In my post on incel terrorism from last week, one commenter showed up to defend incels. Some of his comments got lost in the general hubbub, so I want to devote a little more attention to what he had to say because it’s so illuminating of this mindset. (I won’t bother responding to the pompous ass who tut-tutted that incels are the real victims – victims of “female sexual cruelty”.)
Unsurprisingly, he began with an insult aimed at me:
If incels are too open about being sexual losers, there are others who are closeted sexual losers eager to dunk on self-confirmed incels as a way to signal that they themselves are not losers.
I just had to laugh at this. Not everyone holds a worldview where everything revolves around how much sex a person is having. This commenter is clearly fixated on it, but I believe that whether or not someone has had sex, how often, and with how many partners, is a neutral and morally irrelevant characteristic when it comes to judging their worth as a person or the validity of their ideas. As it happens, I’m happily married, but if I were asexual and single or casually dating or in a polyamorous triad, it would make no difference to anything I’ve said.
When I pointed this out, he said “there is always something suspicious” about men defending feminism and then doubled down:
There are degrees of being incel, and people can suffer inceldom even within marriages.
Um. How can there be “degrees of being incel”? Incel means involuntarily celibate – as in, not having any sex. Are there degrees of not having sex? Is that like being a little bit pregnant?
OK, enough entertainment, let’s get to the main show. My post was about how we can solve the problem of rage-filled, resentful incels turning to terrorism and mass murder. Here’s his solution:
it’s simple: Female sexuality has been unleashed by the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s, but not male sexuality, since one easy and certain route for getting sex (for men) remains illegal — just paying for it. Just legalize prostitution. Let there be a Hookr app (no e.) Imagine that — the incel opens up the Hookr up and chooses from all the local girls willing to service him. He gets to rate them afterward, and the working girls rate him. But no, both feminists and socially conservative women don’t want this because it would simply give too much social power to males who, as a consequence, may not be as patient with their significant others’ antics.
Can we start by talking about this ludicrous belief that female sexuality has been “unleashed” but male sexuality hasn’t?
Our society is designed around male sexuality: celebrating it, promoting it, pandering to it. Advertising, television, movies and video games are all multibillion-dollar industries that practically treat beautiful women as wallpaper. Men who have sex with many women as they can are praised as studs, playboys, Casanovas, lady-killers.
Meanwhile, women who have lots of sex are often cruelly demeaned and stigmatized – one double standard among many that incels are eager to perpetuate (warning, gross sexist language at the link). You’d think that if someone cared about having sex above all else, if it was the all-consuming focus of their lives, they’d want women to be sexually free and promiscuous, the better to increase their own chances. Instead, they shame them for it.
This is further evidence that the real problem in the incel community isn’t sexual frustration, but entitlement. They don’t just want some sex, any sex. What they want is the stereotypical male fantasy object: a beautiful, physically flawless virgin who has no wishes or goals of her own and who lavishes worshipful attention on them and them alone.
Let’s focus on that last sentence in the above quote, where our commenter alludes to “significant others’ antics”. In another comment, which I deleted because it was just too gross, he explains what he meant by that:
…women at large don’t want legalized prostitution because it would mean a drop in their status, and giving many a man an alternative to his girlfriend/wife.
I have to note the obvious failure of reading comprehension on this guy’s part. I said in the post he was commenting on that I think sex work should be legalized, which he ignored because it was inconvenient to the argument he wanted to make.
And I’m hardly alone on this. Although this is still a controversial and hotly debated topic, it seems that either decriminalizing or legalizing sex work has become the mainstream, if not the majority, position among third- and fourth-wave feminists. For instance, Amnesty International has called for decriminalization of consensual sex work in response to feminist pressure.
This commenter seems to imagine that feminism is a shadowy, all-powerful cabal dictating national policy. If that were true, we’d have the ERA by now. The real obstacle to legalizing sex work isn’t feminists, but conservative churches, religious voters and politicians who spread shame and ignorance about sex and promote regressive, damaging and unrealistic beliefs about human sexuality.
But most important of all, what this commenter fails to see is that his attitude is the problem. He’s obviously angry that women don’t want to be in a relationship with him, but he also says he wants prostitution to be legal because it would tip the balance of power in his favor if he were in one. If his hypothetical girlfriend or wife didn’t do as he wished, he could hold out the threat of going to buy sex from someone else.
A healthy romantic relationship is built on a foundation of equality, where the partners respect each other, care about each other, and make compromises to keep each other happy. This guy clearly desires a relationship of subservience, where he holds all the cards and can punish his partner for disagreeing with him or displeasing him. He envisions a girlfriend or wife as little more than a “sex dispenser” whose duty is to keep him satisfied, or else he’ll summarily discard her. No surprise he can’t find a woman willing to enter a relationship on those terms!
The reality is that, even if sex work were legalized in the sweeping way he wanted, it wouldn’t solve the problem of rage-filled, violent incels. I said that in my last post, but here’s a stark illustration of why: After Elliot Rodger’s rampage and death, his father was interviewed by Barbara Walters. Peter Rodger said that he knew his son was hung up on sex, and offered to take him to a legal brothel in Nevada (around 16:00 in this video) – but Elliot declined, saying he wanted to be truly loved. Even his father says, in retrospect, that sex wasn’t his fundamental problem and losing his virginity wouldn’t have helped him.
Just as there are lonely single people who aren’t killers, there are people in relationships who are hateful, abusive, jealous and violent. Having sex isn’t a magic key that transforms someone’s core self. Incels are, by definition, the men who miss this point. They’re trying to treat a symptom while ignoring the real reason for their unhappiness. It would be a sad spectacle, deserving of help and sympathy – if they didn’t choose to direct their rage outwards in such explosive and horrific ways.