Joining the fray or jumping on the bandwagon is more common than ever since the rise of social media platforms. As a mental health professional, I prefer to call my involvement as “weighing in on the topic.” Semantics, you say? Perhaps. But when I think a topic such as this is discussed without some basic information to help form opinions and conclusions, I become somewhat uneasy. So here we go.
I started out by doing some online investigating. I dare not call this research, for it does not meet most of the criteria for research in the statistical sense, an area with which I have some degree of familiarity. Doing some online searching is a good start, but I have no intention of dedicating the hours and hours of intensive work required to do a proper research study. Furthermore, without having the ultimate goal of publishing my results, it is entirely unthinkable to spend my time and energy on such an endeavor. That is my disclaimer.
For my purpose here, which, as I said, is to “weigh in” on this discussion, I went to a few of the most common online sources for definition and a brief history. As many of you already know, the term Incel, which I was surprised to discover) has been around for some time. More than twenty years, according to my sources. The combination of two words, “involuntary” and “celibate” to form the catchphrase Incel, it has come to mean different things to different people. It also has a close association to some, to put it mildly, inappropriate behaviors. To be more blunt, and in my estimation accurate, some despicable behaviors. But before we get to that, I think that we need to understand the two words individually before accepting the combination and its definition.
Involuntary is the easier to define. Involuntary: not voluntary, unintended (not intentional), non-consensual (without express consent or agreement), unwillingly (against one’s will). No real room for interpretation there, I’d say.
Now comes the more difficult to define because it has taken on different meanings in various contexts. Celibate. The term celibacy has been used to describe persons (usually, but not always men) who have decided to remain or become uninvolved with others romantically or sexually, either temporarily, as in prior to marriage or other committed unions, or permanently, for a variety of reasons, especially religious reasons. For many, the commitment to celibacy includes refraining from masturbating as well. We often use the term abstention, or abstaining from sexual gratification in one form or another for a prescribed period of time, which may mean for life or until it is deemed appropriate or allowed (as in before marriage). Celibate, chaste, abstinent…all could apply in this sense.
So, when we combine the two words to form the term Incel, which I capitalize for ease of reference, we surely have some very different ideas of its definition. However, celibacy, by its very definition by most standards, is not, and I know this is a double negative, but it is important to use in this form, is not involuntary. Yeah, so it is a voluntary state of being. There are exceptions of course and I will just touch on that here, as in cases of debilitating physical or mental conditions. For example: A person in a comatose state is involuntarily abstentious, but is not an Incel. Not really.
Drawing on my experience and expertise on sex and sexuality, there is one other factor, which I have described in the past, and that is the orientation known as Asexuality. That may be considered at some point, and has the same degree of validity as any other sexual orientation (though some would disagree, which if they do should have relevant data to support their claims) but is not applicable within this discussion. Moving on. Let’s agree on this one point, or disagree if you chose to, but I’m not looking for an argument. Not right here and now, anyway. Members of the Incel community (yes, they have formed an array of groups who self-define as Incels) express anger and resentment about their plight. Because they are members of a group who, by the very definition of the term Incel, (however it is defined) have found themselves in this predicament involuntarily, they may have legitimate grievance. That does not, however, give anyone a right to injure, insult or otherwise exact revenge upon those who are not part of their community. I refuse to give credence to any behavior which, as some may see it, is justified. It most definitely is not. Although I sympathize with anyone who feels deprived of the right to have romantic and/or sexual partners, I don’t agree that they have been placed in an untenable situation. To quote from a classic, “You can’t always get what you want…” there is the possibility that “if you try, sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” “Try” and “sometimes” being key words. My thanks and appreciation go to the Rolling Stones for that. In a world of entitlement and righteous indignation at the way things are, or seem to be, one must be careful to blame others for where we find ourselves in the order of life. From a psycho-social perspective, life ain’t always fair. From my position, every case is different, every individual unique, every complaint contains its own set of values, judgements and points of view. Everyone has the right to complain, but sometimes it just is. If one finds oneself part of a group which one did not join voluntarily, try to find another group. Oh, and by the way, if you want to find romance or sex, or both, and you feel left out, there may be more than one way to cope. There are almost always more solutions to a problem than you think. Resignation is the least agreeable of them. Don’t become an unwilling member of a group who no one wanted to join in the first place.
Sources: Wikipedia, Psychology Today, Reddit