Incel, a term no one had ever heard of before a few days ago, has suddenly jumped into the forefront of the political lexicon following the events of a horrific attack perpetrated in Toronto by a criminal who I won’t name, leaving 10 dead and 14 injured. The criminal responsible for this act belonged to an online community called “Incels,” standing for “involuntary celibate”, which is a group of people who, at their most core definition, appear to be have bonded together over their bitterness and frustration with being unable to find a mate.
The media response has been exactly as you would expect: defining this incel community as a racist, sexist hate group — even straight up terrorism. Yes, the principal defining characteristic banding this group together is bitterness toward women, but the rush to vilify, condemn and ostracize all members of a group people have only recently heard of without giving real thought to the causes of and solutions to their bitterness is foolish. Yes, killing people is an evil act and it’s beyond reproach — there is no way back from perpetrating that kind of evil and it must be punished. But the vast majority of these people have not murdered anyone; their bitterness, though real, is contained to online venting. Being mired in a tormented mindset is a place from which there can be a return, but online dogpiles and mockery are not the method to accomplish that return.
I should know. It’s uncomfortable to talk about myself vulnerably, but I have been in dark places. I have seen the darkest parts of myself. I know exactly what it’s like to be tormented by rage, hate and bitterness and have it discolor your soul and warp your character. When my parents divorced when I was young, I got in fights regularly for years. I broke a kid’s arm. I bit a chunk out of a guy’s back once in fifth grade. Once, in middle school, I choked a kid until he passed out. Reprehensible acts. And I grew into a good man, who would never commit such acts. I pushed myself to go to therapy, I studied buddhism, I forgave people, I forgave myself, and I reached a greater understanding of the world. I have my flaws, for sure. I have been accused of being aloof and kind of an asshole, and I get mad at things on occasion, like anyone does, but I have no hate in my heart, a great deal of compassion for others, and an immense desire to understand moreso than condemn.
Where I see bitterness, from my own experience, I see pain. I see pain before I see evil. And I can empathize with pain. And when I see violent thoughts manifesting from pain, I see misguidedness before I see evil. Misguidedness can be corrected. People who are lost can be found. I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to be an involuntary celibate. I’ve never been a knockout lad fending ladies off with a stick, but I’ve done okay. I lost my virginity as a teenager, I spent the majority of my twenties in a relationship, I’ve been in several significant relationships, and I’m currently single and… frankly kind of enjoying it, because I’ve never been single for even a year of my adult life. However, there are points over that time where I stood at the edge of the rabbit hole I know a lot of these people have gone down.
Let me tell you a story. This is going to be a long, old man kind of story, but it has a point, I promise you. Though a lot of people judge men by their ability to attract women, just like men are judged by success in other fields, that is not the real truth of love. Love is not an accomplishment. If you find it, you’re transcendently lucky. Even when you look around and see others paired off, it’s rare to see actual love between two people who have complete compatibility. Marriages dissolve; partners cheat; people argue and confront each other and grow resentful; a comfortable relationship with the wrong person is a curse much worse than having no one.
When I was 25, I had a 7 year relationship end. It ended when I found out my ex-girlfriend had cheated on me for months with a female coworker. She married her new partner a few months after leaving. I went through this:
I got ripped like Brad Pitt from Fight Club. I ate nothing but grilled chicken breasts and broccoli for a year. I watched Swingers and High Fidelity on repeat. I read forums about heartbreak and yes, I read a lot about MGTOW. But, ultimately, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. That woman was not a representation of all women. She was a person, an individual, that I knew. And we weren’t right for each other. Had we stayed together, we both would have made each other miserable. Our lives no longer intercede, and I’m glad they don’t. I wish her well on her life path.
I dated a woman who had a lot of common interests with me for about 9 months, and thought I was in love. It was a learning experience in the differences between limerence and love. The plot of the relationship I had was very similar to the plot of 500 Days of Summer, including the chapter on pain. It’s fair to say I lived through the plot of that movie, with one key difference: after 9 months I found out she was engaged and I was the side guy. That was years ago, and one thing I realized about that is that women, too, sometimes find out they’re dating married men and become bitter. Armed with the realization, I was able to resist the bitterness. Again, with distance, understanding, and processing, my ability for compassion and empathy expanded. And, again, this was not a representation of all women, but an individual.
I experienced being the bad guy as well. For six months I dated a girl who was deeply in love with me, but felt insecure because she believed I was out of her league. I ended up breaking up with her, because I simply knew she wasn’t right for me. And I also knew that she internalized this as confirmation of her insecurities — that she wasn’t good enough for me, which was never real. It made me empathize with the women who had left me, to see things from their side and understand the difficulty of their decision. The guilt. It made me empathize with a lot of the men out there who are afraid to try to attract the women they think are out of their league. She had that mindset, and she was wrong. When I see myself with that mindset, I wonder: am I wrong, as well? In her case, I was the confirmation of a framework; but it wasn’t true. I am an individual — her framework was wrong and unproductive.
I dated a woman who I was in love with, and who loved me for a year. I contemplated marrying her, or spending years with her, but we had compatibility issues and argued. I didn’t see a situation where it would improve and I ended it. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made in my life. None of the advice from PUAs or MGTOW or any of these ideologies applied to it. Their ‘wisdom’ had zero relevance. It was a unique circumstance between two individuals with a wide range of contributing factors.
In between all of these experiences, I dated, which, a lot of women don’t understand, is a trial of attrition for most men. I studied PUA and did that for a while. It was a waste of time. It got me laid… by women I found dull and uninteresting. It took a lot of my time that I would have preferred went to writing or building a business. It made me like myself less. To a lot of people, it’s comforting to believe there’s a ‘recipe’ for love, but there is not. Just four and a half billion individuals of the opposite sex you hope have an energy, values, communication styles, and a multitude of other variables, that vibrate with yours.
A lot of men on these sites believe that 80% of men are invisible to women and, honestly, I think there’s truth to that. But I also think that a great majority of women are invisible to men. And it’s not because of sexual undesirability, it’s because even in modern society, men and women’s life experiences don’t have a significant amount of overlap. When I was twenty five, I found out that in high school a beautiful popular girl from a rich family who I never talked to had a years long crush on me. You never know. The amount of people each gender meets is a fraction of the whole, and you have to go out of your way to accomplish meeting that fraction. Women tend to select from the men who approach them, a small sample size in terms of men’s personalities, and they form generalized opinions about the gender as a whole; men do the same thing, but with the women they approach. And now we will use the actions of a few dangerous men whose minds were warped and twisted to form generalized opinions about this incel group, a group that has fallen victim to the exact same misguidedness of forming generalized opinions based on a small sample size.
If you’re a man, and you want love, I promise you, it is not a movie. You are lucky to find it. Most don’t. Attractive men don’t. Their lives aren’t perfect. They may sleep with more women, but that may not be the heaven it seems like; it may be rose colored through the lens of jealousy and desire. It is not an accomplishment. If you do find it, treasure it, but love is not sex and a relationship is not a goal. PUA strategies will not help you. Some of what they say — be confident, be yourself, work on your life, have a mission, be happy — that’s great advice. But following a recipe to get girls in bed will only accomplish getting you involved with some very shallow women, and it will feel like a rejection every time they like you for acting like a person you, yourself, despise. Focus on living your best life, mate or not, and you will get better results in every possible arena you want to be successful in, including love.
If you’re out to condemn incels, I can’t stop you, and there are plenty of voices online who will validate your condemnation. Our society is not wanting for condemnation. We see it every day on social media, regarding every person and every subject. But I promise you, I promise you, I truly do, taking these people whose minds are warped by pain and rejection and pushing them further into the outskirts of society by rejecting them and inflicting pain on them is not a solution. It is the opposite of the solution.