Toronto Killings Bring Focus on ‘Incel’ Culture

The man accused of killing 10 people on a Toronto street cited the “Incel Rebellion” in a Facebook post, prompting a look at the culture of the involuntary celibate, some of whom may advocate violence against women.

Alek Minassian is facing 10 counts of first-degree murder, one for each of the people he is accused of killing in Toronto. Police say he drove a van into pedestrians in a busy shopping district in the city. When such an attack occurs, people search for an explanation in whatever information is available. Those scouring the suspect’s social-media presence believed they’ve found it, in a post that appeared there the same day as the attack. The post, now deleted by Facebook, praised “Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger” and declared that the “Incel Rebellion has already begun!,” the Washington Post reports. Rodger killed six people and wounded more than a dozen others in the California college town of Isla Vista before committing suicide.

The post’s viral spread has had the effect of introducing the concept of “incel” to a wider audience. Incel is partially explained by what it stands for: involuntarily celibate. In online culture, “incel” means more than just a support group for the lonely and shy. It refers to a specific, insular, self-radicalized community with roots in the anti-feminist, misogynist “manosphere” and 4chan culture. Incels share a central thesis: that their involuntary celibacy results from the shallowness of women, who they think want to date only traditionally attractive men. The Southern Poverty Law Center says that the more extreme posts on incel forums advocate sexual violence against women. “Frustration with relationships and lack thereof are pretty common human experiences. What makes the incel culture different is that these are primarily heterosexual white men who are directing their anger in a misogynistic way towards women,” said sociologist Ross Haenfler of Grinnell College who studies subcultures and masculinity. “There may be some real pain there, but that pain results from a misplaced anger.”