Incel is a sociological term that is short for involuntary celibate, defined in academia as a common life circumstance. Specifically, incel is the life circumstance of being single against personal choice or will.
Inceldom is recognized as a medical disability in some countries and by the World Health Organization.  Being incel is a kind of nonsexuality. While gatekeeping sometimes occurs within incel forums over who has the “right” to claim inceldom, “Incels” are not a community, ideology, or social club. Most incels do not participate in the online incelosphere. Individual philosophies like the blackpill or subcultures like 4chan culture emerge on some, but not all, forums dedicated to involuntary celibates and go in and out of fashion.
Celibacy comes from Latin caelibatus “unmarried state”, but from the 1950s onward it was come to mean sexual abstinence without reference to marriage status. The term involuntary celibacy has likely independently been conceived of by various writers throughout history, dating back at least to the 18th century, e.g. a French clergyman, Antoine Banier, used it in 1739. Henry Flynt discussed male involuntary celibacy in relation to being perceived as creep in his 1975 book Blueprint for a Higher Civilization. The neoliberal feminist Alana introduced the abbreviated term “invcel” in 1997 which was later changed to “incel” at the suggestion of someone in the mailing list she created as it was easier to pronounce and did not sound as much like “imbecile.” Incel was later used in the Donnelly Study in 2001 and was first lexicographically recognized in 2018.
The Donnelly Study defined incels as adults who fail to find a sexual partner for six months or more without choosing so. There remains disagreement about whether this definition is appropriate due to conceivable loopholes. For example, Bluepillers often argue in bad faith about such definitions and say male incels could simply have gay sex or pay for a prostitute and, therefore, they are volcels and incels don’t exist. Hence, a definition in good faith would include an addition that incels are adults who are overwhelmingly romantically rejected by the members of the sex they are sexually attracted to.
On incel forums, gatekeeping and infighting about who counts as incel is common. Uglycels complain that love-shys and standardcels simply lack will to find a partner. In an effort to weed out standardcels, some incel forums reject incels who have not seriously and repeatedly attempted dating. In doing so, however, they inadvertently marginalize non-standard mentalcels. This is the source of a lot of conflict in the incelosphere. A solution to this longstanding conflict would be an incel definition that rejects standardcels but includes non-standardcel mentalcels as incel. This has been formalized before, but has not been popularized or adopted yet by any major forum, perhaps because of the effort required in enforcing such a complicated definition.
The infighting over whether to include love-shies in incel forums mainly hinges on the meaning of involuntary, and whether involuntary means “without choice” or “against will”. However, in different contexts, the word involuntary can mean either, and both are different experiences. Being love-shy means having a fear of starting romantic or sexual relationships. It is possible for a person to be both incel and love-shy, and many are to a certain degree. For instance, it is common for incels to suffer large numbers of negative courting experiences, and eventually become love-shy and unable to approach. Despite this, love-shyness is usually not considered a reason in of itself for inceldom if it is unaccompanied by other factors.
Demographics of incels
The vast majority of men are not asexual or aromantic, so most adult men that have never been in a relationship are circumstantially lonely rather than because of preference. According to the Center for Disease Control, most Americans have penis-and-vagina intercourse by age 17. Assuming incel to be defined very broadly such that all lifelong single men are incels, then this includes 15-30% of 18-30 year old American men, a third of which are 18-20 year old American men. Since a very large share of men who have not had any romantic experiences by age twenty will end up doing so at later time, only a minority of these people are likely actually “involuntarily celibate” in the strictest definitions of the term. A better estimate would look at only older heterosexual men. The same CDC report says that 10% of American men age 24 report having no sexual experience. In Japan, a more extreme case, 25% of men over the age of 30 are virgins. It’s thus possible, then, that most 30-year old American or Japenese men have an incel male acquaintance, even if that acquaintance doesn’t personally identify as such.
Incels are politically diverse. Some incels believe in the bluepill, purplepill, blackpill, or the redpill, while others do not subscribe to any pills. The most common shared beliefs among self-identified incels are hard determinism and that most claimed female incels are voluntary celibates because of men’s higher sex drive.
Incels are also racially and ethnically diverse. Passing implications by the media that the incelosphere is mostly or almost entirely white have not found much support in actual studies and surveys. Polls of Braincels and incels.co show that whites constitute only half the forum populations, with East Asian and Indian users being over-represented among Americans (see Demographics - § Race).
Other facts gleaned about self-surveyed incels.co users include:
- 78% suffer from extreme sadness, anxiety, and stress.
- 82% have considered suicide.
- 62% have considered surgery to improve their looks.
- 77% report being a healthy weight or underweight (only 23% report being overweight, which is far less than the general American population average).
- 57% report receiving a medical diagnosis labeling them as non-neurotypical or as having a physical disability that impairs their normal daily functions.
There are a loosely connected set of websites and forums wherein people gather to discuss being romantically unsuccessful, not all of which use incel terminology or portray themselves as “incel forums”. Those who visit these sites are affectionately referred to as cybercels or incelospherians. This network of online communities wherein people experiencing inceldom gather is sometimes called the incelosphere.
Frequenters of the incelosphere are unrepresentative of inceldom as a whole, as the vast majority of incels do not participate in these forums. For example, there are millions of American men over the age of 35 with no sexual experience, a large portion of which could be described as “involuntarily celibate”, but no incelosphere forum comes close to reaching this membership. This is for several reasons, but the largest one is probably popular portrayal of incels as extremely violent and misogynistic. The incelosphere constitutes the segment of inceldom that is sociable enough to have a proclivity for joining these online communities and choose to do so despite the strong negative sentiment against them. This also means these forums select for the portion of incels that happen to fit popular media stereotypes, and this further skews activity inside them.
Life as an incel
Incel life is plagued by an unending attempt to cope with one’s sexual frustration. This frustration is exaggerated by highly sexualized social and mainstream media, causing incels to feel regret and envy about missed or unattainable opportunities for love and sex, a feeling that affects men more than women. The general public mostly favors that allosexual incels behave in a completely asexual manner, and that they suppress their sexual feelings towards others. Incels are especially discouraged from voicing their sexual concerns, expressing sexual desire, making sexual advances, or complaining about their lack of sexual success.
When pressed, some members of the public will deny to incels that sex is a need at all, despite a majority of the public rating sex the most pleasurable, joyous, and meaningful regular life experience they have. Women find men who do not have sex less appealing, both as romantic partners and as friends. Incels, regardless of whether or not they identify as such, are usually fully aware on some level that missing out on pair bonding greatly negatively affects their self esteem. There also tend to be negative symptoms, two of which are erectile dysfunction and anorgasmia according to researchers at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute’s HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies. An American Journal of Public Health study found that delayed sexual activity, “creates health risks by impeding development of the emotional, cognitive, and interpersonal skills that are crucial to satisfactory sexual functioning and general well-being.”
Incels in the media
Journalists’ accounts of the “Incelosphere” tend to portray it as the focus for an extreme right-wing coalition of men, members of which occasionally commit mass murder. Contrary to perceptions in the media, incels are neither a political movement nor a community/subculture, but a descriptive academic term for a gender-neutral life circumstance. Incels do not share belief systems. Any large scale activism by incels as a group would have to face the insurmountable obstacle that most incel men do not want to publicly identify as such, along with the inherent embarassment of advocating on behalf of the lowest-status group in popular culture. As such, they lack any meaningful political or social power, and aside from a few exceptions, almost all of their communities are online.
No mass murderers have been users of incel forums. Neither 4chan nor PUAhate have self-identified as incel forums, even though some incels use or used those sites.
Synonyms for incels
There are many synonyms or near-synonyms of the term incel. For the mass noun version of synonyms, click on synonyms of inceldom. For gender-specific words see mancel or femcel. Synonyms of incel include:
- Aybee (eye dialect spelling of Absolute Beginner)
- AFC (average frustrated chump)
- Bare branch (Chinese term)
- Bottom deciler
- Circumstancial celibate/virgin
- The cold-shouldered
- Crossed in love
- Dry dicker
- Dry dick-itis
- Dry speller
- Dating realist
- First baser
- Forever aloner
- Fuckstrated person
- Genetic dead end
- Guang gun (Chinese term)
- Hard up
- Herbivore man
- High testosterone hikikomori
- Inceldom patient
- Involuntary sexual abstinent
- Late bloomer
- Leftover man (Chinese term)
- Long term celibate
- Love avoidant
- Oxytocinless person
- Perpetually left swiped
- Perpetually single
- Refused man
- The romanceless
- Romantic rejectee
- Caso Umano (term Italian women use for incels)
- Relationship challenged
- Romantically challenged
- “Rubbish men” (New Guinean term for “unmarriagable men”).
- Sexual dormancy
- Sexual have-nots
- Listva (Russian term)
- Unintentional celibate
- Unwillingly Single / Unfreiwillig Single
- Sura Mbaya
- journal|title=Involuntary Celibacy: A life course analysis|url=http://cda.morris.umn.edu/~meeklesr/celibacy.html%7Cjournal=The Journal of Sex Research|volume=38|pages=159–169|via=
- encyclopedia|title=Celibacy|encyclopedia=The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Family Studies|publisher=John Wiley & Sons|date=February 29, 2016|editor-last=Shehan|editor-first=Constance L.|volume=1|page=238|isbn=9780470658451
- Carpenter, Laura M. (2010). “Gendered Sexuality Over the Life Course: A Conceptual Framework”. Sociological Perspectives. University of California Press. 53 (2): 155–178. doi:10.1525/sop.2010.53.2.155. JSTOR 10.1525/sop.2010.53.2.155
- Harvey, John H.; Wenzel, Amy; Sprecher, Susan, eds. (2004). The Handbook of Sexuality in Close Relationships. Mahwah, New Jersey: Taylor & Francis. p. 900. ISBN 9781135624699. Retrieved 2015-12-30.
- Strong, Bryan; Cohen, Theodore (2013). The Marriage and Family Experience: Intimate Relationships in a Changing Society. Belmont, California: Cengage Learning. p. 50. ISBN 1133597467. Retrieved 2015-12-30.
- journal|A life course analysis|url=http://cda.morris.umn.edu/~meeklesr/celibacy.html%7Cjournal=The Journal of Sex Research|volume=38|pages=159–169|via=
- Wikipedia Incel Article
- Involuntary trouser defecation
- Test to see if you are an incel
- List of things self-described incels get wrong
- An analysis of gender ratios 1860-2005
- Red Pill 101 Ep. 2 – Incels & Nice Guys – Rollo Tomassi (November 4, 2018) (Size: 66:00 min.)
- WebMD article on involuntary celibacy
- archive of link above