The greatest novel ever written about Hollywood is also the greatest novel ever written about incels: Nathanael West’s Day of the Locust. Published in 1937, it is a brilliant portrayal of a land that has forever been a refuge of perverts and pedophiles, of starlets and their pathetic hangers-on. The plot largely concerns the attempts of two men to engage with a wannabe starlet named Faye. In one of the book’s most pungent moments, Tod, a low-level hack who is madly in love with Faye, looks upon her with admiration and contemplates her destruction:
As he watched her, he felt sure that her lips must taste of blood and salt and that there must be a delicious weakness in her legs. His impulse wasn’t to aid her to get free, but to throw her down in a soft, warm mud and to keep her there. He expressed some of his desire in a grunt….Nothing less violent than rape would do. The sensation he felt was like that he got when holding an egg in his hand. Not that she was fragile or even seemed fragile. It wasn’t that. It was her completeness, her egglike self-sufficiency, that made him want to crush her.
The rancid mixture of male inadequacy, female exploitation, and celluloid trash are perfectly displayed throughout the novel. At first it might seem odd to craft a tale of such hopeless losers against the backdrop of old Hollywood. But West understood that the motion picture industry exists in large part to inflame male desires, and to exploit poor losers like Tod and his buddy Homer. Hollywood has always been a magnet for perverts because its trade has always been in perversion and the exploitation of men’s desire, a desire which, because of the mismatch of animal lust and celluloid fantasy, must always remain unrequited. Mass media makes cuckolds of us all.
Of course, the divide between what is pleasing to the eye and true sensuality has grown through the decades. Not only are we barraged by a thousand different forms of visual media, but every woman, through her Instagram account, has the potential to be a starlet, and through her Patreon, the power to be her own brothel.
Our modern obsession with sodomy arises from this divide. Man’s lusts are now mediated through visual media, and his conceptions of sex have been so distorted, that the average man cannot conceive of sexual pleasure without recourse to the most brazen, disgusting, and often physically impossible acts he has seen a thousand times on film. Taken individually, the average man is more sexually deviant than all but the worst of the Roman emperors, yet because of his cruel dependence on images, he is largely alienated from his own carnal nature, a slave to his own rapacious eyes. Our rulers have exploited this subservience, and turned manipulation of the libido into a science; were it not for our obsession with silicone/human hybrids, our consumer economy would be significantly weakened. It’s not just that Western men are now little more than a brood of masturbating perverts; to the extent that perversion has been written into the social fabric, we are dependent on this state.
It is against this background we that must analyze the incel—the involuntary celibate. It behooves us to stay in Southern California, for it was here that Elliot Rodger, the Incel of Incels, killed six before killing himself. Rodger, the son of a Hollywood hack, has become the face of incels. The term, once limited in use to weird corners of the internet, began to appear in mainstream media outlets as they latched onto the (alleged) comment found on Alek Minassian’s Facebook page before he plowed a van through a crowded Toronto walkway: “All Hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”
Murder in America only has meaning when it can be found to serve some political purpose. Given the high rate of our mass shootings, one might think the Incel Question is bound to vanish soon. But I highly doubt this is the case. The Incel Question deals with problems which our modern regime has claimed to have solved. Yes, the regime exploits our sex drives for shallow commerce, but in return it gives us a vast array of consumer goods, plentiful fodder for onanism, and the eternal hope of a long bedpost full of notches. And yet here are the incels, a sizeable class of people who have no success with women, who are not content with onanism and cheap goods to satisfy them, whose needs are most manifestly not being met, and whose complaints about this failure are met with little but scorn.
It is crucial to recognize the incel is himself a product of the neoliberal order. His chosen designation of “involuntary” highlights that at the very center of his self-conception is a lack of free will—one cannot be an involuntary celibate by his own choice. The incel is generally irreligious, largely amoral, and materially shallow. In this way he differs little in philosophy or action from the average young man in our atheistic empire. The difference is that he is not content with the pittance given to him.
It is for this reason that the incel is a threat to the system itself, not primarily from the possible violence he might commit, but because he shows the neoliberal regime cannot exist without a sizeable population of men which the regime cannot satisfy. Many groups exist which oppose the neoliberal order—white nationalists, socialists, etc.—yet they generally operate on philosophies apart from the liberal persuasion. The incel is bred and conceives himself within the terms of the system, and yet the system vomits him out. The incel is the scum on the top of our over-sexed yet sexless brew of nobodies against which the regime can do nothing but skim it off the top. It is for this reason the incel cannot but remain in its sights, to be derided, ostracized, castigated, destroyed.
In discussing incels, it is convenient to refer back to Elliot Rodger, the young murderer whose videos and manifesto, My Twisted World, helped articulate the mindset of the incel like no other. His hatred for women arose out of no particularly strange obsession, but out of a kind of anger and resentment every man has felt, though his to a much greater degree. There was an almost childlike purity to Eliot Rodger’s obsessions. His opinions on women and humanity were vile, but they were honest, vulnerable, and pathetic. One wishes, in reading his manifesto, that a bright, loving young man was hidden somewhere beneath the shallow, hateful egoist driven to murder. But there is none. His manifesto is banal. There are no really great insights into relations between men and women, there are no redeeming features to Elliot himself, no epiphany where he resolves to cast away his own shallowness, or unites himself to higher values or a better version of himself. He is never more than a clear-eyed adolescent.
We learn Elliot’s very existence on earth was “an accident.” His mother “had been taking pills to prevent pregnancy, but when she visited my father on one of his film sets, she fell ill and the medication she took for that illness thwarted the effect of the anti-pregnancy pills, and so their lovemaking during this period resulted in my life.” After the birth of a daughter, his parents divorced. Elliot always resented that his mother would not remarry, not because he wanted a father figure, but because it limited the availability of easy money, which Elliot, rightly or wrongly, saw as essential to attracting a woman: “If only my damnable mother had married into wealth instead of being selfish. If only my failure of a father had made better decisions with his directing career instead wasting his money on that stupid documentary.”
There is no psychic break in Elliot’s thinking; we see through the manifesto only the progress of his rapacious desires and an inability to fulfil them. He knows all too well what he wants and what he hates, and given these facts, there was no reason for him not to commit his atrocity. If insanity means acquiescence to the social system, then Elliot was insane. But if sanity means irrationality, or delusionality, or the loss of reality, we have to concede that Elliot was incredibly sane, and saw the world in stark clarity. He problem is that he saw nothing beyond it.
Physically, it is important to note Elliot’s Asiatic features. As much as critics might like to make incels out as white supremacists, the problem disproportionately affects men of Asian descent. Those controlling immigration policy are greedy for the labor of Indians and Orientals, and in return, they have become two of the wealthiest groups ever to have trod the North American continent. But economic success has in no way translated into the romantic realm. Asians have been welcomed into the white man’s halls of power, but white women have not let them in their beds.
It’s also impossible to ignore Elliot’s near-divinization of sex. It would be unfair to say that the incel is concerned only with sex. Anyone who spends time on incel boards will run across men sweet and sincere in their desire for love, for children, for recognition from the world. But it is appropriate to focus on the incel’s relation to sex, not because the incel is shallow, but because the incel has not wholly departed from the true nature of sex, and rejects the merely commercialized version of it meant to control our tastes and desires. Though the incel is a materialist, he hasn’t forgotten that sex is about more than pleasure, but has a psychic importance that nothing else in our insipid society can replicate.
And it is important to remember that for Elliot, romantic conquest was never purely about sex. “The Day of Retribution is mainly my war against women for rejecting me and depriving me of sex and love.” Sex and love are intrinsically united in Elliot’s desires. Presumably Elliot could have had a prostitute, yet he derided the idea of prostitution: “It temporarily feels good for the moment, but afterward it makes one feel like a pathetic loser for having to hire a girl when other men could get the experience for free.”
Elliot could have gone to a prostitute because anyone can attend a prostitute. But the common prescription to incels—that they just need to “get laid”—is fatuous. It comes from people who have already found sexual satisfaction. Almost no man could be happy knowing that the only intercourse he has is with a woman for hire. A whore may be adequate for a fling, for a quick betrayal of the wife, but a man’s sexuality is united with his power as a man. To be forced to acknowledge that women have no use for it outside remunerative transactions is a huge blow against one’s manhood and one’s place in the order of nature. Elliot shared a sentiment with Othello: “I would rather be a toad, and live upon the vapour of a dungeon, than keep a corner in the thing I love for others’ use.”
Ross Douthat, in one of the few sensible pieces on incels in the mainstream media, refers to the coming genesis of realistic sex robots as a possible remedy to the incel crisis. Yet I can’t help thinking this would not greatly change the dynamic. The incel has already expressed his dissatisfaction with pornography, with whores, with rudimentary sex dolls. Perhaps artificial intelligence will change this, and provide the incel with something previous balms have been lacking. But even this, I think, will fall short in actually replacing the psychic and social significance of sexual relations. There is a reason there is no “casual sex” amongst healthy people; it can become a form of exploitation or a true unity, but not as some lukewarm middle state. Le petit mort is one of the few heroic, ruinous experiences a modern man is still afforded, and I doubt the incel will be happy with the Potemkin version of it.
Our modern contraceptive mindset has worked to destroy the danger and significance of sex. To look at our modern commercial society, breasts and buttocks everywhere displayed, an alien race would think we engaged in sex as if it were a handshake. Sex is not the force that drove Othello to murder, that drove Dido to self-immolation. The Incel realizes that sex is something more than a pleasurable nicety. It grounds his person in a different mode of reality, one completely divorced from the meaningless titillation that provides a motor to modern commercial life. Again, incels are not necessarily entirely devoid of romance. But the desire for sex is the desire for a taste of power and immortality, against which all other material endeavors pale.
But the regime cannot allow man to separate himself from sexual fatuousness. A man who understands sex’s role in family formation might be more avid in discovering why wages have not risen since the 1970s; he might question our current path of industrialization, which threatens to make a majority of laborers obsolete; he might question the decay of his neighborhoods and schools. Such facts would cloud his desire to consume, or at least to make his consumption independent on the vile corporate forces which control most everything which enters his gut and brain.
The incel is not some purveyor of traditional sex roles or bastion of sexual morality. But his dissatisfaction shows the failure of the regime to align material success to our innermost desires. In this way, the incel finds himself, inadvertently, standing at a position all but ceded by the Church and society at large, which have embraced the sterile, contraceptive version of sex and thereby the subjugation that must necessarily follow.
It is impossible to divorce our modern obsession with contraception and sodomy from the other signs of our societal collapse: The suicidal birthrates, of course, but also the acquiescence to our demographic replacement, to our handing over the next generation to a coterie of drag queens and other predators. “Sex is a mystery” as Dietrich von Hildebrand said, one which unites man’s present lusts to his most noble hopes for the future. Sex is dangerous because life is dangerous, and all attempts to emasculate sex serve to neuter life of its importance. The unhappy incel still has some awareness of this fact. And it is for this reason, above all else, that he must be crushed.
But no matter how much one may try to apologize for the incel, one must confront his misogyny. Sir Elliot wanted women put in camps and killed. There’s no reasonable defense for this type of opinion, but then again, the incel is not claiming to be reasonable. Harold Bloom posits that Othello and Desdemona have never consummated their relationship at the start of the play. Such an interpretation—Othello as incel—helps frame the incel problem: A man (of non-European descent) of innate significance spurned in romance, and taunted by its sickening and overwhelming power. His resulting pride, rage, and violence, cannot be justified, but they also cannot be understood independently of the meddling Iago at the eaves.
To put it another way: In 2020 there will be 30 million more men than women of marriageable age. This has and will lead to great social strife—madness and rage amongst a large group of men. It is very clear why and how that sex disparity arose, while in the West, we are ruled more subtly—we have murdered our babies and distorted our sex relations, but by means of carrots, not of sticks. Through the Western method, the plotters of our doom are always offstage, allowing the players to think they are moving themselves.
It is far easier to begin by blaming women for our misery because, as Camille Paglia reminds us, but as everyone already knows, young women have more sexual power than men. This is the reason they raise the ire of incels, who see themselves as the victim of this power used wantonly. “Cruel treatment from women is ten times worse than from men,” as Sir Elliot said. But complaints about female duplicity and misuse of their power over men are as old as the human race. The incel’s rage must first be laughed at before it can be substantively addressed; it comes from naivety about women and a psychic weakness that, while understandable, is something must just learn to live with. We are a fallen race, and we fell because of a woman’s treachery. At some point you just have to be a man about it.
This is not easy. As a recent trash piece in The Guardian noted, our literature is replete with men, Gatsbys and Pips, who are entranced and emasculated by their cruel Daisys and Estellas. Ours is certainly not the first age when social productivity and virtue have not been aligned with romantic success. And yet in some polygamous Eastern tyranny, the incel would at least have had the benefit of knowing his place, and been able to acclimate himself accordingly into a priesthood or eunuchdom. Our sexual regime does not allow the incel to acclimate because our regime is never at rest. Nothing can be allowed in our regime but sustained chaos, one which consistently keeps the relationship between the sexes in flux, which is always able to toss the old form aside to seek new forms of subordination and degradation when it so requires. This sustained chaos is called feminism.
The modern woman is in a state roughly as pathetic as the incel. Her power is greater, but this means only that her sacrifice to the regime is larger when she is treated like scum. If anyone took feminism seriously, one might ask why an ideology which asks women to spend the sexual and personal power of their first youth on useless education and commerce, and cedes all her fruits to the welfare state that raises her children and the pharmaceutical companies that keep her from suicide, can seriously be said to advance the interests of women. Like the modern man, the modern woman has no idea of her native powers outside the celluloid and silicone conception of them; just as few know what power they have tossed away.
To treat feminists seriously is to do them a great disservice, for like all liberal ideologies, feminism exists to do the exact opposite of what it claims to want to accomplish. I had heard a recent New Yorker piece by Jia Tolentino was more sympathetic to incels than most, and the beginning of the piece does reach out to them, though not without a regular helping of historically illiterate feminism. (e.g. “Most American women now grow up understanding that they can and should choose who they want to have sex with.”) And yet the twenty-nine-year-old, and self-identified “roastie” can’t resist the need to put on a crop-top and short-shorts and go walking the streets in attempt to figure out what her “life would look like through incel eyes.”
These attempts at high-mindedness are embarrassing and hilarious—they reminded me of Lindsay Bluth cage-dancing in opposition to the war. Tolentino relays some of the deprecation she could expect to receive from the incel, but she has no ability to judge it against any objective state of reality from which the insults might have arisen. She sees no contradiction in trying to be taken serious as a write, yet making oblique references to her genitals. Not to be too hard on Miss Tolentino. But such idiocy is recognizable in almost all professional women who do not take a moral effort to suppress it. Intellectual mediocrity and moral depravity, obfuscated by egotism—this is really all there is to feminist exegesis, and yet it is posited as the highest point to which the female intellect might rise. Incels’ hatred of women arises partly out of resentment of their innate power, but even more out of their gross sexual habits, intellectual obtuseness, and their ultimate complacency towards the casting away of pearls richer than the tribe.
The final irony about incels is that they have a fundamentally higher view of women than modern women have about themselves. For all his hatred, the incel is at least aware that modern women are throwing away something precious in their behavior, and emasculating themselves in intellect and heart, encouraged to have no awareness of their objective state in life, or that any such state exists at all. Meanwhile, women despise the elements of their womanhood not conducive to men’s pornographic pleasure. They shave their pubic hair, mutilate their pudenda, despise the effects of childbirth, and contort their maternal impulses towards serving the state—witness the army of elementary teachers, social workers, youth ministers, medical caretakers: motherhood grafted onto the technostate. If women were to reassert the rights they have had since Eve, our regime would break down. But they don’t. Why not?
The incel is full of hate, but he is responding to a system that runs on irrationality and hatred. The hatred felt by incels is towards something that is itself hateful. We criticize the incel for his resentment, but what the incel wants through violence the cad seeks through his wiles and the young woman through her body; yet all have the same goal of exploiting one another. Everything the incel sees is hatred. Where would the incel turn to find otherwise? What major element of American society is not motivated by unbridled greed and the desire for exploitation? We defile others and we are defiled. The harlot exploits the onanist and the onanist exploits the harlot, and the regime suggests that all should embrace this. We are spiritual corpses, enlivened only by our delusions.
But it is still the incel who is alone with himself in the end. He is full of hatred, but so is the rest of the population. He is only more honest and brave than his fellow proles, enslaved and turned into liars by pills and pornography as they are. The least we can do is show compassion. But the only people who can feel empathy for the surplus population, these people so blinded by materialism, are those who realize the worth in every soul, and their cosmic importance independent of material or romantic success. But incel’s predicament on earth is intolerable. And so the incels are lodged in a place of impossible despair and sadness. They share a predicament with Homer, the other incel in Day of the Locust:
Only those who still have hope can benefit from tears. When they finish, they feel better. But to those without hope, like Homer, whose anguish is basic and permanent, no good comes from crying. Nothing changes for them. They usually know this, but still can’t help crying.
There is little hope out of the web that has so completely convinced men and women into accepting their sterile servitude. The incel is a native element the regime has not been able to stifle or satisfy, and is therefore its greatest threat. But this doesn’t change his position, languishing in our empire of hatred.