Birmingham Salon

Inside the ‘’incelosphere’’


7.00 PM - 9.00 PM

Welcome back!

This is a free event for Birmingham Salon regulars to catch up after the pandemic paused our live debates, and for anyone new to Birmingham Salon to come and experience and contribute to a Salon discussion. 

Inside the incelosphere

Incels, or involuntary celibates, are an online subculture community of mostly men, who forge their sense of identity around a perceived inability to form sexual or romantic relationships. The incel community operates almost exclusively online, providing an outlet for a significant minority of incels to express misogynistic-hostility, frustration and blame toward society for a perceived failure to include them.

The “incelosphere” can be characterised as a fatalistic, misogynistic echo-chamber in which misery and failure are celebrated, emblematic of all dimensions of the victimhood-mindset. Incels take an ‘’external locus of control’’ to the extreme in perceptions of themselves and inter-sex relations. Many subscribe to what is known as the “black-pill,” a derivative of the concept of the “red-pill” from the movie The Matrix, denoting a willingness to see the world as it really is as opposed to the blissful ignorance of the “blue-pill”. The “black-pill” describes a particularly bleak “truth” to swallow; in this case, the belief that sexual-attraction is mostly fixed and that there is nothing that incels can do to improve their romantic-prospects. 

Rare individual cases have seen incels lash out in violent murderous rage. Most notable is the notorious case of Elliot Rodger, who in 2014 killed six people and injured 14 others before killing himself, referring in his manifesto to a “day of retribution” when he would kill those he was envious of – Chads (men who sleep with lots of women) and Stacey’s (the attractive women who reject him). 

In August 2021, Plymouth, United Kingdom, 22-year-old Jake Davison used a pump-action-shotgun to kill five people, including his mother and a three-year-old girl, and injure two others before killing himself. Davison’s digital-footprint revealed YouTube videos where he used incel-terminology, taking concepts from evolutionary psychology to justify his thinking without really understanding them. This case is the first alleged incel attack in the UK, and the worst instance of gun-violence in over a decade, causing the UK government to consider following Canada in designating incels as a terrorist-group. However, a comprehensive literature review found that while mental-health issues such as suicidality are prominent points of discussion on incel-forums, they have not received the same attention as themes of misogyny. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that incels as a group represent more of a danger to themselves than others.

Is the incelosphere a phenomena triggered by or reflecting other trends in society? Recent reports suggest that in the US, the number of men going to universities is falling significantly.  Morgan Stanley forecast that 45 percent of working women between the ages of 25 and 44 will be single and childless by 2030 in what they call the rise of the SHEconomy. The rise of identity politics has encouraged a pattern of group formation around grievance and oppression. Is this at all justified in the case of the incel?

Speaker: William Costello

William is a Birmingham Salon regular with an MSc in Psychology: Evolution & Culture from Brunel University London. His Masters dissertation is on the psychology of incels. William also writes about cultural issues such as polyamory, sexual violence, identity politics, Birthstrike and racism through an evolutionary psychology lens and has contributed opinion pieces to outlets such as Quillette and Areo.

Twitter: @WilliamCostello

Chair: Rosie Cuckston

Recommended reading

Step your dick up - why incels deserve better advice  William Costello, Medium, 2020

What the media gets wrong about incels Naama Kates, Unherd 2021

Why incels are the losers in the age of Tinder James Bloodworth, Unherd 2020