People are afraid of a dark shadow looming on the horizon of our culture: a spate of angry men who can never get laid, and who take their frustration out on others violently. Names like Elliot Rodger are now synonymous with explosive acts of vengeful mass homicide. They are otherwise known as the involuntarily celibate – incels – and this essay looks at how to deal with them.
The incel problem is fundamentally a question of biology. The reason why the problem is so hard to solve is that the problem itself is a byproduct of a greater, more fundamental problem within animal species. This is why we can observe behaviour analogous to the violent human incel in other primates.
The essential challenge for females of sexually reproducing species is to find a breeding partner that is going to give the offspring the highest possible chance of success. Because the female investment in the production of offspring is heavy (compared to the male), the female is very choosy about who she breeds with. Because the male investment in the production of offspring is light (in a state of Nature), the male tends towards promiscuity.
This combination of high female investment and low male investment creates the possibility of multiple partners for high-quality males. This can be observed in extremis in walruses, but it is also evident in gorillas. Adult male silverback gorillas tend to control a small harem of females, most of whom carry his offspring. What’s more, this is evident in humans, only to lesser degree.
For the most part, the female of every species is happy with this arrangement. As long as she is capable of acquiring enough resources to raise the offspring, she might as well go for the best male genes she can get, even if another female already has done so. Because women have evolved to go for males with good genes and reject those without, given enough free female choice, a certain proportion of the male population must be incels.
Observing how this plays out in other primates, we can see why the presence of incels is a problem in human society as well. In other primates we can observe that young males who never get laid, and who have no chance of it because of the monopolisation of sexual resources by violent alpha males, stop contributing to the overall wellbeing of the tribe. They start to attack the other males in their tribe (the ones who are hoarding the females) and may even refuse to defend the tribe against outside invaders.
We can see, therefore, that the incel problem is older than the entire human species. The problem itself can be stated thusly: what can be done with men who are involuntarily celibate, and who have no incentive to fully participate in society? It’s worthwhile looking at how this problem has been dealt with historically.
Nature has developed a panoply of strategies for dealing with this problem. At the most primitive level, the incel problem has traditionally been solved with violence. The reproductive capacity of the female of the species can be considered a resource and fought over in exactly the same way as territory or bananas. So there was no incel problem – any male wishing to get laid simply had to find a fertile female and then beat the shit out of every other male she attracted.
Abrahamic religion is a particular way of solving the incel problem. The idea is that if all men get together and throw women under the bus, collectively, then every man gets one woman and that’s the end of it. Having more than one woman is a crime (bigamy), having sex with anyone outside of marriage is a crime (adultery) and divorce is not permitted.
This means that the number of incels, and their rage, is minimised by way of stripping all rights and dignities from women. The “Women’s Liberation” movement was a reaction away from this logic. Many intelligent women (correctly) came to perceive themselves as having been sacrificed to further someone else’s political objectives, and through their efforts the Abrahamic solution came to be seen as unsuitable.
Another potential solution might be described as the “Bonobo solution”, which is basically that everyone gets laid, regardless of any sexually unappealing quality they might have. This solution replaced the Abrahamic solution in the West, and is usually encouraged by the liberal consumption of drugs, listening to rhythmic music, and use of the contraceptive pill. One can observe the outcome of the application of this solution in any Western city on a weekend night.
The logic of this solution is that enough men get laid and often enough that there are no incels, because any male wanting to get laid simply has to hang around drunk women long enough and one of them will eventually let him have a crack. As a consequence, there is no incel rage to discharge. This strategy has arguably had a deleterious effect on the structure of the average family, but it has nevertheless persisted until very recently.
Today, the incel problem has taken on new forms. Because of the fact that socialising at a pub or bar is falling out of fashion, and because of Internet dating and apps such as Tinder, it’s never been easier for high-quality men to find willing sexual partners wherever they go. Commensurately, it’s never been easier for women to avoid low-quality men.
In other words, not only are there more incels than ever before but ever more of those are hopelessly incel. This has had manifestations already in the form of men like Rodger, but there are festering forms of it that might yet find dark expression. There are several online communities where young incels gather and where their rage turns to hate. Future political movements might exploit this energy.
It’s not clear how the incel problem is going to be solved in the future. Possibly with the (even) wider promulgation of pornography, perhaps state-funded prostitutes, perhaps teledildonics. The alternative to successfully redirecting this sexual energy might be some kind of orgiastic bloodshed that makes the Eastern Theatre of World War II look friendly.
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