Let me begin with a bit of a disclaimer about the second part of my writing on the incel phenomenon; I first want to go through a briefly, point-by-point address several different issues involving incels. Let me state that this article may appear disjointed and “messy,” because frankly there are many issues to cover and I want to make myself as clear as I possibly can (particularly out of fear, seeing as this is a nuclear topic at the moment). I will then perhaps speak to incels directly and offer some brief solutions that I do not see being presented elsewhere.
First: Jordan B. Peterson got into a bit of hot water in a very transparent, and obvious hit-piece delivered by the usual suspects at the New York Times. The piece presented Peterson as a “custodian of the patriarchy”, with the usual ignorance of what “patriarchy,” classically, has meant. When quoting the interview with JBP, the use of his (albeit not carefully worded) choice of the term “Enforced Monogamy” was framed as JBP implying some sort of draconian and barbaric Bosnian-war style system of female internment or something like the Handmaid’s Tale come to life, at least in the minds of Twitter Blue checkmark bloggers, such as Jessica Valenti (who referred to Peterson as “Rapey”) .
Peterson essentially made the same case that Ross Douthat laid out in his now infamous New York Times piece. It has been a mixture of hilariousness and terror to see the frantic, shrill and angry responses from the blogger-media class on Twitter to Peterson’s defense of a society predicated on monogamous relationships. I have seen all the usual talking points about “women’s empowerment” and the “exclusion of alternative martial arrangements,” some even going so far as to say monogamy ipso-facto implies “slut-shaming”. Now forgive me for a bit of wrong-think here, but “slut-shaming,” or rather, social ostracism towards promiscuity, is ever-present in almost every civilization around the globe, at least the ones that are successful. Yes, there are always exceptions (such as alternative arrangements, and concubinage, and prostitution, etc.) but the point is that when we look at the normative development of great civilizations, both East, West, and South, the trend is towards monogamy at the detriment of rampant and unfettered sexual expression. It is at the declining stages of empire that we see verboten sexual practices become the norm, even though sexuality itself that is outside of the norm in terms of monogamy always had a place and a setting within ritual and tradition (tantra practices comes to mind). However, it is a relatively modern crusade that has led to the creation of such buzzwords that have served to normalize hedonism; that being the crusade or war on guilt, with Millennials leading the way from their parental (boomer) influences. The Boomers pulled out and became the new establishment, cynically encouraging or enabling the younger generations to wallow in a guilt-free world. The fact that guilt is viewed as a pejorative is evidence of the moral inversion we are facing, and in some ways has contributed to the incel problem in the first place.
I would even go so far as to argue that the “slut-stud” double standard, where men are praised for their sexual prowess, and women are condemned for similar promiscuity, is a relativity recent phenomenon. Now if we look at it through the cold biological metric of evolutionary psychology: (as many of the more materialistic and “game strategy” manosphere types often do) of course men were praised for having the ability to sire more children with more women. This is where I want to be clear in my condemnation of modernity’s hyper-sexual politics, and huge swaths of the manosphere in their response to it; we are not simply animals of naturalist biology, we have morals and beliefs and civilization that have pulled us from mere necessity into a clarity about what human flourishing is. To say, “Well promiscuity is a natural impulse, and I want to be a virile man,” let me say that the feminists are correct in asserting that this is a naturalistic fallacy, and turn’s men into beasts. The problem now is that modern feminism (somewhere between the 3rd and 4th waves) has abandoned this for a roughly similar argument of guilt-free sexual expression, or what some in the manosphere call the “deregulated sexual market place”. The problem is that this deregulated market leaves huge swaths of men (and some women, but mostly men) behind, while those that are good at getting women for whatever reason tend to get most, this is the class 20/80 rule that incels love to wax poetic about.
In this we find a point where incels are correct, however, the incel, as we have discovered in part 1, is a product of the new sexual politics, a discursive entity that is produced by and springs forth from power in modernity. Sexual politics produced the incel, be it to monitor the agitations of a whole underclass of men who feel useless and perturbed by a lack of a modestly stable future, or because there needs to be a repository of this frustration, to then be a negative reflection of hyper-sexual modern society. Modernity condemns the incel it produces for a purpose, because it is the incel who is the terrorist, the loser, the Morlocks in the basement, whilst guilt-free sexuality is deemed to be “healthy.” Now there are several dangers we must navigate. Firstly, the incels themselves, a large part of them, do not even know that they are the products of the things that they resent, and of course the obligatory warning that a huge chunk of them in time can express genuine hatred of women, as well as blaming everyone but themselves for their shortcomings.
How does modernity produce the incel?
This is a complicated and delicate question but let us first examine the deregulated “sexual market place.” The language here, often invoked by the manosphere, is not appropriate for such matters despite being a convenient metaphor. The whole capitalistic phrasing of it exposes how low we’ve fallen, how we have conceded human intimacy to the forces of capital, to the flows of material exchange, to where our bodies and our volition have become merely subject to value exchange; perhaps Marx was right in this regard. This exchange of sexuality even formulates language on how to “tame” the incel by the left as well in terms of praising “sex workers.” The manosphere has broken down and made human interaction between men and women into formulas, a response to an already materialistic world. Marcuse and the hippies thought free love and the sexual revolution would strengthen human intimacy and make it even more resilient against commodification, thus producing healthier and more open human beings. As we now know, the opposite is the case! We are more sheltered, more materialistic in our pursuit of mere pleasure, and hyper-alienated from our bodies, our own future-orientated goals, and from one another.
Before we answer this question, I made a claim above about the slut-stud double standard, how we grew out of mere biological impulses. The truth is, this double standard is a modern one because unfettered promiscuity from both men and women was viewed as sinful and in need of correct training against. Men and women had to earn their sexuality, and the “sexual market” (for lack of a better term) was regulated by parents, the community, members of religious organizations and cultural groups. Etc. All institutions that have been eroded away. Even the respect for a parent’s input in whom their children gets involved with later on in life (thanks to the hands-off approach of the Boomers) has become an odd modern cultural taboo, where parents have virtually no say because the only criteria for a relationship is some romanticist notion of “love.” Love used to mean a lot more than simple romantic affection, it was mediated by a vast array of other considerations.
Now back to the main question: Incels and MGTOWs unfortunately do not have a sound worldview when it comes to what their goals are. Most, I would charitably assume, want a long-lasting relationship and affection from the opposite sex. I have seen this entirely natural impulse demonized by the chattering and even the academic classes when it comes out of the deepest emotions of young men. The space where I agree with critics of incels is the entitlement factor; we hear it pronounced and repeated over and over from the rooftops, men are never entitled to sex. This is true. The problem is that a lack of affection and intimacy can breed an odd and self-effacing set of thinking patterns, but this should be correct with empathy (ironic considering the left loves to champion “empathy” at every turn), not derision and outright hostility. Of course, some incels are genuinely hateful creatures, and probably suffer from mental illness, but to say this is the majority of incels is disingenuous. The way modernity produces incels per say is because they are a direct response to the hyper-sexual culture, and the emphasis placed on unfettered sexuality to begin with. Many incels simply want a piece of the modern Dionysian pie too, instead of rebelling against it. In terms of rebellion, it is sad to say that this is the way things are, and complaining about it, or harboring catastrophic and self-crippling thinking over it is not going to do anyone any good whatsoever. Take for instance this video on incels by Dr. NerdLove, or this more on the nose indictment by Ben Shapiro.
Both videos provide their own insight into the incel problem and possible solutions. NerdLove comes at it from a more empathetic position (a rarity coming from someone on the political left) but tends to gloss over the question of women being to blame as well. Women are just as guilty as men, of course, and this leads to the Shapiro video. Many conservatives also tend to have this boomer mindset of absolving women of blame and shackling young men with all the responsibility for the current sad state of affairs between the sexes. Both videos are trying at least to be encouraging. Shapiro points out that rewards based on commitment, such as that in marriage, is better than measuring happiness and rewards based on quantity and immediate gratification, the commodification of sexuality in late capitalism that we touched on above. But both tend to still have this tone of self-improvement that a lot of young men try desperately at, and is a necessity, but this in my opinion has its limitations. You can improve yourself all you want, but this can only work if the society around you doesn’t go along. Men can “improve” and become better people, but there is still a lot of young women out there who feel just as entitled, living some modern career girl “I can have it all” fantasy, and who would never “marry down” to a decent man who is not perfect (or in the same range in terms of career or education). Change can only come if it is integral change. Short of a massive shift in the way we view sexuality, as Douthat and Shapiro allude to, until then there is no incentive for men particularly to change.
Now that I have run the risk of being an “evil misogynist” for pointing out that women share some blame in this too (or rather, modern society as a whole), let me express a word of caution to incels directly: I have alluded to in the first installment on the incel question the detrimental effects of irony and meme culture that eventually bleeds into sincerity. It has been pointed out by more charitable commentators that incels are flawed in their thinking, and what better way to illustrate this then the worship (albeit semi-ironic and in a edgy-for-the-sake-of-edginess fashion) of Elliot Rodgers among the more ardently detached of incels. This seems to have doomed the incel to a media status of non-person the most, but I cannot help to find that the incels have in a way done it to themselves, despite me trying to be as sympathetic as possible.
The problem is that “the Supreme Gentleman” Rodgers was the embodiment of everything incels should be trying their best to avoid and work away from. He was an entitled psychopath, no amount of love or sexual gratification would have healed his distorted inner psyche, as evidenced by his numerous videos and manifesto. He was not some romantic and tragic anti-hero revolutionary, living out a collective revenge fantasy against modern hookup culture and the debased state of the modern woman. He was not rebelling against the California ideology, he wanted a piece of this hedonism and sensuous moral nihilism for himself. This above all cutting through the spiritual materialism that all Incels must commit to, but this is hard, for the incel underclass has been duped into the promises of post-sexual revolution liberal society, that everyone can be just as debauchery as the shallow characters we see in a Hollywood piece of vile celluloid. The sexual materialism of a huge portion of incels is reified and transformed into its violent explication in Rodger’s worldview. Instead of seeing beyond the machinations of the world he was desperately trying to be apart of, he dwelled within it, made it a monolith that was responsible for all his failings. No doubt, Elliot was a product of his environment, his failure of a father, the California culture, his surroundings all served to reinforce his egoistical and misogynistic beliefs. Despite this, there is a singular redeeming feature, that is not very redeemable in the end but never the less…
Can’t buy my Feels.
After the terroristic murders in Toronto by Alex Minassian, media figures and the blue checkmarks in the media have come up with the usual “solutions” of prostitution, cam girls, a “social acceptance” of prostitution, etc. which is little more than putting a band-aid over cancer in terms of its effectiveness regarding the alienation and emotional dysphoria found in the modern millennial male. Rodger clearly rejected this faux solution by stating that “afterward it makes one feel like a pathetic loser for having to hire a girl when other men could get the experience for free.” Of course, the immediate response by the third-wave “sex-positive” crowd is that this shame is part of the male patriarchy instilling in men the notion of brutal social competition for chattel women as sex trophies, or…. something like that.
Now I do not need to highlight how this is part of our sex-obsessed materialistic culture, or that competition for women is natural, albeit mediated by social constructions. In the case of Rodger, the charge that his desire to conquer the sexuality of women freely was pure narcissism is correct, the problem is ascribing to this some imagined notion of “male fragility.” I can honestly say I am shocked by the media blue check class in their childish derision of men who feel left behind by wanting romantic affection. The present writing and talk around this subject has been little more than shallow psychoanalyzing of these men, that what they “really” desire is some selfish and misogynistic end-goal of domination. As I have taken pains to make clear, this is the case with a whole group of incels, but generally I find a lot of young men, most not even self-identified as being incel, who feel this pang of rejection, and the desire to find a loved one and start a family. To be frank, yes, I cannot fathom why this is a controversial opinion, (but somehow it is, given the attempted normalization of prostitution by a huge part of the left recently) it is degrading for anyone to only seek sexual fulfillment by paying for it. What is terrible, and unfortunate is this particularly cosmopolitan and snarky response to this sentiment, complete with the prescription by the chattering classes that the modern male should look beyond those last shreds of pride and dignity they have and purchase sex, a very neoliberal prescription. Many of the young men you find on incel or manosphere forums in general consider prostitution as an absolute last resort, akin to an inner defeat and social death, it is simply beyond comprehension for most traditionally decent men, and for good reason. If they are not successful and express their inner sorrow at their less than adequate state, young men are told that “women DO NOT OWE” them anything. This has (despite many men out there who lack the social cues to deduce this) always been self-evident, and one wonders if this manufactured outrage is in general a by-product of bloggers, academics, and talking heads justifying their ideological excesses.
Take this piece for example from long time ultra-prog “sex commentator” Dan Savage; pouring odious amounts of scorn on incels and accusing their revulsion at paying for sex and wanting a relationship to be deep-seated as akin to misogyny. The piece starts off with a tweet about prostitutes not being some shield against psychotic and creepy men, and then goes on to make an argument about the legitimization of sex work in society. To me this seems odd considering the history of prostitution generally being about servicing men who cannot express themselves sexually for a variety of reason, which Savage admits in the piece, but then makes the argument that self-identified incels should be even marginalized from even seeking out sex-workers. Of course, this is because the assumption is that every incel is a sadistic lust-murder and rapist in waiting, and that the desire to achieve a sexual life without buying it is just another form “society teaching men that they are entitled to female bodies.” It goes without saying that prostitutes should not be subjected to creeps and abusers, and that the section of inceldom that is prone to gendered violence is, of course, a problem that should be dealt with and that incels should try to self-police against. As an aside, this article reminds me of a graduate class I had on Michel Foucault once, where there was a social worker specializing in outreach to prostitutes taking the course on the side with us masters students. We had a very good presentation by this person about the new sex worker laws here in Canada that mimic that of Sweden, where women can sell sex freely, but “Johns” cannot buy it, so the police set up bait operations. Now I discussed my objection to the whole industry in general, and how it is disastrous for women and even the men who buy sex, but this social worker stated a very good point: that they have just exchanged one problem for another as now a new legalistic and political discourse has been set up that creates a monitored, policed and marginalized group of men.
There are several complications with this line of thinking from Savage and others who scoff at traditional marriage, family life, and gender roles. The main one is the assumption that any man who wishes to gain a relationship without some form of monetary exchange or otherwise, is ipsofacto a selfish and patriarchal misogynist. To quote the Smiths “I am human, and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does.” To villainize the need for love and affection on the part of men creates, not dissipates, the rage of the Incel, let alone the myriad of benefits to monogamous long-term relationships enshrined in marriage, one of which is the reduction of male violence.
The other spurious charge Savage lays is one that is commonly made by those in the ultra-progressive sphere of social constructivism and the like: that men should not be taught by society to be “owed women’s bodies.” This is puzzling considering modern western nations preach the opposite in terms of education, but perhaps this is found in media depictions of relations between male protagonists and women (the whole GamerGate/Feminist Frequency nostalgia is welling up at this point). Again, not all subtext to any piece of media, be it movies, or videogames or literature, is this transparent. This leads into a whole other discussion about media depictions of gender relations, and if pieces of older media that comes off as misogynistic (although everything is considered as such now a days) should be allowed or remains meaningful. This is a topic so worn out and long I do not care to venture into in this piece. But one thing I will say is that, like most men in society, fictional men depicted by Hollywood, most of the times, do not feel entitled but must earn the affection of women, sexual, romantic or otherwise.
This notion that society “teaches” men this entitlement to the female body comes off as a miscalculation of the facts, even an unwarranted judgement of cultural context, and is ignorant of what modern young men experience when growing up and then facing the positive and negative consequences of the modern dating scene; I would argue that no society with any longevity has simply granted men consequence-free access to female sexuality. Most traditional cultures made men earn their sexual and marital value, while divinizing the spiritual and physical aspects of the feminine; from North American indigenous tribes, to the culture and philosophies of the East, to the veneration of Mary in Christendom (including chivalry and laws regarding women that date back to the medieval ages). Granted that women were not always granted the modern conceptions of rights as we know today (and I would not want to gloss over the real acts of gendered violence and terror experienced by women throughout human history, while keeping in mind that the average man had it brutal as well). However, the picture of pre-modern relations between men and women is simply more nuanced than what rootless moderns like Savage and his progressive chattering-class ilk like to think they were. Even the pre-Wahhabi Islamic world had texts on sex, love and romance such as “The Perfumed Garden,” which recognized the dynamic roles both men and women play in the pursuit of sexual ecstasy, an Islamic Kama Sutra if you will.
The second point of Savage’s red meat of an article is a very revealing quote that just begs to be taken up with a critical eye:
“The rest of us, those of us who don’t “have to” pay for sex, could acknowledge this awkward truth: we all pay for it. We don’t all pay cash but we all pay. All sexual and romantic relationships involve an exchange. In most cases the goods (sexual and/or emotional) exchanged for services (sexual and/or emotional) are intangible or physical and the exchange is of roughly equal value. (Or we convince ourselves it is.) It’s a barter system: “a system of exchange where goods or services are directly exchanged for other goods or services without using a medium of exchange, such as money.” I give my husband emotional, social, and sexual support and attention in exchange for the same from him. If we weren’t both paying up and paying in emotionally, socially, and sexually, our relationship would collapse. A sincere bond of affection prompts us to pay up and pay in, yes, but we make our payments.”
Now there is an obvious point, and a point to be made that Savage may not be aware of but would perhaps be perfectly confrontable with this point being made clear to him: the first one is that it betrays this shrill and judgemental tone towards all incels regarding their view of sex and relationships being some sort of a pickup artist game, or something that they should just expect to happen to them because of how “nice” they are. The second point underlies almost all assumptions of the modernist, sexually “liberated” libertine, and behind that lies all sorts of vulgar perversions made to not just be given a blind eye to, but to be openly embraced. The motif, image of thought, belief or Archimedean point of rupture that underlies and bursts into the contemporary ideological positions regarding sexuality is that sex itself is “natural.” Natural not in the sense that is comes with a fundamental comportment of action, or that it is essential to our being, these notions are even too poetic. What Savage is revealing in this quote about the contemporary attitude towards sexuality is that, like all things driven by capital, it is crass, vulgar, mass produced and pre-packaged for our cynical and cheap amusement or titillation. Sex no longer has any spiritual import in it, in fact Savage and his fellow ultra-progressive evangelists of guilt and judgement-free sensuality would laugh mockingly at such a notion.
There is a clever retort that I believe originated on Reddit in response to the “nice guy” incel phenomenon in E-space. It goes something like “women are not vending machines where you can put nice coins in and sex tokens fall out.” While this is a simplistic assessment of the incel-mindset, it is precisely at the heart of the thinking that underlies a lot of lost, socially awkward and probably single-minded young men. What Savage is saying to us is that everyone is a sexual vending machine of disproportionate worth, and the tokens vary from kindness, to commitment, to monetary gain; this ironically enough, is exactly how some of the most hopelessly frustrated and malice-filled incels view interpersonal relationships between men and women. This attitude is that of mechanical reductionism, materialism, and the attitude around sexuality that has directly contributed to the one-dimensional cultural milieu that has directly produced the incel. Sex has nothing to do with culture, or religion, or family, or anything that might come close to meaning and profound depth to Savage, its not even a primordial impulse we must satiate in the Freudian libidinal economy, it is pure economics, homo-Economicus maximizing productivity, consumer-value, and minimizing expenditures in the bedroom.
This attitude that sex is consequence free and therefore should be treated as any other commodity that can be exchanged in labour, capital or sentimental value is what leads to an inverted sexual hierarchy in society. The counter point is that sexual choice is a “public good,” because it maximizes “freedom,” especially for women. There is no easy rebuttal to this argument for it challenges the very background assumptions that constitutes modern liberal society, especially if those who make it refuse to have the ears to hear one. The most concise rebuttal would be that we must first address what it is we value in society to begin with; freedom is an abstract concept, besides the obvious mechanics of bodily autonomy. Here we are presented with various negative consequences of freedom, which the western enlightenment tradition of political thought that has been trying to deal with (and failing) for hundreds of years now. We have freedom in society, especially women, but we do not have the backbone of a strong culture or metaphysical orthodoxy to backup said freedom. In fact, to use the same arguments that the classical liberals did in a modern context (and forgive me for my historicism) seems farcical when you realize a lot of these thinkers live in strong monarchical societies and all the cultural values that entailed. So, let us boldly challenge this modern assumption of “freedom at any cost.”
What most people seem to think “freedom” means is purely behavioural. Most claim that greater individual choice in terms of what you venture into a relationship with (or who you crawl into bed with) is a good because it allows people to choose the best of the best. The problem with this is obvious: people don’t choose the best, or rather, superficial markers of success determine how attractive or desirable someone is, besides just looks. Of course, it is strange how the modern left wants to do away with superficial beauty standards, yet at the same time argue that choice in the matter, free of cultural, familial and religious influences, leads to a more harmonious and well-adjusted society. As we have seen, the opposite is the case. They are right in pointing out that a lot of beauty standards are a social fiction, and there has been social improvements in this area, but still we are left with this conundrum of relationship/sexual freedom leading to negative consequences. For a supposedly sexually “free” society, we are more detached from each other, and more neurotic around the various issues around sexuality than ever. The incel stands as a bleak and distressing reminder that rootless and directionless freedom has left whole groups of people behind, and the same could be said of the groups Savage and others point out as being sexually less-than-desirable. As Sartre said “What is love but the demand to be loved?”
(artwork done by Me. Druids lost in the night, graphite and ink on paper, 3×4. https://www.instagram.com/p/BZpzFw0D4-K/?hl=en&taken-by=giovannipennacchietti ).
True Diltom has an excellent breakdown on the Elliot question: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUUp2JK1b-4&t=2420s
I generally agree with the second wave radical feminists about prostitution and pornography, I.E. they are dangerous physically, mentally and even spiritually to women and the self-image women have. Both are degrading and objectifying to the core, and should be discouraged or public policies should be put in place to aid women out of the sex worker “life(death)-style”.
Let me point out that this is the eternal dividing line between the world of tradition and that of modernity, postmodernity as more mainstream conservative talking heads love to point out. One is that of natural hierarchy for the sake of protecting those under you in society, a social, cultural and spiritual recognition did the patriarchies of old have to those under its power. Of course, this idea is totally verboten in modern liberal, western, and as the manosphere would say “gynocentric” society (the last description is up for debate)… to define patriarchy as a system that is changing, a nefarious social construct that places men above women, and with no reasons for its coming about in almost every human society naturally (a modern feminist view of patriarchy as a concept that has gone back as far as the 80s: https://www.nytimes.com/1986/04/28/style/patriarchy-is-it-invention-or-inevitable.html ….this here lies the eternal lacuna between a traditional outlook, where each tribe and/or civilization tasked men with the job of protecting women, yet indignities and unequal allotments of power between men and women are an inevitable outcome of nature, and that of the modern view that these inequalities, even if they are natural, should be overcome at all costs, because “justice is fairness” according to the post-enlightenment political philosophy of Rawls. This is a very tricky subject, and one that is libel to have any traditionally minded person at odds with the consensus reality of modernity, even if (as I have tried to) said thinkers and writers take great pains to say they are not justifying engendered violence and abuse, but that gender roles are natural, and men and women have different forms of power that they automatically gravitate towards (as Camille Paglia explains: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrscwJYO8G8 ).
As Savage is known for this type of normalization advocacy of the perverse, need I remind everyone of him coining the phrase “the Santorum” (look up at your own peril).