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Researchers inform Members of Parliament that there may be tens of thousands of incels in the UK

The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee is currently gathering evidence on research into Britain’s incel culture.

Based on the findings of the largest global research on the subculture, an academic stated that there could be “tens of thousands” of individuals self-identifying as incels in Britain.

This investigation stems from concerns about the potential involvement of incel culture in misogynistic and other violent activities.

The hearing highlighted instances such as the Plymouth shooting in August 2021, where the gunman identified as an incel, as well as a life sentence given to a former GCHQ worker for targeting a woman associated with the U.S. National Security Agency, citing an “incel” lifestyle.
Researchers from Swansea University provided insights from their study on incels, indicating that 561 individuals—199 from Britain and 362 from the U.S.—participated in their research, making it the largest global study on incels.

According to Andrew Thomas, a senior lecturer at Swansea University, it is challenging to determine the exact number of British men who identify as incels, but many participate in online incel forums, including Reddit sub-groups.

During the committee session, references were made to the “Hope, Cope or Rope” strategy commonly used by incels to cope with their situation. Additionally, discussion arose around the presence of female incels (“femcels”) and the concept of “insings,” referring to women who opt out of relationships.

A courtroom sketch of Joshua Bowles appearing at London's Westminster Magistrates' Court in London on Mar. 16, 2023. (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Joe Whittaker, a lecturer at Swansea University, highlighted the belief within incel culture that feminism and sexual freedom have contributed to a “mating crisis” for men. The study also revealed that mental health issues were prevalent among incels, with a significant number experiencing suicidal thoughts.

The researchers noted a potential link between incel culture and far-right ideologies, although most incels identified as politically centre-left. However, those who condoned violence against those perceived to cause harm to incels tended to align more with the centre-right politically.

Furthermore, a third of the incels who participated in the study showed traits consistent with the autism spectrum. Responding to the findings, the Commissioner for Countering Extremism described incels as a marginalized group of men dealing with desperation and depression.

While recognizing the seriousness of the issue, it was emphasized that viewing incel culture through a counter-terrorism lens might not be the most effective approach. Calls were made for stricter regulations on online platforms to curb the spread of incel content and prevent further tragedies like the Plymouth shootings.

In light of these discussions, a report following the Plymouth shootings highlighted shortcomings in the handling of firearms licenses, indicating a lack of diligence by officers in assessing applications.

PA Media contributed to this report.

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