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Photo by Alexandre Croussette on Unsplash

After the attacks by Elliot Rodger and Alek Minassian, the world began to ask, “What are incels?” Reactions ranged from incredulous to furious to sympathetic.

I knew incels.

Maybe they didn’t identify that way, but I knew men who felt entitled to sex and believed that they had been targeted by feminists to live a sexless existence. I knew men who had a permanent disgust for women, who believed them to be worthless, who felt that they did not nothing but hurt men. They abided me because I shared enough of their hobbies — largely male-stereotypical such as geekdom and games.

When they learned I was a feminist, they turned on me. My turned on me. Their hatred of feminists overcome their affection for someone they’d spent hours with.

I would have helped them if I could. I’m no one to give dating advice, having failed at dating most of my life, but I would have tried. But I was the enemy because I felt that women didn’t owe men sex. Because I felt that women were unfairly blamed for the world’s ills, demonized as liars and manipulators.

Now before you commenters descend with cries of, “But why do you hate men?!”… I fucking . I love men. I have dear male friends. My partner is a man. My is a man. And I respect the work of many men. I simply don’t think that anyone owes anyone else sex or companionship or the time of fucking day, honestly.

Hatred is what have. Spend some time in their world and you see what blind hatred for half the world’s population looks like.

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This is hatred.

It’s hard to date. Believe me, I know. I wasn’t quite an incel (speaking literally), but I was feeling pretty consistently rejected for years. Indeed, the word “incel” was coined by a woman. I think women are used to rejection. We’re used to men viewing us as objects, playing with our hearts to whet their sexual appetites, then mocking us as “crazy” when we dare call one too many times.

The issue is that many men are taught that women only respond to romance and that they have sex with them if they feel praised and worshiped. They’re taught that women don’t sex, but will give it as a reward for good treatment. Incels or not, men are taught this by movies, by dating websites, by songs, by their parents and friends.

Women are taught the same: we’re told to shape up, literally and figuratively, if we want a good man. We’re told to accommodate his endless sexual appetite or he’ll cheat.

So what about women with high sex drives? Sluts. Men with low sex drives? Losers. True love? Involves earth-shattering, candlelit sex. Toxic love? Even better.

This is how people in the Western world think about relations between men and women. And it’s not feminists’ fault. Feminists want the “sensitive” man who loves walks on the beach to be as for his sexuality as the “macho” man who feels entitled to women’s bodies is for his attitude. Feminists want the “slutty” woman to not be shamed while the promiscuous man is praised. Feminists want sex and love to be balanced and unambiguous, not a clusterfuck of rules and rituals that leaves one party feeling used and broken while the other feels only temporarily fulfilled in some arbitrary gender role.

I knew incels. They were largely in the “geek” community…indeed, they played Dungeons and Dragons with me. I was the only woman, most times we played. They were candid in front of me. They talked about how evil women were, how they’d led them on by walking in front of them, how they only wanted their (small amount of) money. Even the most “sensitive” of all of them fell into this line of thinking. He told me once how much his friend enjoyed Dragon*Con, because girls fell over themselves for him and his money. “All he has to do is get them totally drunk, and they have sex with him,” he sighed, as though it were some great moral tragedy.

It was, but not for the reasons he thought. In no universe is it actually okay to get someone drunk and take advantage of them, no matter what genders are involved. The only way money came into it is that the predator had enough money to buy all his victims alcohol.

This friend frequently moaned that girls he knew only liked “nice guys.” I suppose I became one of those girls. I suspected he liked me and wanted to be more than friends, but it was hard to know what to say when he never confessed it. And I was dating a fellow “nice guy.” When I broke up with my boyfriend and started having relationship troubles, I sensed my friend’s attitude changed. He rolled his eyes when I talked about my trouble finding someone.

He never once confessed his feelings to me, and how could I possibly bring them up if I wasn’t going to confess the same?

He bought into the narrative, now reified in incels’ literature, that women only respond to “bad boys.” And somehow this is feminism’s fault.

Let me make something clear: Women do fall for bad boys. And men fall for bad girls. And this is because bad people are often expert manipulators.

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Yes, because women love being abused.

But this didn’t stop another friend of mine from insisting that feminism caused women to think of themselves as victims.

“You can’t even talk to women anymore,” he moaned. “These women who cry rape or whatever, they just want attention.”

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Speaking of a victim mentality…

Despite the fact that false rape reports don’t exceed false reports of any other crime, incels and men’s rights activists alike insist that it’s a huge problem. And it feeds into what they perceive as their biggest problem: women as a whole are ruined. The saddle-shoe-, poodle-skirt-wearing girl is gone and the catsuit-wearing one has taken her place…but the ending of is not appealing to incels. They don’t want an empowered woman — and that’s the key to their hatred of feminists.

Being empowered means you tolerate less bullshit in dating, it’s true. But make no mistake…even as a “raging feminist,” I played the game, much to my own heartbreak. I fell for it when men played me. I totally did say fuck you to the patriarchy and adorned myself in makeup and jewels thinking that’s what I needed to do to find a boyfriend and be happy. (, Rachel. Bad!)

My incel friends did not feel sorry for me. They felt sorry for themselves. To them, sex with me would have made everything better. They looked down on me for being too stupid to see it. They were half right…I was stupid. But sleeping with them would have solved exactly nothing.

To solve these problems between men and women, we must rid ourselves of the expectations — the expectations — and the obstacle course-cum-sex reward of the dating game. No more should we expect that dinner=sex, that sex=love, that love=forever. Most importantly, we should remember that no. one. is. entitled. to. sex.

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Writer by day, circus artist by night. I write about art, media, culture, health, science, and where they all meet. Join my list:

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