An Open Letter to Incels
A self identified Incel tweeted that not getting sex creates anger, and since women generally control access to sex, it creates general anger toward women. Given the wide proliferation of this challenging narrative, I want to respond. What I want to address is our culture’s ongoing validation, if not open encouragement of male anger. Why this validation exists and what it is doing to us.
To the boys and men who identify as incels:
First and foremost, understand you have been raised in man box culture. This dominant culture of masculinity is hierarchical, bullying based, and its number one rule is “don’t show your emotions, except for anger.” From birth, whenever you showed emotions, you were bullied and shamed for it. Sadness, fear, pain, giddy joy, need for friendship, love, all of this was shamed. And it was shamed via the denigration of the feminine. IE: “What are you, a girl? What are you a sissy?”
The ability to express emotionally in nuanced ways is a key component for connecting in authentic relationships with others, friends, co-workers, romantic partners, everyone. Because of the bullying enforcement of man box culture, you were blocked from growing the capacity for nuanced emotional expression and the authentic connection that creates. We all were.
Instead of having the years of trial and error work required to grow our emotional self regulation/expression, boys in man box culture are blocked from doing this work. Fundamental human capacities for relational connection are wrongly gendered as female, shamed and blocked. And BECAUSE our bullying man box culture polices boy’s emotional expression by denigrating the feminine daily if not hourly, we get bombarded with messages that both strip us of crucial human capacities for connection and condition us to see women and the feminine as less.
The emotional volatility you feel as part of the incel movement is a direct result of being raised in man box culture, which encourages anger as the only acceptable emotional response for men. An emotional response created, not coincidentally, by a lifetime of being bullied and blocked emotionally in man box culture. It’s an anger generating closed loop and it is a killer.
Man box culture: “We’re going to screw you over emotionally and then we’re going aim your resulting isolation, grief and anger at women.”
It’s all about the anger. Anger when we don’t get sex is the same as anger when we don’t get anything else we want. As human beings, our job is to manage our baser emotions and grow emotionally to the point where people don’t feel they are spending time with someone who is unable to emotionally self regulate. But because man box culture shames emotional expression, most of us never get the opportunity to do the trial and error work over a period of years that we humans need to learn to self regulate emotionally and to form relationships in nuanced, authentic ways. The relational capacities all humans need to develop are EXACTLY the capacities the man box suppresses in us.
So, if you want to be angry, be angry at every bullying, alpha male jerk that rode you and is still riding you to stay in the man box and hide your authentic self. But understand, the trauma they are dishing out was dished out to them. They’re just trying to get far enough up the pecking order to survive. But it’s illusory. Because man box culture is domination based, it is inherently isolating and isolation is what kills us.
And even if you do redirect your anger at the people enforcing man culture that will just be more anger expressed, unless you use that anger to drive self-reflection and change.
Anger resulting from a lack of sex is likely tied to a LOT of other interpersonal emotional trauma rooted in our families of origin and our histories. Trust me, men of my generation have all had to deal with rage and family of origin shit. What we didn’t have was an Incel movement telling us “It’s right to be angry at women.” Feeding on our anger never helps. It won’t heal our issues of family of origin nor help us learn to create healthy relationships. We must use our anger to drive our emotional self work. Otherwise we’re just validating and growing our root emotional trauma.
I have felt what you feel, the same anger and isolation, but I will not let man box culture encourage me to make those ugly emotions the root of my identity. Incel culture is the opposite of the authentic human connection boys and men need. Incel culture is doing to you what has always been done. Blocking you.
And here’s a little secret. You’re not so different from most the other men walking around today. We’re all dealing with trauma and feeling the frustrations you feel. We’re all under the thumb of man box culture.
The good news is you can break out of the man box whenever you are finally sick and tired enough of being lonely that you are ready to do the work. Men are waiting to do the work with you. Reach out to The Mankind Project or another men’s group. The anger and loneliness we all have felt can end.
And remember this: The next time someone encourages you to hate on any group of people, to feed on and grow your anger, ask yourself what’s in it for them. There are many powerful influences in the world that benefit from validating and directing your rage and grief. But they don’t give shit about you.
Your brothers at The Mankind Project and other men’s groups do care about you. We care about creating a community of brothers, we care about healing our grief and trauma. We care about living rich, connected lives and we can help you do the same. First, see the culture. Then, change the culture.
Understand, Incels are just the tip of the iceberg. The entire population of men have been bombarded with man box bullying and violence. Millions of men, maybe all of us, are stripped of our relational capacities for connection and some of us claw our way back. Be one of those.
I wish you peace, brothers.