Mr. Minassian is obviously a deeply troubled individual. And mass murder is driven by a variety of psychological factors. But much of Mr. Minassian’s trouble seems to have been fueled or exacerbated by the frustration and shame that accompanied his lack of sexual contact with women. This would have made him feel unfulfilled and indignant, and also weak and unmanly. The sense of shame from not being able to perform a culturally approved sex role may be a key to understanding his murderous rage. It may also be another thread connecting him to other violent actors whose ideology is different from his own, yet whose actions are similar. It is not difficult to spot parallels with the world of jihadism, where women and sex are similarly fixated on to an extraordinary degree.Of course this is notoriously true of jihadists, whose veering between naked lust and puritanical religion has excited comment for decades.
Among those who identify with the “incel” movement, there is a pathological fixation on sex and women, and there is a self-pitying perception that everyone else, except the community of “incels,” is having sex. Women are craved, but they are also reviled for what the incels believe is their selective promiscuity: They seem to be having sex with everyone but them. This is internalized as a grave personal insult. The function of the “incel” movement is to transform that personal grievance into an ideology that casts women as despicable sexual objects.
The core emotion that animates “incels” is sexual shame. It’s not just that these men are sexually frustrated; it’s that they are ashamed of their sexual failure. At the same time, they are resentful of the sexual success of others, which amplifies their own sense of inadequacy. This explains why they gravitate toward an online subculture that strives to rationalize their shame and redirect the blame for their failure onto women.
In my experience, the fastest way to make a woman angry is to hint that women are somehow to blame for all this: if only some woman had loved this man and taken care of his physical needs, we wouldn't be in this mess. Which, let me emphasize, is NOT what I am going to say.
What I am going to say is that the emergence of a mass class of lonely, angry young men is a serious problem for our society. Young men are dangerous; young men without women in their lives are especially dangerous. Ancient warrior societies (Spartans, Zulus, Comanches) often separated their young warriors from their families and their wives to keep their battle fierceness razor sharp. That fierceness would be refined through group loyalty, competition, and stories of past heroes, the whole generation shaped into a terrible fighting machine for the nation.
The way to domesticate men is to get them married and settled into households where relationships with their wives and children assume the greatest importance. When do young gang-bangers leave their gangs? When they get married.
The danger of our time is that all-male internet groups will fill the role of the ancient war band: providing an echo chamber where male pride and rage can be reflected back on itself until it reaches the level of a scream.
Not so long ago, when a young woman got pregnant, the pressure of the families was exerted to get the couple to marry. This, it was felt, would both solve the immediate problem and provide a path into adulthood for the couple: the responsibilities of parenthood and couplehood would stabilize them, and the father, however dubious he appeared, would be tamed by marriage and apply himself to manhood in a proper way. But if you've ever seen Teen Mom, you know this is no longer the case; these days the teen mom's parents are more likely to recoil in horror from the baby daddy and try if possible to exclude him completely from the picture.
Which is another side of the "incel" problem: we have all these young men that nobody wants to marry or even date, and nobody wants to have as a son-in-law, and who feel economically useless and politically voiceless. Who feel that they are not part of our society or anything else. In them the loneliness of modern mass society is concentrated in its most dangerous members.
I expect a lot more trouble from this disconnect, whether it takes the form of incel terrorism or something else. Because young men without sex, without women, without strong ties to the society around them, are a menace.