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Incels, in-groups, and ideologies: The representation of gendered social actors in a sexuality-based online community

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/09/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Language and Sexuality
Issue number2
Number of pages27
Pages (from-to)152-178
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date7/09/20
<mark>Original language</mark>English


We present a study of the online forum Reddit, specifically a sub-forum for (typically heterosexual) men who identify as involuntary celibates or ‘incels’. Incels are an online imagined community/community of practice who wish to, but do not, have sexual relations with women. Owing to this identity, they view themselves as non-normative within broader society and see women and societal standards of masculinity as the cause of their problems.
In this paper, we take a small corpus of 67,000 words generated from 50 threads created, and commented on, by incels. We analyse keywords, word frequencies, and concordance lines to explore the representation of gendered social actors. Keyword analysis reveals that references to gendered social actors are particularly salient within this community, leading to an analysis of all such social actors in the corpus. The findings suggest that incels position different groups of men in a hierarchy in which conventionally attractive men occupy the top position. Notably, we find that female social actors are not placed in a similar hierarchy. An additional appraisal analysis of the most frequently occurring male and female social actors shows that men are judged as incapacitated while women are seen as immoral, dishonest and capable of hurting men. Members of the online community also seem preoccupied with physical attractiveness.
The study opens up a number of avenues for future research, especially into the complexities with which members of non-normative heterosexual groups simultaneously orient to and reject social norms.