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Why Men Who Cannot Find Sexual Partners Are Becoming Terrorists

They are called 'Incels' and they have killed and injured as many people as Islamic terrorists in western countries, yet have received little or no attention in public debate, a new study has found.

The self-identified ‘Incels’ are involuntary celibates -- young men who cannot find female sexual partners. And for the first time,  Australian researchers have been able to qualify the security risk they present.

Academics at University of Western Australia (UWA) found Incels killed at least 50 people and injured at least 58 more since 2014 – statistics comparable to the number of victims of Islamic extremism in the same period.

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"Not many people have been looking at Incels, and they have been a threat for some years," project co-author Dr Sian Tomkinson, from UWA’s School of Social Sciences told 10 daily.

She said Incels were part of a network called the Manosphere, and while their rise is most prevalent in North America, it's headed our way.

“The Manosphere contains various groups who believe that feminism has overtaken society and that men must fight back in order to survive,” Dr Tomkinson said.

Incels blame their sexual frustrations on women in online forums, and this frustration has led to some committing acts of murder targeting girls and women.

And just like neo-Nazi or Islamic extremism, these young men are teaming up online.

Image: Getty Images

“In extreme cases, Incels become radicalised online and commit attacks against everyday men and women, who they blame for their misfortunes,” she said.

When the Incel movement started in the 1990s, it served a different purpose and had a female founder. A Canadian woman -- known only as Alana -- couldn't get a date, so feeling lonely and frustrated, she started a website called Alana’s Involuntary Celibacy Project. Others joined her online community to share their experiences of not being able to have sex or find a romantic partner.

“Involuntary celibates” then became “Incels” and around 20 years later, the online movement became dominated by frustrated and at times, violent men.

Considering the recent rise of high-profile misogynistic violence in Australia, the authors call for the Australian government to label Incels as a security threat and, in doing so, adopt preventative programs to address misogyny in the community as a public not private issue.

"We have had cases like Eurydice Dixon and it's terrible when police and the media talk about it, but it doesn't necessarily get framed as a societal problem about violence against women that is perhaps more organised," Tomkinson said.

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She added Australia is an attractive place for the growth of Incels, given the problematic domestic violence cases as well as the increase in far-right extremism which was flagged by ASIO, Australia's security arm earlier this year.

"We are concerned about what can happen or is coming for Austalia," she said.

But the authors warn that one of the dangers of trying to combat ideological extremists is that it could inadvertently encourage even more extreme behaviour by creating what is known as a ‘suspect community’.

Instead, they recommend tackling "misogynistic views at the community level".

“Key to this effort is to ensure that public figures and anyone who comments on violence against women understand that gendered violence presents a threat to public security.

“Comments that make gendered violence seem justifiable or the fault of the victim has been shown to further encourage violent attitudes and behaviour.”

Contact the author alattouf@networkten.com.au