Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Feminist Formations, Vol. 32 No. 3 (Winter) pp. 145–172. doi:10.1353/ff.2020.0044


Copyright ©2020 Feminist Formations. Published by Johns Hopkins University Press. Used by permission.


Incel, the now-widely circulated portmanteau for involuntary celibacy, denotes a growing community of mostly cisgender men who are unable to find sexual partners or forge romantic relationships. Organizing in online networks, these men blame their exile from sexual relations on everything from feminism and sexual liberation to genetics and natural laws of attraction. In this essay, we offer an asexual critique of compulsory sexuality in online incel communities to illustrate how the sexual imperatives that animate fascism and the politics of the alt-right rest on myths of an insatiable male sex drive. We argue that incel discourse repurposes liberal conceptions of sexual liberation as well as alternative theories of intimacy crafted by queer and asexual communities to advance an abject and fascist form of masculinity. Rather than understand incels as sexually repressed and unable to assimilate hegemonic masculinity, we theorize incel discourse as a white militant extension of compulsory sexuality that transforms alternative intimacies into violent masculinist fantasies of invulnerability and the sexual will-to-power. Content warning: this essay examines potentially traumatizing discourses concerning sexual assault, racial violence, and discriminatory beliefs. Please read with caution.