Incel, short for ‘involuntarily celibate’, is self-identification used exclusively by cis-gender, straight males who congregate exclusively in online spaces, and report having extreme difficulty in or an inability to attract sexual and romantic relationships with women. Many self-described incels online subscribe to the Blackpill, the nihilistic ideological worldview that espouses that society is hierarchal and that appearance, money and status are the only attributes needed in order to gain success; both in romantic and sexual relationships and in society as a whole. It also claims that all true happiness is derived from sexual and romantic relationships, that these are the only means through which a person can be truly be valued, find meaning and connection and that all other areas of life are ‘copes’, or insufficient substitutions for romantic and sexual relationships.
Most of what we know about the individuals who use the label ‘incel’, or who are users on incel forums, comes from gathering evidence of their lives through their posts, interviews, case notes, government documents, the manifestos of incel-related mass murders and their participation in academic studies. It is difficult to create an accurate picture of the type of individual who engages with incel content as the individuals who subscribe to the Blackpill are so varied. Many incels report having mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders and schizophrenia, as well as physical disabilities and neurodivergence. Some incels will also report having no medical issues but feel that they are simply hindered by their physical appearance. Incels are also ethnically diverse, come from different socioeconomic backgrounds and are at different various different life stages.