• Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Incel culture is on the rise in the UK, data shows

ByNicholas Malizia

Nov 3, 2023
An iphone

Content warnings: Suicide, self harm, sexual and gender-based violence.

Incels, short for “involuntary celibates,” are individuals who are unable to develop intimate relationships despite desiring one. 

In recent decades, the incel community has become an echo chamber for individuals, mostly men, to blame their problems on women, promote hateful ideology, and even to encourage violence and terrorism. 

In 2021, Jake Davison shot and killed five people and himself in Plymouth. Prior to the attack, Davison expressed misogynistic views in online incel forums. 

Less than a year earlier, Gabrielle Friel, 22, was sentenced under the Terrorism Act in Edinburgh. Friel, who “expressed affinity with” incel mass murderer Elliot Rodger, was found guilty of possessing a crossbow and machete, with suspected intent to carry out a spree killing. 

In light of these events, incel activity and extremist ideology in the UK has increased. 

The Times reported in 2022 that traffic to incel-related websites had increased by 600 per cent. The largest online incel forum holds membership of 17,000 and receives 2.6 million monthly visits. 

After analysing the site’s content in 2022, the Center for Countering Digital Hate found a 59 per cent increase in mentions of mass attacks, approval of sexual violence against women, and the sexualization of minors. 

Professor Stephane Baele, who studies political violence at The University of Exeter said: 
“We have found clear evidence of a greater volume of incel discussion online overtime, including an increasing use of dehumanising labels and words depicting violence.” 

These labels and violent words are directed largely at women. 

Read More: University of Edinburgh’s handling of sexual misconduct criticised by students

Law enforcement institutions formally recognize the threat that incel-related violence can pose. Police Scotland’s 2023 Strategy to tackle violence against women and girls includes “tackling and diverting incel culture through education.” 

Incel ideology is also recognised as an extremist ideology by SO15 (Counter Terrorism Command) within the MPS in London. Filipa Melo Lopes is a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh and has written about incel culture through a lens of feminist philosophy, social theory and sexual ethics. 

Commenting on the threat that incels pose, Melo Lopes told The Student:

“Incels have become known as a public safety risk, after a number of attacks perpetrated by the likes of Elliot Rodger (2014, USA) and Alex Minassian (2018, Canada). These men were explicitly motivated by romantic and sexual rejection and who had ties to online incel communities.” 

Melo Lopes said that in addition to endangering the broader public, incel ideology also puts young men at a serious risk of self-harm and suicide. 

When asked what motivates incels, Melo Lopes told The Student

“Incels talk obsessively about women, but their struggle is mainly with themselves. 

“Countering incel radicalization requires pushing back against the idea that women are the answer to men’s problems. It also requires men to . . . cultivate a healthier and more grounded sense of self-worth.” 

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