Where are the lines between incel misogyny and violence?

A new research study by Michael Halpin, "Weaponized Subordination: How Incels Discredit Themselves to Degrade Women," published in Gender & Society, asks, How do men who see themselves as subordinate participate in the subjugation of women?

The ADL defines Incels, a portmanteau for "involuntary celibates," as "heterosexual men who blame women and society for their lack of romantic success. A subset of the online misogynist "manosphere" that includes Pick Up Artists and Men's Rights Activists, incels are known for their deep-seated pessimism and profound sense of grievance against women. The incel ideology is rooted in the belief that women have too much power in the sexual/romantic sphere and ruin incels' lives by rejecting them. Incels are the most violent sector of the manosphere, and have perpetrated a range of deadly attacks against women."

As Jia Tolentino points out in this New Yorker article, "What incels want is extremely limited and specific: they want to be able to have sex on demand with young, beautiful women. They believe that this is a natural right." With a more nuanced point, "Incels aren't really looking for sex. They're looking for absolute male supremacy."

Halpin's study found that "Incel forums are characterized by self-loathing, anger, and misogyny, with several incels having committed murders…I first detail the type of subordination that incels argue they experience – a social bias in favor of attractive people they call lookism. Next, I explain how incels perceive themselves as permanently subordinated 'failed men.'" This "perceived subordinate status" is the grounds to justify misogyny and violence against women.

Halpin's research concludes, "weaponized subordination suggests that groups or individuals will obscure advantages while emphasizing disadvantages, situating themselves as victims to necessitate or justify aggression. I argue that such strategies are used by incels, allowing them to simultaneously situate themselves as dominated, failed men while actively subjugating women. Incels exemplify how subordination is weaponized, but weaponized subordination is not restricted to incels and is enacted with aggressors leverage perceived disadvantages to situate themselves as victims for purposes of legitimizing their hostility."

An ideology, subculture, identity, and movement, incels are dangerous, as this BBC documentary, "Inside the Secret World of Incels," demonstrates.

"Told primarily through the personal stories of three men who identify as incels, the documentary explores how an online ideology can push young men into very disturbing behaviour. But the film also delves behind the sensationalist media headlines to unearth some of the reasons for incels' existence – many feel alienated and are enduring difficulties, like mental health issues, autism or traumatic upbringing. For some, the online forums are a haven to joke, vent and find support in a world where they are struggling to find an identity and where gender relations are changing dramatically. The question is, where are the lines between this radical misogyny and violence?"