What do incels want?
Explaining Incel Violence Using Beauvoirian Otherness

Filipa Melo Lopes (University of Edinburgh)

In recent years, online ‘involuntary celibate’ or ‘incel’ communities have been linked to various deadly attacks against women. Why do these men react to romantic rejection with, not just disappointment, but murderous rage? Feminists have claimed this is because incels desire women as objects or, alternatively, because they feel entitled to women’s attention. I argue that both of these models are insufficient. They fail to account for incels’ distinctive ambivalence towards women – for their oscillation between obsessive desire and violent hatred. I propose instead that what incels want is a Beauvoirian Other. For Beauvoir, when men conceive of women as Other, they represent them as both human subjects and as embodiments of the natural world. I argue that this model of patriarchal representation gives us a better understanding of incel ambivalence and constitutes a powerful and overlooked alternative to objectification and entitlement theories.
Target paper by Filipa Melo Lopes
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