Mapping the Male Supremacy Movement: The Deadly Resentments of “Involuntary Celibates”

This post is the fifth in a series produced by ADL in partnership with Ms.; in each installment, we will explore a different aspect of what we’re calling the “male supremacy movement”—a network of formal groups and informal communities dedicated to subjugating women—and its intersections with the so-called alt-right’s racism. 

We’re going inside the male supremacy movement.

On April 23, 25-year-old tech expert Alek Minassian murdered 10 people and injured 15 others when he repeatedly drove his van up onto the sidewalks of a Toronto business district.

Minassian identified with the “incel” or “involuntary celibate” movement, which holds that men intrinsically deserve to have sex with women, but whose adherents are generally not having sex with women. Incels like him believe women owe them sex—and if they’re not having sex, they blame all women. 

The term “incel” initially had no association with violence against or hatred for women; it was actually coined in 1993 by a young Canadian woman as a label for her own perpetually single status. But it eventually became a short-hand for the kind of violence perpetrated by Minassian and other young men. It was attached retroactively to Marc Lepine, the man who massacred of 14 women at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, leaving behind a suicide note in which he blamed feminists for destroying his life. It was also used to describe Chris Harper Mercer, who warned fellow posters on an incel message board and complained in a “manifesto” about being a virgin before killing nine people at his Oregon community college and later committing suicide.

In the days before his Toronto massacre, Minassian posted admiring comments about Elliot Rodger, his fellow incel, who murdered six people—mostly women—near the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2014. Rodger left behind a series of YouTube videos and an online manifesto blaming women for his lack of sexual prospects. “I’m the perfect guy,” he wrote, “and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman.”

The underlying theme on incel message boards, readily found on sites like 4Chan and Reddit, is that the current sexual “marketplace” gives women too much freedom to choose their partners—which they think leaves some men being cheated out of their sexual birthright. Some incels believe that by denying them sex, women are committing “reverse rape,” which they argue is just as damaging and harmful as actual rape. (Some even say it should be included in the #MeToo conversation.)

Incels, MRAs and white supremacists all share a sense of entitlement—and feminism, and its promise of incremental advancements toward female agency and full legal protections, is anathema to them. Incels and MRAs, whose ranks include members of Gavin McInnes’s alt lite Proud Boys, a self-described fraternal group whose members “venerate the housewife,” celebrate “Western chauvinism”—and, perhaps most famously, eschew masturbation—target feminism as an easy scapegoat for the theoretical ills they believe have befallen white men.

These angry men have found one another online. Incel message boards are littered with casual misogyny, with highly trafficked threads on topics along the lines of “why women are the embodiment of evil” and “all women are sluts.” Their online comments reflect a belief that they are owed jobs, socioeconomic status and/or sex—simply because they exist.

Based on these message board exchanges, MRAs and incels don’t appear to spend much, or any, time considering the humanity of the people on the other side of the equation: the better-qualified and somehow marginalized candidate for a job, the more entrepreneurial immigrant or the woman who’s just not interested. Instead, they seem to feel they’re being left behind in their careers and humiliated on a daily basis—and they believe the cause is the relentless efforts of angry, vindictive feminists and other women who have clearly forgotten their place.

Not getting dates? Apparently, it’s a lot easier to blame feminism than your own terrible personality.


Jessica Reaves is the Senior Writer at ADL’s Center on Extremism and former reporter for Ms., TIME and the Chicago Tribune.