The incel culture is as multifaceted as it is baffling. The term, short for “involuntarily celibate”, has risen to prominence due to its adoption by a subsection of the manosphere—a collection of movements united by misogyny. These loosely connected subcultures of the worst of masculinity include men’s rights activists, pick-up artists and MGTOW/Vocels (heterosexual men who refuse to have sex with women for political reasons) are sure to give you the ‘ick’… But wait, it gets worse—introducing gymcels. Buckle up and brace yourself for the cringe.
The ‘gymcel’ is yet another group to add to the ever-growing list of misogynistic, mostly online, subcultures. According to Urban Dictionary, a gymcel is “a male who takes the gym way too seriously and normally has nothing to show for it. Cel is associated with the word incel which is someone who isn’t able to get laid. Gymcels will often spend countless hours and weekends in the gym trying to improve their physique in hope of attracting women when in reality the only problem is their face.”
Like incels, gymcels have been subject to ridicule by wider society. Gymcels in particular have been subject to abuse by the bodybuilding community. Bodybuilding.com, the internet’s most popular forum for both amateur and professional bodybuilders has numerous threads discussing the small, yet very real, community of gymcels.
Gymcels are mocked mainly for their misguided attempts to attract women by lifting weights. One user explained that “most gymcels are gymcels because they are awkward, insecure and usually lack personalities,” while another labelled gymcels as “trapped in a prison of narcissism and insecurity.” Some in the bodybuilding community have started referring to gymcels as copecels—men who, despite all their efforts to find love or sex by improving themselves through fitness, continue to be undermined by their inferior genes (for instance height or bone structure).
The negativity surrounding the gymcel label, and indeed the very concept of a gymcel itself, is problematic for the bodybuilding and fitness industry. Sam West, a regular user on Bodybuilders.com and a self-proclaimed “former gymcel” told MEL Magazine, “People posting that on these forums and on Reddit might think they’re being funny, but I imagine what they’re saying is damaging, too.”
West goes on to explain how “the forum can be a toxic place. Lots of young guys come here because they want advice on their fitness. Instead, they’re exposed to all this garbage about being weak and pathetic if they haven’t gotten laid.”
The gymcel subreddit, a community that once had around 350 active members, but has since been banned from the platform for breaching community guidelines, was once the breeding ground of gym-fueled incel ideology. Much of the incel community believes that political ideas such as feminism and progressivism have given too much power to women, and consequently, has undermined their ability to date, have sex or marry the opposite sex.
And the problematic nature of gymcel culture has repercussions outside of spin class, it perpetuates the manosphere narrative that discourse which encourages misogyny and attacks feminism is not only acceptable but should be encouraged. Zoe Williams from The Guardian went as far as to describe the incel ideology as a movement that “targets and terrorises women.”
Williams goes on to highlight that the man accused of carrying out the Toronto van attack, which killed 10 in 2018, had alleged links to incel online communities. She concluded, “The language they use may be absurd, but the threat they pose could be deadly.” Often, online communities can be overlooked in their tangible danger. And that’s understandable, it’s easy to feel like exploring online trends, especially communities like incelism which stereotypically reside on the fringes of society, will have no impact on one’s demeanour. But, as Williams has highlighted, underestimating those exact communities is what makes them so worryingly dangerous.
Are you a Chad? A Stacy or a Becky? An Incel, or perhaps even a Femcel? Just like in life offline, we know the internet is full of different communities, and in the manosphere there is a particular group called ‘Involuntary Celibate men’ a.k.a ‘Incels’. Like many new movements and groups, Incels are an internet-derived phenomenon. I searched the deep web for more information on ‘The Incel Crisis’.
Incels are members of an online subculture who define themselves (and on Wikipedia) as ‘perpetually single’ or ‘dating shy’ and therefore “unable to find a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one”, a state they describe as ‘inceldom’. Self-identified Incels are often white, ‘geeky’ and almost exclusively male heterosexuals. A common narrative in Incels is that a high school crush ‘Stacy’ (see later for definition) rejected them in the past, and as a result of this they develop a hate for the female population as a whole. This rebuff has turned them dark, confused, and full of resentment. The jealousy and hatred they harbour towards women grow as they stew in their rooms—on forums—isolated from the ‘real world.’
Due to negative interactions with women who they believe have moulded their personalities to the very core, Incels base their self worth on female attention; adamant they are victims denied of sex only because of appearance. They feel they are doomed for a life of loneliness and neglect, with no hope, who see the world ‘how it really is’—which is ultimately ‘against them’.
Inceldom was created in 1993 by Alana, a neoliberal feminist aiming to found a place on the internet for people experiencing loneliness. Originally titled Alana’s Involuntary Celibacy Project (AICP), the forum quickly and unexpectedly turned into a backlash against women and the rise of feminist culture. The forums such as Reddit, 4Chan, and the now deleted Incel.me make for pretty grim reading, with angry, derogatory terms, and often racial slurs towards women. For example, JBW is used to imply that ‘just being white’ can resolve all Incel problems. The term ‘ethnicel’ is a non-white male who is Incel because of his ‘inferior’ skin––also disrespectfully called ‘currycel’ or ‘ricecel’ or ‘noodlewhore’.
Just like many subcultures, the Incels have their own jargon. They see women as either ‘Stacy’s’, who are feminine, attractive, unattainable and who only date ‘Chads’ (a.k.a Chad Thundercock) muscular, popular men who are presumed to sleep with many of women. Or ‘Becky’s’, who represents the ‘average’ woman. Women, in general, are also referred to in terms such as ‘femoids’, ‘Foids’ or ‘FHOs’ (Female Humanoid Organism). There are a group of women identifying as ‘Femcel’ yet Incels see the idea of who is female ‘involuntarily celibate’ as an oxymoron; they believe that unless a woman is “severely deformed”, she can have sex whenever she wants.
The Incels adopt the ‘Red Pill/Blue Pill’ metaphor from the film The Matrix––the red pill equals a life of harsh knowledge, the blue pill, a life of blissful ignorance. For Incels, to take the red pill means to know the ‘true nature of women’—that women are immoral, vain, unchaste, and not capable of loving ‘nice guys’ like themselves. To take the blue pill is to be a ‘normie’—an ordinary and conventional person (not an Incel)—living in ignorance of the ‘true nature of women’.
Incles believe in controversial paleomasculinism—that male domination and female submission are part of the natural order of things, and the ‘80-20’ rule (that 80 percent of women only want 20 percent of men) yet in the same breath they refer to women as ‘holes’ and evaluate women’s sexual market value (SMV). According to Inceldom, there are three types of men:
Alpha Male a.k.a Chads—a high-status male who gets all the sex he desires, because his controlling and socially-dominant personality is so alluring to females.
Beta Male—a male who is somewhat inept in relationships with females and thus doesn’t get “enough” sex because he isn’t confident enough to be an Alpha and he isn’t rude enough to be a bad boy.
Omega Male—a male who has no prospects whatsoever of getting laid a.k.a an Incel.
Extreme incels think women should not be able to vote because they are unintelligent, they also support rape and some have even murdered people, since 2014 there have been several cases of deadly attacks executed by Incles. There are a few Incels who declare themselves as ‘The Supreme Gentlemen’—a sub-genre of the ‘nice guy’ genus (a rank in the biological classification) that has allowed their ego to inflate to such an extent to cause ‘Omega rage’, a state of mind in which their lack of sexual prospects leads to violent sexual, suicidal, or homicidal behaviour (also known as taking the “black pill” due to nihilistic views).
The term Incels use at the core of their community is ‘Looksism’, the belief that a person’s physical appearance is the primary determinant of their attractiveness as a mate. It seems that together on these forums they obsess over masculine traits such as FWHR (face, width, height, ratio), chin size, nose size, baldness, weight and height amongst others and rate each other’s looks. By rating and insulting each other, they transform the Incelosphere into a toxic environment.
The Incel community is incredibly secretive and because of this it is impossible to know how many Incels there are. Social anxiety, depression and a lack of self-esteem are issues that most Incels deal with—something that is at the core of this culture. Recently, more and more motivational videos and comments on how to change for the better have appeared in the Incel forums—with many YouTube videos from ‘ex-Incels’—in a bid to change this perpetual toxic corner of the web and its resulting femicide. The original Inceldom creator Alana is now trying to offer a new platform where lonely people would find respectful love, instead of being stuck in a perpetual loop of anger.