Joshua Heath | How to Fix the Incels

Joshua Heath commentary

One of my biggest principles is the following: In order to make progress, you have to love the hell out of people, not judge them.  

A cursory glance at history shows our smartest leaders have always understood this. It is what powered the moral force of the civil rights movement. Southern whites didn’t deserve the goodness of a Martin Luther King Jr., but he knew that if he presented his message with negativity and anger, he would get nowhere.  

Instead, the great man delivered a dream of brotherhood that was the logical opposite of the Jim Crow racial nightmare – and he inspired the nation to follow him to a better future.  

One of the problems with modern-day progressivism is we lack this sensibility. Too often our rhetoric, instead of being healing, ends up just making folks feel so much worse.  

The left’s response to the “incel” problem (“involuntary celibates”) is a case in point. Statistics show we have a large contingent of men, who for lack of a better word, aren’t having sex. Now the vast majority of these fellows are simply harmless dorks who just don’t know how to talk to girls. But at the extreme ends, some are genuinely violent psychopaths who take out their sexual frustration on innocent women.  

When you analyze the online forums where these guys hang out, a typical portrait of an incel emerges. We are talking about deeply mentally ill people suffering from disorders that lend themselves to social dysfunction: autism, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Asperger’s, etc. — and in particularly tragic cases they have multiple diagnoses at once.  

These folks were the third graders at recess who no one wanted to hang out with, the teenagers who couldn’t get their first kiss, and the college students walking across campus with their heads down — until they finally became 27-, 28-, 29-year old virgins wondering where in God’s name all the time went.  

It’s a desperate crowd, overwhelmed by thoughts of suicidal ideation and nihilism. As such people tend to do, the incels have formulated an absolutely deranged ideology as a way of solving their problems. They believe, in so many words, that it is the government’s job to implement policies to give them women to sleep with. How exactly this is to be done is not quite clear. A federal department of prostitutes? What would the application process for this benefit be like? Anyone who looks dorky enough immediately gets approved? How do you prevent overly sexed-up frat guys from posing as incels just to take advantage of the system for some taxpayer-subdized fun? 

Anyway, what’s relevant is that the whole concept is too crazy to be taken seriously, the product of minds on the verge of psychosis that have been warped by years of trauma and abuse.  

Progressives, however – instead of recognizing the obvious truth that we are dealing with a community that is deeply in need of critical mental health care – think it is more worthwhile to criticize the incels about their ideas.  

Here is a representative example of this attitude. These are the concluding paragraphs from a 2018 column in Cosmopolitan from noted feminist writer Moira Donegan: 

“The incels, of course, don’t see it that way. Their misogynist ideology views pleasure as a right (for men), and safety as only a privilege (for women). The logic of their call for an individual right to sex for men is that for men, pleasure — orgasmic pleasure, at that! — should be the baseline standard, and that for women, pain and violation are an acceptable baseline. This standard of living for men is simply too high, and its standard of treatment for women is far, far too low. Women are not interchangeable, we are not commodities, and we will not be ‘distributed’ against our will. The choice of who we have sex with will always be only our own.” 

Now, granted, every single word of that is undeniably correct. It is absurd to suggest that the government should provide women to hapless young men desperate for sex.  

But what’s also absurd – and counterproductive – is considering the incels’ belief system serious enough to deserve a negative column in a major national magazine. These folks are symptomatic from severe mental illness.  

Spending time harshly critiquing their philosophy is about as rational as attacking a schizophrenic for believing he has elves in his walls. When people are not well, you’re supposed to get them help, not engage in a debate. 

Furthermore, since we are dealing with a community of young men who feel they’ve been picked on since the beginning, is calling them evil really going to help here? 

Or is it more likely to validate their preexisting belief that they will never have a place in the world?  

The incels are angry and have crafted an immoral ideology as a way of dealing with that fact. But they are also human beings, just like you and me. And one universal truth is that people who are trapped in darkness don’t like being there.  

It’s not what anyone prefers. One stays in a bad place because they have convinced themselves there is nowhere else to go.  

What if, instead of condemning these deeply disturbed individuals, we embraced them? What if we reached back and hugged that 9-year-old boy who no one thought to befriend, and made him feel, for the first time, that he was OK?  

What if we gave a new story to the alienated, desperate 30-year-old and let him know that his situation, rather than being a source of shame, was a potential strength?  

More specifically, the dating scene is an absolutely desperate place for young women nowadays. The average millennial girl is bombarded with either offers for mindless hookups, or guys who want a relationship but lack the economic and emotional stability to be good providers.  

Under such circumstances, that virginal late bloomer who took the time to work on himself, go to therapy, get educated, and find decent employment would have plenty of romantic opportunities. The woman he ended up marrying would never shame him for his years of loneliness and deprivation. To the contrary, she would see that trauma as something sacred, like a great poem, since it formed the father of her children.  

When you’re dealing with people trapped in darkness, the last thing you should do is curse them, even if they deserve it.  

Instead, we must give the lost a path home again, back to the community, and a life full of happiness, joy and unstinted love. 

Joshua Heath is a Santa Clarita resident. “Democratic Voices” appears Tuesdays, and rotates among local Democrats. He can be reached at [email protected]

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