Celibacy, or the abandonment of all forms of sexual activities, can be voluntary, or involuntary. Involuntary celibates (or ‘incels' for short) are defined as those who find themselves without a partner by choice, and in some cases, even without any prospects for one. People who identify as incels face unique challenges when it comes to their mating psychology. This article delves into the incel's struggles, from self-perception to mate preferences and mind-reading biases, to improve our understanding of this little-understood segment of society.
Incels often see themselves as victims of circumstances rather than prime love prospects. In their eyes, they're undeserving of the attention they seek, and thus they don't put forth the effort to attract romantic partners. Their worldview is built on an entrenched belief that their perceived "ugliness" and lack of skill leads to being totally undesirable — a perspective, it should be noted, that has been consistently debunked through various studies examining the importance and relative influence of physical attractiveness alone in modern-day relationships.
The reality is that many incels have never had the chance to experience unconditional love and emotional support, which has left them isolated and discouraged. They're aware of the limitations of their situation but may feel hesitant to open up about it out fear of being judged or further ostracized. Unable to enable healthy connection with others, many incels resort to an internal monologue rooted in self-doubt and unworthiness that fuels their disconnection from potential mates.
In terms of mate preferences, incels' vastly lowered standards contribute to the difficulty of making a meaningful connection. Despite often being of average or above-average intelligence and good character, they'll settle for anyone who shows an interest in them no matter how inappropriately matched they are. In such cases, conducting thorough evaluations of a prospective partner appears to be too intimidating or time-consuming task. There's also the risk of rejection, which taps into much deeper feelings of insecurity that are too unappealing to confront again.
To cope with these imagined rejections and emotional setbacks, incels may rely heavily upon mental filters which they believe will protect them from attack. These mind-reading biases serve as a form of defense mechanism in which they establish hypothetical truths and validations intended to soften their emotional wounds, even if they're based more in fantasy than reality. For example, instead of acknowledging their own relationship shortcomings, incels may blame their single status on the opposite gender – likely arising from a long-ingrained attitude reinforced by their peers and fostered by social media networks that are often dominated by negative and biased ideas about sexuality.
We can see how adopted mindsets and acceptable mate standards may hinder a successful search for mates among members of the involuntary celibate community. Since many do not possess strong coping skills or knowledge about developing healthy relationships, empathy for this population is needed along with greater education and awareness about alternative lifestyles as well as guidance on cultivating meaningful connections with other equally lonely singles.