Incels: Background for Practitioners

We’ve developed a brief guide for practitioners on the involuntarily celibate, or ‘incel’ community. This community has been linked to a number of acts of violence in North America. For our whole report, please scroll down.

Ideology

  • The internet has facilitated the coalescence of a new movement inspired by violent misogyny. These individuals refer to themselves as involuntarily celibate, or ‘incels’.
  • Incels are predominantly young men who believe that their physical appearance coupled with women’s liberation and feminism has impeded them from forming physical relationships with women. From this grievance, they have developed an ideology that encompasses anti-feminism, misogyny, nihilism, and self-abasement.

Violence and Notable Incidents

  • Since 2009, individuals linked to the movement have been involved in at least 13 reported attacks in North America. In Canada, there have been four incidents resulting in death since 2015: three in Ontario and one in Alberta.
  • There is some evidence that these individuals have a propensity for choosing targets where women congregate, such as: yoga studios, womens’ fitness classes and erotic massage parlors. If the pace of attacks escalates, improving security at these places warrants consideration. When attacks occur in more generic public spaces, Incel attackers still tend to specifically target women or romantic couples.
  • Like many other violent extremists, Incel attackers tend to choose ‘low-tech’ and low-cost modes of attacks: shootings, stabbings and vehicular rammings. Individuals who associate with the Incel movement appear more likely than the general population to self-report anxiety, depression and other mood disorders.

Demographics and Providing Support

  • There are established in-group norms against seeking psycho-social support. Overcoming these barriers and making support more accessible will be key to preventing further acts of violence.
  • While the violent fringe of the Incel movement is being recognized as a threat, it is important to acknowledge the majority of Incels are not violent and may be at a higher risk of self-harm than the general population.

If you’re concerned about yourself or someone you care about, please email us at refer@preventviolence.ca or call us at 780-782-8070. All calls or emails will be returned within 24 hours. If you believe there may be an immediate threat to public safety, please contact your local police.

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