It was the end of April 2018 and a white van had just mowed down a lot of pedestrians in Toronto.
As a journalist,I followed the reporting of the attack – which led to 11 dead and 15 injured – and stumbled across the word incel, used to describe the van’s driver, Alek Minassian, 28.
I had never heard the word before, so I googled it.
It led me to a forum, full of cheering men, celebrating Minassian’s murderous crimes. One of the first comments I was met with was: ‘I will drink a celebratory beer for each victim that turns out to be a woman between the age of 18-35’.
While families were burying their loved ones, the perpetrator had become a hero within the incel movement – it felt surreal.
Three years after Toronto, the UK would have its first lethal incel attack.
In 2021, Jake Davison, 22, shot dead five people in Plymouth – including his mother and a three-year-old girl. He then turned the gun on himself.
Davison held incel-related views and his massacre was celebrated on the incel forums he frequented, where he became a martyr. The traffic to incel-related forums increased sixfold in nine months.
I began todive into these forums, and of all the research I have done, as an author and journalist, this has been the worst – and darkest.
I have never encountered so much anger, frustration and violence than from the men who, shrouded in the light of their computer screens, share their hatred for women with the world.
Incel means involuntary celibacy. Men who self-identify as such often come together on internet forums to share their hatred of women who, they believe, deliberately deprive them of sex.
The language used is often extremely violent. Women are usually referred to as ‘femoids’. They are not seen as humans. In the best case scenario they are seen as objects, or, in the worst case, sex slaves and targets.
- Chads: Attractive men
- Staceys: Attractive women
- Becky: A normally attractive woman
- Normies: Normal people
- To go ER: To do an Elliot Rodger. Mass Shooting
- Black Pill: The moments an incel realises he is an incel
- Bonesmashing: To hurt yourself in the face, along the jaws, to make them grow
- Femoid: Derogatory word for women.
- Wristcels: A person thinking he is an Incel for his thin wrists.
Terrorist groups rarely refer to their targets as humans. For example, ISIS is said to refer to Westerners as adulterers, imperialists and pigs – all as a way to make it easier for their supporters to physically harm and kill.
Some incels are advocating for state run rape camps, since they believe men have the right to sex.
Others speak of joining ISIS for the possibility of getting sex slaves. Some admit to rape, or attempted rape.
Others, who hold management roles, tell stories of how they try to break women down in their workplace. They praise mass shootings and often share their fantasies of violence: dreams of raping, beating and torturing women.
Incels have murdered as many as 50 people in different attacks in the US and Canada between the years of 2014 and 2021 alone. And there are a lot of incels in our world – and the number is rising.
I think incel numbers are growing as Western society has progressed away from traditional gender stereotypes and where women are experiencing economic and sexual freedom.
These women are no longer having to rely on husbands to meet their needs, and having a partner is no longer the necessity to a woman that it once was.
My home country, Sweden, is not just ABBA, Kurt Wallander and IKEA. We are also the country with the most incels in relation to population, according to a comprehensive analysis of the user bases at global incel forums.
Roughly 5% of these users come from Sweden, a country of 10.4 million. Why that is so, I can only speculate. But I would assume that it is a reaction to our early feminist progress.
One survey – following 900 000 Swedish women – shows that an increased economic income for a woman in a relationship, also increases the risk for her to become a victim of domestic violence.
This phenomenon is referred to as the backlash effect. One of the answers the scientists came up with is that the traditional balance of power within the relationship is thrown overboard.
The growing number of men who identify as incels in Sweden is what prompted me to write my novel, Femicide, which is set in Stockholm.
In my novel, three women are found murdered, and at first it looks like an uncomplicated investigation. It seems as if they are victims of domestic violence, until circumstances start pointing towards the incel movement.
But, as the data shows, this alarming community is growing everywhere, so it could just as easily have been set in London or any other city in the UK – or the world.
As an author of crime fiction, I – of course – want to entertain people with a gripping story. But I hope that Femicide can serve another purpose, too, by helping to raise awareness of this growing threat to women everywhere.
Now is not the time to remain silent, this danger is very real and it affects us all.
Femicide by Pascal Engman will be published in the UK by Legend Press on 22nd September.
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