I know that there’s a least a few of you out there who are blessedly ignorant of the word “incel.” I’ll explain.
Incel is an abbreviated portmanteau that means involuntary celibate, invented and self-applied by one of the more noxious corners of the already-noxious Men’s Rights movement. Incels face a paradox: they desperately want someone — as long as “someone” is a conventionally-attractive cisgender woman — to fuck them, but there’s no surer way to make yourself unfuckable than by identifying as incel. I don’t usually turn to Urban Dictionary for definintions, but on this one, they hit the bulls-eye:
a person (usually male) who has a horrible personality and treats women like sexual objects and thinks his lack of a sex life comes from being “ugly” when its really just his blatant sexism and terrible attitude. incels have little to no self awareness; even when they see other “ugly” men with girlfriends, they consider these men to be tricksters who have somehow beat the system and can get women despite being cursed with unattractiveness (in other words, theyre respectful to women and women are attracted to their personalities, but incels cant comprehend such a phenomenon). they believe that women owe them sex, and many of the more extreme incels like to spend time in incel communities on the internet coming up with ways to make women have sex with them (often involving genocide of people of color, genocide of “Chads” (men who have sex), taking rights away from women, raping them, having sex with women’s dead bodies, and other horrid, disgusting things. they can’t understand that that is PRECISELY why women want nothing to do with them).
If you really feel like wading deeper into the swamp of incels, I recommend checking out David Futrelle’s excellent coverage of them and other misogynists on We Hunted the Mammoth. If you have the stomach, the responses of Reddit’s incel community to the Las Vegas shooting say almost all you need to know.
I generally try not to get either too literal or too prescriptivist about language. The tendency to go that way is one of the things that bugs me about my fellow lefties. Among other things, the fixation on language often betrays a certain classism and cultural insularity. But if I’m honest, there’s part of me that twinges a bit every time I say “Fuck You!” as an insult. In my ideal world, I’d like that to be a way of wishing someone well. Kind of a way of telling your friends, “I hope you get fucked well, often, and just the way you like it.”
Incel sounds much more like what I’d wish on someone who I wanted to suffer. It’s not just the not getting laid part; it’s also that I can’t imagine anything smaller in character, more petty, or pathetic than incels. Considering the kind of human detritus that you regularly find on Reddit, 4chan, the Slymepit, and other incel hangouts, that’s saying a lot.
Let me put it this way: There’s no way that I want to fuck Donald Trump. Not even for enough money to buy my own continent. Not only that, but I don’t think that anyone else should have to fuck Donald Trump. Not even Melania should have to fuck Donald Trump, although she may deserve many other lesser punishments for her complicity. I would have to cleanse my skin with a blowtorch and a bath of hydrofluoric acid to even shake the man’s hand. So saying “Fuck Donald Trump” has some unwanted consequences; after all, someone has to do the fucking. Stormy Daniels deserved far more than $130,000 for her labor.
“Incel Donald Trump” sounds much more appropriate to what I want the man to suffer. If I could choose a fate for the man, it wouldn’t be death. It would be for him to live a long time, knowing just how pathetic and desperate he is, and to know not only that he’s universally loathed, but that he deserves the loathing. I want him to know exactly how weak, small, and inadequate he is and live with that knowledge.
Practical Realities: Where “Incel You” Fails
I have to admit that in practice, it’s hard for me to imagine transitioning over to saying “incel” instead of “fuck” in moments of rage, frustration, or grief. For one thing, “fuck” and I have a history. To even learn to say it meant that I had to fight past my own inhibitions and the fury of my parents and teachers. It’s the same reason why, even as an atheist, screaming “Jesus CHRIST!” in moments of anger is satisfying in a way that no secular oath can ever replace.
Second, “Fuck” sounds right. It comes out of my mouth in a sharp, aggressive explosion that matches the emotion that drives it. It’s one of those words which, even if you were an alien who had just touched down from Betelgeuse 5 and the first sound you heard was someone yelling “Fuck!” you would know exactly what was being said.
Incel, on the other hand, slips kind of softly through the teeth; its sound is more of a sly insinuation, and so it is the perfect embodiment of the weasely, petty bitterness that these man-children inexplicably choose to adopt as their identity. These are the whiny little losers who threw fits when a woman pretended to perform oral sex on a statue, so they take masculine fragility into realms that are both comic and terrifying. The soft whisper of “incel” is perfect for them.
The problem is that I rarely feel like being quiet these days, whether we’re talking about Trump or the people who bred him. After all, the man himself is just the cherry on top of a shit sundae, and even if we manage to get rid of the cherry, we still have a really fucking big shit sundae to get through. The discussions bred by #MeToo are just a hint of how deep that shit goes. We can’t afford to be quiet.
“Fuck” is about as loud a word I can think of, whether it’s said in anger or lust. So for now, I guess the F-word and I are stuck with each other.