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“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

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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.

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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.

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Correspondence to Sarah E. Daly.

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

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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).

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