 5:46 AM on May 29 [121 favorites]


Is there a bigger cohort of sad, whining bastards on the planet?
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:48 AM on May 29 [4 favorites]


It's not the ugly on the outside that's the problem.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 5:50 AM on May 29 [67 favorites]


I guess the downside to the norm of offloading all your emotional labor to women is that if you don't have women around, you have no idea how to be a functional person.

On the other hand there are a kajillion books out there about how to find meaning in your life but nah, let's just stew in hate instead.
posted by emjaybee at 5:51 AM on May 29 [26 favorites]


The end is interesting, if you can force yourselves to get there. This kind of surgery doesn't fix anything. I love plastic surgeons - one helped me so much, RIP Dr. Starr - but I feel like this kind of work is irresponsible.
posted by wellred at 5:55 AM on May 29 [5 favorites]


Funny thing to me is, instead of reading 12 Rules for Life, these dudes should probably be reading Psycho-Cybernetics, a seminal self-help book written by a plastic surgeon.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 5:57 AM on May 29 [3 favorites]


He was living in an apartment his parents owned. His bedroom was what he calls “typical incel,” i.e., “trillions of fruit flies multiplying, cigarettes and ash on the floor, dirty clothes all over the place, not a glimmer of light.”
And he thinks his problem is with his looks? This is an example of the deeply disordered, out of touch with reality thinking these unfortunate men exhibit. I'd say "therapy" but I almost think more of a deprogramming/detox is in order. Thinking "My life is miserable because I don't have a square jawline" rather than "I live in filth and SURROUNDED BY SWARMS OF FLIES, it's not only a turn-off for potential partners but it's not healthy for ME," is neither normal nor healthy nor functional.

I don't think plastic surgery is "wrong" or "shallow" or "cheating" or anything; it can be lifesaving and/or life-affirming and transformative. But I think this particular surgeon is taking advantage of some people who are...not in the best space emotionally and mentally.

I have to wonder about these mens' families of origin and what they learned from them. Something tells me that their families were dysfunctional and their fathers didn't treat their mothers especially well, and that happy, mutually respectful relationships were not modeled.

And all the racial stuff ("Keltic Nordid???") is deeply creepy and reminds me of 19th century racial pseudo-science. It goes to show that -isms tend to flock in groups.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:04 AM on May 29 [48 favorites]


Re: trans/incel

I experience a deep revulsion at this comparison. Being trans myself (for previously discussed reasons partly due to gender dysphoria forged in my traumatic experiences of toxic masculinity) it feels like making the comparison misses how trans identity originates within. Whereas incel identity seems to originate externally from not getting enough dick rubbing from other parties. But perhaps there's more subtlety to the comparison that I'm missing?
posted by kalessin at 6:05 AM on May 29 [24 favorites]


Probably worth pointing out that before these people were self-absorbed misogynistic troll-babies, they were largely just normal humans who didn't get enough love and compassion as children. And while it's certainly not our job as individuals to fix every sad, broken asshole who we cross paths with, it's also worth pointing out that -- but for the roll of the parental dice, there go we.

Most mammals, all primates, and especially humans -- need care and compassion as children, and if they don't get it, they'll become extremely fucked up. Largely this is not their fault, but the fault of their upbringing and environment. It's easy and fun to mock the less fortunate, especially when you believe their bad situation is a result of their own bad decisions. But it so rarely is.

Patriarchy is shit not just because it subjugates women, but because it also fosters bad and broken parenting environments -- fathers who are absent, abusers, or just terrible people, and mothers who are just barely coping. Boys who grow up in these environments have few role models except what they see online and in media.

Who are they supposed to learn from? Who will welcome them? Remembering we're all just humans who need connection. Usually incels connect with other incels, cause in common, and that just further alienates them, and makes them ripe for right-wing corruption -- be an alpha, dominate everyone, get rid of the other, you'll get everything you need.

Smash the patriarchy, people. It doesn't just hurt women. It hurts everyone. It really does.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:06 AM on May 29 [95 favorites]


The article does address the fundamental differences between incels getting surgery vs trans people getting surgery (Natalie Wynn is interviewed and has insightful things to say).
posted by Frobenius Twist at 6:08 AM on May 29 [7 favorites]


I actually think "jelqing" is the perfect microcasm of Incel beliefs in that it's self evidently not true as chavenet nicely points out. Like there is simply no way it makes sense but if you live in a very specific bubble and have very limited real life experience, anything becomes plausible.

I my increasing interactions with incel culture and the whole red-pill manosphere beyond just ordinary hate is genuine delusion. The basic assumption of how men and women interact and view each other is so obviously not true to anyone who's spent any time in the world. The core ideal of the red-pill dudes is that women all women only want to be with male models while young and guys with wealth and stability when older. This is all codified in written rules. Except , like life, real life is just obviously not like that. But from the delusion a whole world view and outlook is marinated in hateful imaginings. Different groups just view their role in the fiction differently Incels get no love unless they can graduate to being Pick up artist and get to have sex with younger women or get wealth or power and get to have sex in marriages (which are of course ways to become a cuck and have all your money stolen) . Like they are not aspiring to a relationship anyone would call normal or average. Only these soap opera extremes. It's an outlook that ignores 90% of what actual cishet life is like.

But I think that's because they don't interact with people enough.

Weird thing. NSFW from here to the end.
Sorry if this is too odd, but I have a friend who produces porn and now works for a major porn site, we were having a laugh the other day and he pointed out to me a huge increase in demand for what he called "in the house" porn. This is basically everything like maids, sisters-law, my brother's girlfriend, and all the mom-sister crap. We laughed a bit about how they don't really want to make it but the sites get away with just renaming anything else cishet as "step-sister" and viewer apparently is doing the rest of the mental gymnastics. "Why so much?" I asked; then he stopped laughing and said "I don't think they know about other women, I think they look at meeting a woman at a bar or at work like we would look at meeting a woman on the moon. It's just not realistic" He went on to explain he knows though user data both tracked and bought that users likely to seek this out are also really likely to spend a lot of time on red-pill sections of reddit (before r/incel was shut down), 4chan, 8chan etc.

But that idea, that women you don't already live with are unrealistic, has stuck with me.
posted by French Fry at 6:09 AM on May 29 [111 favorites]


Wait, but wouldn't this surgery be hideously expensive? And isn't part of their whole thing that it's unfair that rich people don't need to be attractive? I don't know why I'm expecting any of it to have some kind of internal logic.
posted by MarchHare at 6:09 AM on May 29 [6 favorites]


Not that there is much logic but, putting together 2k-20k for cosmetic surgery is certainly expensive but not sustainable impress-people wealth.

But I just had to spend 2k on dentist work yesterday because I ate something hard. So Maybe I'm just walking around like an inconsiderate tooth_chad over here.
posted by French Fry at 6:15 AM on May 29 [31 favorites]


The thing that really strikes me is how much self-hatred and hatred from their own community these folks will put up with in order to have any sense of community. The whole performative self-flagellation over jawlines and nose sizes and height and all that is not just a side-effect of the worldview, but much of (IMO) what this worldview is all about. There's a power struggle where you're both putting yourself at the mercy of a very sadistic crowd, but also getting a thrill out of turning all the abuse you've heaped on yourself and the other people who agree with you out into the world.

There are so many factors involved in this subculture, but that's the part that strikes me the most. The emotional abuse they self-inflict, then accept from others, then give to each other, and then gather it all up to hate everyone else...it's terrifying, really.
posted by xingcat at 6:16 AM on May 29 [18 favorites]


seanmpuckett: "Patriarchy is shit not just because it subjugates women, but because it also fosters bad and broken parenting environments -- fathers who are absent, abusers, or just terrible people, and mothers who are just barely coping."

This. I despise the patriarchy and the whole performative male thing, even though I'm a cis-het middle class boring male, who in theory benefits from the status quo, not just out of empathy for the non cis-het-males but also because I hate the roles it expects people like me to to play.

My wife's on a weeklong trip in the US, and some people are all like 'oh wow, so you have to take care of your son??!!??', and I'm like, 'yes, I have to make his breakfast, make and pack him a hot lunch and snacks, take him to school, then get home at 7pm to hang out with him, make his dinner, check his studying and read him a comic book before bedtime, like I do all year long when his mom is home'. I'm not saying this as bragging, this is what parents should do, it's just shocking that in 2019 this is a surprise to some people. Reminds me of Chris Rock's standup about men bragging about staying with and supporting their families and he goes 'What do you want, a cookie? Thats what dads are supposed to do!'
posted by signal at 6:16 AM on May 29 [43 favorites]


@ohJuliatweets:
Incels act like women don't date men who are worse looking than them leading me to believe they have literally never seen a heterosexual couple
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:19 AM on May 29 [117 favorites]


Probably worth pointing out that before these people were self-absorbed misogynistic troll-babies, they were largely just normal humans who didn't get enough love and compassion as children. And while it's certainly not our job as individuals to fix every sad, broken asshole who we cross paths with, it's also worth pointing out that -- but for the roll of the parental dice, there go we.
I don't know. I'm a woman who had a pretty serious eating disorder, and I still struggle a bit with body dysmorphia. I identify in some ways with some of these guys' distorted beliefs about their bodies and faces. And I have always resented the idea that my parents are responsible for my issues, because as far as I can tell, they didn't do anything wrong. I can't entirely pinpoint why I developed such a terrible self-image, but I think it's a combination of biological and cultural factors. (I'm non-neurotypical, which seems to be a major risk factor for anorexia, and I grew up in a culture with really fucked up ideas about women's bodies.) So no, I don't think it's just a role of the parental dice. It's also worth pointing out that lots of people have body issues and relationship issues and mental health concerns without having hateful views about other people. These men are obviously in a lot of pain, but there are lots of ways to be in pain that don't involve viewing women as sex trophies.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:21 AM on May 29 [67 favorites]


Natalie Wynn, ContraPoints on Youtube (previously, generally NSFW), did a really great video on parallels yt (NSFW iirc) between behavior on incel forums and on trans forums, highlighting the similar focus on appearance and negative self-image derived from it.

I don't know how closely you track her videos, but her most recent one, "Beauty" spoke to this very topic in the article about plastic surgery being about mere millimeters.

---

Re: trans/incel

I experience a deep revulsion at this comparison. ... But perhaps there's more subtlety to the comparison that I'm missing?


Yes. She points out in some ways the dissatisfaction with the body is a common point, but lead incels in a shockingly vile and evil conclusion. I'm running out the door, but the videos do have that subtlety. Dunno if you want to watch two 30+min videos though.
posted by anem0ne at 6:23 AM on May 29 [10 favorites]


The comparison is not an impersonal one. When ContraPoints makes that comparison, she's talking about herself and her own self-loathing.

Which speaks to why her channel is compelling in the first place - she's managing to dig underneath the truly baffling things these people say, get to their core truths, make them human, and then disprove them, in a way that's both scrupulously fair, insightful and cutting, and utterly bizarre.
posted by Merus at 6:29 AM on May 29 [20 favorites]


I have a son who received his first (to my knowledge) dating rejection this month and I love him tons and have had conversations with him all his life about respecting people as people, handling rejection, growth mindset, etc. etc. And honestly...it still strikes fear in my heart that there is a ready and willing group of men out there who would be happy to frame this experience for him in this way.

I cannot guarantee that he will not go down this rabbit hole. It's a powerful narrative. He's almost to the age where we will only have influence, and it will be up to him. So for me the question is, how do we offer ramps out of these dark corners of the 'net. I dunno.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:34 AM on May 29 [26 favorites]


I had plastic surgery at 21 to "correct" a prominent, masculine Roman nose - to make it look more feminine.

When I was mocked, I never hated people that mocked me. It didn't even cross my mind to.

I never felt entitled to the attention of anyone. I just wanted to go through life without being mocked. Literally. The last time it happened I was probably 20, just before the procedure, and a van full of young men cat-called me and then, when they passed to see my face, told me I was gross... no I recall the word exactly, "Ew, never mind guys she's sick" he spat with disgust.

I always felt I was just dealt an impersonal bad hand in the looks department. I knew the culture of beauty is extraneous to self worth on an intellectual level (even though it didn't always make me feel better). I calibrated my expectations accordingly.

When I got my nose job, people DID treat me differently. It WAS heartbreaking. But I never got MAD at people for this. What is *wrong* with these men? Who told them that they were entitled to models? Who told them that there's a magic tool or number or phrase that can tip women onto their penises without becoming a kind, compassionate, interesting or creative person?

I'm still not conventionally beautiful - not even close. I don't hate myself anymore, or the way that I look. I dress better (not more expensively, but carefully) than anyone I know. My makeup is perfect. I have impeccable hygiene. I'm just a woman trying to move through the world with as few barriers as possible, with the confidence of other women I admire (like Rihanna). I am happy. People compliment me, but I know it's the ephemeral quality of someone who is confident and put-together they're responding to. Someone who can play at being comfortable with themselves.

What I didn't do was take the script of objectification and apply it to myself to bank on love, or relationships, or whatever. These men are so thoroughly broken in their reasoning that they'd rather create an unrealistic expectation for surgical correction, objectify themselves and then crumble when they don't get the response they feel entitled to. It's a level of self absorption I literally cannot even fathom.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 6:36 AM on May 29 [66 favorites]


So what happens when they go through all that work and end up looking like a young Brad Pitt but their lives haven't improved because their minds are still the ugliest part of their bodies?
posted by octothorpe at 6:37 AM on May 29 [3 favorites]


My guess is a whole lot of violence and murder.
posted by wellred at 6:40 AM on May 29 [5 favorites]


I'd imagine they'll keep getting work done because they'll never reach that unattainable ideal that the "chads" of the world have, but boy wouldn't it be interesting if they get close enough and realise that they were fine-looking from the beginning?
posted by Merus at 6:40 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


I don't think that a terrible body image is the parents' or family of origin's fault all the time - we do live in a culture which surrounds us with images of perfect bodies and says "only perfection will do!"

But being so misogynist and filled with hatred as these incels are, plus they seemingly have no idea what a healthy relationship looks like - there I will point to the family of origin, because most people do build ideas of relationships (healthy or not) on what their parents and family members model. Incels' ideas of what women want are so out of touch with reality I wonder what kind of relationships they saw as children. Or, for that matter, how they relate to real people in their lives now. It seems many of them do not have off-line lives at all - no jobs, no flesh and blood friends, not even going out and taking a walk and observing all the real-life couples that surround them - and that's no way to live.

(I mean, all I need to do is go to the freaking grocery store and I see couples of all ages, appearances, races, gender presentations, etc. I get the feeling most of these men are actual shut-ins!)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:41 AM on May 29 [3 favorites]


Cosmetic surgery - for men???!!!

Yeah, there's a brief mention of breast implants, but it was very odd to me how the author skirted around the fact that this has all been said and done before, but for women. The obsessing over millimeter differences in nose shape and waistline, the forums with messages that extreme self-harm (pro-ana, etc.) is required to achieve beauty, the tens of thousands of dollars spent on cosmetic surgery. Hell, even the jawline stuff - remember this terrible thing from the infomercials? Crazy idea, what if this has all been about the harmfulness of patriarchy and gender roles all along?!
posted by capricorn at 6:50 AM on May 29 [12 favorites]


There are countless examples of people who grew up abused, who witnessed abuse, etc. etc., who did not buy into a culture of bigotry as a result. This is not a "there but for the grace of the parental roll of the dice go I" situation.

Honestly, I take offense at the idea that upbringing is the problem. When we talk about people not being raised correctly, we are talking about the people who raised them. And in this culture when we talk about the people who raise children, we are talking about mothers. So blaming this on parental upbringing is blaming it on the mother, like it or not, and that's misogynistic.

The very term incel is a misogynistic term. It implies that men are entitled to sex with women, that their agency is being stripped of them by virtue of giving women agency over their own bodies. Agency is not a zero-sum game.

This is a problem men caused and men are the ones who fucking need to fix it. Mothers, by and large, do an enormous amount of care labor to try to raise their children well, and the incel movement is not a product of upbringing at the individual family level. It's a product of women gaining autonomy in this culture over time, and of men being unwilling or unable to stand that fact.
posted by sockermom at 6:52 AM on May 29 [95 favorites]


Frankly incels are in general a pretty normal looking guys, even the pictures of people photo-shopping into chads usually look pretty good in their before pictures.

But if their surgery did indeed turn them into "young brad pitt" as remarked above. Well that would get them most of what they want. It's not possible. But that is the dream. If you looked like a young brad pitt, you would have an easy time getting money, power and sex in your life. One might still utterly loath themselfs but our culture does place a premium in extreme beauty like that. But one can't achieve that level of looks through plastic surgery, if it could west hollywood would be filled with young brad pitts and young sophia lorens instead of people with odd hairlines, orange skin and reallllly puffy lips.

If you have extreme .01% looks or .01% wealth life really will be easy no matter how repugnant a human you are. You can even be president. That's their fantasy, that this magic wand life change will mean you don't have to change anything else about yourself or your life. The delusion is that those extremes apply to "most people" . But if you live a life online... that .01% is a lot of what you see.

Hell I know a sexually experienced, educated, adult man in his 30's who just learned that women can have nipple hair.
posted by French Fry at 6:54 AM on May 29 [5 favorites]


Wasn't there a post a while back about how a fair number of incel "influencers" had stable heterosexual relationships?
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 6:57 AM on May 29 [2 favorites]


I am really uncomfortable with automatically blaming the parents. Undoubtedly, bad parenting can make people more vulnerable, but it's not necessary. These are all men who have been radicalized online, with all that entails.

I don't think we need to look for an explanation in these men's individual experiences at all. They grew up in a misogynist society and therefore already had a propensity to view women negatively. Then they were recruited on Reddit, or they fell down the hate pipeline on Youtube.

I've heard from enough parents scared of the effects alt-right propaganda has on their sons to think that the parents can prevent it by being "good" enough parents.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:59 AM on May 29 [29 favorites]


The whole incels thing--the things that they say to each other, the fake science that they proffer to rationalize their self-loathing, the things that they occasionally say to "outsiders", the whole self-reinforcing toxicity of the black pill--makes me gladder than ever that I didn't have the internet when I was younger, and thought that all my problems would be solved if I looked like this or that celebrity. Two things in the article jumped out at me:
“Getting treated better after surgery feels sickening,” wrote one user, LegendOfBrickTamland. Brick had gotten a new jaw, nose, and cheekbones from a surgeon in California, costing him around $30,000, and still he was furious at women and the world. “It’s like, I am the same fucking person, and yet I am somehow better because I spent some money and had a man cut my face up. Might as well just go with prostitutes. At least it’s an honest exchange.”
and
“My self-image fluctuates all the time,” he wrote on the forum as he waited. “I want to live in a plastic surgeon’s office. I just want to have a bed in one of his labs. Just a bed, a small kitchen, and an internet connection. I want to feel pure within my body and self-validate by looking in the mirror and seeing the flawless skull. When detecting a tiny deformity, I call the surgeon and he’ll be there immediately, along with his assistant and a knife in his hand to cut me open.”

...

On the phone, Truth4lie told me he had recently had his fifth jawline-implant revision, this time with a local surgeon in Holland. “Do you say, ‘I’m happy with how I look now?’ ” he asks. “Or do you go deeper down the rabbit hole with the chance to fuck up everything with another procedure because you can always be better looking?”

He says he doesn’t hate women anymore. But he hasn’t left behind most of the theories about life that he was exposed to on incel forums. Sometimes when he notices a woman making eye contact with other men in the street, the entire world seems to narrow to a harsh, suffocating plane of power dynamics, in which sexual attraction determines all. “Every time I try to talk myself out of things I used to believe, of the black pill, it feels like I am moving away from the truth,” he tells me. It’s hard to want to live when that happens.
The phrase "a hell of their own devising" sounds melodramatically extreme, but if this isn't, what is?
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:59 AM on May 29 [20 favorites]


it's just shocking that in 2019 this is a surprise to some people.

Doing similar dad-work and have gotten this a number of times, mostly from non-radical women over 60. I think we sometimes underestimate just how quickly and radically 2nd wave feminism pushed the ball forward, and also how very unevenly distributed the gains are.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:03 AM on May 29 [19 favorites]


So for me the question is, how do we offer ramps out of these dark corners of the 'net. I dunno.

I do think we will see a movement (in fact, it’s already happening) to take time spent online and redirect it back into offline spaces. The guys in my cohort are now older than these incel guys but would never have had time to devote to that community, between full time work and hobbies that take them outdoors. This reminds me a little of our discussion about the 13 year old who got sucked into neo-Nazi spaces online. If you’re time-limited, it’s tough to get so obsessive about those kind of communities.

But as lots of human jobs continue to be replaced by robots, that’s going to mean a lot of people (especially a lot of young men who might otherwise have gone into low-paying service jobs) with a lot more free time and a lot more life stresses (less money and less “status”). I do worry about more communities like this forming.
posted by sallybrown at 7:04 AM on May 29 [2 favorites]


For me the most brain broken thing is they’re doing it using Instagram likes as a measure of success.

Well, that and their whole putrid philosophy where they’re incapable of seeing women as people of course.
posted by Artw at 7:07 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


Hell I know a sexually experienced, educated, adult man in his 30's who just learned that women can have nipple hair.

wait, really?

oh thank god. i think one recurring source of dysphoria is pretty much gone now.

posted by anem0ne at 7:10 AM on May 29 [15 favorites]


Incels' ideas of what women want are so out of touch with reality I wonder what kind of relationships they saw as children.
Incels are emotionally stunted and consumed with sex in the most shallow, informed by celebrity culture and pornography kind of way. As a result, they spend a disproportionate amount of time obsessing over a very particular kind of hypersexualized "hot girl." They make weird extrapolations on What All Women Are Like based on this that poison their interactions with and opinions of other women.

They buy into the strictest version of looks based culture where women are concerned and then cannot understand why that Instagram model won't brush the Cheeto dust off of their hoodie and whisk them away.

It's entitlement, it's tunnel vision, and it's immaturity.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:10 AM on May 29 [13 favorites]


OK, I am very sympathetic to people who worry about how people perceive them and try their best to at least wear the most socially acceptable and safe mask possible. But! A lot of what these men say is just so hateful, and their lashing out is so dangerous. I actually do feel bad for them, because clearly they are lashing out from pain and loneliness. And it's poignant that they seem to not understand AT ALL what they're even feeling, let alone how to soothe it. But I feel worse for the women they're lashing out at. But in this case they're often lashing out most violently at themselves. So, I just don't know. The solutions are probably just the same old same old: radical kindness and burning the patriarchy down.
posted by rue72 at 7:11 AM on May 29 [12 favorites]


So for me the question is, how do we offer ramps out of these dark corners of the 'net. I dunno.

Acknowledging out loud that you know what the red-pill, black-pill is and talking about why it makes literally no fucking sense is a good start (sadly probably better to have a male mentor do it) because a lot of the appeal of the red-pill-verse, as coded in the title, is that it's a secret. A dark truth hidden by the veneer of normal or polite society. Because that is an attractive idea to young dudes.

The irony is that ads and marketing and media aren't the veneer hiding the truth of the red-pill, they are peddling the falsehoods and fantasy that make the red-pill plausible.
posted by French Fry at 7:12 AM on May 29 [8 favorites]


Going from spending all your energy hating and blaming women to having someone cut up your face is a triumph. It is the part where you finally pick up the problem the right way around and start to work on yourself. There are many, many steps to come in working your way out of feeling wholly undesirable, but working on yourself is the necessary condition for any of them. It is unlikely that any of these guys will ever be well, but if they work on themselves long enough, they may someday not be bad.
posted by ckridge at 7:12 AM on May 29


I don't really think that plastic surgery counts as working on yourself, though. Done in this mindset, it is turning the rage and hate on yourself, externalizing it on your own body rather than on others'. It's self-harm.

I mean, as a woman I'm relieved not to have it turned directly on me. But I don't really want to see these men hurt themselves, either.
posted by rue72 at 7:15 AM on May 29 [22 favorites]


I was literally just talking about this yesterday with a friend -- we were commenting on this classic comparison of Hugh Jackman as marketed to men and Hugh Jackman as marketed to women. And we were talking about the romantic heroes of Call the Midwife (for my money, the TV show that MOST centers female narratives and desires) -- Dr. Turner, the older doctor with the craggy face; Tom Hereward, handsome enough but a minister; Peter Noakes, the shortish, dorky, not-classically-handsome, receeding-hairlined policeman who's shorter than his wife; Christopher Dockerill, the dentist, who's tall and drives a nice car but who attracts Trixie's attention through his kindness to patients and who isn't classically handsome. Even Fred Buckle, the hapless, pudgy handyman, turns into #relationshipgoals once he's with Violet because he may be a bumbler but he's always kind and trying to help and listening to Violet's needs and concerns. (And the talky missionary who dates Jane. And the mustachioed cop who wants to date Phyllis.) And that's not even counting the many lovely relationships we see on the show from case-of-the-week characters where the men aren't necessarily handsome or wealthy or well-educated but they are kind.

The biggest "classically handsome" character (Jimmy) was shown to be nothing but trouble -- charmingly rogueish, but irresponsible, careless, and thoughtless. He was clearly illustrated as someone who coasted on looks and charm but who wasn't romantically desirable because he was so irresponsible and thoughtless and was in fact a cautionary tale.

It's startling when women are making a show for women the diversity of male bodies that are presented as attractive, compared to the narrow range of men that men present in entertainment for women -- but what every attractive-to-women male character has in common on Call the Midwife is a fundamental kindness and decency that's always on display (not just to their partner or just at home -- in the public world and at work), and that they listen to women and respect them as professionals.

But yeah, same fundamental problem -- realizing this would require incels to respect women as human beings and to be kind, and vulnerable, and none of those things seem likely to happen. But I feel like I should maybe come up with a list of shows and movies where female romantic desires are centered like that (Little Women 1994 version?) and indoctrinate my sons early.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:15 AM on May 29 [128 favorites]


But being so misogynist and filled with hatred as these incels are, plus they seemingly have no idea what a healthy relationship looks like - there I will point to the family of origin, because most people do build ideas of relationships (healthy or not) on what their parents and family members model.

I think you are drastically underestimating the influence that peers (and therefore larger cultural factors and Other People's Parents) have on child development, especially from pre-teen/early adolescence through puberty on to young adulthood.

Just a quick Google of "peer influence on children" gets a ton of scholarly papers, and I got there by looking for the articles/studies/whatever-it-was thing where there was at least some evidence that there's a noticeable, trackable shift when children start paying less attention to their parents' models of behavior.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:18 AM on May 29 [5 favorites]


Acknowledging out loud that you know what the red-pill, black-pill is and talking about why it makes literally no fucking sense is a good start (sadly probably better to have a male mentor do it) because a lot of the appeal of the red-pill-verse, as coded in the title, is that it's a secret. A dark truth hidden by the veneer of normal or polite society. Because that is an attractive idea to young dudes.

It's that "dark truth"/"dark enlightenment" thing that makes it cross over so well with alt-right shit, too--it purports to have "logical" answers to everything that are kept secret from the world at large, so for a disaffected young man who thinks of himself as better and more deserving (read: entitled), it's like waking up from the Matrix.

Which is yet another text they have adopted and misread.
posted by anem0ne at 7:18 AM on May 29 [5 favorites]


....

The sexual strategy and environment these straight male incels imagine doesn’t exist in the very low effort straight male looking for straight female world, in fact straight women are socialized not to care too much about men’s looks.

But the environment they think is the norm, a hyper competitive , looks reductionist, sexual marketplace where everyone is vying to be the best product ...does exist, it’s just for gay men in thier 20s. And the ideal look they’re going for are looks idealized by older men looking for younger jocks.

On one hand it seems perfectly constructed to set them up to fail, cause the goal isn’t to actually attract partners the goal is to be aggrieved, that way you stay inside the cult - but it is interesting the DISCOURSE doesn’t mention that this twisted shadow world of dating these budding mass murderers imagine basically describes me trying to date in my 20s where guys are suoer cool with telling you to your face, what’s wrong with your face.

If I sell my book I’m totally fixing my brow you guys I don’t care that I’m married.
posted by The Whelk at 7:19 AM on May 29 [35 favorites]


There are many, many steps to come in working your way out of feeling wholly undesirable, but working on yourself is the necessary condition for any of them. It is unlikely that any of these guys will ever be well, but if they work on themselves long enough, they may someday not be bad.

It jumps out to me that "working on themselves" means "loads of plastic surgery" and not "hire a housecleaner to get the flies and filth out of my living space" (which if you can afford plastic surgery you can do; housecleaners are actually a LOT cheaper). It's a very distorted and dysfunctional idea of what constitutes self-improvement.

And of course they need to do something about their seething hatred of women. That goes without saying; men like this put women's lives at risk. The "I live in filth but it's my looks that really need fixing" is the tip of the dysfunction iceberg. That's why I wonder if there can be some kind of inpatient detox, like we have for alcohol or drugs, to detox from worldviews that can cause such harm to self and others. Come to think of it, a Marshall Plan for mental health in this country would be good for a lot of people, though I notice that the "incels" are not all or even mostly American.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:21 AM on May 29 [14 favorites]


It's not because of peers that I felt worthless and undeserving of affection. It's not peers who made me so desperate for any sort of attention at all that I'd take huge risks just to feel like someone might notice me.

I guess I was "lucky" that it was my mom who abandoned me instead of my dad, so it didn't turn into festering misogyny too.
posted by idiopath at 7:22 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


I don't really think that plastic surgery counts as working on yourself, though.

It is the physical equivalent of going to a psychotherapist. You get worked on. Just thinking how you would rather be is a big first step toward changing. Accepting pain as a necessary condition for change is another.
posted by ckridge at 7:24 AM on May 29


The issue isn't having plastic surgery, it's expecting that it will suddenly make women want you.
posted by wellred at 7:25 AM on May 29 [5 favorites]


And of course they need to do something about their seething hatred of women.

Note that the first thing they are doing is getting their faces cut and their bones broken. That is hatred turned inward and used as a tool for self-transformation.
posted by ckridge at 7:28 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


I think I always get stuck with Incels right at square one: Have they not met hetereosexual couples like ever at all? I've dated a classically handsome Chad exactly never in the decade or so in my dating life before I got married. I dated plenty of guys. Short guys (one of them shorter than me, and I'm not tall), overweight guys, skinny guys (my current husband was absolutely a beanpole when I first met him), guys with big noses and weak chins (again: current husband), guys with port wine stains in prominent places, guys with receding hairlines in their 20s. Some of these guys were definitely popular with other ladies, some not so much, it was a mixed bag. There was 100% no discernible "you must be this attractive to play" rhyme or reason to which of these guys could GET IT and which were less likely to.

So, like, how do these dudes explain this very obvious phenomenon that exists everywhere in reality? (They also seem to not understand the existence of unattractive women, which, again, how?) Is this just straight up actual delusion?
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:29 AM on May 29 [39 favorites]


This reminds me of a meme I came across that said something like "Why do girls chase after the jocks when they could date a nerd who is just as entitled and sexist?"
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:30 AM on May 29 [98 favorites]


The sexual strategy and environment these straight male incels imagine doesn’t exist in the very low effort straight male looking for straight female world, in fact straight women are socialized not to care too much about men’s looks.

I mean, it exists in the heterosexual world, it's just that it's the women who are subjected to the kind of evaluations that these men are imagining that they're being subjected to.

That's why I feel some empathy for it. It's not like these worries that if you're not attractive enough then you're doomed to be a pathetic failure and object of scorn (even though the standards for attractiveness are impossible to meet) are exotic and new. They're very familiar. For probably the vast majority of women, their parents, friends, and the men around them *explicitly* tell them that that's the truth, from the time they're born.

Where I stop feeling sympathy is in that these guys apparently know that these evaluations are real because they're so busy subjecting women to them. Like god forbid they are the targets of the same weapons they use against others.
posted by rue72 at 7:32 AM on May 29 [16 favorites]


I don't really think that plastic surgery counts as working on yourself, though.

It is the physical equivalent of going to a psychotherapist.


It reminds me of a friend I had who was depressed and became obsessed with the idea that if she just moved to a new place, all her problems would end. She moved cities and now she’s depressed in a new place where she knows even fewer people.
posted by sallybrown at 7:32 AM on May 29 [26 favorites]


Note that the first thing they are doing is getting their faces cut and their bones broken. That is hatred turned inward and used as a tool for self-transformation.

sorta? even in the article it's clear that the hatred hasn't turned inward. they still have a hate for women, they still believe in some of those tenets, so...
posted by anem0ne at 7:32 AM on May 29 [5 favorites]


sorta?

Totally sorta. When you are this fucked up, you can work on yourself for a long time, get much better, and still be really fucked up. It just seems worth pointing out that they are crawling in the general direction of light.
posted by ckridge at 7:34 AM on May 29



I think I always get stuck with Incels right at square one: Have they not met hetereosexual couples like ever at all?

That's where I get stuck, too - are they bona fide shut-ins? Or is it that they do get out and see couples in the real world, but they don't really see them because of some kind of mental/emotional/psychic myopia, in much the same way they don't see their physical surroundings?
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:36 AM on May 29 [15 favorites]


It just seems worth pointing out that they are crawling in the general direction of light

Didn't dude from the article end up attempting suicide?
posted by Dressed to Kill at 7:36 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


I think they are crawling in the direction of further manipulating women, because the changes that come from plastic surgery are superficial and don't mitigate their rage.
posted by wellred at 7:37 AM on May 29 [25 favorites]


The second time we speak on the phone, Truth4lie tells me he has just been released from the hospital after attempting suicide. His last jaw-implant revision was still monstrously swollen, and he was so anxious about it that death seemed easier than looking at his face in the mirror.

He swallowed pills, then read on Google that his final hours would be slow and painful. So he called an ambulance. When he woke up in the hospital, it felt like being reborn, joyous, akin to the dopamine rush he always felt after being operated on.

“The prospect of a better surgery result is keeping me alive,” he tells me
This is just so sad.

Doesn't change how vile these people are but they are so severely broken and jumping into a mirror universe version of a support group makes them stay that way.

I can't even imagine a self narrative that goes from "incel" to happy person, unless it involves realizing how horrible your incel identity was all along. Which in the article Truth4lie was trying to do. But failing at.
posted by mark k at 7:38 AM on May 29 [5 favorites]


The sexual strategy and environment these straight male incels imagine doesn’t exist in the very low effort straight male looking for straight female world, in fact straight women are socialized not to care too much about men’s looks.

If I may quibble. Having watched women looking at pretty men, I would say that they care at least as much about pretty as men do, and maybe more. Having watched women's faces as pretty men say insufferable things, I think that what is at work here is lower tolerance for insufferable behavior.
posted by ckridge at 7:39 AM on May 29 [2 favorites]


I was surprised that the guys pictured in the article are perfectly ok-looking guys. I mean, Red definitely needs a haircut (how in the world are you looking in the mirror and obsessing over a few millimeters of jawline and ignore that your hair makes you look like the Heat Miser? And not go ahead drop $20 on a decent haircut?) But I can imagine being on a date with any of them, and if they were reasonably intelligent, somewhat confident and had a sense of humor, finding them quirkily cute.

Of course, on my best-looking day I might have been a solid 7 (and that was for like 15 minutes in 1986) so maybe someone like me would not have qualified as "dating success" for any of them.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:40 AM on May 29 [19 favorites]


Kitty Stardust, was it this tweet?

(If so I like your paraphrase better)
posted by little onion at 7:42 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


As the Contrapoints' videos note , thier idealized mass shooter, who is so well regarded his initials 'ER' are used to mean 'doing a mass shooting' had the strong jaw and high cheekbones they claim are the path to happinesd.

It's never been about objective reality or objective attractiveness and when you bring that up they frequently treated like it's a microaggression.
posted by The Whelk at 7:43 AM on May 29 [14 favorites]


Is changing your wardrobe also a physical form of psychotherapy? Or would it be if it was painful enough? Suffering delivering guaranteed redemption is more of a theological theme, rather than how this stuff really operates, unfortunately.
posted by XMLicious at 7:44 AM on May 29


So, like, how do these dudes explain this very obvious phenomenon that exists everywhere in reality? (They also seem to not understand the existence of unattractive women, which, again, how?) Is this just straight up actual delusion?
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:29 AM

They honestly believe that the guys who are not chads are paying for it. But for some reason when they resort for paying for it, the woman they pay is only as cooperative and attentive as long as it takes to get the money, and they really resent having to pay for it whether in cash or in decent behaviour. They want to have sex where they can barf on the woman, berate her and then have her thank them for deigning to fuck her. Literally. The idea of reciprocal affection fills their brains with red thumping waves of rage. To provide honest reciprocal affection is, for an incel, like submitting to be raped and have his core identity obliterated. It's totally the wrong kind of sex.
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:45 AM on May 29 [20 favorites]


Having watched women looking at pretty men, I would say that they care at least as much about pretty as men do, and maybe more.

Sure, women like looking at pretty. I will watch any dumb show that features Jason Momoa because he is physically beautiful. However, my husband is a nice-looking regular dude to whom I am happily married and also physically attracted.

I personally have been attracted to people of varying degrees of attractiveness, over the years. A few were downright ugly.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:49 AM on May 29 [16 favorites]


I honestly believe that incel is a sexual orientation.

I have to disagree, because incels are one type of a wide group of people who have a perceived external locus of control. It's much simpler than something requiring a deep psychological analysis. Here's the formula:

1. I was coddled so I have never had to work for what I have, little or abundant as it may be.
2. My life is not what I want. I do not understand this is a function of my entitlement versus actually having to work for something.
3. Because of my coddled past, I lack the self reflection to figure out either why my life isn't where I want it, why I need to adjust my expectations, or why I even care.
4. I find something to blame (in this case it is the ridiculously unattainable male ideal).
5. (MOST IMPORTANT BIT HERE) I find a large group of angry people willing to give me answers while the rest of the world seems to think I'm trash.

The end, there you go. Incels are a terrible group of people, but believe me there are quite a few other groups stewing alone in their homes blaming whatever their toxic internet echo chamber told them to blame.
posted by FakeFreyja at 7:50 AM on May 29 [26 favorites]


I wholly reject the ideas that Incels are a type of people rather than a worldview/habits some people have. My evidence for this is people growing out of it. Which happens a lot. People are active on these boards and these communities and then stop.

It's important to remember that this is population that in generally is extremely young. God bless that the internet wasn't codifying much of anything I thought at 14-20. Because jesus I wasn't an Incel but I wasn't a good person with a healthy outlook either.
posted by French Fry at 7:52 AM on May 29 [19 favorites]


Dropping in from a few paragraphs into the article to agree with commenters pointing out that, uh. A lot of what the author describes with morbid fascination, these weird exercises and treatments and procedures to correct minuscule but obsessed-over flaws... basically sounds like the kind of beauty regimen promoted to and expected of women.

Truth4lie’s friends hated Chad, but they were also convinced their lives would improve significantly if they could somehow become Chad. They tried “gymceling” and “steroidmaxxing” (incel-speak for bodybuilding and taking steroids). They tried jelqing (penis-stretching exercises) and mewing (chewing hard foods to bulk up the masseter muscles, said by British orthodontist Mike Mew to augment the jawline). They tried pulling on their faces to reshape them. They got into skin care.

I read this paragraph, and all I could think of was how some of the latest beauty treatments marketed towards women essentially boil down to things like, 'have you considered paying someone to scrape off the entire top layer of your epidermis with an extremely sharp knife so your skin looks brighter?', and, 'how about we repeatedly jab a million billion tiny needles into your face to stimulate the production of healing collagen and get rid of those pesky wrinkles?'. There are one hundred and thirty nine million google results for 'facial exercises', and I am reasonably sure most of those are not men's magazines.

Watching the author skate so, so close to an r/selfawarewolves moment of, "Hey, maybe toxic beauty standards promoted by the patriarchy are... bad?" is kind of infuriating.

Basically what I'm saying is: burn it all down. Starting with Instagram.

Alright, back to RingTFA.
posted by jurymast at 7:54 AM on May 29 [24 favorites]


Also Nthing the recommendations for Contrapoints' videos on 'Incels' and 'Beauty' for excellent deep dives on these subjects.
posted by jurymast at 7:56 AM on May 29 [3 favorites]


The most difficult thing for me to grapple with is that extremists don’t just pop up as isolated bubbles. They represent one end of a large spectrum of attitudes and beliefs.

It’s always easy to focus on (and write articles about) the Stormfronts of this world, but for every one person who is out on the extreme there are thousands who lean that direction to various degrees. Understanding what leads them there and helping to prevent it seems like a more pressing matter than worrying about what is way out at the end of the curve.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:56 AM on May 29 [2 favorites]


Yep, little onion, that's the one!

The sexual strategy and environment these straight male incels imagine doesn’t exist in the very low effort straight male looking for straight female world, in fact straight women are socialized not to care too much about men’s looks.

It's not like these worries that if you're not attractive enough then you're doomed to be a pathetic failure and object of scorn (even though the standards for attractiveness are impossible to meet) are exotic and new. They're very familiar. For probably the vast majority of women, their parents, friends, and the men around them *explicitly* tell them that that's the truth, from the time they're born.

I'm reminded of the recent FPP about Curvy Wife Guy and how a fan of the couple was inspired to see that a very conventionally attractive, only slightly overweight woman like her could find happiness in a hetero relationship while she (the fan) had been told repeatedly by men she became involved with that the size of her body meant they would never love her. Women have been/are subjected to a lot of appearance pressure in the dating marketplace. Hetero cis men, from what I've experienced, are more interested in their appearances as one-up-manship competitions with other men than investigating what women actually find attractive. Women, I think, understand this and our expectations of appearances are different. So it's not quite that we don't care about appearances, but we're more willing to downplay them when we find other positive qualities in a person.

I think I always get stuck with Incels right at square one: Have they not met hetereosexual couples like ever at all?

Yes, they've seen real couples, but those people don't count. Women who aren't "10s" on their goofy scales don't count. They don't see their ostensible partners as people. They only see objects. They only want objects, specifically the kinds of objects they believe will impart status among other hetero cis men.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:58 AM on May 29 [27 favorites]


They honestly believe that the guys who are not chads are paying for it. But for some reason when they resort for paying for it, the woman they pay is only as cooperative and attentive as long as it takes to get the money, and they really resent having to pay for it whether in cash or in decent behaviour.

So I think - and this is probably more thought than I should waste on these people - that the core of incel philosophy is not actually about women, but about other men and their own sense of value as a man.

Because you'll note, if you read this shit, or the excerpts of this shit on We Hunted The Mammoth, which does some good roundups, that these people aren't really saying "I can't have sex", they are saying "I can't have sex with women of the attractiveness/social status level that I feel I deserve."

I've known the proto-versions of these men. Men who are a 3 or 4 on the conventional attractiveness scale sneering at women who are a 6. 40-year old men who have serious 'strikes' against them declaring that they will only settle for a 21-year old virgin.

This isn't about the women. This is about men realizing that social inequality exists, and that despite the fact that their dreams have been aiming at the top 10%, they aren't there and will never lead that life. They don't want a woman, they want a reward that acknowledges their own assessment of their worth.

And it's also important to note that in many ways, the world they're talking about isn't a completely fictitious one. The world they are talking about is, though they don't look at it with clear eyes, one in which women have no other method of survival other than attaching themselves to a man. In a world where women can't work for a living, you are going to have a lot of women attaching themselves to men who don't particularly deserve it. You have that all over the world, and you used to have it here. Transactional relationships have and do exist, but the thing is - there really isn't much reason to engage in them these days. The juice, as they say, isn't worth the squeeze - and I think that's what's driving them absolutely mad. The notion that honestly women can largely lead their best lives without them. They are inessential.
posted by corb at 7:59 AM on May 29 [116 favorites]


That's where I get stuck, too - are they bona fide shut-ins? Or is it that they do get out and see couples in the real world, but they don't really see them because of some kind of mental/emotional/psychic myopia, in much the same way they don't see their physical surroundings?

I feel like this is a phenomenon of online - not entirely, it's not like "oh women have it easy, they just pick from a pool of chads, it's men who are oppressed" is new - in its current form.

Online norming is really, really powerful and can absolutely overwrite lived reality. People who are insecure or have weak social ties or are predisposed to depression are more vulnerable to this, but I think it can work on almost anyone provided that they spend enough time online in the right kind of environment. I know this because I have lived it (in a less horrible worldview) - you fit all real-world data into your online narrative; real-world data never corrects the narrative.

I tend to assume that there are a range of men involved in this incel thing, ranging from men who really are hateful people who would be violent misogynists anywhere to socially vulnerable men who are drawn into this subculture because of a variety of personal weaknesses/vulnerabilities* and could conceivably go another way.

Obviously, this is a problem that can only be tackled either at the structural level (deplatforming, trying to provide physical-world connections to men, providing programs and teaching that cut against toxic masculinity) or at the very, very personal (trying to help someone you individually know and care about). Trying to tackle it at the middle level ("we should all be evangelists to the incels because they just need help!") is only going to lead to harm and burnout.

I think that at a structural level, it is possible to cut the legs out from under this stuff by deplatforming and providing options to those men who it's still possible to reach.

When I was younger, I knew a few guys who had sort of proto-incel ideas - nice-guy fallacy, resentment of women who wouldn't go out with them, lots of narrative about how women were shallow, etc. The ones I knew grew out of it - substantially because they were able to go out and be in the world. It's not so much "oh they were redeemed by women being nice to them" as "they were able to observe the world and encountered a variety of people and situations, thereby growing their capacity to respond to complicated things and growing their sense of self". If they had stayed at home in dark rooms reading incel forums all day...well, they were people I was friends with, so I'd like to think they wouldn't have become incels, but probably some of them would.

Like, I think a theory of incels that has any hope of being actionable has to have some kind of narrative about how misogyny and entitlement get materially transformed into incel behavior. We have to be able to theorize some chain of events that can be interrupted, some alternate structures that can be put in place. (And I wonder if people could draw from anti-cult/anti-fundie work - it seems like this kind of online situation is basically a stochastic cult.)


*Weak social ties, wanting validation from other men, unconsciously wanting to be shamed because it validates their self hate, unconsciously wanting to visit shame on others, loneliness, lack of strong sense of self. I know that when I fell into a really toxic internet environment, a lot of it had to do with self-hatred that derived from some Bad Childhood Things.
posted by Frowner at 8:04 AM on May 29 [42 favorites]


So I think - and this is probably more thought than I should waste on these people - that the core of incel philosophy is not actually about women, but about other men and their own sense of value as a man.

Exactly. It's a tough question though - "Why do other people get the validation I want while I don't?" What happens when someone goes through their formative years with that question rattling around in their brain?

What do you tell someone like that, especially when the answer is more or less "because life is unfair and you got the short end of the stick"? For incels, their worldview is so dangerous largely because there no small amount of truth to it.
posted by FakeFreyja at 8:10 AM on May 29 [8 favorites]


Is there a bigger cohort of sad, whining bastards on the planet?

This! Apologies for my total lack of empathy, but my gut reaction to these guys is they need to get their heads out of their collective asses.

I know it's not that simple, and I'm painting with a mighty big brush. But still....
posted by bwvol at 8:13 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


and mewing (chewing hard foods to bulk up the masseter muscles, said by British orthodontist Mike Mew to augment the jawline).

CALVIN: Plus, you develop that "chewer's jaw" that drives the girls wild.

I knew reading all those C&H books would come in handy someday!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:20 AM on May 29 [19 favorites]


Do they have to be my own bones
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:22 AM on May 29 [19 favorites]


I don’t know about anyone else, but my actual experience of someone’s physical attractiveness is mediated by my mental and emotional perceptions of them. I’m also drawn to uniqueness. So I don’t subscribe at all to ideas about ladders or universal grading scales. They certainly have to look like they take care of themselves, though. If anything is universally revolting, it’s slovenliness.

If someone has a physical characteristic that is bothering them so much that it’s affecting their ability to go out and interact with other people, I think it’s fine to take steps to change it, if one has the means. But if it was plastic surgeons radicalizing people for profit, that would be an issue.
posted by mantecol at 8:22 AM on May 29 [6 favorites]


I think I always get stuck with Incels right at square one: Have they not met hetereosexual couples like ever at all?

Mental illness is really puzzling to outsiders. Why are they choosing to believe this clearly crazy thing? As a younger person, I simply could not understand how anorexia functioned. Didn't they get hungry? Wasn't everyone around them warning them about the problem? But of course, none of that matters at all to the person in the centre of the disease.

These men are stuck ugly and potentially dangerous-to-others cycles of dysfunction (a very major difference with their issues). They're feeding their delusions by isolating themselves in the least healthy environments they can (I keep hearing echos of those pro-Ana clubs of the 90s), consuming the worst pop culture/sub-culture shit they can get their hands on to self-validate.

They are using their own choices to get there, but I doubt few, if any are capable of getting out to health on their own.
posted by bonehead at 8:28 AM on May 29 [5 favorites]


Frowner, I flagged your comment as "excellent" because of the actual solutions you offered. (I mean yes they will cost money and need lots of professionals with salaries and we all know how stingy the US health care system is, but I'm talking what could be done) We can't shrug our shoulders and say "welp, it's inborn, waddayagonnado, < shrug emoji > ); these are people who live in the real world and have impact on the real women (and children) around them and I think this needs to be treated like a public health crisis.

Yes, there are (likely) a few sociopaths in every generation who can only be quarantined or controlled, not cured, but I think the vast majority of people can be rehabilitated and/or deprogrammed and learn to live decent lives. This also goes for the alt-right in general and all its bigotry and isms; people aren't born bad, they learn to be bad. You have to be carefully taught, etc.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:35 AM on May 29 [5 favorites]


~And of course they need to do something about their seething hatred of women.

~Note that the first thing they are doing is getting their faces cut and their bones broken. That is hatred turned inward and used as a tool for self-transformation.


And, just to close the circle, once they discover physical reconstruction does nothing to improve their social success, the hatred for women will be turned-up a few more notches, because, afterall, it's all their fault.

This is a crowd who grew-up since they were children with the loud, ubiquitous, well-greased conservative drumbeat of "everything that is wrong in your world is the fault of those other people."
posted by Thorzdad at 8:35 AM on May 29 [12 favorites]


They are inessential.

Seems like this is the core of the matter, really. Ties to self-worth, need for validation, etc. etc., connects to the "we will not be replaced" tiki torch Nazi schtick, and on and on.

...but the thing of it is, they are inessential.

We all are. The universe cares not one whit whether I am a good person, whether I "deserve" to die a hideous death in a car accident, whether I should have a nice place to sleep tonight or not. Everything is contingent and precious little has anything to do with intrinsic value. It seems like we could sort out a bunch of ugly consequences if we (as a civilization) could address why some people can cope (for loose definitions of "cope") with their own fundamental irrelevance, and others will go to literally any length to avoid that.
posted by aramaic at 8:40 AM on May 29 [20 favorites]


"...so sad" x a million commenters: yes, untreated mental illness is supersad. It was sad to watch MJ slowly carve away his face until he looked like he was from another phylum. I am not feeling sad about these guys, particularly, though, because there's a whoooooooooooooole lot of untreated mental illness out there and only the barest edge of it is this malevolent entitled stripe that breeds rapey shits like this or crowd-shooters. The ones with the money to fuck around and do something? Order up an ambulance and get their stomach pumped on a whim because they're torqued that their latest enormous expenditure that they blew on a similar whim might not net them a supermodel? Collect a whole truckload of guns and Nazi tats? If you have the money, you need to fucking spend it on your damage, assholes, not on bump stocks or jaw surgeries, on a shrink and a course of ketamine or whatever will make you less of a danger to others. 'Til then, I'ma be saying my "so sads" about a different demographic, sorry.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:50 AM on May 29 [10 favorites]


Well, as with nearly all problems, I think a solution is actually more humanities education. If these guys had more appreciation for art, maybe their ideas about beauty would be more sophisticated. If they had more knowledge of poetry, maybe they would have more of a belief in love and depth of feeling. If they had read more novels, maybe their empathy and sense of perspective would be more developed. If they'd learned about music and dance more intimately, maybe they'd have more faith in the value of cooperative work and with partnership on a basic, physical level. If they had a better education in the humanities overall, maybe they would have the critical thinking skills to dismiss a lot of this delusional bullshit. If they felt comfortable making art/literature/music, maybe they could channel the powerful feelings that they're clearly feeling into something productive (and maybe even beautiful) rather than into the online hate machine or violence. Not a perfect solution, but we have spent millennia trying to figure out the human condition and broaden our minds and learn to think more deeply, and these guys could certainly use some improvement on all of that.
posted by rue72 at 8:50 AM on May 29 [15 favorites]


"So, like, how do these dudes explain this very obvious phenomenon that exists everywhere in reality? "

They don't want those women. They want Gisele Bundchen, but 21 (or even 18!), and a virgin but also dynamite in bed, and not demanding any reciprocal effort on their part like that they be rich or good-looking or employed or showering regularly or doing any housework. Middle-aged middle managers at Walgreens who have some friends and some kids and some hobbies they enjoy, who are married to a middle-aged middle school teacher with some midlife spread from having two kids, who's pretty but has a few wrinkles, that is not a woman who is attractive to them and the husband is a beta cuck for settling for her, and he's a beta cuck for working a boring middle-class 9-to-5 job that buys him a house and gets his family healthcare and his an extreme beta cuck for cooking his family weekend pancake breakfast and doing the dishes himself.

Their interpretations of the world are not rooted in reality. Presented with a happy marriage and a successful work life and all the outward trappings of success (a house, a steady job, two charming kids, some free time and disposable income to enjoy a hobby of choice), they revile it because the wife isn't hot enough (and might not have been a virgin when they got married!), the man is being suckered into doing things for his wife and family instead of just himself, he hasn't traded his wife in for a younger model, he's doing something boring, he works for someone else, he has to do what his boss says, he drives a boring car -- they always have a million excuses for why a happy, successful life is "actually" a failure.

They are determined to feel like failures -- in a mental illness way -- and they will twist every contrary narrative to explain how what they claim to actually want isn't achievable; it's actually failure, it's a false success, they've been duped, they've been tricked, and on and on and on.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:54 AM on May 29 [99 favorites]


And, just to close the circle, once they discover physical reconstruction does nothing to improve their social success, the hatred for women will be turned-up a few more notches, because, afterall, it's all their fault.

That is a broad generalization based on no evidence. As soon as we begin to discuss the sub-group of incels who get plastic surgery, we are discussing a sub-group more likely than most incels to take action than to blame circumstance, and to take action by altering themselves rather than altering others. Of that sub-group, some may fall back entirely into blaming others, others may have one surgery after another compulsively, and still others may notice that though the pretty new face gets them a chance to start a conversation, something seems to be wrong with their conversation. It is unlikely that any of them will ever be free of hatred and resentment, but some may get somewhat better.

At AA meetings you sometimes hear people say "So then I did a geographic, and that worked for a year," and people laugh, because doing a geographic is trying to fix alcoholism by moving. I always think "Wait, what? You got a sober year? That is not cure, but it is not nothing." Plastic surgery might sometimes work like that for some of these guys: no cure, but brief remission.
posted by ckridge at 8:54 AM on May 29 [6 favorites]


So, they can not spew hate and support violence briefly, by hating themselves and subjecting themselves to what amounts to violence. I don't see that as a positive.
posted by wellred at 8:56 AM on May 29 [2 favorites]


So, they can not spew hate and support violence briefly, by hating themselves and subjecting themselves to what amounts to violence. I don't see that as a positive.

You are good.

From a less good perspective, it is better that the hateful should harm themselves than that they should harm others.

Also, sometimes, rarely, violent self-hatred can be used to start to make oneself less hateful. A start isn't an ending, but every ending needs a start.
posted by ckridge at 9:01 AM on May 29


From a less good perspective, it is better that the hateful should harm themselves than that they should harm others.

I've yet to see any evidence that these men harming themselves precludes or even reduces the chance that they will harm others.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:09 AM on May 29 [17 favorites]


I've yet to see any evidence that these men harming themselves precludes or even reduces the chance that they will harm others.

I have only the anecdote from the article, but it is something:

He says he doesn’t hate women anymore. But he hasn’t left behind most of the theories about life that he was exposed to on incel forums. Sometimes when he notices a woman making eye contact with other men in the street, the entire world seems to narrow to a harsh, suffocating plane of power dynamics, in which sexual attraction determines all. “Every time I try to talk myself out of things I used to believe, of the black pill, it feels like I am moving away from the truth,” he tells me. It’s hard to want to live when that happens.

The second time we speak on the phone, Truth4lie tells me he has just been released from the hospital after attempting suicide. His last jaw-implant revision was still monstrously swollen, and he was so anxious about it that death seemed easier than looking at his face in the mirror.

He swallowed pills, then read on Google that his final hours would be slow and painful. So he called an ambulance. When he woke up in the hospital, it felt like being reborn, joyous, akin to the dopamine rush he always felt after being operated on.

“The prospect of a better surgery result is keeping me alive,” he tells me.

posted by ckridge at 9:17 AM on May 29


Incels seem to tap into a broader malaise, namely the idea that looking younger is a must for those of us who have managed to survive middle age. Theirs is a distilled version, tailored to men. They are consumed by a theory that will never bring them any more happiness or satisfaction than the crippled version of life they already have. It's fair to say that this idea (personal beauty reflects ones' worth) is inflicted on women, but the incel version has patriarcal trappings.

As a person with non-standard looks I can sympathize with the incels; it's a sad and sorry feeling, if you believe nobody will ever treasure your company, appreciate your love, or find you sexually desirable. Even their reasonable expectations will never be met. I don't know if it's fair to blame their social environment for the left-turn their egos have taken. I'm tempted to cite certain industries for the propaganda they put out that emphasizes youth and beauty. Surely they are a factor, but then lines drawn are always ambiguous.

When, for example, does the plastic surgery also become complicit in legitimizing this unhealthy ego fodder? Do "beauty aids" feed an unhealthy, inappropriate wish to be more worthwhile by fixing one's nose?--OH let me not be ugly! Make me look young again, please. Take away the bags under my eyes and the wrinkly waddles on my neck. Oh, begone! hateful crepe skin that's starting to show up on my arms. Seriously, while we're about it, am I suppose to call a doctor if my erection lasts four or more hours? I mean, really?

Will you please stop trying to tell me size doesn't matter? Anyhow, I can testify that pulling on your dick won't make it longer, although I won't go so far as to say it's a complete waste of time.
posted by mule98J at 9:19 AM on May 29 [7 favorites]


And in this culture when we talk about the people who raise children, we are talking about mothers. So blaming this on parental upbringing is blaming it on the mother, like it or not, and that's misogynistic.

When we talk about the parenting of a child, we're also talking about the failure to parent that child in a positive manner, and that very much includes the fathers. A father that is never home, or only interacts with a child to berate them is very much a part of the parenting of that child. Being a role model is a huge part of parenting, and failing to provide a positive role model is still parenting, just bad parenting.

There's a difference between care giving and parenting in this context. Your experience may be that mothers spend more time looking after children than fathers, but think of a mother that spends all day looking after a child to have the father come home at night and beat the child for twenty minutes; if that child was to become depressed or anxious in later life we can definitely pinpoint parental behaviour as a factor.
posted by trif at 9:21 AM on May 29 [9 favorites]


He says he doesn’t hate women anymore. But he hasn’t left behind most of the theories about life that he was exposed to on incel forums.

So he says he doesn’t hate women, and he may even think that he doesn’t hate women, but he still subscribes to a belief system built on hating women.
posted by sallybrown at 9:22 AM on May 29 [16 favorites]


https://genius.com/Frank-zappa-whats-the-ugliest-part-of-your-body-lyrics
posted by hank at 9:29 AM on May 29 [3 favorites]


There's also, like, a rigid pseudo-scientific biological determinism to the incel mindset which is just grim and reductionist. The assumption that all women are the same--and will respond exactly the same way to specific scientifically-derived ratios because evolution--is just untrue and denies the full weird variety of desire. I have a feeling people who see the world this way are similarly rigid in their other opinions and have difficulty with nuance. There are a million more ways for men to be considered attractive than women, if celebrity culture is any measure.

A (male) friend of mine used to be totally baffled that anyone would identify themselves as an "incel," because to him, it made no sense that these dudes were basing their identities on what should be a shameful admission that they were gross, ugly, and unfuckable. He didn't see why anyone would advertise to the world their own flaws so openly. He opined that this must be a problem invented by people who had pretty privileged lives and wanted an excuse why they'd amounted to nothing in spite of that. Maybe there's some form of psychological masochism in it too.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:32 AM on May 29 [23 favorites]


This is the sort of problem that going to war with a Great Power used to sort out.

I don't think we should go back to doing that, but all those wars throughout history make more sense when you see what happens when you have a bunch of surplus aimless dudes in peacetime.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:33 AM on May 29 [7 favorites]


He says he doesn’t hate women anymore. But he hasn’t left behind most of the theories about life that he was exposed to on incel forums

Yeah, so, where's the part of that or any of the rest that suggests that he is now no longer a potential danger to others? The part where he says he doesn't hate women? And yet immediately afterwards agrees that (as sallybrown points out) he still subscribes to the same inherently misogynistic worldview?

You're putting a lot of effort into trying to spin this behavior as a possible first step to wellness and I'm just not seeing it.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:39 AM on May 29 [18 favorites]


I uh....feel kind of a bit of dissonance with one of the paragraphs. I’ve never felt entitled and I certainly don’t hate anyone for my awkward past, but, as a once formerly frumpy nerd that was rejected more often than not for more...let’s say traditionally feminine and “put together” women, I felt the same sort of disgust when I had people piling up at my feet when I started dying my hair and wearing make up. My personality and accomplishments hadn’t changed but when I experimented with being stylish, lost weight, and presented slightly more fem I suddenly wasn’t rejected anymore and...in fact, swung the exact opposite to a level of “hotness” (according to others) I didn’t predict and that didn’t, and still doesn’t, match my self-perception . It sucked, ruined a lot of friendships unexpectedly, and sort of made me plummet into a deep sense of nihilism. Even now I just sort of question whether people who pursue me like me or just find me to be hot. I sort of fluctuate between caring and not caring about how I look now and focus on my other interests but, wow, what a depressing few years.
posted by Young Kullervo at 9:44 AM on May 29 [31 favorites]


Even now I just sort of question whether people who pursue me like me or just find me to be hot.

There’s a really good This American Life episode (transcript) on fatness, and the second act was on Elna Baker’s complicated feelings about taking weight loss pills and how people (even her husband) treat her differently than they might if she stopped taking the pills. It seems like a more real-world version of the theories a lot of these incel communities have about attractiveness, and with the same factor of self-harm (because she knows the weight loss pills aren’t good for her).
The attention I got from men, I wrote in my journal, I wish I could just enjoy it. Instead it made me sad. It was the unfairness that got to me. Old Elna longed for someone like Andy and never got him. She tried so hard for everything that I now got so easily.

New Elna didn't have to be a good person. I just had to be thin. It made the world seem so bleak, like this is the system? Really? It made me less hopeful about people. When guys came on to me, it didn't feel like it was about me. I could be anyone. It made it hard to trust people.

Can I just say another word about this? It's just such an unbalanced reward system. It took so much more kindness, hard work, and ingenuity to be a person in the world when I was fat. All this took was not eating.
Anyways I recommend it unreservedly and I still think about it quite often, especially how she misses the person she was when she was fat.
posted by sallybrown at 10:00 AM on May 29 [61 favorites]


Yes. Yes that is 100% how I feel. Thank you.
posted by Young Kullervo at 10:10 AM on May 29 [2 favorites]


All I have the energy to say is that this crap will probably make life for difficult for people who do things like get jaw surgery to fix their bite. It's something people typically do for a combination of dental and aesthetic reasons, and we can't deny that most people are more attractive without a malocclusion, but now they're at risk of being regarded as delusional because they're choosing an invasive body modification to fix something not life-threatening.
posted by blerghamot at 10:11 AM on May 29


sallybrown, I still think about that episode all. the. time. Elna Baker was so open about it and honest and willing to share all that. It was really, really helpful for me.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:13 AM on May 29 [6 favorites]


I mean not turn this into personal anecdote theater but when I lost about thirty pounds and started packing on some muscle so I could more effectively wear a Halloween costume ( i know) I noticed that a lot of men's perception of me changed and people were just nicer to me or paid attention to be more or I got a hit on a lot more often - and at first like others say it kind of depressed me cuz oh is that all it is? But this change was from the men I was trying to attract which is men who are interested in other men and I realized it is that simple when it comes down to base attraction. I previously thought the reason I was such a dud in the hookup or even dating world was because I had such a horrible personality or I was like really off-putting or didn't fit in in some way when it turns out no it's literally just how you look. And that was kind of freeing. Cuz I can change how I look.

As I said before this kind of dark sexual Marketplace these people conceived of all human relationships being does exist in reality it's just gay men under 40 looking for casual sex - plastic surgery is pretty common in professional guppy circles , and it definitely calms the hell down as people get older and their metabolisms change but you know for a very long time we didn't have a whole lot of gay men over 40 because of reasons.
posted by The Whelk at 10:13 AM on May 29 [36 favorites]


I'm pretty sure if you're a decent person and you get jaw surgery, whether it's cosmetic or dental, you're not going to be seen the same way as if you're an angry person who lashes out at others and gets jaw surgery for whatever reason including cosmetic.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:14 AM on May 29 [7 favorites]


Even now I just sort of question whether people who pursue me like me or just find me to be hot.

I think it's likely to be some combination of both, but the people worth sticking with are those who like you for you.

We are visual creatures. You can't see across a crowded room if someone has a great personality or likes D&D (well, okay, the t-shirt might give that away), but you can see a great smile or red hair or height or whatever it is that you are throwing out there.

It's also entirely possible that dyeing your hair did change your personality in subtle ways. You look in the mirror in the morning and think "Woo hoo, that looks pretty good!" and that changes how you go about your day.

There's also something to be said about presenting the best possible version of you. It's why we dress up for interviews and make sure we are freshly showered before dates and why we wash the car before taking pictures and selling it on Craigslist. Doing that shows we care about how we present ourselves. That has to be better than not caring, right?

(That does assume that the person you are presenting is actually a version of you and not something invented for the occasion. If the dyed hair version of you didn't feel like you, but got all the attention, then I can absolutely see how you'd feel shitty about that. And I'm sorry. I was probably one of the guys who didn't pay attention to you when you were the frumpy nerd, but then again I was no prize myself back then, so perhaps it was all for the best).
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:19 AM on May 29 [4 favorites]


That article was perfect for reminding me that I have a little buried knot of heterophobia yet to fully exorcize from my still-mad-about-the-Reagan-years core, because I read it and responded to it like I do whenever I see mainstream heterosexual porn tailored to the male gaze or spend any time around drunk straight dudes.

What the fuck is wrong with straight people?

In my Twitter circle (my social media Methadone as I'm detoxing from Facebook), there's a lot of talk about how this invokes gay male culture, which further reminds me to thank my fortuitous stars that my upbringing and early environment entirely failed to push me into that maelstrom of gay body dysphoria, because all the hot dudes in my neighborhood growing up had dadbods and I'm still partial to the uncultivated physique and lucky that my gentleman caller is partial to my vacant-lot-full-of-car-parts-and-untended-gardening-and-cardboard-boxes-melting-in-the-rain physique. Of course, that awareness reminds me that I am mostly relaxed about these things not because of any great effort or intellectual triumph of my own endeavor, but rather because I lucked out, so compassion is warranted.

Whether I have enough for incels is another question entirely.
posted by sonascope at 10:25 AM on May 29 [8 favorites]


Ah, it most likely is a combination, but for a while I honestly didn’t really think anything of how the changes made me look to others except that I felt I looked a certain way that I, personally, was pleased with. The goal definitely wasn’t to get more attention, but an unexpected side effect. I just had in my head I wanted to look a way I perceived as cool because I was honestly in my own head more often than not (a side effect of constant rejection. I didn’t think people cared to bother with me so I stopped trying and started to really become self-focused). Typically I got people’s attention in the past for my personality, which hasn’t changed, but they would pass me over for someone a little thinner, a little more fem, and a little more outwardly stylish. I don’t begrudge them at all, and I don’t feel any disdain, but it’s been extremely confusing.

I also must note that even those changes didn’t seem to matter because I’m still boyish and refuse to alter any aspect of that. Preferences be preferences.
posted by Young Kullervo at 10:30 AM on May 29 [2 favorites]


Also I think Frowner hit on a key element of this culture which is that it is extremely online which allows you to double down and become more rigid and indoctrinated and Performing for other members but it's also that the very nature of online dating and online hookup apps really do encourage you to think of yourself as a product in the marketplace versus a person looking to connect with another person.
posted by The Whelk at 10:32 AM on May 29 [20 favorites]


The best thing about romance is the the weird, non-visual, inexplicable stuff that generally gets filed under "chemistry." For me, this can manifest when a guy sustains eye contact when I'm talking to him or says my name in a certain way or asks an interesting question and remembers the answer or shows me how do do something random/useful/empowering or laughs in a certain way or says something honest and kind and also kind of funny or I don't know, comes in from outside on a cold day and somehow smells like winter and then you both go for the pint glass at the same time and your fingers accidentally touch and goddamn, I love his hands all of the sudden, have I noticed them and what about the hair on the nape of his neck, how soft would it feel and everything goes all Pop Rocks and you're sure you're blushing and maybe he is too and you have that pleasant roller-coaster weightlessness that comes when you realize he's kind of on the same page as you are. I mean, that's the stuff. And that, in my experience, has had zero to do with what dudes have looked like.

It's a crying shame those jackasses don't know that.
posted by thivaia at 10:36 AM on May 29 [42 favorites]


As a person with non-standard looks I can sympathize with the incels; it's a sad and sorry feeling, if you believe nobody will ever treasure your company, appreciate your love, or find you sexually desirable. Even their reasonable expectations will never be met.

I think it's really important to note, though, that incels aren't saying no one will ever enjoy their company or appreciate their love - they're saying that no one they find worthy will, and their definition of worthiness is a very, very narrow subset of the human population. And so I think if we are to look seriously at where this stuff comes from, it's in our current extremely extended adolescence, and the lack of achievable, acknowledgable markers of adulthood.

When I was a girl, when I thought of a partner, in many ways I had a version of this. I wanted to find a man who was devastatingly handsome, but didn't wield it like a weapon. I wanted a man who was wealthy enough that I and my children would never even have to think of money problems. I wanted a man who was sexually experienced enough that we would always have mutual climaxes, every time - but who would, at first sight of me, swear off all other women for the remainder of his natural life, even when we weren't dating yet. I wanted him to be incredibly physically powerful, but never have been a bully. To have a deep and secret wish for a household of children. To be willing to fight at the drop of a hat for my honor - yet have never been in trouble with the law or to have a temper that would manifest itself in any inconvenient ways. A man who would be fiercely dominant in all aspects of his life - yet who would accede to my slightest whim.

And then I went to war, and bore a child. And I looked at those things I had wanted before and realized that they were the wishes of a child, for the impossible. And so I set my dreams for the attainable. For a man who would be stably employed, a kind husband and father, and who would love me enormously. For a man who was 'reasonably' attractive, ie, someone I wanted to have sex with. And that opened up my choices enormously. It wasn't a matter of 'how can I attract the one person who I think happens to fit my incredibly specific choices', it was 'how can I find someone I can enjoy and who is Good Enough'. And i found my adult choices easy enough to fulfill. I had a number of options and chose one and haven't looked back.

I keep thinking back to what I think is a really good example of expectations previously, even aside from the religious connotations:
When I was a child I spake as a child, I thought as a child, I understood as a child, but when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
We used to have a lot more markers of adulthood, and they were easier to achieve, both socially and economically. Going to war was a lot easier when we had a war once a generation and a mighty draft. Getting a 'steady job' or 'buying a house' used to be a marker of adulthood, but how many of us here even know anyone with a job they can be reasonably certain they will never be fired from as long as they don't fuck up royally? And how many of us, or our peers, could afford to buy houses - or even, in many cases, move out of their parent's houses into a solo apartment - in their early to mid twenties?

So you have a lot of heterosexual men - as prize bull octorok notes, surplus aimless men - who don't have an ability to achieve traditional markers of adulthood, and so they don't really focus on being an adult. They 'Peter Pan' - you see it in the contempt for traditional 9-5 jobs, of a life, as Eyebrows notes, of having to actually consider the opinions of their wives. They never move beyond those adolescent desires of a dream that would somehow happen to them - they don't start thinking of what are achievable realities. All of their dreams seem to them equally impossible.

There's a paper written about twenty years ago - "A Surplus of Men, a Deficit of Peace" by Hudson and Den Boer. It has some serious deficiencies - while it focuses on young men unable to achieve marriage, it focuses only on sex ratios, mostly in Asia, and not on women's independence meaning a lower marriage rate. But it does effectively link this problem to an increase in societal violence, and also, most tellingly right now, an increase in political violence.
The behavior of young surplus males also follows a broadly predictable pattern. Theory suggests that compared with other males in society, bare branches will be prone to seek satisfaction through vice and violence, and will seek to capture resources that will allow them to compete on a more equal footing with others. ... As Margo Wilson and Martin Daly note, “Men are not poorer than women, but they help themselves to other people’s property more often, and they are evidently readier to use violence to do so.”...

Indeed, governments of high sex-ratio societies must often cultivate a political style crafted to retain the allegiance and respect of its bare branches. This tends to be a swaggering, belligerent, provocative, martial style—to match that of the bare branches themselves. In the rhetoric accompanying such a posture, there is inevitably an “other,” who is weak and contemptible and whose attempt to ªnd a place in society or in the international order must be opposed. The society is then enjoined to muster its strength so that these “insults” can be answered with appropriate action.
tl;dr: incels, and our lack of dealing with the social forces giving rise to the entitlement that creates them, may be what is destroying us now, and may also have been partially what gave rise to the current Trump regime.
posted by corb at 10:59 AM on May 29 [61 favorites]


The thing about "just be your best self" and "attraction just happens" is that we're not actually all socialized with zero stuff about beauty and worth and then stuck in a big room to see who we're attracted to. It's not even like we receive only positive messages, like "THIS is beautiful and good"*; we also receive negative messages about "THIS is ugly and bad"**. And we are taught that beauty indicates or ought to indicate a thing called "goodness".

There's no "best self" that isn't modulated by our ideologies. And while of course there's no outside to ideology, I think it's helpful not to reinscribe beliefs about "best self" and so on by dwelling on them in great detail, reading about attractiveness all the time on the internet, discussing just which movie star is the most classically beautiful and whether you would like to have sex with a celebrity who is not classically beautiful, etc. One great thing about metafilter is that this whole line of discussion tends to get modded away by loving hands nowadays.

~~
On chemistry: I am a masculine spectrum person who is read as a butch queer woman in good light and tight fitting clothes and as a man in low light and a heavy coat. Every once in a while I have *chemistry* (that weird sort of mutual click, I don't really know how to describe it except it's different from just being attracted to someone on your own) with a straight man and it's always a head trip for him. Like, the click is there but I am....obviously not attractive so what the fuck, right? So I'm kind of aware that "what is officially attractive" and "things that attract us" do not always overlap real well.

*Now appearing hilariously in online woke culture when people post some picture of a middle aged politician and a middle aged movie star and then comment that you can see how racism/misogyny/bigotry makes you ugly, instead of commenting that being a movie star means that your face is your fortune and you have both a stylist and a lot of work done - as if we'd all look like Angelina Jolie if we just opened our minds.

**Which, famously, confuses the heck out of people when they're attracted to a "bad" characteristic.
posted by Frowner at 11:01 AM on May 29 [22 favorites]


I know logic is not the strong point, but if their supposed theories are all evo-psych bullshit, then yeah.... in the animal kingdom, sometimes/often, only the alpha or "best" males get to pass on their genes. Females want to select for the best genes. By their own logic, yes, only a small group of males "deserve" to mate? I did RTA and still don't see an explanation for this?
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:04 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


In the context of this conversation, what does "surplus" mean exactly? There are fewer males at every age bracket, and we are by and large a monogamous society, so I'm not seeing how there can be a surplus of them.
posted by FakeFreyja at 11:06 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


Perhaps that mating is no longer required for all definitions of adult woman success, thus there are surplus men.
posted by wellred at 11:09 AM on May 29



In the context of this conversation, what does "surplus" mean exactly? There are fewer males at every age bracket, and we are by and large a monogamous society, so I'm not seeing how there can be a surplus of them.


SMBC
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:10 AM on May 29


I'm using it in the sense that they're "surplus" to their communities/families; they don't hold jobs or leadership positions that are perceived as important or significant, they're dependents rather than providers. You know, NEETs. I don't think it's that there's too many of them relative to the female population, but that there aren't enough validating/satisfying societal roles for them to fill.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:12 AM on May 29 [5 favorites]


Perhaps that mating is no longer required for all definitions of adult woman success, thus there are surplus men.

I would assume there are at least as many men who don't want or need a woman for any measure of success. Or at least close enough for these groups to have a negligible statistical effect.
posted by FakeFreyja at 11:12 AM on May 29


I'm using it in the sense that they're "surplus" to their communities/families; they don't hold jobs or leadership positions that are perceived as important or significant, they're dependents rather than providers. You know, NEETs. I don't think it's that there's too many of them relative to the female population, but that there aren't enough validating/satisfying societal roles for them to fill.

This is so confusing. Why don't the "surplus" men just hook up with the many "surplus" dependent women?

I guess this is why I'm not a sociologist.
posted by FakeFreyja at 11:14 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


This is where we're at, exactly. We're no longer a society that MUST hook up with someone in much of the world, so we don't "just" hook up with anyone. Incels take this to an extreme, but everyone's looking for something in particular.
posted by wellred at 11:18 AM on May 29 [4 favorites]


the ones who can, I imagine, do.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:18 AM on May 29


This is so confusing. Why don't the "surplus" men just hook up with the many "surplus" dependent women?

This must have something to do with the broader growth of independent single childless women as a group. This is considered an empowering thing (and as someone in that category, it sure feels empowering to me), whereas for the incels they see themselves as being bereft of something? Maybe it’s that idea of the contrast in opportunity to prior generations (so women feel we have gained something because we have a choice now)?
posted by sallybrown at 11:20 AM on May 29 [8 favorites]


Why don't the "surplus" men just hook up with the many "surplus" dependent women?

I am speculating here, because I just cannot bear to wade through writing about these guys and find out for sure. I speculate that they have conflated women as status markers with women as people, and can only be satisfied with a woman who will serve as a status marker. This is a catastrophic state for a low-status guy, in that it makes you both miserably unhappy and bad. You would figure that if you were going to be bad, you would do it in some way that made you happy at least some of the time, but not these guys.

Or so I speculate.
posted by ckridge at 11:22 AM on May 29 [5 favorites]


It's not really about the surplus, though - there's a dude in the article who has slept with lots of women but is still an incel because he's not sleeping with women who are "objectively 8's" or whatever. That's the insidious thing: success is always recontextualized as failure.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 11:25 AM on May 29 [20 favorites]


but it's also that the very nature of online dating and online hookup apps really do encourage you to think of yourself as a product in the marketplace versus a person looking to connect with another person.

And also, y'know, late stage capitalism.

And so I think if we are to look seriously at where this stuff comes from, it's in our current extremely extended adolescence

Which, y'know, is certainly exacerbated by late-stage capitalism.

I mean, if we wanna swing the wide net and come up with a generalized core reason why this stuff exists and is spreading, I would go with "capitalism" over "the internet" or "social media" or "parenting." We exist in a culture that is constantly constantly constantly sending us messages about who looks good and why and their "value" to society, all in the name of selling more mops and smartphones and movies and beer. The internet and social media may well have accelerated and intensified it - online hookup apps encourage us to think of ourselves as a product in the marketplace because we're already habituated to think of ourselves that way thanks to the gig economy and decades of precarious employment - but I don't know that it's really all that different from the pre-internet days of marketing eyeliner or cars or whatever.

Of course the incels' understanding of physiology and psychology and human behavior is all wrong, but in a world as fascinated with the Brad Pitt/Jennifer Aniston/Angelina Jolie drama as ours is, it's not hard to see how they come to the conclusions they have.
posted by soundguy99 at 11:30 AM on May 29 [5 favorites]


As a person with non-standard looks I can sympathize with the incels; it's a sad and sorry feeling, if you believe nobody will ever treasure your company, appreciate your love, or find you sexually desirable.

Everyone (including the incels) get hung up on the sex thing, but I think the first two are as much a part of this as everything else.

What I think has been warped by immature minds into a "Right To Sex" is actually a "Right To Feel Accepted." As much as they hate the Chads and Stacys they want to be the Chads and Stacys and feel like normal people in a normal society.

But conceptually there are no men who don't have sex in our society. Even the perceived haven of nerdom has been stripped away. According to common discourse everyone out there is getting laid on a regular basis, because that's what normal is.

As I said upthread it's easy to focus on the extremists, but they are perhaps the least important part of this. Men who exist on the wide spectrum that ends with incels are far more numerous and I think more reachable.

How to reach them is tougher, but we can start by recognizing that 7% of the population hasn't had sex in a year or more. It's part of life for some people and that's okay. Knowing that probably won't help the current generation of incels but I think it could help a lot of young men who are feeling very isolated by our sex obsessed society.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:34 AM on May 29 [7 favorites]


I am sure many of us on the far side of about 40 or so can point to older male relatives, perhaps our own fathers, who we wondered "how did someone like him get married in the first place? He's gross and unhygienic/cruel and mean/ can't old down a job but won't help out at home/ etc." But back in the day, marriage was Just What You Did if you wanted to be an adult. (Stephanie Coontz is a great read on the subject.)

Now, women can be single forever and still have sex lives, children, homes, and friendships. We don't need to clean fruit fly infestations out of a man's apartment in exchange for "respectable" lives and childbearing. And not only do we not have to settle, the divorce revolution has given marriage a sense of impermanence: it's no longer IF you get divorced, it's WHEN. So doubly why settle when it's all going to be over in ten years and you'll be a single mom anyway?

So the sense of frustrated entitlement is spilling over: why should I quit smoking and clean up my apartment when I'm OWED a hot woman? And the fixation on shallow, surface appeal is such that it must be their appearance, not their seething hatred, their personality, or their lack of personal hygiene that is at fault. If only I could Instagram myself, I'd have an equally Instagram mate!

There's a lot of layers to work through but again I don't think it's evolution, or someone being "born bad," but something in upbringing - and I mean dads, not moms; how does a little boy witness Dad treating Mom and his kids? In a majority of cases, I'd say "not well" or "outright abusively" - and society poisons the psyche of these individuals. It really is a public health issue.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:35 AM on May 29 [18 favorites]



Why don't the "surplus" men just hook up with the many "surplus" dependent women?

[runs off to start a new speciality dating site]
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:38 AM on May 29 [2 favorites]


Entitlement is a hell of a drug, isn't it?

Some days I wonder if it isn't the cause of everything awful about humans. I'd advocate for removing it entirely from our psyches (how is left as an exercise for the reader), but there are some things we are all entitled too--food, shelter, medical care, education, personhood--and should be rightly pissed if we don't get those things.

Most of these guys have never had to be pissed about not being afforded those basics (as they generally are "givens" for, say, white dudes in America). I'm curious if you get many incel types among dudes who do have to fight to be seen worthy of one or more of the "givens". (Which isn't to say you'd be a prince if you had to struggle to find your next meal--shitty guys are endemic--but maybe they are not shitty in this specific way.)
posted by maxwelton at 11:43 AM on May 29 [2 favorites]


That's the insidious thing: success is always recontextualized as failure.

This is where I really like the contrapoints video 'incels' in describing the kind of self-defeating self--fulling hilosophy of this cult mindset no matter what you do you're always a failure. If you try to better yourself in any way then you're a hopecel and pathetic. You really couldn't come up with a better self-reinforcing cult if you tried.

And I do think late-stage capitalism has a part in this because it is colonized our minds and all of our social interactions into being market-driven Commodities and this is sort of just the natural end point when you think of all human interactions as taking place within a market.

And if they can't get the most high end product that they feel entitled to why should they bother doing anything?
posted by The Whelk at 11:44 AM on May 29 [9 favorites]


In the "surplus men" theory, there aren't surplus women, not because there aren't women without partners, but because women who are unpartnered typically still exist in close-knit family and community structures, whereas men are "domesticated" to civil society when they get married (and there's plenty of evidence of this, like car insurance rates for young men dropping precipitously once they get married, because they have so many fewer accidents once they're married). It's not so much that they're "extra" vis-a-vis society-wide gender ratios, but that they are "surplus" to the community because single women tend to be tightly integrated into their families and communities even if they never marry and behave in a pro-social fashion, but single adult men tend to (on a society-wide level) behave in more violent, anti-social, and destructive ways. When those men are "domesticated" through marriage, they tend to become pro-social and stop engaging in anti-social and destructive behavior. (This is not an evo-psych theory, I hasten to add; this is a sociological discussion about 19th, 20th-, and 21st-century Western societies -- it has no bearing on how Ancient Roman or medieval French adults became or failed to become pro-social. There are SOME analogies to be drawn to other societies in other times, and SOME interesting comparisons to make to chimpanzees and so on, but the theory of surplus males is specifically about social structures of the relatively-modern era in the West.)

In the post-1800 era, large groups of unmarried men have been a recipe for violence and political unrest, particularly when those groups are underemployed or lack access to the financial resources that would enable them to marry and establish a home away from their parents. Their anti-social behavior renders them less marriageable, which renders them more anti-social, which renders them less employable, which renders them less marriageable, in a vicious and escalating cycle. An extremely traditional way this is dealt with -- it pops up in political theory ALL THE TIME -- is by having a war. All your angry, violent, glory-craving surplus men suddenly are valuable and necessary to society, and a whooooooooole bunch of them get killed off, and society returns to a more peaceful equilibrium. Note that we have periods of time where we actually have significantly more women than men in the marriage market -- after WWI, for example -- but unmarried and unmarriageable women do not behave in antisocial ways; they remain pro-social and find ways to have meaningful community relationships without marriage.

(And note how this ties in to emotional labor -- men are totally capable of being unmarried, pro-social individuals, just like women, and plenty of men accomplish that! But in general society expects women to do the job of socializing their husbands, and men are not expected to socialize themselves.)

There's certainly some discussion to be had about how heterosexual women these days have less NEED of men (economically and socially) and so are less willing to settle for a chump, but the surplus men theory is much, much more about economics, and I would point to the hollowing out of America's middle class and the narrowing possibilities for advancement in the United States as a major, major driver of these "surplus men," who have limited job prospects, and even if they do have a "good," steady job, aren't able to buy a house by 30 or save for retirement or whatever else.

Advocates of the surplus men theory were pointing out in the 1980s that in the 2000s/2010s, the Arab world was going to be seeing the fruits of an ENORMOUS Baby Boom and that unless huge changes in the educational and political systems were in place in several countries (notably Saudi Arabia and Iran, from what I recall), we should expect to see a lot of radicalization and violence coming out of that part of the world, because they were going to have a lot of men competing for not-enough good jobs, and so they'd struggle to move out of their parents' houses. The women are THERE, they're just still living with their parents because it's so hard to start a new household because of the economic situation.

Another thing to look at is the Great Depression in the United States, where there were suddenly an ASSTON of "surplus men" because there were no jobs and everybody was poor. Instead of going to war, FDR created the CCC and took all those surplus men and gave them jobs building national parks and flood barriers and whatnot, paying them in food, clothing, and shelter, plus $5/month for booze and cigarettes and $25 to send home to their families, and it largely worked. It gave them important and valued work, a way to help their families, a community of other men -- and respect and position in society.

(Now there's a counterfactual discussion to be had about whether the CCC would have continued working indefinitely/until the Depression was over, or if WWII was necessary to end the Depression and solve the "surplus men" problem for good.)

Anyway. They're not gender-ratio surplus, they're socially and economically surplus.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:49 AM on May 29 [83 favorites]


but it's also that the very nature of online dating and online hookup apps really do encourage you to think of yourself as a product in the marketplace versus a person looking to connect with another person.

I think that's objectification. Capitalism isn't necessary. There were plenty of people being bartered and sold and used and dehumanized based on being a "product" in the "meat market" millennia before capitalism was a thing.
posted by rue72 at 11:53 AM on May 29 [3 favorites]


Wait...These guys actually believe the answer to their problems involves traveling to Indianapolis????
posted by Thorzdad at 11:54 AM on May 29 [6 favorites]


by recognizing that 7% of the population hasn't had sex in a year or more

Of all the places I had to be a Viking, how come this?

While this is not an ideal state of affairs, I'm generally at peace with it. I do know people who (I think) would go full-tilt off the deep-end if that was their situation; it's always fascinated me as to the difference in "wiring" between them and I (and to be clear, I don't think I have the superior schematic--I think I'd be a happier human if my wiring in that regard was a bit more towards "OMG it has been TWO WEEKS" as opposed to "which decade are we in?").
posted by maxwelton at 11:55 AM on May 29 [7 favorites]


The funny thing is that in the 40-and-over world, there are definitely a lot of "surplus" (what a demeaning way to describe someone) women looking for men.

I'm a recently divorced middle-aged dude who went back into the dating market after a longterm marriage, and here's what I discovered: (1) If you're a middle-aged hetero man looking for a middle-aged hetero woman; (2) you're a functional adult at a basic level; and (3) you have any semblance of an acceptable appearance, either in physical beauty and/or mannerisms, then there is a very large market of women who will take a look at you. Not only that, but many (most?) of these women are pretty damned desirable. They don't all look like supermodels, sure, but plenty of them are quite attractive, and they have a wealth of life experiences that make them interesting people who are fun to spend time with.

And the market for desirable men in this age range is really, really poor. Like, loaded with mouth-breathing knuckle-draggers. So if you're actually a moderately decent-looking dude who has his shit together, you can pretty much date as many women as you want. Doesn't mean you're gonna get fantastically laid every night, but you might have some enjoyable experiences, and you sure as hell don't have to be alone all the time.

And there are things you can do to improve your chances. Hit the gym maybe. Buy some decent clothes. Learn how to keep house, cook, entertain, etc. If your face is "unusual", then develop a sense of humor and sharpen your wit. If you can get a woman to laugh, she might not find your ugly mug so distracting. Just make some effort forgodsakes.
posted by mikeand1 at 12:03 PM on May 29 [21 favorites]


I looked at those things I had wanted before and realized that they were the wishes of a child, for the impossible.

Well, exactly. When I was 18 I full on with all my little child's heart wanted a FIJI. Whoever ran rush for that frat had exquisite taste; they were without exception incredible. Perfect, beautiful, like every one of them had been turned on a lathe, by Michelangelo and Jesus.

Eventually I got a little older and I got some more experience and my frontal lobe firmed up and came online and I started to notice that many of the FIJIs and the rest of the frat boys were intolerable assholes, and I stopped wanting them. I didn't want to hatefuck them all because I was pissed that they were assholes; I stopped wanting them because assholes are not attractive. It doesn't seem like such a difficult leap.
posted by Don Pepino at 12:06 PM on May 29 [8 favorites]


I think that's objectification. Capitalism isn't necessary

true, but I think a society where the only mass available mindset and way of framing things is in market-based ways makes the objectification worse. And this very reductive, very basic framework becomes more appealing because it explains away a lot of complex, personal, sociological shit.
posted by The Whelk at 12:10 PM on May 29 [4 favorites]


I'm curious if you get many incel types among dudes who do have to fight to be seen worthy of one or more of the "givens". (Which isn't to say you'd be a prince if you had to struggle to find your next meal--shitty guys are endemic--but maybe they are not shitty in this specific way.)

I was with a guy for about a year who spouted a lot of what I now see is red pill shit. He'd had a rough time. Granted, he was a white man. But his parents had been pretty horribly neglectful, he'd grown up pretty desperately poor, and when he was 19 or so he wound up in prison for a couple years. I wouldn't say he was privileged, just hateful. Why was I with him, you ask? I was naive and lonely, he was hot...That's all I can think. He turned scary, I left him, it was all a terrible mistake and for all I know, he's gone full-on MAGA now.

I think a lot of these guys aren't necessarily spoiled brats, or crazy, or stupid. I think a lot of them are people who don't understand their own feelings at all or how to soothe them or how to get perspective on them, and so they lash out and then justify their lashing out with whatever societal excuses are at hand and then lash out some more, and on and on until somebody winds up dead. That's been my experience, anyway.
posted by rue72 at 12:13 PM on May 29 [10 favorites]


Come to find out that it's more like 23% of the population hasn't had sex in a year. That's mostly because 18% of the population is over 60, and so more likely to be tired, sick, or bereft of their partner. However, the largest increase in sexual inactivity has occurred among young men. Part of that is because millennials have sex later and get married much later, but some of it likely has to do with trouble getting a place of their own.
posted by ckridge at 12:13 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


On one hand: beauty is partially socially constructed and a personal social philosophy in which it's assigned a load-bearing role is eventually going to let you down catastrophically, whether that means assuming you're denied certain things because of its lack or relying on it because of the measure you have.

On the other hand: visual appeal is more than socially constructed, and even to the extent that it is socially constructed it isn't arbitrarily malleable much less trivially dismissed, and that has concrete impacts on people. I know both women and men who've transformed their bodies through exercise and/or weight loss or help from dermatologists (and a few with cosmetic surgery) and there's some rue that's mixed in with the satisfaction, because they find out it's true -- it does change how people interact with them, human beings are partly visual creatures and make judgments based off visual cues, and with that goes any illusion that it's only what's on the inside that counts. And wouldn't we all like to be able to shape (if not outright choose) the appearance we project?

Being an average looking dude I relate to some incel complaints. On top of that, I'm probably an outlier in some other psych traits, which means that my range of compatibility is narrow in other ways. Together with average looks it seems to make dating hard (and I don't think dating starts easy). But... I seem to sometimes find women I like, some of those seem to like me back, and I don't consider real friendship a second-class thing so my lot seems more or less OK. I suppose I can imagine a fantasy world where my appearance alone is a reason to be interested in sex with me. To be honest that sounds fun. And perhaps with no risks of a worse appearance or compromised health, I'd even pay for a service that did that. That always seems like a deal with the devil to me, though -- I don't trust that there aren't such risks, and I wonder if there aren't spiritual risks as well. Not unlike those that seem to consume incels.
posted by wildblueyonder at 12:17 PM on May 29 [4 favorites]


Come to find out that it's more like 23% of the population hasn't had sex in a year. That's mostly because 18% of the population is over 60, and so more likely to be tired, sick, or bereft of their partner. However, the largest increase in sexual inactivity has occurred among young men. Part of that is because millennials have sex later and get married much later, but some of it likely has to do with trouble getting a place of their own.

Huh. 28% of men 18-30 haven't had sex in the past year compared to only 18% of women in the same age bracket. I wouldn't have predicted that.
posted by FakeFreyja at 12:18 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


true, but I think a society where the only mass available mindset and way of framing things is in market-based ways makes the objectification worse. And this very reductive, very basic framework becomes more appealing because it explains away a lot of complex, personal, sociological shit.

I think that you're right that capitalism is part of the problem, but that there's a better explanation about why, precisely - particularly, how capitalism and Taylorism have interacted with machine intelligence.

Increased focus on efficiency of motion and efficiency of time have, as anticipated, both disrupted the amount of labor required for production, and also increased alienation. This was true pre-machine, but has radically increased post-machine, (computer-scheduled shifts to maximize coverage, etc) and the breakdown has made these jobs far easier to automate, which has created severe structural unemployment that deeply affects the men of the appropriate age groups. The lower quality of goods produced in the quest to precisely maximize profit has also meant a reduction in actual wage power, and those men who manage to remain employed also have lost the social bonds of work which could ameliorate the effects of social status, because of the increased competition between workers.
posted by corb at 12:22 PM on May 29 [9 favorites]


I looked at those things I had wanted before and realized that they were the wishes of a child, for the impossible.

The whole thing is very largely a refusal to engage with the world except as a (spoiled) child: the extreme focus on "fairness" (largely reflecting their own desires as "fair"), the wildly unrealistic expectations, the inability to look inward at all to solve their problems, their expectation that they should be catered to, protected and cosseted.

I kind of see it as an extreme end state of some sort of developmental disorder.
posted by bonehead at 12:38 PM on May 29 [6 favorites]


I think its also the nature of finding someone, via social media or The Apps which has become increasingly automated and taylorized, you want the best returns on investment, so you cast a wide net and try to game your stats. It all feels very video game. And while it can be good to Find Someone Now In Your Area if you're looking for a hookup, it feels really bad at actually matching compatible people, or even people who might be interested.

I always thought there was something wrong with me cause hookup apps never worked, despite my excellent communication abilities and studio photography, but I could, if I wanted to, always find someone fun to at least chat up in a bar or social setting that could lead to whatever-

and that;s the difference. I didn't have this highly optimized, efficient program where I was expected to treat people like products I wanted to purchase. I had to deal with them as people, and they, me.
posted by The Whelk at 12:41 PM on May 29 [4 favorites]


(but this is more of oh god the online is making us into monsters thing and not this is why Incels are the way they are thing, cause that's a bigger, darker conversational topic)
posted by The Whelk at 12:43 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


They're not gender-ratio surplus, they're socially and economically surplus.

I think there's a good argument to be made that call it roughly a third of the population is currently in this boat. I'll give you percentages whichever way you want, but some significant minority fraction. This is one of the dysfunctions of the underemployed and under-engaged male population, though one that can minimally scrape by through relatives, shit jobs and welfare.
posted by bonehead at 12:46 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


It's like any hate group in some ways. The hurt and emotional trigger is always understandable.

I'm scared and afraid my children will go hungry (yeah, cool, understandable) ... so I'm joining the NAZI party (ok you lost me)

Feeling terrible because our world of romance is ever increasing the importance of judging looks (yeah that sucks) ... so I'm going to judge people on their looks the most, and hate women with a rage that may lead to violence (ok you lost me)

yes also dating apps make this commodification of people so visceral
posted by French Fry at 12:47 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


I think its also the nature of finding someone, via social media or The Apps which has become increasingly automated and taylorized, you want the best returns on investment, so you cast a wide net and try to game your stats. It all feels very video game. And while it can be good to Find Someone Now In Your Area if you're looking for a hookup, it feels really bad at actually matching compatible people, or even people who might be interested.

I suppose--but did you feel entitled to compatible people? I think that's one of the biggest differences that leads to the curdling. These incels feel entitled to a subservient woman.

The thing about games is that sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose; some people are okay with this fact. Others are not, and it seems that instead of trying their hand at something else, they rage.

Alternatively, there's also the simple fact that I assume that you saw the people you were trying to match with as people; this is not something I am convinced those that are incels do. Again, to point out the overlap they have with the alt-right, channer culture, it certainly seems like they view women as without agency, as objects and prizes, as NPCs without minds of our own--and that term is increasingly used by the alt-right to describe people who haven't bought into their redpilled delusion, the sheeple, those who slumber and have no minds of their own.
posted by anem0ne at 12:50 PM on May 29 [10 favorites]


also the song Faceshopping by Sophie at the top of the COntrapoints' Beauty video is a banger
posted by The Whelk at 12:50 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


Again, to point out the overlap they have with the alt-right, channer culture

as others have pointed out this is nearly a perfect circle venn diagram
posted by The Whelk at 12:52 PM on May 29 [5 favorites]


I always thought there was something wrong with me cause hookup apps never worked, despite my excellent communication abilities and studio photography, but I could, if I wanted to, always find someone fun to at least chat up in a bar or social setting that could lead to whatever-

It's interesting how the inner workings of hookup apps may be driving a little of the incel mindset. Less desirable people are algorithm'd out of circulation before more than a handful of people have even seen their profile. When it comes to the connected world, if someone says "the chads" are getting all the attention they are kind of right and it's by design.

In real life, someone who is only attractive to a quarter of the the population still has a decent shot at finding someone. On The Apps, that person is effectively erased entirely. I think there is some merit to complaints about this - no, no one is entitled to a partner, but should they be entitled to at least put themselves out there?
posted by FakeFreyja at 12:53 PM on May 29 [6 favorites]


It's interesting how the inner workings of hookup apps may be driving a little of the incel mindset. Less desirable people are algorithm'd out of circulation before more than a handful of people have even seen their profile. When it comes to the connected world, if someone says "the chads" are getting all the attention they are kind of right and it's by design.

Really? How does this work? Do their photos get labeled "less attractive" before anyone even looks? Is it that if you aren't picked by four out of the first five people to see your profile then no one sees it? I'd always assumed that people matched on some other basis - location or age or whatever - but I haven't had a dating profile since OKCupid. (I've pretty much resigned myself to Nevair Dating Again in general, because I can't see doing it without the algos and I will not sully myself with them.)
posted by Frowner at 1:01 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


true, but I think a society where the only mass available mindset and way of framing things is in market-based ways makes the objectification worse.

I mean, I do think there's a lot of objectification in online dating. That's a reason why I kind of can't stomach it anymore. I don't want to go "shopping" for a person and don't want them "shopping" for me.

But I think there's a lot of objectification in anything related to sex, at least in American culture (which is the one I know best, anyway). Like, I think of how predatory men were even back when I hit puberty at age nine or so...those guys didn't give a flying fuck "who I was as a person," I was just a walking sex toy to them. I caught their eye because I was the baby zebra lagging behind the rest of the herd, not because I was "hot" or would confer "high status" or anything even close. My vulnerability was exactly the draw. They knew they could do whatever they wanted and I couldn't stop them, and they found that tantalizing. And as I've grown up and become less overtly vulnerable, the predatory behavior has diminished until I barely have to deal with it at all anymore, thank god.

But what these red pill guys want is exactly that vulnerability. They say they want very young women, very inexperienced and naive women, financially dependent women, submissive women -- because they want vulnerable women. They plan to exploit those vulnerabilities to the fullest extent possible. They want to take out all kinds of feelings and anxieties on these women and they want the freedom to let loose without the women themselves having the power to stop them.

I think that the reason that they claim to want these women to be "conventionally beautiful" is partly because they need an excuse for why they don't have a woman on a leash right here right now (and beauty is reasonably rare and hard to find), and partly because that "conventional beauty" requires A LOT of work to attain that they can both mock the woman for doing and point to as proof of her value as a good woman who does her assigned "job," and partly because those markers of femininity are identifiers that their "girlfriend" is part of a specific class of people that were made to be dominated and abused (women) by members of their specific class (men). Mileage may vary, of course.

I don't think they're "born rapists" like someone said up-thread, but I think there are power and control issues going on that have nothing to do with money or markets. I think that these red pill guys have a fundamentally predatory mindset. And you can see that in how, when they fail to catch any prey by traps and subterfuge (like PUA tactics), they turn to violence and literally gunning or running women down in the street.
posted by rue72 at 1:08 PM on May 29 [41 favorites]


Really? How does this work? Do their photos get labeled "less attractive" before anyone even looks? Is it that if you aren't picked by four out of the first five people to see your profile then no one sees it?

It works pretty much like the Netflix algorithm. On your end, the profiles you see are curated based both on what you have chosen in the past and (more importantly) what people in your demographic have reacted favorably to. A majority of people like you swipe left, and that profile is pretty much removed.

People tend to think that you are served up a random selection of potential matches in your preferred area(s) but that couldn't be further from the truth. It's why there are so many people who receive NO matches despite living in a densely populated area, and why people see the same profiles repeatedly no matter how wide their net is cast.

If you are a less attractive person, you do not have access to most dating/hookup apps, full stop.
posted by FakeFreyja at 1:11 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


Really? How does this work? Do their photos get labeled "less attractive" before anyone even looks? Is it that if you aren't picked by four out of the first five people to see your profile then no one sees it? I'd always assumed that people matched on some other basis - location or age or whatever - but I haven't had a dating profile since OKCupid.

Dating apps definitely use data to try to match users' perceived attractiveness. Here's a write-up from way back in 2010 about OKC. I'm sure the exact mechanisms have changed somewhat, but the principles probably still apply. OKC at one time also enabled paid users to filter out matches based on their attractiveness heuristics.
posted by AndrewInDC at 1:11 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


Is it that if you aren't picked by four out of the first five people to see your profile then no one sees it?

Yes. Tinder in particular (others, too, to whatever extent) uses an algorithm to determine "attractiveness" and uses that to put people of similar attractiveness together. It's not purely based on swipes - number of chats and duration and such also apply, as well as other criteria, but broadly, the more right swipes you get, the more people see you, and...
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:13 PM on May 29


So it seems like there would be some kind of market for a local-ish low tech dating site where you could just...see all the profiles, right? Obviously some people would still get far more attention than others, but at least you'd get to pick from the full range, so to speak.

But anyway - I only like weird people who look weird, so it sounds like dating apps are not for me anyway.
posted by Frowner at 1:16 PM on May 29 [4 favorites]


If you are a less attractive person, you do not have access to most dating/hookup apps, full stop.

I would like to think that I am not a bad looking dude for my age, but I am definitely not Mr Instagram Model, and Tinder served me up a lot of Ms Instagram Models who were near enough to 20 years my junior, so I think if you swipe enough you do get to see everybody?
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:34 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


Yes, you will be shown lots of profiles of attractive people. You're not "matched" based on attractiveness (i.e. they are not seeing your profile in all likelihood), but rather your profile is seen by more or fewer people in general depending on how the first few people who saw it swiped.

Ms. Instagram Model probably has hundreds of times more impressions than the average user, and infinity times more than an unattractive person (because they're seen by effectively zero people on an ongoing basis).
posted by FakeFreyja at 1:40 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


And if you're not interested in "attractive" people, you won't see anyone you're attracted to, right? Because they're niche and there's no place for niche in our brave new world.

I remember when I assumed that streaming services would mean that all the movies were available because why not, when actually quite a lot of stuff that was available on video/DVD isn't available to stream because capitalism says no.
posted by Frowner at 1:42 PM on May 29 [5 favorites]


Well I can't argue knowledgably about the inner workings of Tinder and I understand that the most 'desirable' users won't have to swipe down to the deep cuts to get matches, but my experience over several years of online dating is that there is not actually a secret world of sexy singles occulted from the view of the hoi polloi.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:46 PM on May 29


Incels (which I still think has little to do with actual celibacy, voluntary or involuntary) have created an apocalyptic game for themselves with no winning condition. Women will, by their own admission, not put up with their shit absent super-human attractiveness or wealth. But men who even just do the minimum to support their partners are normies, betas, and cucks. So it's not actually about getting a partner, it's about rationalizing their grievances.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 1:59 PM on May 29 [15 favorites]


So it seems like there would be some kind of market for a local-ish low tech dating site where you could just...see all the profiles, right?

The addictive dopamine slot machine model looks better in terms of user engagement metrics and so is way more compelling to Silicon Valley. And in a perverse way this benefits the customer too: more people compulsively swiping on Tinder = more potential dates, compared to a service not designed to be addictive.
posted by vogon_poet at 2:04 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


Wow y'all took Grindr and managed to make it both less useful and provide more reinforcement for people to be shitty. Well done, would not have expected that to be possible simultaneously but here Tinder is.
posted by PMdixon at 2:09 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


And if you're not interested in "attractive" people, you won't see anyone you're attracted to, right? Because they're niche and there's no place for niche in our brave new world.

I think what happens more often is that people will sort of smooth out their quirks. It's very rare that I'll come across someone and be like "you look like my kind of weirdo!" I'm sure I've rejected a bunch of people I was totally compatible with because they didn't look like they had the same interests as me, or because they didn't appear to be someone I'd want to spend time with (and probably vice versa). It leads to this totally superficial view of the people you're attracted to, because you're being forced to evaluate people on really superficial terms, again and again, hundreds of people at a time. I honestly feel like it trains you to think about attractiveness in a really shitty and unhealthy way, and I hate it.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:09 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


and I do like airing tinder beefs but I don't think these guys in the FPP have surmounted their underlying problems enough to even have them
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:14 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


If you make the mistake of looking at /r/tinder, as I have, there is rampant and open hatred of women on display in pretty much every post. I fully believe that there is at least some overlap between incel types and guys who get frustrated with Tinder. And the thing is, I can even see how something like Tinder would push a guy more in that direction, because it presents this really skewed view of what the world is and of what it takes to be seen as attractive -- because unlike the real world, there is an explicit hierarchy of attractiveness on Tinder, in which you absolutely can lose out for failing to conform. It can easily make it look like nobody wants you if you're less than perfect. Not to mention how it sort of trains you to see other people by this superficial hot or not binary. It's gross for what it is, but I think it's also really toxic to guys who are already lonely and dealing with low self-esteem.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:20 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


I don't see how someone can be 'economically surplus' and have the spare cash to spend large amounts of money on many plastic surgeries. I'm not saying that it doesn't generally apply to 'incels', but I just think it doesn't apply to the people we are talking about in this article. I would agree that they don't have the looks/personality/whatever to date within the top 5% circles they wish in terms of income, power, and looks, but those two aren't the same thing.

Also, judging on the pics in the article, these guys aren't the ones who have to be concerned about being gated and disappeared from Tindr or whatever other dating apps, even pre-plastic surgery.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:24 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


I am pretty confident that the guys pictured in the article, if they used those exact photos, would have a very demoralizing experience on Tinder but would certainly match with enough people to make it worthwhile.

I vaguely wonder whether they are better looking than the average incel forum selfie poster, but definitely not enough to go and look.
posted by vogon_poet at 2:30 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


Feeling terrible because our world of romance is ever increasing the importance of judging looks (yeah that sucks) ... so I'm going to judge people on their looks the most, and hate women with a rage that may lead to violence (ok you lost me)

I see the answer is right there. The problem is capitalism worsening these social hierarchies while blinding its subjects to the fact. That's why they're lost. I wonder if incels and other intersectionally oppressed groups might stand to learn a lot from leftist and radical thought, if that didn't take so much work. But neoliberal capitalism would definitely not want that.
posted by polymodus at 2:49 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


The official joke is we must bread pill them
posted by The Whelk at 2:52 PM on May 29 [10 favorites]


I fully believe that there is at least some overlap between incel types and guys who get frustrated with Tinder.

I'd correct that to incel types and guys on Reddit.
posted by Autumnheart at 2:54 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


He read Camus, who said that life has no great meaning
He misread Camus, then.
posted by scruss at 3:34 PM on May 29 [5 favorites]


I am pretty confident that the guys pictured in the article, if they used those exact photos, would have a very demoralizing experience on Tinder but would certainly match with enough people to make it worthwhile

Are you really certain of that? Do you use Tinder a lot while looking like them? I mean, no-one's actually suggesting Tinder as a solution, but I don't know how many days straight of using all your likes so you can match with a bot you think makes it "worthwhile".

I tried Tinder again this year, and in a week I matched with 4 women and 6 men, swiping for what must have been almost 2 hours a day, if you want to read all the descriptions. Two of the men messaged me back, but no woman ever has, in 4 years of dabbling with the app.

Like, if I wasn't already pretty firmly in the opposite camp, I can definitely imagine being ground down by that, especially when approaching someone in a bar or a workplace is not socially acceptable in today's world.

But the apparent MeFi consensus would definitely buoy my spirits in that case: it's nothing to do with my looks or whims of fate, I must just be really ugly inside, definitely a terrible person, because anyone who isn't evil can just walk out the door and into a stable relationship.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 3:43 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


On second thoughts, it's not fair to call that the consensus.

I would ask that people maybe do think twice about suggesting that anyone single not by desire is "ugly on the inside" and their looks or circumstance must be completely secondary.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 4:02 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


I think it’s more than fair to label anyone who subscribes to the incel movement’s beliefs about women “ugly on the inside.”
posted by sallybrown at 4:19 PM on May 29 [23 favorites]


Since my comments are about trying to point out that there's a difference between making the argument that someone into incel ideology is made ugly by that, and the several casual comments here that imply that a lack of romantic success (which may or may not correlate with someone being an incel) is always primarily the fault of a rotten heart and/or laziness, I can only assume your interest is in sinking the boot, which you've done to great effect.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 4:42 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


I think it's also important to note that incels official view of male and female interactions is not unique to them it's part of the greater red-pill philosophy. Incels are mostly young men who see the world this way but don't have sex, there is a much much larger group of red-piller that do date and have sex "successfully".

Incels are the saddest group and the one easiest to make fun of and produces mass killers so an easy group to despise and deride, but there are SO many more red-pill people of all ages and shockingly genders. I know a teen girl red-pill believer to hear her speak is to know pain. The belief in women being hypergamous and fundamentally manipulative, the existence of alphas, that feminism is destroying western society etc etc and that this is all the real truth hidden by SJW BS is a philosophy that is gaining wide influence. The buzzwords are in every youtube comments section, anything on twitter involving gender, and increasingly in typical media and real life.
posted by French Fry at 4:53 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


I think that's always the hard thing about these discussions, and I actually was heartened to see that some comments in this thread were pretty complex in terms of acknowledging that yes, looks do mediate how your dating life goes, and there are better and worse ways to think about that - both for the person doing the dating, and for people commenting on what the underlying emotional stance is.

I'm another person who, as far as *I* can tell, is pretty much average in terms of looks and charisma. In real life, I do fine, as far as such things go. If I'm on a dating app, I pretty much feel like a ghost, and it's 1) weird and 2) a very negative impact on me. I'm glad I discovered Metafilter before I started really dating or pursuing relationships, and that inoculated me against directing it outward. In absence of other targets, though, it's very easy to turn it inward, and start making all sorts of assumptions about how skewed your own perceptions must be. People always talk about how great Tinder is, how - if you're just kind and polite - you should have success. When you're not even achieving what others are describing as the baseline, and you know it can't be anyone else's fault, who else is left? You must be a lot less attractive than you thought, since you're not about to worsen your personality in the off-chance your whole moral system is wrong. This has gotten pretty long and rambly already, but I started writing it before French Fry's comment above. I've gone on dates with people who are somewhere on that red pill spectrum, either via internet or via upbringing, and it's a weird experience.

To attempt to bring it back around, I get where you're coming from, AnhydrousLove, and I feel a similar way reading certain comments here. It's strange to be in a place where you're not romantically successful, and there's a dominant narrative that relationships are - from a healthy perspective - now more actively modeling a 'just' world, where everything is the result of active, positive choices. Combine that with the market perspective outlined above, and it's hard to see yourself as anything other than a less-valuable commodity.
posted by sagc at 5:03 PM on May 29 [8 favorites]


It's funny: there are plenty of women who aren't romantically successful, and yet they pretty much never get together on the internet to fantasize about dominating and killing the men who reject them. They certainly never actually do it, and as the article points out in the very first paragraph, there have been a fair number of actual mass murderers who frequented incel forums. I get that dating is hard and stressful and can be demoralizing, but this is not just about dating being difficult, because dating is also difficult for women, and there is no female incel equivalent. Women cope, get a vibrator, and figure out how to have a decent life without a partner. They aren't taught that the world owes them a sex life or that they're entitled to react to rejection with violence.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:38 PM on May 29 [50 favorites]


[Women] aren't taught that[...] they're entitled to react to rejection with violence.

Neither are men.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:56 PM on May 29


A bunch of them seem to have learned it from somewhere.
posted by Dysk at 5:58 PM on May 29 [41 favorites]


A seemingly endless stream of examples: When Women Refuse.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 6:01 PM on May 29 [10 favorites]


Yeeeeah. It's worth noting that Incel comes from "Alana's Involuntary Celibacy Project" a website started by a queer woman that formed a sort of support group for people of many genders and orientations struggling with love and beauty standards and dating culture and at no point did she advocate for sexual slavery, legal rape or mass murder. funny that.
posted by French Fry at 6:27 PM on May 29 [15 favorites]


I can definitely imagine being ground down by that, especially when approaching someone in a bar or a workplace is not socially acceptable in today's world.

So I think that there are some complicated things going on with dating that are also intersecting with late stage capitalism and algorithms in ways that are unpleasant for everyone, and one of those is that the way we have met and married for the last, oh, say, fifty years or so, is turning out to have been functionally a blip as we return to the Gilded Age, except without the socially protective organizations that used to mitigate its horror, which I could talk about at length over a beer for hours.

However, others have spoken very seriously about how even despite all of this, there's simply no excuse for this kind of behavior and entitlement. Yes, dating is harder for a lot of groups of people - but the vast majority of those people manage to live with their disappointment and turn their energies elsewhere, because they are accustomed to the idea that they may have to live with disappointment in their life.

I can imagine being ground down by a lot and have sympathy for being ground down by a lot - but what I can't have sympathy for is hurting others as a result.
posted by corb at 7:05 PM on May 29 [10 favorites]


French Fry: Yeah, I think the definition creep / semantic change ship has sailed on that original definition of 'incel'.
It now pretty much has no functional meaning other than 'gamergater/4channer/neckbeard repulsive angry manbaby demanding to be worshipped sexually by virgin supermodels, most likely to be a school shooter or at least appear on r/niceguys', as seen in the way it's used in the discussion here.

Remember when we all felt so bad for this person? They were an incel as once defined, but it would feel like a slur to call them that now. There are a bunch of Involuntarily Celibate people - heck, categories of them - for whom we now don't have a usable term because it now means this other thing.

I feel for those people, the ones that we've gone back to not talking about at all. But for the people in this article, not so much. Them thinking that the obstacle between them and their imagined Instagram Model Girlfriend is just that they don't have an Instagram Model Boyfriend Face, so they go out and buy one, thinking that'll do it...

Ever hear the 'you deserve what you're getting' phrase
Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes?
I'm thinking of the 'Shallow, Empty' substitution for Stupid.
posted by bartleby at 7:20 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


Oh completely. My comment was in agreement with the idea up-thread that when women formed these communities initially they did not form extremely hateful ideologies. It was commiseration not condemnation.
posted by French Fry at 7:47 PM on May 29


I mean, can’t you occasionally still meet people through volunteering or doing weird art stuff or book clubs or meet-ups or friends of friends or messing up the lyrics doing “edge of seventeen” at Stevie Nicks karaoke night at punk club (I know). I know i’m old (and single so... ), but I have way more friends that fell in love canvassing during a midterm or playing music together than I have that met online. I feel like I have a way better sense of a person talking to them for a few minutes than trying to parse the signifiers in a blurry selfie.
posted by thivaia at 8:47 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


I know logic is not the strong point, but if their supposed theories are all evo-psych bullshit, then yeah.... in the animal kingdom, sometimes/often, only the alpha or "best" males get to pass on their genes. Females want to select for the best genes. By their own logic, yes, only a small group of males "deserve" to mate? I did RTA and still don't see an explanation for this?

From other descriptions I've read, it's evo-psych but combined with '50s sociological norms. (Or medieval ones, they are indistinguishable in this context.)

People should be in monogamous relationships. Men bring resources into the home while women tend the hearth. So there shouldn't be left-over men who don't have women. If I understand it correctly, there's some acceptance that of course really rich guys get the hottest women.

The whole idea that women are assigned as status markers I think explains the extreme resentment over women who date "assholes" as these are the women who are breaking the system by not accepting their proper assignment.
posted by mark k at 9:09 PM on May 29 [5 favorites]


- I only like weird people who look weird, so it sounds like dating apps are not for me anyway

hey we could make one, and call it weirdr
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:33 PM on May 29 [12 favorites]


The Picture of Dorian Gray is the original blackpill.
posted by bookman117 at 12:05 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I can imagine being ground down by a lot and have sympathy for being ground down by a lot - but what I can't have sympathy for is hurting others as a result.

Sure, and if I'd suggested you should, the responses along these lines would make sense.

All I'm saying is maybe try to not actively drive people into the arms of redpillers by spreading whatever personal theories of which shortcomings in a person are ultimately responsible for singleness and try more towards actually spreading the idea that no-one is owed another person in reward and being single is fine.

Instead of you know, implying that the problem with incels is that they're misunderstood the requirements for the reward, and that if they were just good people as you define it then they would receive it. That seems counterproductive to me but is incredibly widespread in responses to incels.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 3:20 AM on May 30 [5 favorites]


It's funny: there are plenty of women who aren't romantically successful, and yet they pretty much never get together on the internet to fantasize about dominating and killing the men who reject them.

This. Thank you! The obsessive self-hate expressed by the men in the piece was startlingly familiar to me as a cishet woman, but my first thought was that there are plenty of un-hot women with limited romantic prospects (like me!) who somehow manage not to spend all our spare time on 4chan ranting about murdering famous models, or storming the local YMCA locker room with an AR-15 whenever some dude doesn't buy us a drink. The very idea is bizarre.

Blackpill is what happens when traditionally female body-image issues collide with traditional male entitlement. The difference is that women are expected to internalize the contempt heaped on us for our imperfections, and punish ourselves until we either "fix" our flaws or expire. The idea of men being judged this viciously for their looks, even by themselves/one another, is on the other hand apparently considered unnatural and scary. So my sympathy is real, but extreeeemely limited.
posted by TinyChicken at 5:17 AM on May 30 [21 favorites]


Instead of you know, implying that the problem with incels is that they're misunderstood the requirements for the reward, and that if they were just good people as you define it then they would receive it.

I definitely don't think it is that simple. But I also believe that having such intense hostility, negativity, and/or anger, along with entitlement, is going to show up in their interactions with other people (both in person and online), even if they are trying to hide it or are not self-aware of those feelings, and therefore is going to negatively impact their chances of success in forming relationships.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:49 AM on May 30 [5 favorites]


All I'm saying is maybe try to not actively drive people into the arms of redpillers by spreading whatever personal theories of which shortcomings in a person are ultimately responsible for singleness and try more towards actually spreading the idea that no-one is owed another person in reward and being single is fine.

"No, you are unworthy of love so be a good boy, crawl back under your trash heap, and stay silent so the rest of us can comfortably enjoy having everything you wanted."

That's a bleak message to spread. I would imagine that would do more to drive someone into a toxic mindset than any message of self-improvement.

Incels are mostly young men who see the world this way but don't have sex, there is a much much larger group of red-piller that do date and have sex "successfully".

This sticks out to me as a huge problem. I haven't (and won't) go down the rabbit hole of the "pill" philosophies, but it seems like the "red pill" lifestyle attracts people because it offers an alternative answer to the above and seems to work.

That seems so dangerous to me. The toxic landscape of romance these days creates sexist terminator robots who either see success by cynically gaming the system or fail (or more likely refuse to do any work) and fall into the incel pit, creating further problems for the rest of us.

I'll just say I'm glad I'm an old and have been happily married for years. There is no way I could stomach dating these days, and I sure as hell wouldn't have had the opportunity to meet my spouse.
posted by FakeFreyja at 6:31 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]



"No, you are unworthy of love so be a good boy, crawl back under your trash heap, and stay silent so the rest of us can comfortably enjoy having everything you wanted."


Or how about, "Humans are complicated creatures, and while we crave social connections, we can't control other people into becoming connected with us in exactly the way we want. It's largely a crap shoot for the vast majority of humanity. It's perfectly okay to not be romantically attached, you can find love and caring and fulfilling social experiences in many other ways."
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:37 AM on May 30 [14 favorites]


All I'm saying is maybe try to not actively drive people into the arms of redpillers by spreading whatever personal theories of which shortcomings in a person are ultimately responsible for singleness and try more towards actually spreading the idea that no-one is owed another person in reward and being single is fine.

I think this is why you’re getting some pushback (at least from me), because I don’t believe there is any justification for incel beliefs about women. Just like I would push back on the idea that having negative interactions with individual people of a certain race or faith can drive someone into a hate group—the people who choose to subscribe to the beliefs of a hate group bear the responsibility for those beliefs, even if they’ve struggled in their lives and the hate group provides them with some mental outlet. Subscribing to hateful beliefs is still a choice, and a very ugly one. You can’t drive someone into believing those things against their control.
posted by sallybrown at 6:59 AM on May 30 [20 favorites]


If you are a less attractive person, you do not have access to most dating/hookup apps, full stop.

One of the big problems I see though is guys who don’t want to put any effort into their profiles and pictures, and then get pissed off that they don’t match. Sometimes you don’t even know which of the 3 or 4 guys in the pic is the one you’d be swiping on. I’m not playing find who is the one person that is the same in all 5 pictures.

And then there are the “red flag” guys. If you say something like “no sjw’s”, I’m going to thank you for knowing you don’t appreciate the issues I face as a woman and swipe left. So many “no [blank]” are just ways of saying they don’t like women’s interests. Even if it’s not something I do or am interested in, the fact you dislike something that is a fairly normal trait/activity for some women? Yeah.

Then the guys that just want sex and an emotional connection but “no drama” IE be there to listen to my emotional baggage, but fuck if I’m going to be attentive to yours.

And so many men just do not understand that there are considerably more men than women on dating apps. So they get pissed when they don’t match, or when they do match and it goes nowhere. Blaming women. Look, dating apps are a sausagefest but you can’t see that. Still take 5 seconds and do some research in how these system work.

It’s pretty clear from both /r/tinder and general discussions of dating apps that men bought into Tinders own marketing that it’s a hookup app, even though it’s really designed to be more of an introduction app, like saying hi in a bar. So they get pissed when women use it for other things, or match and don’t follow through with hooking up. And they get pissed when women are looking for relationships, nevermind they can’t see that men are using it for that too.

I mean yes, I would argue that more attractive men get more matches. But so often it’s just that attractive means “putting a little effort in”. Which actually isn’t too different than real life, is it? A whole subset of men think they are entitled to the attention of women without trying.

Incels are just the extreme end of this.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:12 AM on May 30 [10 favorites]


I mean yes, I would argue that more attractive men get more matches. But so often it’s just that attractive means “putting a little effort in”. Which actually isn’t too different than real life, is it?

That's probably true. But the issue I was talking about is that the "attractive" profiles are actually put into regular circulation by the algorithm, while less than attractive profiles are first limited then removed from circulation. You're talking about judging whether a profile is interesting to you. The issue is whether certain people's profiles are even given the chance to be judged. Many people receive no matches specifically because only a handful of people ever saw their profile when it first went up, then no one ever saw it again.

In a world where dating apps are increasingly required, this is a problem. And it's unfortunately exactly how incels think the real world works.
posted by FakeFreyja at 9:24 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


And by the way, just so people don't get caught up justifying the system as a way to stick it to unattractive men, asian men and black women are the groups most affected.
posted by FakeFreyja at 9:29 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Trying to explain away red pill hate-mongering and virulent, violent misogyny with "it's all about economic insecurity" and "dating is so hard for men" is just too much for me. I'm sorry but that comes off to me as so fucking clueless.
posted by rue72 at 9:40 AM on May 30 [9 favorites]


On a slight tangent on the topic of 'surplus' young men: Is Christian Homeschooling Breeding a New Kind of Domestic Terrorist?

Christian homeschooling seems like it would be perfect for creating these surplus men. They're kept isolated and are given a substandard education that pretty much guarantees they won't succeed. And they are turning to political violence, as predicted by the Hudson and Den Boer theory mentioned several comments up.
posted by LindsayIrene at 9:41 AM on May 30



That's probably true. But the issue I was talking about is that the "attractive" profiles are actually put into regular circulation by the algorithm, while less than attractive profiles are first limited then removed from circulation. You're talking about judging whether a profile is interesting to you. The issue is whether certain people's profiles are even given the chance to be judged. Many people receive no matches specifically because only a handful of people ever saw their profile when it first went up, then no one ever saw it again.


In terms of "what is to be done", it seems like Not This would be a good idea. At this point, everyone seems to be getting shown a small handful of Very Attractive Indeed In A Normative Way profiles, which means that everyone is in "competition" for the small handful. People who would be happy with Attractive To Me Personally profiles don't get to see them, and people who are not Very Attractive Indeed don't get their profiles shown.

So a sense of artificial scarcity and failure is created, as well as an artificial sense of the norm - if all you ever see are profiles of people who are unusually beautiful, unusually accomplished and unusually rich, it's going to feel to you as though the norm is to date a supermodel millionaire best-selling author and/or to be a supermodel millionaire best-selling author.

Even if straight people dating apps skew male, this algorithm thing can't be helping anyone.

One thing that would undercut incelism and that should be easy is to minimize technical barriers to healthy behavior. Make it easy for people with reasonably healthy dating expectations to find each other and date - not because those are the people who are at risk but because a stronger, healthier society is less vulnerable to toxic ideologies. There are a lot of ways to hinder toxic ideologies and many strategies are needed, but one of them is to simply strengthen existing non-toxic systems.
posted by Frowner at 9:55 AM on May 30 [6 favorites]


Put aside Tinder's algorithm, however it works, and consider that there are still plenty of dating sites that let you just scroll through a big list of everyone in your area, hot or not. Dating apps have lots of problems but they're not responsible for churning out incels.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:06 AM on May 30 [8 favorites]


I spend a fair amount of time on dating forums just trying to offer positive advice, and I would say that yes, online dating apps do help contribute simply because of the #1 instant feedback #2 volume of that feedback (or lack thereof). If you swipe endlessly but never get a match, I don't think it's a stretch to say you're more likely to be in a negative headspace in relation to your value as a romantic mate. When I'm down, I'm much weaker at 1.) wanting to improve myself productively 2.) more susceptible to negative reinforcement.

I try to be a well meaning person, but I can see how a person like me at a younger age who hated how he looked, felt shy and gawky, alone could have been indoctrinated to one of these -I'm just gonna go there because I think they are - cults as a means to reclaim some power in my own brain.

I've actually been pondering very heavily how to provide a positive and wide-reaching framework or message to empower vulnerable men so they are better able to resist and treat all people with respect instead of using hatred as their sole source of power. I watch the videos of Matthew Hussey who - clickbait titles on his videos aside - provides good, realistic advice about maintaining boundaries, look for respect, etc. for women who are struggling with dating. I don't believe there's a male equivalent.

Anyway, much love all.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:19 AM on May 30 [4 favorites]


One of the big problems I see though is guys who don’t want to put any effort into their profiles and pictures, and then get pissed off that they don’t match.

But so often it’s just that attractive means “putting a little effort in”. Which actually isn’t too different than real life, is it?

There's a few issues I see with this theory:

* How often does attractive really just mean putting a little effort in? I'm sure that grooming and thinking about your words and your photos makes a difference at the margins. And everyone should do things that make a difference at the margins of things they care about. But formulating it as "it's just that attractive means 'putting a little effort in'" makes it seems that's the central variable and that doesn't seem an accurate thing to set people's expectations against.

* The subject of the fine article includes people who are willing to actually undergo cosmetic surgery in order to change their appeal. That's not exactly a low effort proposition. I'd assume some effort preceded that.

* One could well argue that they are overextending effort in some areas while not knowing where they really need to only put in a little effort. That's potentially fair. The problem, though, is that this is obviously not knowledge that's uniformly distributed.

* What if attractive actually doesn't even mean something that's normalizable across most women? I get "no SJWs" is a swipe left for many here (including me), but take the "ugghhh guy holding a fish" criticism that comes up often. The clearest way I can read that is that many women essentially saying "I'm not interested in something many men are interested in" ... though there do seem to be some women who are interested in fishing as an experience, a sport, or a means of subsistence (or the idea of dating a man who is). To what degree is it best to orient men making profiles away from something like that if it's a true interest? And to characterize men who make a picture of them with a fish an honest expression of themselves as not making a proper effort?
posted by wildblueyonder at 12:45 PM on May 30 [4 favorites]


These guys fundamentally misunderstand: “Dick is abundant and of low value”.

Dance lessons and looking at women as people is much cheaper, less invasive, and probably more successful than plastic surgery.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 1:38 PM on May 30 [8 favorites]


I get "no SJWs" is a swipe left for many here (including me), but take the "ugghhh guy holding a fish" criticism that comes up often. The clearest way I can read that is that many women essentially saying "I'm not interested in something many men are interested in" ... though there do seem to be some women who are interested in fishing as an experience, a sport, or a means of subsistence (or the idea of dating a man who is). To what degree is it best to orient men making profiles away from something like that if it's a true interest? And to characterize men who make a picture of them with a fish an honest expression of themselves as not making a proper effort?

Oh! I will take a stab at this: because it reads to me a total lack of effort. For the men that post pics of themselves holding a fish, I understand that it's likely one of the only pictures they have of themselves on their phone. Instead of getting a friend to take a proper dating-profile picture of themselves at their best, they literally uploaded their last bro-cation beard-fest and expect me to be interested. Hard pass. It is Absolutely low-effort and it tells me they're not interested in managing the implications of being someone who must, in Tinder-land, think of and try to present themselves as a desired object.

A man that holds a fish in his profile tells me that he's not interested in what I want if it doesn't involve letting him fish with the boys. It tells me that he doesn't mind killing fish (I don't eat fish, I don't kill or hunt, I don't eat meat). Like, there's a LOT that can be criticized and passed on based on a fish picture.

I'm sorry I'm not buying the Algorithm-of-oblescence theory. I don't. As I've said upstream, I'm not a conventionally pretty woman. But my pics are FIRE. They're interesting - they show diverse (best) sides of me. Come ON, like how low does the bar need to be?
posted by Dressed to Kill at 1:49 PM on May 30 [10 favorites]


This was a good article!

I'm glad the thread eventually came around to the idea, that looks do play a role in one's ability to have relationships, since denying that seems fundamentally off. The Whelk's tie-in to the beauty marketplace for gay men is insightful and nicely links to the point in the article that a Dolce and Gabbana model is treated as the apex of beauty. It seems as if those most fixated on what it means to perform a gender determine what looks good, regardless of what the rest of us think. (There is also a certain kind of pessimal feminist future where all men are held to the beauty standards of women. In that sense, at least, incels are on the cutting edge, though Tinder may indeed have brought us there already.)

I also think that discussions of incels as possible mass shooters and rapists, while justifiably terrifying, should perhaps be given less attention than the much more low-key anti-woman actions taken on a daily basis. One man in a position of power can keep a lot of women down.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:58 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


Dressed to Kill, I think what you write gets a bit at exactly why the marketization of dating apps is bad! Because all you've got to go on is a photo of a fish, you're developing a whole series of ideas about the guy - and how he caught the fish - that might be totally counterfactual! And I think there are totally reasonable reasons to think that, stemming from... living in society, I guess, and seeing those signals pay off more than not, but it's definitely not the ideal of how dating should be functioning, in my mind - everyone being reduced down to the first photo folks see of them.
posted by sagc at 2:06 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


Dressed to Kill, I think what you write gets a bit at exactly why the marketization of dating apps is bad! Because all you've got to go on is a photo of a fish, you're developing a whole series of ideas about the guy - and how he caught the fish - that might be totally counterfactual! And I think there are totally reasonable reasons to think that, stemming from... living in society, I guess, and seeing those signals pay off more than not, but it's definitely not the ideal of how dating should be functioning, in my mind - everyone being reduced down to the first photo folks see of them.

Possibly, but it's honestly as bad as you make it. If HE decided to put himself in MY shoes, he'd think about my options and adjust his ideas about being a desired object accordingly.

Look, I've perfected objectification. Good or bad, right or wrong. If they want Tinder to give them women, they gotta play the game, kinda. Why do I, and not they?
posted by Dressed to Kill at 2:16 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Let me put it this way; It's only bad if you have old fashioned ideas about dating and what is "attractive." If you want Tinder to make you confirm your worst fears I assure you it will: your profile is not something you just dither on. Men (especially white men, sorry not sorry) don't seem to have received the memo.

I've messaged guys who are NOT conventionally good looking but they dress FIIIIINE and they're funny and confident. I've matched with guys DEFINITELY out of my league in the genetics department. Get creative. Women aren't even as picky as men, for heaven's sake. ymmv.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 2:21 PM on May 30 [5 favorites]


is there overlap between fish guys and incels? I assume the fish guys are dating the women who list "muddin" as one of their hobbies
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:23 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I don't think that men shouldn't have to do it, so much as I'm trying to describe that a lot of these things aren't entirely internally-located. If you're not a certain level of conversant in pop culture, the fish thing won't even register for you! I'm always surprised when I use the accounts of friends who are matching with straight men - because by those standards, my profile was both well-photographed and as eloquent as hell.

If it does all come down to luck, then we should come right out and say that. But there's this dual narrative that a) you should just be able to be average, and have success and b) the closer to that average you are, the more work you have to do, and you're often working toward a goal that you can't really comprehend.

I mean, look at prize bull octorok's comment - there are people for whom fishing photos, presumably, act as a great way to filter out people who *aren't* into that sort of traditional masculinity. If someone expected me to take them fishing on a date, on the other hand, they'd probably get to see me put a hook through my finger.

I'm mostly trying to say that, perhaps, dating shouldn't simultaneously be a one-way self-objectification ratchet - which is how I experienced it, and why I left it (it, in this case being Tinder, not dating as a whole).
posted by sagc at 2:30 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


In my experience, fish guys are too busy out fishing to have the time to get redpilled online. Frankly the only problem I’ve had with fish guys is they spend 85% of their leisure time fishing. I like fish guys, but not so much fishing.
posted by sallybrown at 2:36 PM on May 30 [13 favorites]


Women aren't even as picky as men, for heaven's sake. ymmv.

I think a lot about ContraPoints' incel video, where she talks about how being a trans woman on tinder and getting spammed to hell with dick pics and awfulness and how it was (to her) preferable to the constant radio silence she received as a man.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:40 PM on May 30 [8 favorites]


is there overlap between fish guys and incels? I assume the fish guys are dating the women who list "muddin" as one of their hobbies

I think the overlap is *only* if fish guys (or any oblivious-to-how-objectification-works and only-used-to-the-male-gaze guy---like the "nice guy" that just wants you to accept him for him) think they're entitled to a hairless 10/10 instagram model that can't wait to drop their panties for them without putting in any reasonable effort.

That's the overlap. The entitlement. And if you're boo-hooing over not getting enough views because you don't know how to hold a camera or take a selfie.

I mean it's literally NEVER BEEN EASIER to meet people. I'm just not feeling sorry for these guys... ADDALLLLL
posted by Dressed to Kill at 3:46 PM on May 30


See, what is someone who is doing things 'correctly' supposed to do with the fact that it's "NEVER BEEN EASIER" to meet people (and the bar is lower than ever) with their lack of success? I think that making things sound easier than they've ever been is what puts people in a position where their lack of success is due to either 1) The objects of their desire 2) a flaw in themselves. Neither of those is a healthy approach to lack of romantic success, at least if Ask Metafilter is a valid source.
posted by sagc at 3:50 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


The flaw in themselves is the entitlement.

What should they do?

First: calibrate what success means. It doesn't mean they get who they want at first blush. It doesn't mean that they get the happy ending that every mediocre man-child shmuck they've seen in every romantic comedy gets. It means adjusting your expectations accordingly.

Or here's a revelation for men stuck in their basements talking to other men in forums.... Ask women for what they want, listen to it, and then do it. That's not what these turkey incels want to do. It's not even what NORMAL DATING MEN want to do.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 3:55 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


I'm telling you all these things that I, as a born-ugly woman have done to turn myself around into someone people describe as "striking" - Hell, I'll take it.

I'm striking without being violent or hateful or bitter. What the hell. I don't know how to help incels, but maybe do what I did.

I'm mostly trying to say that, perhaps, dating shouldn't simultaneously be a one-way self-objectification ratchet

You're right. It should be two way. Think like a Bower Bird.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 3:56 PM on May 30 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure if you're reading it the same way I was, when I wrote that last sentence - I meant that the pressure to perform socially-mandated beauty in apps generally forces people into flattening themselves, and limiting their options - for both men and women. Again, I don't love the idea that the best solution is for *everyone* to participate in this system more.
posted by sagc at 4:09 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


I don't love the idea that the best solution is for *everyone* to participate in this system more.

I think maybe you're misunderstanding me.

Of course not everyone needs to participate in this system in this way - no one is saying they do or should. This is just Tinder system, and there are others. And it doesn't necessarily *force* people to flatten themselves; rather, you could see it as an opportunity for people to showcase something interesting or compelling about themselves.

They could show themselves to be great at dressing, or good at painting a self portrait, or good at holding a camera to show a dramatic expressionist silhouette against a colorful bookshelf with fascinating books.

I wouldn't ask this of any specific man, but for their profile pictures, they *could* shave their giant unkempt beards, or *smile more,* or pluck their eyebrows and get professional photographs done... or they could run their photos past a girlfriend or two and get feedback and then implement the feedback - they could do all the superficial things that they take for granted from women... I mean, if they want to use a platform that engenders this. It does work, but it takes work.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 7:29 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


ContraPoints' incel video, where she talks about how being a trans woman on tinder and getting spammed to hell with dick pics and awfulness and how it was (to her) preferable to the constant radio silence she received as a man.

I don't think I'll ever forget the night I first installed Grindr. An hour in an people were talking to me, they thought I was attractive. I wasn't ready to go any further than having the app, but I broke down and spent the rest of the night crying, because it was just such a weird switch, something I'd never expected to feel, being validated like that.

I'm not saying it's all milk and cookies. There were guys who were being very forward in ways that made me uncomfortable, and it's very different to be able to go into an app and be validated than it is to be harassed walking down the street. I'm not saying "take it as a compliment".

I mean, the incels probably shouldn't go swarm Grindr, but also maybe some of them should stop by for a little bit, and question whether the issue is actually that they aren't attractive to other people, or whether there might be other factors.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 1:29 AM on May 31 [6 favorites]


While I'm (unfortunately) familiar with the general 'incel' culture, and I've certainly seen a bunch of weird shit online and in the world, something about this article seems a bit odd. I'm not saying it's fake or anything - Barry Eppley seems to exist and all that, and incels are weird in ways that defy expectations, but something about this article feels like someone finding a tiny few data points and extrapolating to a trend. Or maybe the world is just weirder than I expect.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:00 AM on May 31


An important data point maybe some of you are missing is how much this culture is a hate circle. The guys in this article are trying, that makes them the minority, TRYING is greatly discouraged.

These forums are people posting pictures of themselves and inviting the worst hate about how they should just "lay down and rot/die" the encouragement to LDAR is intense and fetishized. TRYING is seen as delusion, as foolish and hopeless. This is the ethos most of the time. This is the "Black-Pill" accepting everything in the red-pill philosophy adding in that you just don't cut it so you might as well LDAR. Or literally kill yourself as sometimes is the case. Even some of the least regulated, most misogynistic forums have started moderating "suicide fuel" threads were users encourage each other to commit suicide. Which has not shockingly resulted in some suicides. Understanding how this is a cult of hopelessness is important because it's not just that people are trying wrong, it's that they aren't trying at all, because to try would mean ostracism from the only place they feel accepted.

In many ways you can't try harder at online dating to stop being an incel. You need to on some level stop being an incel to even try.
posted by French Fry at 7:12 AM on May 31 [12 favorites]


It's entirely fair to disqualify guy's with a fish photo because it's entirely fair to rule someone out for obvious incompatible interests. It's probably somewhen between reasonable and at least not unfair to wonder if fish guys aren't going to be culturally more drawn to traditional gender roles.

HOWEVER, the fish guys I know are not, by and large, (abnormally) shitty to women. Maybe a generation behind in gender relations, but well within normal standards for loving and respecting their partners. They are looking in good faith for women who share and/or respect fish guy interests. As sallybrown points out, though, being a fish guy is sort of all consuming. So that's not for everyone.

I performed a wedding for a fish guy. He was the type who would praise his zaftig wife as "a sturdy woman" and would beam with pride talking about how well she can clean a fish. She likes fishing. She likes him. They're a happy couple.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:51 AM on May 31 [8 favorites]


French Fry: Oh, absolutely. It's some weird feedback loop epistemic closure of self-loathing out there.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:56 AM on May 31


Quora sends me "check out these interesting question" emails, and for some reason Quora seems to think I'd be really interested in the dumbest-ass questions imaginable, but the one that rolled in today was "my 15 year old son says he's an incel, what should I do?"

Which reminded me that incel-dom is definitely a social category that the high school age kids I know are aware of and sort themselves and others into, which concerned me greatly when I first encountered it, because it is totally normal to be a romantically incompetent virgin at 15, and yet kids are already starting to pathologize it as a lifestyle, or a curse, or something.

"Fix yourself, buddy" seems a tough but fair response to the grown-ass adults who self-identify as incels, but that seems like a brutally inadequate message for a young teenager starting down that path, absorbing the bitterness and grievances of older peers as kids do.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:20 AM on May 31 [7 favorites]


"Fix yourself, buddy" seems a tough but fair response to the grown-ass adults who self-identify as incels, but that seems like a brutally inadequate message for a young teenager starting down that path, absorbing the bitterness and grievances of older peers as kids do

Well I'll be damned, isn't it also a pretty brutally inadequate message for a young girl, at her most physically and emotionally vulnerable, with a masculine roman nose? For all girls?

And no, I'm not saying "well let's make every vulnerable kid feel bad" I'm just saying: WE are/were vulnerable TOO. We feel self-loathing TOO. But most of us don't take that out on men or boys in any real way other than to change for them.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 10:24 AM on May 31 [6 favorites]


[Let's not go overly circular here. This is a thread specifically about incels, and while it's important to acknowledge the larger picture and the effect on women, let's prioritize the subject of the thread. Thanks.]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:36 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


First: calibrate what success means. It doesn't mean they get who they want at first blush. It doesn't mean that they get the happy ending that every mediocre man-child shmuck they've seen in every romantic comedy gets. It means adjusting your expectations accordingly.

Or here's a revelation for men stuck in their basements talking to other men in forums.... Ask women for what they want, listen to it, and then do it
...
for their profile pictures, they *could* shave their giant unkempt beards, or *smile more,* or pluck their eyebrows and get professional photographs done... or they could run their photos past a girlfriend or two and get feedback and then implement the feedback - they could do all the superficial things that they take for granted from women... I mean, if they want to use a platform that engenders this. It does work, but it takes work.


If you're saying that, parallel to your efforts, there are steps that most men (say, any man that's working with something at least 1 standard deviation below average male attractiveness on up?) could take which will mean in combination with generally treating people they meet like human beings they might well see... maybe a conversation with n in 10 women in an age appropriate range that they swipe right on with a dating app, and a date with m in 10 of those, and from there possibly even a sexual relationship of some stripe with p in 10 of those? Not as mechanical odds where anyone's owed success at any given moment, of course, but just as a natural average outcome of these steps working.

I'm putting variables in there because while I have some idea of what I think well-calibrated expectations mean, I'd be curious to know what those numbers have turned out to be like from your perspective as someone that's hacked the system, and/or if you think men making similar efforts could expect similar results.

And if those numbers are some permutation of anything north of 1, 2, and 3, I think you could definitely write a book that'd sell (heaven knows various PUA tracts have, and they're probably not that effective), offer one route out of inceldom, and settle the question of who is simply not trying.
posted by wildblueyonder at 8:02 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Also on dating and profiles on dating apps, men could also stop lying about their height and doing other things to cover for their perceived lacks. I know for certain that there are potential partners and dates out there who will select for honesty and will appreciate it when men don't misrepresent themselves on the dating services and other matchmaking platforms.
posted by kalessin at 8:48 AM on June 1 [1 favorite]


We Hunted The Mammoth's post commenting on the OP article: “No amount of plastic surgery can fix what ails incels”
posted by XMLicious at 3:04 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]


"Usually incels connect with other incels, cause in common, and that just further alienates them, and makes them ripe for right-wing corruption -- be an alpha, dominate everyone, get rid of the other, you'll get everything you need."

Late to the party but one thing that frustrates me on top of everything discussed in this thread is that these guys obviously tend to be on the right-wing section of the political spectrum, and are unequivocally in love with capitalism.

Yet the irony is lost on them when they completely ignore market-like dynamics in how women choose partners, and the whole incel whinefest is about how society should be subsidizing their lack of attractiveness (inside and out), killing the free market in terms of participation of half of the population, and taking ownership of women as commodities to be distributed.
posted by Tarumba at 7:49 AM on June 3 [9 favorites]


There aren’t a whinier bunch of fucks about how everything should be tilted in their favour than capitalism’s true believers though. Free markets are very much a thing that happens to everybody else.
posted by Artw at 1:16 PM on June 3 [7 favorites]


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