Women who refuse sex are not responsible for men committing rape, violence and even murder, argues Lucy Mangan.
Good morning, murderers! Yes, you. If you’re reading this on your commute, please alight at the next stop and hand yourself in to the nearest police station. Because in the eyes of certain messed-up men, if you refuse sex you could be responsible for them committing rape, violence and even murder.
Confused? A brief look at the unsavoury world of self-proclaimed ‘incels’ should, alas, enlighten you.
‘Incel’ stands for ‘involuntary celibate’, and men who define themselves as such can be found posting misogynistic rants on the internet. And some of their vitriol has spread into the real world. Alek Minassian, the alleged driver of the van that recently ploughed into pedestrians in Toronto, killing 10, was a member of this community that habitually fills its forums with hate-filled diatribes about women who – given ‘ideas and power above their station’ by feminism and legislation – exercise sexual autonomy. The most commonly proffered solution is mass-rape but Minassian hailed the start of the “incel rebellion” and upgraded to real-life murder. He follows in the footsteps of Elliot Rodger who shot dead six people in Santa Barbara, California, four years ago, and explained that it was in retaliation for women depriving him of sex.
It’s all horrifying. And perhaps what’s most horrifying is that it’s so familiar. It is just the most extreme manifestation of the self-preserving thought that many women have in their heads from the moment they become sexually active: that if we say no to the advances of this or that man, there is a risk – slight but calculable – that he may hurt or kill us. Now, it seems, we must also factor the potential risk to others.
This is where the ingrained belief in society has historically held in men’s inalienable right to sex, and women’s existence as ambulant vessels for male needs, gets us. It’s the thick end of the wedge that begins with the likes of a date who once told me, when I explained that I was vaginally off-limits, he would “let me off” with a blow job. We had, after all, been kissing. He had an erection. This, he felt, quite literally could not be allowed to stand.
What we might call the ‘blue balls’ philosophy of life explains the bizarre readiness by some to excuse Minassian. It explains the media and social media prevalence of questions like, “Why don’t incels just use prostitutes?” (as if offering sex workers as subhuman devices for lethal men to expend their energies on is a valid solution). And it explains why one article about the Golden State Killer – a serial rapist and murderer in the Seventies and Eighties whom US police believe they have finally captured – described his ex-fiancée as “the woman who broke his heart” and “sparked his rape and murder spree”.
Invert the roles. Imagine if women felt so entitled to have sex – whenever and with whoever they wanted – that any curtailment of this felt like an outrage? Imagine if men who hadn’t been able to attract a sexual mate were urged by a million comments, programmes and classes to mould their bodies into something that women would like more, instead of the other way around. Imagine Bridget Jones beating someone up instead of checking her calorie count again because she hadn’t got any lately.
It’s unthinkable, isn’t it? Yet some see blue balls as a justifiable motive for murder. The culture that breeds this mindset – that begins with men offering to let you off with a blow job and can end in a murder that is somehow all women’s fault – is what we need to kill.
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