I first heard about the incels back in 2014, probably right along with everybody else reading this. That was when Elliot Rogers went on his shooting rampage in California.
I remember being shocked, utterly shocked that any human being’s brain could work the way that his did. He felt that those women deserved to die because they didn’t have sex with him. Attractive men also deserved to die for being able to get the sex that he could not.
I was floored. He felt that entitled to sex? He felt that people deserved to die over his inability to get a female human to fornicate? That’s….crazy….and I couldn’t get my brain away from it.
Like the creep that I am, I watched Rogers’ videos. I read snippets of his manifesto. Eventually, I stumbled across a toxic and hateful online community. This subreddit no longer exists. It was r/incels.
Lurking on that subreddit made me feel physically ill, to the point that I could only do it for brief periods before a thick cloud of disgust would settle over me. What I read made me feel so nauseated, but at the same time so saddened, saddened for the men writing such awful things.
I’d read one irate post where a self-proclaimed incel ranted about wanting to rape every female he saw.
Then I’d read one from a man who hadn’t spoken to another human in person, nor gone outside, in weeks. NEET. That’s the acronym that fits many of them. Not in Education, Employment, or Training. This is where I started to wonder if this might be more than a sex/relationships issue. I was seeing a lot of Hikikomori-esque behaviors in these men. I started to wonder if the incel phenomena might be closely related to other male issues, like the male-as-provider archaic gender role, or the financial objectification of men and male disposability.
I continued on.
I read incoherent rants on the virtues of incest, lowering the age of consent, female sexual slavery; truly some of the most despicable opinions I’ve ever read.
But what outnumbered all of those posts were the ones that dealt with suicidal thoughts (Cope or Rope?), depression, and extreme social isolation. The common thread among all of these men was that they were lonely, unbearably sad, and without any idea of how to deal with that crushing sadness.
Are you conflicted yet? I know that I was. That’s why I dipped the F out of the incel community and aside from a few meandering lurking sessions here and there, didn’t take another look at that community until 2017. That’s when I decided to write a fiction with an incel main character. It was called “The Box Under The Bed” and dealt with a young man named Adam who was having trouble with women and thinking about going on a shooting spree, so that he could end the lives of many others along with his own. I ditched the project when I realized I was basically writing an Elliot Rogers fanfic. Maybe some creators can craft fine art from true events. “Zero Day” is an incredible movie. I’ll just say I’m not the type of writer that can do that well.
And so again, I left the incel communities, still never actually having spoken to an incel. I focused my attention on revising my book “Combustion” and I wrote the story that would eventually turn into “Of Time Storms and Tourniquets” along with plenty of other projects.
Then the summer of 2019 hit. “Combustion” was being queried. I was 2/3 of the way through the first draft of my wattpad novel “Of Desire and Destruction.” I needed a new project to be excited about. Revisions are a necessary evil, but there is nothing like the thrill of a first draft. There’s nothing like the research phase.
And I don’t know why I chose this topic, don’t know what led me back to the community I’d never found a story for yet in all my years of lurking, but there I was back at the incels’ door, and this time I had an actual idea for an original story.
I dove headfirst into the strangest research I’ve ever done, and probably ever will do.
The first thing I did was start by lurking again. I watched the subreddit r/braincels (recently banned along with r/geekcels and several other incel subs). I also made my way over to .co and if you don’t know what that is, good for you. I’m not linking that site on my blog.
I read a lot of the same misogynistic and awful stuff. Femoids are deformed men. All women deserve to be raped. Awful stuff. It was difficult to believe real human beings were on the other side of the screen.
Then I stumbled across a new subreddit r/incelswithouthate. I was intrigued. They didn’t hate women (or at least, if they did they kept it to themselves). And they even had a female moderator. I won’t put her name here, but I’ll just say she’s a bit infamous in the incel communities. Some say she even moderated r/braincels at one point. True or not, the rumor speaks to how highly respected she is by the incels. r/braincels bans women on sight. Women are not allowed to post there. Yet, they had a female mod, or they did if the reddit rumors are to be believed. Interesting…
I lurked, I read, I watched youtube videos by self-proclaimed incels, and I watched the BBC Incel documentary more times than I could count. I was ready.
I posted on r/braincels.
If you’re saying to yourself, ‘Jyvur, that sounds like a really stupid thing to do,’ you are correct. Everything I did from this point on was stupid. That’s why the title isn’t “Well-conducted Research, Where I Made Smart Choices and Had Journalistic Integrity.”
What I had realized about the incels was that some of their grievances were legitimate. Heightism is absolutely a problem men have to deal with. Look at all the women on Tinder putting height requirements in their bios. Look at the stereotype of the “angry short guy.” Short men are emasculated constantly.
There are a few other issues that incels speak of where I agree their complaints are valid, but the heightism one (for whatever reason) spoke most to my heart. And I had a stroke of brilliance (Ahem…”brilliance”). I thought that if someone outside of their group validated what they were saying, agreed that they had a right to be upset, then they might feel a little better. And these men were so sad, so angry, so hopeless; I thought giving them a kind sentiment to make them feel better was the right thing to do.
So r/braincels is gone now. I’m sure some of the techy incels have found a way to retrieve and archive it. But for a plebeian normie like myself, I can not access it. So, I’ll have to dig back in my memory to tell you what I typed. It will not be 100% accurate as this was several months ago now.
In response to a screenshot of a woman of Twitter making fun of short men, I said something to the effect of, “This really is despicable. I’m a woman who agrees with you. It’s disgusting the way men are objectified. Making a fun of a man for his height is just as bad as sexually objectifying women. I want you guys to know not all women feel this way. Some of us know this is wrong, and I do call out other women when I see this kind of behavior. I get a lot of eye-rolls, but hey, at least they can’t call me an incel. Sorry if I’m not wanted here. I know, what do I know? I’m only a femoid.”
I was probably too flippant and I don’t think my sense of humor always translates. Anyhow, I won’t subject you to the responses I received. I didn’t actually read most of them. The ones that I did were surprising.
‘Women are obsessed with Incels, because they love to see men in pain.‘
I was first introduced to those concepts via my own comment. Then, as I continued to spend time in incel spaces, I saw these sentiments repeated each time a female entered the space. And surprisingly; It happens A LOT.
I’m not even mad at those guys anymore. Women really do bother the fuck out of these guys on a regular basis. I made the same mistake. I assumed they wanted and needed validation from a female. Isn’t that awful? Their anger at women, I believe, is partly a tool to reject the male need for female validation. Giving them something that they are trying so desperately not to need anymore is both insulting and hurtful. I wouldn’t have bothered them had I realized that right away.
Still, something interesting happened from that comment (along with a few others I dropped in r/incelswithouthate). Incels started to talk to me. And the conversations I had with them were actually enjoyable.
To add a caveat to that, I did not respond to any messages that were nasty. Like the one that began so charmingly, “How does it feel to be a stretched-out hole who spent their youth getting pounded by Chads just to settle down with some beta cuck and bleed him dry?” This was in response to a public conversation on r/incelswithouthate where an incel had asked if any lurking normies could offer him help or advice. I told him I’d love to help in any way I could and I went on to say that I married a guy who probably would have qualified as an incel. He didn’t date until his 20s and he never had a serious long-term girlfriend until he met me at age 24. I don’t know. They have such disdain for women who like tall, built dudes. Did I use my short, fat, socially-inept husband as a bargaining chip to gain street cred with the incels? Yes, yes I did. He’s a sweetheart and puts up with far too many of my high IQ schemes.
I suppose I have to admit, had I responded to every incel private message, I probably would have far less sympathy for them. But I ignored the hostile ones.
The very first message I received was one that read, “Hi, I see you’re a female on the incel boards. Wanna be frens?”
I was skeptical and nervous. Here I was poking around in the incel forums. I’d said my piece on public subreddits. Was I really ready to talk to one of them? One of these mysterious internet humans that hardly seemed real to me.
I already knew that incels love to troll. And they are brilliant at trolling. Did you know that r/femaledatingstrategy is full of incel shitposters posing as women? Yeah, me neither and now I’m annoyed I wasted all that outrage.
I decided to reply to that message, but I was going in with a clear head. I told myself there was a 99% chance that I was about to become the victim of an epic troll, made to look like an idiot, and have screenshots of everything posted to fourchan.
I was really cautious at first. I tried to keep my responses short. I turned most questions back on him.
I was scared of him at first. Especially when he brought up the beheading of that egirl. If you don’t know the story, basically an egirl went on a date with a guy she met online and he brutally murdered her and posted the pictures on Instagram. Many incels delighted in this.
He didn’t say he was happy about this. And when I said that I thought what happened to her was awful, he agreed. But he seemed far more focused on how incels were being portrayed in light of her murder. This concerned me. I wondered if I might be talking to somebody dangerous.
But as I spent more and more time talking to him, the conversations became more normal. We talked about music, movies, books. I stopped thinking of him as an ‘incel.’ He was just a reddit buddy and one that I really enjoyed talking to. This wasn’t research anymore. It was friendship. I had somehow made friends with an incel.
Other incels reached out to me. One was a self-proclaimed ‘fatcel.’ I told him I was married to an overweight man and that lots of women like me find fat men attractive. He was guarded and didn’t believe me. He tried to ‘disprove’ my attraction to my own husband, saying fat men have more estrogen. I was basically like, “I don’t know, bruh. He doesn’t seem less manly to me. I’m not about to do a chemical analysis on him.” After grilling me on my preferences, the conversations with him petered out quickly.
Some of my favorite conversations were with the ForeverAlone crowd. r/foreveralone is a community that came from the original incel website (if you ever heard that the person who started the incel community was a woman-this is her website) loveshy.com. This community is so different from the incel community. There is no hate, no misogyny. Just normal men and women, who struggle romantically, looking for support.
At this point in time, I had posted on braincels and incelswithouthate. I had struck up a friendship with an incel and was talking to him a few times a week. Obviously, it was time to start creating content. I know. Big brain time.
First, I made a podcast episode. I have a shitty podcast that nobody except for my wattpad readers listen to. I rambled in my usual stream-of-consciousness style about how I felt bad for incels, but was conflicted about that because they say such terrible stuff.
Nobody cared about the podcasts. At least, not enough to comment publicly. Cool. Lots of listens though (yeah, the traffic on that episode as compared to my other episodes…nobody throw shade at me for being obsessed with incels. My analytics be proving everybody else is weird with me).
Then I made some youtube videos.
A lot like my shitty podcast, it was just me rambling and saying whatever came to mind as I scrolled through incel content using screen-recording software. I made videos of r/braincels, r/incelswithouthate, and videos of their becky/stacey memes. I was now fully-immersed in the incel subculture and having a grand old time.
My incel buddy didn’t seem offended. If he was cool with the content, I guess I figured I wasn’t doing anything wrong.
I started to get some incel comments on my videos, but nothing too bad. I got a few comments about ‘I don’t believe you don’t like Chads. All women like Chads’ and stuff like that. It was mostly okay though.
I kept doing my thing. I started writing my book ‘Incel’ on wattpad. I asked my incel friend to tell me what he thought. I asked for feedback on my character.
I kept talking to guys on r/incelswithouthate. I suggested a geek dating website like the one I met my husband on. I agreed to mod for a subreddit related to gender issues that an incel created. I was having a grand old time.
I was trying to become part of the community. My research had gone terribly wrong, and I’d lost sight of everything.
The first wake-up call was when my content was linked on that .co website I mentioned earlier, a website so scary it’s rumored half the edgeposters are actually honeypot FBI agents.
I started getting mean comments. Not just mean, but scary mean. And I know...my face when I walk into an online community known for being fucking mean to women and they are fucking mean to me
An incel called me a ‘sperm toilet’! Who ever could have predicted this?
To be fair to them, the vast majority of incels who left comments didn’t say anything rude about me. They just didn’t like my content and let me know it. That coupled with the insane amount of youtube traffic coming from .co (hundreds of views per hour is a little overwhelming for a brand new youtube channel with all of 3 subscribers) and the fact that the guy who wrote the incel wiki personally left me a comment to thank me for making a video about his articles (is it weird that I was a little starstruck by this incelebrity? Will actually seems very cool. He has an incel forum that is gender inclusive. https://incelistan.net/ You can also see the incelibrity catfishman lurking about on that forum. I got a kick out of that. He’s the catfisher from the BBC documentary); anyway, it was all a little much for me. I was freaked out, worried I was being an obnoxious ass, and took all of my videos down.
I went back to focusing on my book, and I kept my incel content confined to my podcast, which the incels don’t seem to care about even though I have far more podcast subscribers. *shrugs* As long as they don’t mind, I guess. It’s not like they didn’t see it. It pops up way before my youtube channel when you google me.
So, I kept writing, kept talking to people in the incel communities, discovered the femcels and very quickly came to hate them beyond anything that is reasonable (they called me a ‘pick me’ and I will never not be butthurt about it. Never. They are my sworn internet enemies until the end of time. Until the wheel stops turning and the age becomes legend, and maybe even after that…). I kept doing my thing, and I noticed, my very first incel friend, the one who actually read my book and gave me great feedback and first made incels seem REAL to me; he was pulling back. He wasn’t talking to me as often, and when I reached out to him, he kept it short, very curt. At one point, he asked me if my husband was actually a Chad. Things were getting weird and I wasn’t sure what to do about it.
Unfortunately, online friendships are always tenuous. I backed off.
Our friendship ended entirely one day, when he sent me a message saying it seemed like I didn’t want to write about incels anymore, and he felt like as long as he kept talking to me, I’d feel like I had to tell the incel story. He had several times before this told me to be careful with my online activities, to maybe be more anonymous if I was going to write about incels. Now, he was telling me in no uncertain terms that if I wanted to keep on with my bull-headed sloppy research, kicking up all kinds of hornets’ nests, that he didn’t want to be part of it.
He blocked me.
I deleted that reddit account.
To my knowledge, I haven’t spoken to an incel since.
The friendship was short, strange, and it taught me so much. Incels are real men in pain, and while I knew that, I don’t think I really KNEW that until I talked to one. I’m not sure why I connected with this particular incel, or felt like I did, because honestly, for all I know it was four different guys scheming to get content for .co, and maybe there are screenshots up there mocking me right now. I guess, either way, I’m glad I got to see the human side of incels. The side that knows books like ‘Bridge to Terabithia’ and masks sadness with rants that go too far.
It’s hard to know how to feel about incels, because so many of them say such disgusting things.
What I learned from my time with the incels is to never forget the human. You can have empathy for someone even when you don’t agree with their actions. And not all incels are hateful and misogynistic.
Check out r/incelswithouthate or incelistan to see the more level-headed side of the incel community. But don’t bother them, and dear god other women, don’t go running into their communities thinking you’re some kind of savior. Don’t be me.
Read the book that started it all. I hope I do the incels justice without ever glossing over the truly problematic sides of the incel community.