Opinion: Intersections and Thesis Questions on the Topic of Incels

Opinion: Intersections and Thesis Questions on the Topic of Incels

By Anyssa Q. El-Manfaa; Image by Getty Images

‘Incel’ ideology is relatively understudied through the national security lens. Incel ideology and its philosophy are arguably the byproducts of wide-scale social media influence. As I refer to social media, I encourage one to brainstorm platforms beyond Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Instead, social media is a blanket term, including more elusive platforms. Such media may surf beneath the more significant wave of traffic on more popular servers—such as Google.

Nonetheless, I encourage a deeper analysis of the factors contributing to the development of corrosive ideologies—on the domestic scale—such as anti-feminist Incel philosophy and how it gels with alt-right narratives. I claim that a critical analysis of the psychosociological influence of social media and dating platforms might yield valuable insights into the present social climate of the United States. This piece provides salient entry points for undergraduate analysts to formulate thesis topics to guide a deeper subject investigation.

 First, ‘inceldom’ and ‘incel philosophy’ have been partly influenced by fourth-wave feminism, the rise of dating applications, and in part by the dating dynamics between biological, straight males and females. Therefore, a psychosocial analysis may be a valuable framework through which ‘Inceldom’ may be understood. Specifically, analyzing dating patterns, mate selection, exclusion, and preference across dating apps may yield valuable insight.

Second, understanding the Incel worldview requires insight into the academic disciplines used to buttress Incel claims. A pseudo-academia subculture within ‘Incel’ groups attempts to apply concepts from across subjects such as biology, psychology, and philosophy. The aim is to produce scholarship that justifies the Incel philosophy and state of Inceldom as the byproduct of biological determinism.  Broadly, Oxford Reference characterizes biological determinism as: “The stance that males are the naturally dominant sex by anatomy and genetics or that women are natural carers by their reproductive capabilities.” When adapted to the incel philosophy, biological determinism bolsters a ‘black pill’ worldview, supporting the male supremacist philosophy.

The result is a worldview where “… women choose sexual partners based almost solely on physical characteristics; under this philosophy, incels are seen as intensely victimized—by women, society at large, and particularly by feminism, since they blame women’s increased agency for their situation.” This worldview escalates misogynistic sentiment. Furthermore, it inspires a sense of radicalization. It is crucial to note that the Incel philosophy, and Inceldom, do not represent a cohesive, unified bloc of actors. Instead, individuals become radicalized through content diffused across niche pockets of content clustered across social media platforms.

A comprehensive research thesis that gels elements in psychosociology, radicalization through social media platforms, and dating app culture may be viable points of entry. Further questions which provide salient points of entry are as follows: What role does academia play in clarifying the contextual environments around the definitions and theories pulled from the disciplines of biology and psychology and adapted to the incel worldview? To what extent should analysts and intelligence officers begin to engage these niches in monitoring or intelligence gathering?

Finally, what can we learn about the present social climate of the United States based on the grievances outlined in these groups? A fellow undergrad may even want to take their investigation to another level: How have dating apps shaped and redefined sexual dynamics and spurred increased competition or sexual anxieties? How could this inform the population structure of the future generation? Or what is its’ impact, and is it connected to the Incel movement? Wherever one chooses to enter into analysis, the social phenomenon of involuntary celibacy and the various ideological camps to which it connects is worth a robust investigation—and should be on the radar of intelligence agencies and circles in academia.


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