The ‘incel’ terminology and movement started from a very different place than where it is now. It originates from a website that was set up by a woman in the 1990s as a supportive place for people who found it difficult to gain sexual experience. Since then, incel communities have become a place filled with hatred and misogyny, which often champion violence towards women, including in the forms of rape and murder.
There have been at least 8 mass violence attacks attributed to incels or individuals expressing ‘incel’-like views. This includes the shooting in August 2021 when 22-year-old Jake Davison killed five people in Plymouth. Before the shooting, he expressed misogynistic views online against his mother and upset at not having a girlfriend.
Young boys who feel isolated, rejected, and ostracised are particularly vulnerable. They may feel they aren’t a part of ‘normal’ society and the incel community online offers a place to be accepted into a group, with older members of the community often preying on this vulnerability.
Incel groups online frequently use memes, slang, and jokes that will appeal to younger audiences, as well as creating a kind of secret language between themselves, emphasising the ‘us’ against ‘them’ sense of community.