“Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” — Yoda, “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace”, 1999
Here we go again. At least that’s what I and many others around the world think and feel when the latest atrocity by a “lone” maniac makes the rounds. While it is easy to paint it as merely a problem of the United States, due to our heaps of readily available guns, it’s not that simple. In case you haven’t heard, April came to a close with a massacre taking place in Toronto, Canada. This time the weapon of choice was a van, not a gun, but the death toll reached 10. Yet it isn’t just the horror of the event itself which has captured the media’s attention, but the supposed motivation of the killer (whose name I won’t type). Because the media love to advertise the motivations of the various lunatics and serial killers who enter history on stacks of bodies.
Much like the murders at Isla Vista, California less than four years ago, it’s shined a spotlight on the “incel” online community. Short for “involuntary celibate,” it’s a movement coined around a term which, ironically, was originally created by a bisexual woman. Once again, older male virgins are in the news, and that coverage isn’t healthy. To say that it is a hostile community is an understatement. Most forums run and organized by that “movement” are rich with some of the worst of misogyny and hateful speech you may find. Yet because the notion of older male virgins seems salacious to the media, the more writers and pundits focus on that and not anything else. Some of those who do this even entertain arguing about the “incels” on their own terms. Others merely exploit the subject matter to grind their own personal axes against women, or liberals, or Tumblr, or atheists, so on. The apex of this is a piece from the lofty New York Times that suggests that such murders might be stopped if liberals embraced “redistribution of sex” the same way people argue about the redistribution of wealth, or medical care.
Suffice it to say for obvious reasons, incidents like this always run chills down my spine. It isn’t just for the sheer horror and randomness of it, even though that’s plenty. It’s because I always feel as if I am on some spectrum with these nut jobs. I understand the frustration and loneliness of being an older male virgin, and of being single for what seems like an entire lifetime. I understand, and have felt, the moments of anger or bitterness about it. I also understand, and have felt, the sheer emotional anguish and self loathing over it. If I didn’t, I doubt I would have started this blog as a method of self-therapy and expression, nor maintained it for almost four years. The fact that I have anything in common with them, like gender, is bad enough. But having a shared life experience makes it seem even worse. “We’re not so different, you and I,” is a cliche line of dialogue from a villain to a hero, and that’s not always because of lazy writing.
But we are similar, are we not? I mean, to avoid being hypocritical, one could say calling myself “the Dateless-Man” isn’t far removed from calling myself an “incel.” I often have typed lengthy essays about how I am uniquely and distinctly different, in a bad way, from other men and the society around me. I’ve been accused more than one (on another forum) of succumbing to the fallacy of embodying a negative self identity. I say that I do it out of a sense of irony, or that at one point in college I considered making a comic strip about a character with that name which was going to be a sort of satirical autobiography (despite the fact that I can’t draw). But not everyone buys it, and sometimes even I can be full of crap, even about myself. I vent my thoughts and foibles online, and I have sought out a community to not feel so alone more than once. Add the fact that I’m certainly among the “wizard” class (older male virgins over 30) and I certainly have some troubling or at least counter-productive beliefs about dating and women despite my best interests, and it is easy to see how we could be two sides of the same coin. And that’s distressing and disheartening to me.
It certainly doesn’t help shake the negative beliefs and stereotypes about older male virgins that abound. It’s bad enough if other people see me as lame or a loser if they found out — especially women. But them thinking of me as a ticking time bomb or being dangerous atop of that is even worse, and even more unhelpful. It makes the subject of my sexual status into more of a secret to keep at all costs, to never share with any living soul under any circumstances without the convenience of physical distance and an online alias.
There were times when I thought I was in danger of snapping. Of being wound so tight that one really, really, really bad day could send me off the deep end. While that’s always a risk, I think I am more content that such a thing won’t happen now than I was in 2014, or when I was younger. And there are other times when I wonder what exactly makes me different from these “incels,” what separates me from them. Is it really some sort of strength of moral character on my part? Was it growing up being raised by a single mother who, despite it all I do love? Or was it due to convenient timing that when I was at my most vulnerable in high school and college, this “online community” was either non-existent or in such infancy that I never found it. Or was it my inner cynic, refusing to believe anyone who promised easy answers?
After all, while the “incel” community wasn’t around when I was at most emotionally vulnerable at the top of the 21st century, I could have sought them out later. And part of the lure is that they offer something which many people find themselves lacking, virgins or not — belonging. Loneliness is itself a dangerous thing, capable of causing physical an mental harm to someone over time. That’s why solitary confinement is considered torture in some circles (and countries, and states). I had various pet gerbils for over a decade, and as social rodents, they will literally die very shortly if left all alone, regardless of food or other resources. In ancient times, the idea of someone dying over “a broken heart” or “in despair” was treated as a common fact of life; nowadays some new think tank has to rediscover such things (the same way that the clitorus was “discovered” by academia multiple times).
Yet the problem with “incels,” at least as I have observed from a great distance, is they’re founded in toxicity. They use mutual trauma as a prison to keep each other in line, and the group together. It’s encouraged to focus such dark feelings outward, and to blame others — especially women and men of color — for all of their troubles. In social-psychology, this is called “groupthink,” where a group of individuals soon cease being individuals and become part of a group mob. In the business world, this happens in boardrooms; on the streets it can happen as a riot. Details include coming up with insular dialogue and words that only members in the group understand. The most well known ones are “Chads” (dumb hot men who get sex), “Normies,” “Stacies” (pretty women) “Beckys” (aggressive “feminists”), embracing the idea of alpha and beta men, and the terms get grosser and more disgusting as you go along the glossary. I won’t dignify these with definitions, nor some of the others, since their terms for men of color (or Middle Eastern descent) get even uglier. There’s an extreme conservative bent to this movement, since in many ways there is overlap with Neo-Nazis and militia gun-nuts. Yet if you strip away the racism, it isn’t too dissimilar to cults and toxic groups from other countries. After all, didn’t Al Queada famously offer “77 virgins in heaven” to “warriors” who died for their cause? Didn’t they also take advantage of lonely men with no hope and hordes of toxic attitudes and egg each other on? Extremism is extremism; only the details and demographics change.
The sad thing is, I understand all of it on an intellectual and even at times personal level. I understand the feelings of loneliness, bitterness, even envy at others. I understand the social shame that virginity can also feel like. One thing I never did, however, was aim those negative feelings outward. I never blamed women, whether specific or general, for my ills. I may blame society on a grander scale, but more often I blame myself. And this isn’t hyperbole. Check out some of my older postings from 2014-2016. If you took a shot every time I typed words such as “freak,” “loser,” “lame,” “circus freak,” or even “pathetic” to describe myself, you’d be plastered before you got ten posts deep. I had to hold back to “merely” list ten flaws about myself, yet struggled to find ten strengths. I have been down deep pits of depression and I know how easy it would be to let go and give into hatred. And that’s what is at the core of much of the “incel” community; a mutual hatred.
I do feel anger at a group of people sometimes, and it isn’t women, it is toxic men like the “incels.” If women are hesitant to trust “strange” or “offbeat” men, it is because most if not all men they’ve encountered like that hurt them. They face more risk of death, abuse, and rape just in everyday life, after all. It is types like the “incels” who make life for the rest of us Dateless-Men and Women harder, because they enforce the stereotypes of virgins being weirdos and freaks. I’m a freak, but I’m a friendly one, like Disney’s Quasimodo. I grow insulted that they would use a pain that I and many others share, and use it as justification to lash out at the innocent, and everyone but themselves.
If there is one thing I have learned, it’s this:
Everyone suffers. But what separates heroes from villains is that heroes use suffering as an inspiration, and villains use it as an excuse.
I may often use my faults and virginity to excuse myself from trying to change, especially since I rarely feel it would be worth it. I doubt I would succeed or have the heart to see it through. But I have never used it as an excuse to lash out at others, to justify an act of selfishness, cruelty, violence, or gender bias. As shameful, frustrating, and lonely as it cane be to be a dateless older virgin, I say it’s even worse to be seeped in hatred for entire genders or ethnic groups, or be involved in online cults which are this close to being recruitment forums for extremists. And it is even more disheartening to see the media even cede any logical or moral ground to their philosophy by even entertaining the notion that sex can be “divided” like a commodity. Heck, thinking of other people as “things” is arguably the cause of most human misery throughout history. Many “incels” do not have reasonable ideas about gender or sex. They merely have found a crowd that eggs on the worst side of their venting, and have turned their anger and frustration outward. Or, they’re avoiding the very real work of trying to adapt to the world around them or learn more about themselves. And the fact that so many media outlets or commentators — by sheer coincidence, all men themselves — even entertain some of the ideas that most “incels” project or rant about symbolizes just how deeply entrenched sexism and misogyny is in our society. The irony is that it is these deep seeded notions of what men and sex should be often lead to the feelings of shame and isolation that older men feel.
After all, most of the rules of society, and especially when men should or shouldn’t be, are crafted and enforced mostly by other men, to the benefit of other men (in power). Are there women who embody some of those attitudes to? Of course. But they weren’t the originators. And lord knows women throughout history have faced issues regarding around their virginity being seen as something more than it is.
There is a part of me that wonders if a part of what motivates some people to give the “incel” movement a try isn’t just deep seeded hatred or misogyny or even loneliness — even if all are big motivators. Is there an element of frustration not only from the situation, but from a lot of the bad or lame “advice” that is often given (and usually sold, and not cheaply) to dateless men? Many “incels” tried the whole “pick up artist” thing — which is itself draped in a lot of sexist macho man ideals — and are bitter that “the rules” didn’t work out for them. As I said in my blog post about “virginity advice“, most of it is either rooted in insulting macho man dogma that reinforces negative self hatred, or is seeped in Pollyanna milquetoast philosophy which is well-intended yet often unrealistic or naive. This lack of any “ideal” advice isn’t an excuse; I just wonder if it is a mitigating factor.
But ultimately, the hows and whys of the “incels” may not be the real thing to worry about. The thing to worry about is trying to protect the innocent from being victims of sprees from angry men with nothing to lose. Because no matter the shame or loathing that comes with being alone, it never justifies hurting another person, under any circumstances. Change ultimately comes from within, and I ultimately always believed in trying to be the best version of myself. If that version of myself has to be alone and untouched by any woman, so be it. And if that makes me “beta” or “a white knight,” then I would rather be such things than a coward who attacks the world for my own failings and insecurities. I, and men of reason, need to reject this movement and try to return such rantings and ravings to the dustbin of history where they belong.
I may be a Dateless-Man, but that’s better than being a Hateful-Man, or a Soulless-Man. And the world has too many hateful and soulless men out there.