How should we deal with the problem of incels? Well, we don’t fuck them, that’s for fucking sure. You don’t ‘solve’ the problem of violent misogyny by giving violent misogynists what they want. You don’t get men to stop hating women by ensuring they have intimate access to women. You do not solve the problem of incels by fucking them, because you can’t solve the problem of men’s anger by throwing them a sacrificial woman.
You’ve probably heard the news last week that an angry man murdered some people in Plymouth. I’m not telling you his name, but here are the names of the people whose deaths could have been avoided if we had tackled this violent misogynist earlier: Maxine Davison (his mother), Sophie Martyn (aged 3), Lee Martyn (43), Stephen Washington (59), and Kate Shephard (66). You may have heard that, before murdering these people and then taking his own life, the guy declared that he was doing it because he was an incel (meaning ‘involuntary celibate’, i.e. someone who wants to have sex but is not having it).
Naturally, whenever an incel does an appallingly violent thing, the question people ask most frequently is: how could this have been prevented? There are lots of things that could have been done. Perhaps we need to look into how this guy got a gun, and ensure similar people don’t have access to guns in future. Maybe we need to pay attention to the websites where young men get radicalised to despise women. Maybe we need to reallocate anti-terrorism resources to tackle the very real problem of misogynist extremism. Go read this excellent thread from Dr Petra Boynton for suggestions and a lot of backstory.
What we absolutely don’t do, though, is fuck incels to try and make them happy.
Fucking angry men does not cure their rage
A man who feels entitled to women is not going to suddenly, magically realise he isn’t entitled to them just because one has given him what he wants. In fact, there’s a really neat example of what happens right here on this site. In the comments to the last post I wrote about incels, a
gentleman twat popped in to let me know that…
“I’m coming out: I was an incel, lost my virginity after I turned 30. So I kind of understand where all of this anger comes. … I felt I’m great guy: don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t gamble, don’t beat up women, have a decent amount of money in the bank – yet I had to accept that a childless, non-obese woman is out of my reach. I never had one for free. I made peace with myself, accepted my fate. Now I’m married and never ever have to ask a date from a woman – it still scares me to death to go out dating.
The problem is: this truth is really scary. It takes away hope. It’s a part of life that totally out of control. How would any talking about sex solve this problem? “My son, you’re introvert and small – forget women under 30 or under 80 kg – have a nice life!””
See? This guy is married, and he still hates women. He hates women so much that he thinks not beating us up is a personal quality for which he should be applauded! He hates women so much that he believes we cease to be of any value if we have children, are over 30 years of age or over 80 kg. See what he did there? A woman not only shagged him but married him and he has still clung on to his rage.
So. Fucking angry men will not cure them of their anger. More importantly, even if it did, we still shouldn’t do it.
Women are not here to swallow men’s anger
It is not women’s job to pacify men. It is not our job to swallow their rage. It is not our job to absorb their anger and help them feel better about themselves. We are people, and we want to live our lives. It’s quite hard to live our lives when we’re being used as an emotional punching bag for the nearest angry man.
If you’re struggling and you need support – you feel angry, for instance, or sad, or you have trauma that sits with you and you don’t know how to express it – then asking your friends (including women) for help is one of the best things you can do. I mean it: asking for help is brilliant and worthwhile. If you don’t have friends you feel comfortable talking to, seeking a professional counsellor or therapist is an excellent and healthy move.
But there is a world of difference between someone ‘asking for help’ and someone ‘expecting another human to be the solution to all their problems.’ The former is natural, the latter is cruel and entitled. You can tell the difference by whether your outburst is causing harm. Are you asking someone for help, as an equal, on the understanding that they are a person who also has feelings and needs? Great work! Are you pouring all your rage out at them, stabbing and hurting them with it, because you hurt and so you need them to hurt too? Stop.
There is a pervasive, pernicious idea in our society that women are here to help pacify angry men. That it is part of our role to soften, to gentle, to calm those who are boiling with rage and frustration.
Nope. Get therapy pic.twitter.com/L7TbkG8auJ
— Tom Neenan (@TNeenan) June 15, 2021
As a consequence, there are many men who not only treat women like exercise equipment on which to work out their problems but who are genuinely convinced this is the way things are meant to work. I don’t think they overtly believe themselves to be misogynists, they just don’t understand that this isn’t how things should be. That a girlfriend/wife/mother isn’t just there to absorb their rage, swallow it down and process it for them so they can be calm until the next time it bubbles to the surface and gets spat out again in her face.
Women are human beings too, and it is utterly exhausting (and often frightening) to be the person on whom men we love work out their emotional problems.
Incels are the most extreme, violent end of this spectrum: many of them genuinely believe that if they had girlfriends then their anger would disappear, because they have internalised the idea that women will soften/soothe/gentle/pacify and make them happy. This is obviously not true, and it’s easy to recognise how untrue this is when it comes to dangerous misogynists who have been radicalised into extreme violence.
But it’s true in our everyday lives as well, whether it’s your mate who punches walls who you think might ‘calm down’ if only he could get laid, or the guy who throws a shitfit every six months and tells his girlfriend she’s worthless because he has all this anger and doesn’t know where to put it. The man whose wife has to calm him down and pick up shattered bits of crockery from the kitchen floor, who then turns to her and says ‘I’m so sorry babe, thank you, I feel much better now’ while she’s still reeling.
You don’t need to be physically violent in order for your actions to be harmful. You also don’t need to be a man: women do this too, and it’s not OK when they do it either. But we don’t usually excuse women who do this, or try to claim that she wouldn’t have needed to if only men had been nicer – shagged her when she wanted, to calm her down, for instance. We don’t usually draw cartoons of angry women being placated by men in a way that implies it’s a man’s job not just to support or help but to actively gentle and pacify. That it’s men’s job to make women less angry, and therefore their fault if we hurt them.
In everyday life, as with incels, it is not our job to pacify angry men. Not our job to absorb that anger, or swallow down their rage.
It is not true that the love of a good woman will ‘fix’ a broken man, more likely it will simply break her. With incels, with everybody. You don’t cure angry men by throwing them sacrificial women.