Tuesday, August 4, 2015

One Five One: Incel

Let's see, now... Who recalls the term "incel" these days? Remember that? "Incel" = "involuntary celibate". It's a word that comes up in the angrier precincts of the "manosphere" for males who feel bitter and angry and betrayed that they've been left out of things sexual, that they aren't being granted access to the Forbidden City. I read this morning that back in the later Nineties there were support groups on line for "incel" people (male and female both) that really were about support and encouragement, groups that gave the lonely and bereft places to talk about being alone in a world of couples, groups that had a wistful air to them rather than a bitter one--- and read, too, that at some point those early people were driven away by rage-filled MRA/anti-feminist types. 

I've been wondering if any trace of that earlier culture still exists. The internet is a more brutal place than it was back in those days; we can take that as a given. I recall times when groups at places like Nerve.com would've talked about "incel" in terms of individual loneliness and how the lonely could help one another through their solitary times. I don't have any problem with the term, mind you--- in an earlier day "involuntary celibate" wouldn't have about seeking out some ideological enemy in feminism; it would've been about personal loneliness.

Being unwillingly celibate (the criteria seem to set six months as the time past which simple lack of luck becomes "incel") is pretty much something everyone goes through at points in their lives. And despite all the Social Justice Cult ranting about "entitlement" and reducing the pain people feel to just "privileged straight white tears" about not getting laid, there's a whole world of emptiness and social failure implicit in the term. We all have a need for someone else in our lives, a need not just for flesh but for all the social things that go with having a romantic partner. Involuntary celibacy means more than just not having sex, although the gender warriors seem to think it's about nothing more than being "thirsty" or wanting to get laid at will. (Funny, though, how they denigrate sex-as-pleasure or sex-as-adventure) Involuntary celibacy means being without the social part of being partnered--- being able to go to social events where the expectation is still that everyone is in a couple, not feeling excluded or useless in social settings, being able to share the closeness of romance, and, yes, being seen by others as valuable and valued enough to have a partner. Everyone has empty periods, everyone knows the discomfort of being single in a social world of couples, a world where the dyad is considered the norm. Everyone knows that. But it wasn't always a state that was associated with simmering rage and ideological disdain.  

I'd like to think that somewhere out there in corners of the web there are still communities where people offer one another kindness and support and hope about being able to alleviate loneliness or find romance. I'd like very much to think that, to think that there are still groups where members can tell one another that, even alone, they have some social value, that being alone doesn't mean that you have no worth in others' eyes.

I do wonder, too, whether "incel" as a term ever made it into gay or lesbian circles. Involuntary celibacy isn't restricted to straight white boys. I've no idea what the social dynamics of the gay world are these days, but I remember the dance club world of my Lost Youth as being one where the gay scene had its own exclusionary rules and lots of members who were painfully alone despite all their efforts to find romance. I remember reading Andrew Holleran's "Dancer From The Dance" where Holleran talks about the early gay disco scene as one of a "great and terrible" democracy of beauty...and thinking how hard that world must be for anyone not pretty enough to meet the scene's standards. Wouldn't involuntary celibacy have existed in Holleran's world--- and been at least as painful as in the straight world? In that era, in that world, in places that celebrated beauty and the casting off of old strictures and denials, wouldn't being incel have hurt even more than in the straight world?

A lovely young friend in Chicago tells me that she thinks "incel" never made it into usage outside outside the whole loathsome MRA/Red-Pill world, that she never heard it used in the gay or lesbian worlds at university or when she was a gallery girl in Manhattan. I do wonder, though--- are there self-described gay incels, and how do they perceive themselves? Do they use the word? Do they write about it? Is there a gay counterpart to "incel rage"? And...are gay males who call themselves incels attacked by the gender warriors and the Social Justice Cult the way straight users are? Gay men, I think, are currently being moved into the category of Bad Guys by the gender warriors--- see the whole feeding frenzy over "gay misogyny" or the way queen-speak "appropriates" black slang, see the way gay males are now treated by the gender warriors as bearing inherent male evil the same way straight males are. And what about the lesbian world? That's completely opaque to me; I have no travelers' tales to rely upon. How do non-straight-male worlds handle the idea of involuntary celibacy? That's something that the flaneur and the quondam academic in me would like to know. 

I'd like to know, too, if there are still groups who use the word "incel" without the ideological baggage of the gender wars and the whole dreary Red Pill nonsense. I'd like to know if there are still places where people can discuss loneliness and social exclusion with wistfulness and personal sorrow--- with mutual support, but without mockery, rage, and ideological derision. 

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