Incels and Violence — What's the Connection?

Mass shooters, violent extremists, and terrorists — the vast majority of whom are male — often have something in common: extreme misogynistic attitudes, according to new research.

As the prevalence of mass shootings and other acts of violence continues to grow in the United States, so too does the “involuntary celibate” (or incel) movement. And yet, little research has examined the connection between the two — until now.

A new paper written by University of Rhode Island Assistant Teaching Professor of Psychology Miriam Lindner explores the roots of the incel movement and examines its connections to real-world violence.

Called “The Sense in Senseless Violence: Male Reproductive Strategy and the Modern Sexual Marketplace as Contributors to Violent Extremism” and published in the Journal of Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, the paper is an integration of different literature focusing on sexual selection, evolved male psychology, and aggression.

“For the longest time there was this misunderstanding that this type of violence could be ascribed to socio-economic standing or educational background,” Lindner said in a news release. “But when we look at the people who commit these very violent acts, it turns out that what they have in common is not that they are male — though 98% of them are male — it is actually that they are extremely misogynistic.

Lindner suggests that the emergence of the incel movement — a mostly online community of men who describe themselves as unable to obtain sexual or romantic experiences despite wanting them — is the result of intersecting factors.

The first is a male psychology that has evolved to be quite eager to obtain sex and may be more likely to use intimidation, coercion, or aggression to get it. The dynamics of modern-day dating are also a contributing factor, as financial and sexual autonomy allows women to be pickier when selecting partners and stay single if they so choose. The third factor is technology, which heightens the visibility of these patterns and their effects.

“If you have a male psychology that is designed to intimidate and coerce when they do not get what they want, and within this environment you have ready access to items such as guns, which make it very easy to express that intimidation, you can see how that might play out,” Lindner said.

Do all incels commit violent acts?

Incels are, in fact, more likely to die by suicide than commit acts of violence. But Lindner said the incel environment creates a perfect storm for the few with the right psychological makeup and extreme, misogynistic beliefs to express their grievances through violence.

There may also be a connection between violence and mental illness, though she said attributing mass shooting events to mental illness does us a disservice when a large portion of the population suffers from one form of mental illness or another and are not violent.

When looking at existing shooter manifestos, many of them share the same grievances of feeling rejected by women and a desire to get revenge. These manifestos often convey a chilling understanding of their actions and a willingness to explain the reasoning behind them — demonstrating the importance of focusing on the threat of misogynistic beliefs rather than mental illness.

One way to combat incel violence, Lindner said, is to normalize rejection and the hurt it may cause. Helping men understand their own emotions, thought processes, and reactions to rejection, and fostering greater awareness about how to handle them, is a critical aspect of reducing this violence, she argues.

More research on the subject is greatly needed considering the threat this kind of violence poses to public health. Lindner has created a dataset and is currently in the process of testing assumptions about the precursors for self-harm compared with outward aggression.

“Establishing those factors which lead to self-harm and suicide versus those that precipitate expressive violence is critical to growing our understanding as to when young men direct their aggression against themselves or others,” Lindner said, “and to developing nuanced public safety and mental health efforts in order to effectively intervene.”

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prefix 4 months ago
I recently saw that researchers have checked and found that there are as many of 60,000 incels worldwide with the potential for violence.

In Japan alone, they've found that there could be millions of hikikimori or recluses. I wouldn't say that all incels are recluses but recluses tend to be incel, so that could be an unknown more. In a country with a larger population, the US for example, there could be 10 million incel men. No researcher is going to do enough actual research to put their own broad statements into perspective, so that's only a guess.

Sounds like there are more men who have sex who'd be violent, but going after incels incessantly feeds the societal prejudices that men who are alone face constantly.

Any incel reading this should realize that there are millions of us who are peaceful, and the best thing you can do is avoid the media's barrage of hate.