Recently, I met an Incel. For two weeks, I spent more time with this guy than any other human. He’s a professional poker player, so his tendency to keep mum about his thoughts and emotions didn’t seem too unusual. But I did notice. He had lots of questions, yet rarely shared personal details, except that he used to date a friend of mine. (And a friend of his dates another friend of mine.) He was sure, once I spoke to his ex about him, I’d never want to see him again. He was right, but my friends and I didn’t get a chance to compare notes until after I’d already reached the same conclusion on my own. It happened one morning, in bed.
I asked, “Why didn’t you try to have sex with me?”
It was his second missed opportunity. Given how couple-y we’d been acting, this behavior was baffling. If anyone is pressing the brakes before sex, (as we all know) it’s rarely the guy. His explanation went something like this…
He doesn’t have sex for two reasons: 1) He knows it’s the beginning of the end; he can’t deal with the loss anymore, and 2) He doesn’t want to give women what they want, because he’s still angry about them causing his pain. He lamented about a woman who left him, who not only blocked him, but got a restraining order. He just wanted to talk with her about how much she’d hurt him! But he never got a chance. Based on his telling, this seemed to be a pattern.
I didn’t bother mentioning he was going to have to deal with losing me too, whether he was bad in bed or not. My crushes tend to dissipate quickly, especially with such an abundance of flaming red flags. I pointed out, “Sweeping generalizations aren’t necessarily applicable in this particular situation,” but he argued the opposite is true, that the generalizations can still be applied, because statistics. Of course I had to get into a philosophical debate with a numbers guy.
“You sound like an Incel.”
He didn’t like that word, then he said he felt sorry for them. He thinks the miserable condition of incel-dom is women’s fault, for neglecting these men, for making them feel pain. He also didn’t like, nor agree with, certain notions of Patriarchy, Rape Culture and Toxic Masculinity. Oh, and one more thing: he disapproves of Feminism. He argued that for every step toward Equality, there’s a proportionate erosion of power for those (white hetero males) who’ve benefitted so greatly from the previous/longstanding status quo.
“But power is not a Zero Sum Game. There is such thing as a win-win situation. Have you not heard of ‘a rising tide that lifts all boats’?!'”
Nope. Then he said, for every misogynist in this world, there’s a man-hating feminist.
“Even if that’s true (and I’m not saying it is), statistically speaking – women aren’t the ones killing people over their sexual frustrations.”
With reluctance he agreed, then attempted to rationalize, saying men are inherently violent. This became our biggest point of contention. His argument was, men are aggressive creatures who love sex, and this is all programmed into their DNA. The current wave of mass murders by angry white men is simply part of the human experience and there’s nothing we can do about it.
“First of all, women love sex just as much as men do. Second, that discredits all the men who manage to live their entire lives without raping or murdering anyone.”
Then we talked about the guy who’d been taking up-skirt shots of my ass at the pool hall the night before. He’d seen the confrontation go down, and agreed that taking up-skirt pictures of strangers is inappropriate.
I pointed out, “That’s just one example on a wide spectrum of Toxic Masculinity. These guys are taking things that they aren’t entitled to, whether it’s up-skirt shots, rape, or other peoples’ lives. Toxic Masculinity is a rampant social epidemic. But I have to believe there is a cure. Because if our problems are unsolvable, than life is hopeless. You might as well smoke crack under a bridge.”
It’s not hard to see how having such a dark outlook can lead to murder. Because if our biggest problems are insurmountable, why not go out in a blaze of fury?
I tried to explain a few of the many ways that the work is well-underway, raising a new generation of more well-rounded children. There are millions of parents, teachers, mentors, neighbors, bus drivers, janitors, emergency workers (etc.) who are setting positive examples and building healthy communities, where children can grow up expressing who they are and what they feel, without fear of punishment, loss or abandonment. But then came the question of what to do with the Troubled Males who are already grown…
He said he’d had problems making connections with women, that some would call him a rapist or a misogynist, right out of the gates. I prodded deeper, to find out exactly what he’d put on his profile that would incite such harsh reactions.
He said, “It said something like, ‘Feminism isn’t the Holy Grail.'”
I had to laugh. “You’re bashing the women’s movement on your dating profile?!”
He noted the double standard that males tend to live by (in a culture of Toxic Masculinity): Boys are taught to be hard, to stifle their emotions, and to use violence, aggression and intimidation as their primary problem-solving strategies. They can find themselves overwhelmed with unsorted, unprocessed, pent-up emotions, emotions that can get stifled for so long, they merged into a swirling, cancerous ball of frustration, hurt and hate. Then, if/when they find themselves in relationships with women, once they reveal the ugly mess they’ve got bottled-up inside, any woman with a modicum of self-preservation instinct will make a break for the nearest exit. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that at first may seem benign, but when the problem compounds itself unabated, it can manifest into something dangerous.
This seemed like a person on the precipice of an emotional tipping point. But his issues are not my problem. What he needs isn’t sex, but a therapist. And I needed to extricate myself from whatever this was, without causing further damage (or endangering myself). If anything/ideally, maybe I could help?
“Everyone is unpacking their own trauma. It’s not fair to expect women to be your therapist, when they have to take care of themselves. We are all in various stages of putting our pieces back together.”
Then he asked about the story I’d told him the night before, about my pedophile cross country coach at Catlin Gabel. He asked to see pictures of me from that time, which I showed him, since there happened to be an old photo album in the bookcase by my bed. He thought I looked pretty, so he could see why an adult, married man might’ve fallen in love with me.
By now I had my back to him, so he wouldn’t see the tears streaming down my face.
He knew something had changed. He said, “You’re going to hate me now, I should’ve never asked the question about your coach.”
Thinking hard about my words I said, “I don’t hate you. And I think the dialogue is important.” Then I got out of bed. “I need to eat something before I get hangry.”
We went to breakfast, then he dropped me off. We never hung out again.