The cool thing about the internet is that it creates communities for everybody! The downside of the internet is that it can…create communities for everybody. It’s a strange thing to say, but some communities just shouldn’t exist – namely the ones that are built on encouraging and propagating really toxic philosophies. What may start as a feeling of connection and understanding might morph into a lot of misplaced anger if only the pain is allowed to reverberate with no sense injected.
Cue the…*sigh*…”incel” movement; a term combining “involuntary” and “celibate,” generally self-applied by mostly young men who have become convinced that they’ll never have the love or the sex that they deserve, and that it’s all the fault of some deep-seeded societal problem. By now you’ve probably heard the stories, or at least the jokes. But one particular thread on r/AskReddit took a more serious approach. User DannyMThompson took to the forum to ask the following:
People who had considered themselves "incels" (involuntary celibates) but have since had sex, how do you feel looking back at your previous self? from AskReddit
There were thousands of responses, mostly with variations on similar themes. Despite the subject matter, it is, overall, quite an uplifting thread. Here are some of the stories of former incels, in their own words.
1. “Unhealthy at worst, meaningless at best.”
I suppose I was an incel from 23-27 after leaving the military. I was depressed, underweight, socially isolated… I never got fat or super into gaming as is stereotypical, just worked a lot, hung out with my dog, smoked way too much weed, and just sort of forgot how to interact with women. Which was probably for the best, most of my relationships prior to 23 were unhealthy at worst, meaningless at best.
Ending that era of my life was a long struggle that took concerted effort towards trying to be more positive and social.
One big event was buying and learning to ride a motorcycle at 27- sort of shocked me out of my routine, opened my eyes to the fact that life was not a downhill slide from the adrenaline filled days of 18-22, that new experiences were waiting to be had.
Eventually I met a woman that I just couldnt bear to have the usual “flirt until I awkwardly distance myself” experience with. I forced myself to not to my mind wander when we talked, I powered through all anxiety to call and text her daily, I even eventually would do crazy stuff like get dressed up nice and go to dinner with her -not something I could have ever seen myself doing at one point.
So I’m married now, still have some issues, but very happy. So I’d say nothing to me, just gotta live through it kid.
2. “Because I was a foreigner.”
I was raised by incredibly cruel people, my aunt and grandmother.
They had me absolutely convinced that I was very ugly, pathetic, and just a total loser. They even hinted that I’d be better off gay (as if it’s a choice) because I didn’t have a shot with women. They also made me feel that as an imigrant I was considered “weird” and strange and women would consider me less of a “catch” because I was a foreigner.
Since I believed all of that, I had a real resentment toward women and like many young people I protected my pain with anger.
Eventually I discovered that I was not ugly at all and in fact was considered quite attractive by many (which I never fully could wrap my head around). And guess what, turns out women like guys with exotic accents and viewed my foreign-ness as interesting and even exciting.
I’m just glad I realized all of that before I had become too entrenched in my anger or wasted too much time.
3. “Just wanted to vent frustration and get support.”
I remember when I first found the incel community, it was actually a pretty helpful place. It was more of a support group for people who were unattractive, socially awkward, ect. There wasn’t any of this nice guy, give sex bull shit. Everyone knew why they were involuntarily celibate, and just wanted to vent frustrations and get support. It was really good for my confidence. Then the toxic masculinity started to creep in and took right over, as everyone knows.
I fell on the incel line of being not unattractive, but personality wise, all I did was play videogames. I didn’t have anything interesting about my life, and so women just weren’t interested in me, and I never put myself into situations to meet people.
New job with great people, I started to do different things. Played hockey for the first time at thirty. Joined the group for a couple of travelling tournaments where we got absolutely Vegas type plastered for weekends in different cities. Job is very much a hang out and chat type job (security), so talking with the women on the team on the regular starts removing the air of mystique I had built around them. Got my motorcycle licence, and did a solo trip across the states from Canada to the Mexican border, and back that same year. Started doing tough mudders, buying a season pass and traveling to any of the ones I could drive to.
Then I got tinder and just started going on dates. Had a few good, few bad, and then met my wife.
All and all, I ultimately blame a world of warcraft addiction that held me back in my early twenties to my late twenties and just missed out on those socially formitive years.
4. “They have to choose you.”
I used to be the creepy ass weirdo who, by the time I graduated, had asked every single girl out. I literally had no idea what I was doing wrong, I was practicing all the classic “Southern Gentlemen” things that I was supposed to yet having no luck (think “M’Lady”, but only slightly less cringey). It wasn’t until I got to college and went on a period of self discovery that I knew the error of my ways.
The first, and most important, concept that I learned was that women aren’t sex dispensaries that you deposit “nice coins” into and get pusspuss in return. They have to choose you. I still kept doing nice things for girls because that’s the way I was raised, but I removed my expectations for getting anything in return.
The second concept was making myself attractive, and it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. A nice basic buzzcut suddenly turned my oily mop of hair into a clean, presentable style. Went clean shaven on facial hair too, because all I could grow was a piddly “pubic hair” lookin’ ass beard. Got a benzoyl peroxide solution to start working on the acne. Marching band was my form of exercise to stay fit and avoid the “freshmen 15”.
It’s amazing how the problems we create for ourselves can get in our own way.
5. “So deep in the closet…”
Oh god, high school me wore fedoras and believed my “superior intellect and science-based social theories” were too much for everyone and that I was really a James Bond type with my knowledge of various fields.
Turns out I was gay as fuck but so deep in the closet my zip code was in Narnia, not really that smart in anything but too ADHD to focus past basic knowledge of anything and in a desperate need of a new wardrobe.
6. “It was kinda my fault.”
I was involuntarily celibate in that I wanted to have sexual relationships, but never met anyone interested.
I didn’t put any effort in, so it was kinda my fault. My lifestyle just didn’t lend itself to meeting people, so it was hard.
When I finally did get out there and start having relationships it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I realised that I had previously felt like an incomplete person because of my inability to connect with anyone, and that was holding me back from other things in life. Like I thought nothing else was worth pursuing because I hadn’t properly entered adulthood yet. I kinda wish I’d just got on with it and persued my other interests a bit more. I don’t know why I had to wait. Maybe it was depression relating to me being lonely.
7. “I was a being of pure hatred.”
I was a being of pure hatred.
I always thought it was someone else’s fault. Even though I have had sex since that time, I think it’s important to know that having sex isn’t what vindicates you. Inceldom is a state of mind which requires strength and sometimes outside guidance to overcome. One of my friends essentially gave me a proverbial slap to the face on the subject and told me exactly what to do and how to become a more better person.
In conclusion, I look back with regret and sorrow, for all the people I hurt and made uncomfortable, because I know there are many.
8. “I hated immigrants, gay people, women, handsome guys.”
I found my first incel forum at 13, even tho it didn’t have that name. But the idologies were the same. I was miserable back then, didn’t have many friends, my grades were shit and I got bullied a lot. This made me spend most of my time inside playing video games and hating life. I hated everyone because all of my experiences with people where being bullied, I started being bullied at 4 and it didn’t stop until the middle of highschool. The forums where full of people thinking the same, it made me feel secure, like I was right. I didn’t have to walk the hard way to improve myself, they told me I could just let go. Nobody will ever love you so why try? You are a social reject so why try?
So I stopped showering, stopped eating, stopped caring for myself. I let myself go because these groups told me no matter how hard you try, you will fail. I became jelous of people being more popular then me, jelous of my sister because she was so pretty and accepted herself. She had a boyfriend, but all girls hated me. At the time I didn’t see that would I have just showered girls wouldn’t have been disgusted by me. I hated immigrants, gay people, women, handsome guys. Everyone I saw as more accomplished then me.
It was a hard time getting out of this mindset, but eventually I made it. Turned my grades around, made some friends and went to therapy. I even have a boyfriend now, oh the irony. When I see incels or people like that I just can’t hate them, they are in pain and struggeling and need help. Depression is one hell of beast and some people lash out in anger.
So when I look back at my old self, I really just want to give him a hug and tell him everything is going to be ok.
9. “I can stop moping and start hating? Fantastic! I’m in!”
I am SOOOO glad I had my teenage years in the late eighties & early nineties before the internet, let alone social media. Back then I couldn’t get a date, let alone a girlfriend. I was, to be fair, hardly a catch, suffering from persistent depressive disorder (form an orderly queue ladies!) and just generally having problems adapting. I was acknowledged to be a bit weird. I kind of accepted that it was my “fault” – which was bad for me short term but probably good (in the long term) for everyone concerned. Ultimately I had to sort myself out. But if I had had access to the sort of Incel shite online around today, I fear I would have lapped it up with a spoon. A very large group of like minded people telling me it isn’t my fault?!?! I can stop moping and start hating? Fantastic! I’m in! I would have been able to celebrate my status instead of reflecting on it and changing it. I’m sure I’d have been more than tempted.
Social media has eroded, even destroyed, the concepts of privacy Gen X and before took for granted. For us to be an outsider, to be weird, was something you could do alone and grow out of – if you wanted to of course. For the later millennials and beyond, even in quarantine, there is no alone, no solitude to reflect. Everything seems to be out there looking for likes and other forms of validation my addled mid 40s brain can’t comprehend. Incels are a form of social validation that could not really have existed before social media. To get a network like that going would have been logistically and technically impossible on a scale beyond small outsider cliques in secondary schools. Now they are a movement. I somewhat pity Incels because, but for 20 or so years, I could have been one of them.
10. “I looked at women as a game to fill my missing void.”
In high school I was 300 pounds and my only conversations were about video games. Specifically World of Warcraft. I was nice to lots of girls. Thought I was the perfect gentleman like my mom taught me to be. I had female friends. However, I never could get a girlfriend or a girl interested in me except for one time a girl dated me a 4 hours as a dare and then publicly dumped me in the lunch room.
This caused me to start to despise women. Eventually, I learned it was my terrible hygiene and excessive weight that was causing girls to not like me. I started going to the gym and got into great shape. Lost 110 pounds, got a new style, started dressing and smelling good. All the sudden girls couldn’t get enough of me when I went to college. Due to all the rejection I had in middle/high school, I actually developed an addiction.
I would date a different girl every month and was notorious for one night stands. I looked at women as a game to fill my missing void. I couldn’t get enough. This went on for years until I realized I had a problem. Now years later I am married and in decent shape but not gym obsessed like before. I still see myself as both people. The guy obsessed with video games and food and then the guy who loves working out and partying. As I type this it is odd reflecting on how I lived two different lives over 15 years.
It’s refreshing and important to be reminded that we are not stuck as we are. Not everyone gets a fairy tale ending, but there is no call for defeatism, especially when it poisons us against each other. Brush yourself off. Find support that lifts you up without bashing someone else down.
Do you have a story like this?
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