Step Your Dick Up: Why incels deserve better advice

Men who can’t get sex are seen as losers

We hear a lot about double standards between female and male sexual behaviour. Women who have a lot of sex are often slut shamed, while men who have lots of sex are seen as ‘ What is often ignored however, is how true the exact inverse of this is. Men who cannot get sex are seen as losers and lampooned as members of the most derided group in society…incels.

Meanwhile, perpetually single women are celebrated in society and we lament the lack of good men out there. Examples of this include the 2019  article,  and the  article, ‘. Not to mention the media love in for ‘’ Emma Watson.

However, it may well be true about the mismatch between what women want and what men are offering. This supply and demand problem is of course the difference in the way we perceive the two groups. Choosy women are not involuntary in their ‘’. It seems that women have tough choices… but incels have no choices.

This essay is not so much an exploration of what we say ‘’ incels, but rather what we say ‘ incels.

I aim to explore,

  • Who are the incels and do they deserve such disdain?
  • What is the plight of an incel?
  • Why the advice given to incels is useless
  • Why we simultaneously hate incels for giving up and for trying to better themselves

Who are the incels?

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This definition of incel is not one I would agree with entirely. It is however, the top definition on Urban Dictionary and highlights the way in which incels are seen in society

It’s important we know who we are talking about when we use the term incel. The definition used in the image above is not one I fully subscribe to, although it is the top definition in  and gives an idea of how incels are seen in society. An incel, or involuntarily celibate, is defined as someone who has not had access to sex for a sustained period of longer than six months. Going by this definition and acknowledging the fact that the number of men not having sex within the last year has increased 3 fold in the last decade, we must conclude that the majority of incels are peaceful and non-violent.

A significant minority of incels derive a sense of community spitting misogynistic vitriol online and rare individual incels have lashed out at society in horrific acts of violent rage. Media and cultural depiction tends to fixate on the latter two groups and uses them to represent all incels as misogynistic. It is important to note that while they might resent their lack of success in what they consider a somewhat superficial sexual selection system, the majority of incels do not hate women. The majority might not even define themselves as incels.

‘Be Yourself’ and ‘Just Lift Bro’

The first incel I ever encountered in real life spoke at the  conference I attended in London in 2019. He overcame obvious crippling anxiety to speak and provide insight into his life. The most striking point for me was how he detailed a frustration at the tension between being told to simply, ‘’ and ‘’ in order to improve himself by weightlifting.

, I was told, is a common piece of ‘ style advice provided to incels, particularly from men within the wider ‘manosphere’. It seems cruelly insufficient when we consider the number of incels who report to have physical and/or mental disabilities which might serve as significant barriers to weightlifting.

Honest commentators must acknowledge how hollow and unhelpful these platitudes truly are. Telling an incel to simply  is to gaslight him into thinking there is no problem at all or to imply that his problem is that he is being inauthentic. To tell him to might be a little more helpful, in that a lot can potentially be helped through self-development, however, the blaséness and dismissiveness with which incels are told to  is demeaning to the significance and complexity of the challenge they face.

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Study on how couples meet 1940–2020

The dating economy is increasingly moving online and a recent study of Tinder found that, “

Crudely put, the modern dating economy closer resembles polygyny, with the most high-status men having a ‘’ on the majority of women. The majority of men are simply not being considered.

Why do we hate incels?

James Bloodworth’s insightful article, “, describes the way in which men and women uniquely hold disdain for incels.

It’s obvious why society hates the misogynistic online abuse and the violence but why do we hate the majority of incels…simply for giving up?

Incels have taken the decision to check out of a mating market in which they see the cost of courtship as being too high, both financially and emotionally. They are increasingly retreating to virtual worlds of pornography and online communities as shelter from what they see as a culture that rejects them. Sociologist Frank Furedi explores how,

When so much of male identity is wrapped up in the idea of competency and agency, the incel admission of incompetence is jarring to us as a society and we find it repugnant.

What do we want incels to do? Keep trying and being rejected…or give up? It seems the answer is neither.

It’s not all about looks you know

Every time I discuss incels with any semblance of sympathy, I am met with a chorus of, ‘”.

This is of course true.

I am not and have never at any point suggested that women should be made lower their standards to reduce the plight of the incel.

However, the erosion of societally enforced monogamy coupled with the fact that women are rapidly outpacing men in education, yet still seeking highly educated partners, has significantly exasperated matters on this front.

However, to have sympathy for incels does not equate to advocating women be as their entitlement.

It’s important that mainstream society gives incels a more appealing message than we have been giving. To dismiss them runs the risk of resigning them to the basements of internet communities, to fester in resentment and disenfranchisement as potential ticking timebombs.

However, let’s look at some of the messages we send to incels.

Incels are often told that  and that some women go for personality. This is despite the fact that statistics show that men’s looks matter far more to the fairer sex and far more than they’d care to admit.

Feminist writer, Louise Perry, who is currently engaging in an extremely productive letter exchange exploration of the modern dating economy with aforementioned James Bloodworth, had this to say on the looks vs personality dichotomy,

To make the argument that  is to make the assumption that if you don’t have good looks, you can simply compensate with a sparkling personality. I’m routinely provided with anecdotal evidence for such a phenomenon. However, what constitutes a sparkling personality can be very much dependent on what a man looks like and there is often a minimum level of attractiveness to be reached before personality and other traits are even considered.

Dr. Francesca Minerva, a bio-ethisist at Warwick University, explores the fascinating ways in which an underexplored type of discrimination, , translates into discrimination in other facets of life. Lookism impacts on areas that we might not intuitively think dependent on physical attractiveness, such as professional success, perception of intelligence and even morality.

Lookism filters out to other facets of life

Bloodworth explores more difficulties encountered by incels in regard to ‘.

When I bring this up with friends, I receive a volley of potential qualities that incels could and should conjure up so that they may compete in the mating market. It seems that it is difficult for us to imagine a man who is objectively lacking in every aspect that might be important to a woman when considering a mate. We also neglect to acknowledge how many of these are immutable and difficult or impossible to do anything about.

Keep trying: There’s someone out there for everyone

The next piece of advice given to incels is to ‘’ and that ‘’.

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Why do we insist that men must persist in a world where 90% of romantic advances are expected to be made by men. Evolutionary speaking, it can be argued that women are born with inherent value, in that they are likely to one day have children, whereas men need to demonstrate value in order to be sexually selected for.

Why do we want them to continue to run this gauntlet? Why do we want them to continually pick themselves up and try again, only to endure humiliating rejection after rejection after each clumsy attempt?

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In a world with antiquated views about who should pay on dates, how much money should a man have to spend fruitlessly on courtship before it’s ok to stop?

The notion that ‘’ also seems oddly sexist towards women. If you just keep looking there’ll be a woman with low enough standards for you.

What do we as a society get out of this ritual that causes so much pain?

I feel that the pain of this ordeal is downplayed by society, despite studies showing that physical pain and social pain (rejection, exclusion, ostracism) activate the same regions of the brain. Modern day progressives will happily tell you that “” but will most likely scoff at this notion of pain. I feel this dismissiveness is due to how acutely aimed at men most sexual rejection is and an example of an empathy gap. The reason my girlfriend can scoff at this type of pain is because she genuinely can’t relate to it. She has literally never been rejected. In terms of romantic options, she lives in a blissfully ignorant state of abundance.

The veil of ignorance

We are all vulnerable romantically and socially. We all face rejection and hurt in romance and relationship. Scorning incels is a projection of our own insecurities and fears. If it wasn’t for random luck, we too could be alone. Those of you who are willing to reflect and consider the ways in which we discriminate and have attractiveness privilege, I strongly suggest listening to Jay Shapiro’s podcast on ‘Lookism’ with Dr. Franca Minerva. Shapiro takes the listener through the ’ thought experiment in the context of attractiveness. The  is a method of determining the morality of issues. It asks a decision-maker to make a choice about a social or moral issue and assumes that they have enough information to know the consequences of their possible decisions for everyone but would not know, or would not take into account, which person they are. The thought experiment illuminates how unfair yet philosophically difficult the conundrum of lookism is.

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The veil of ignorance thought experiment can be applied to create empathy to those less attractive/fortunate

Step your dick up

In discussions about this topic with friends, one of the cruellest and most galling pieces of that I have heard put to incels is that they should , i.e. improve themselves to a standard at which women will consider them.

If we can move past the glaring double standard and the fact that an ‘ woman would never be told to  to earn male attention, how much do we really think can be mitigated through self improvement?

Certain aspects can be improved upon by acquiring skills e.g. fashion sense can be improved upon. Manopshpere fashion blog and Twitter account @WellBuiltStyle is a pragmatic example of practical fashion advice that will help struggling men present themselves in a more favourable light.

Social skills to some extent can be learned, primarily by overcoming shyness to reveal a truly interesting personality. This does require a ‘’ that can be gruelling for socially anxious young men and a ‘ learning curve that will lead to all sorts of discomfort for women, who will have to endure many inept attempts at approaching them.

However, we must recognise the uncomfortable and ugly truth of how much of attraction is based on the immutable. One of the most common  for women is a man’s height, which no amount of Cuban heels can mitigate.

Research from the online dating website  found that, every inch increase in a man’s height directly correlated to his likelihood of being contacted by a woman. The study showed that 6ft men were 33% more likely to be contacted than a man of average height (5ft 7in), and 77% more likely to be contacted than a man under 5ft 4in. A different study about height and human mate choice found that, on average, the shortest man a woman would date is 5 feet 9 inches tall (2 inches taller than the average man) and the same study shows that 23% of men compared to only 4% of women would accept a dating relationship where the woman was taller (the average woman is 5ft 3in)

Develop yourself…but not like that

There happens to be a whole devoted towards helping men develop themselves to be more successful with women. However, the industry, which coaches men how to ‘ ’, is sneered at as superficial and sinister. Pick up artists are dismissed as teaching men how to  women into considering them. I find this criticism quite demeaning to women in that it suggests they are not discerning enough to know when they are being  . Most women are of course robust enough to see through many pick-up artist techniques. They are considered trite and cheesy in the modern dating arena.

However, one can imagine the exasperation of an incel who finds himself being held in scorn for his immutable incompetence and simultaneously being scolded for trying to ’.

Is our distaste for the hollowness of pick up artist pageantry an expression of an internal recognition at how superficial our sexual selection process is? Are we hating the game by resenting the weakest players?

From an evolutionary perspective, it’s female sexual selection that has kept this whole show on the road for our evolved history. Do we dare trifle with it?

I say yes.

Primarily because I am not a nihilist. I believe that much can be done to bridge the supply and demand chasm that exists between what women want and what men are offering.

We will need a more sophisticated and likely uncomfortable conversation than we are currently having. That conversation will need to grapple with uncomfortable issues like the tension between women’s success in the workplace and hypergamy. We will need to reframe the value of traditional masculinity, which has been culturally demeaned.

The conversation will need men moving beyond defining their self-worth through sexual success expressed as the denigration of .

It will take women moving past absconding and obvious slogans like ‘ and perhaps even considering coaching hapless but well meaning men on how to better succeed.

Inceldom needs reckoning with and I think we can do a lot better than to continually use the most extreme caricatures to trivialise incels.

It’s in all our interests to give better advice to incels than to simply ‘ or .



William Costello is an Irish writer studying Evolutionary Psychology at Brunel University London. William has debated publicly at Universities around the UK about feminism and gender/identity politics. William writes opinion pieces for various publications and you can follow his work on Twitter: @CostelloWilliam and Medium:

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