New Zealand’s intelligence agency has investigated the threat posed by involuntary celibate men. Image / Paul Slater
A group of young, angry men could pose a threat to New Zealand’s safety.
The country’s intelligence agency, the SIS, has confirmed to the Herald it has investigated men who describe themselves as involuntary celibates (incels).
Journalist Katie Harris tells the Front Page podcast that this comes off the back of a series of lone-wolf attacks in North America by young men who describe themselves as incels.
Elliot Rodger, who murdered seven people, and Alek Minassian, who had 10 victims, are among the most infamous killers to have emerged from this subculture.
“Right now, what we would think of as an involuntary celibate is largely a heterosexual man, who is fixated on their lack of success with women,” says Harris.
Harris says that they likely have never kissed a woman and tend to be fixated on looks above all else. Their thinking is ultimately underpinned by misogyny and the belief that men are in some way entitled to a partner.
“They have this idea of a golden era when a regular man would easily be able to find a wife, get married young, have a few kids and just have a fine life,” she says.
“They are idolising the 1950s and ’60s and thinking of it as this period of real prosperity.”
Incels often disdain feminism, which they blame for making life harder for men.
“The theory is that because of feminism and because women are going into the workplace, women now have options and we don’t actually have to get with someone to survive. There’s no real pressure to couple up.
“And as time has gone on, women have become more independent. Instead of seeing that as a positive and viewing it as an opportunity to step up and become a more appealing mate, they’ve gone in the opposite direction and got annoyed at the fact that women have these choices.”
Some influential figures, including pop psychologist Jordan Peterson, have stepped in to defend incels, often arguing that their behaviour is largely a byproduct of a society that has left men behind and feeling marginalised.
Harris says that while it is important to consider the perspectives of those who feel marginalised, but that any discussion also needs to take women into account.
“Women have more options today, and maybe they’re not going to agree to marry the first man they date out of high school but isn’t that a good thing? Should we be happy that people have free choice and that they don’t have to stay in relationships that aren’t healthy?”
The concern now is that these young men might express these feelings of frustration and marginalisation in the type of violence seen abroad.
The SIS report found that those who identify as incels is made up of a relatively small group of New Zealanders, but there is still reason for concern.
“They found that the lack of a defined group for incels meant there was a realistic possibility that this could be driving people towards white extremist ideology… A 2020 report said that while there hadn’t yet been any violence in New Zealand from incel groups or people that had these incel-related beliefs, violence could be considered a potential threat here in New Zealand.”
• The Front Page is a daily news podcast from the New Zealand Herald, available to listen to every weekday from 5am.