Skip to main content

“I Think Most of Society Hates Us”: A Qualitative Thematic Analysis of Interviews with Incels

An Author Correction to this article was published on 20 April 2022

This article has been updated

Abstract

Involuntary celibates, or “incels,” have received increased public attention in past years, likely as a result of media reports that link incels to incidents of mass violence. Although prior research has examined various elements of the online community, none have directly engaged with incels to understand the causes and effects of their inceldom. Using a hegemonic masculinity framework, this article analyzes data from interviews with incels (N = 10) to identify emergent themes about their situations, attitudes, and experiences. The data reveal that the participants feel that they 1) experience masculinity challenges that affect their romantic opportunities, 2) are marginalized or treated as “subhumans” due to their appearance or other characteristics, and as a result, 3) experience negative emotions related to their inceldom. This, in turn, affects their belief in the BlackPill and their online behavior such as shit-posting. Supported by interview data, these findings can highlight both the similarities and diversity of thought within the incel community while also examining the ways that hegemonic masculinity can lead to the marginalization of specific groups of men. As such, this study can inform future research about incels, suggesting that it should include continued interaction with members of the community and quantitative survey research about incels. Furthermore, it can outline and inform intervention strategies addressing the negative effects of gender hegemony that should be considered for individual approaches to inceldom.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Change history

References

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful for Dr. James Messerschmidt’s insights about this paper and his work, and we thank him for his contributions and reflection. We would also like to thank the participants for their candor, honesty, and feedback.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sarah E. Daly.

Ethics declarations

Ethics Approval

This research was approved by the Saint Vincent College Institutional Review Board for research involving human participants. (Protocol #101016).

Informed Consent

All participants agreed to the terms of the Informed Consent.

Conflicts of Interest

There are no potential conflicts of interest.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Daly, S.E., Reed, S.M. “I Think Most of Society Hates Us”: A Qualitative Thematic Analysis of Interviews with Incels. Sex Roles 86, 14–33 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-021-01250-5

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-021-01250-5

Keywords

  • Involuntary celibate
  • Incel
  • Thematic analysis
  • Masculinity
  • Hegemonic masculinity
  • Sex roles
  • Rejection