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Incels in Australia: the ideology, the threat, and a way forward

By Jasmine Latimore and John Coyne

This report explores the phenomenon of ‘incels’—involuntary celibates—and the misogynistic ideology that underpins a subset of this global community of men that has become a thriving Internet subculture. It examines how online spaces, from popular social media sites to dedicated incel forums, are providing a platform for not just the expansion of misogynistic views but gender-based violent extremism.

It raises key questions regarding Australian efforts to counter misogynistic ideologies within our nation. If there’s a continuum that has sexist, but lawful, views on gender at one end and gendered hate speech at the other, at what point does misogynistic ideology tip into acts of gendered violence? What’s needed to prevent misogynistic ideologies from becoming violent? And how do we, as a society, avoid the epidemic levels of violence against women in Australia?

This report doesn’t intend to provide answers to all of those questions. It does, however, seek to make an important contribution to public discourse about the increasing trend in misogynistic ideology through examination of a particularly violent community of misogynists, and proposes a range of policy options for consideration to tackle the threat that misogynistic ideology poses to Australia.

This report makes six recommendations designed to reduce and, where possible, prevent the risk of future occurrence of incel and similar violence in Australia. The recommendations include greater awareness raising and policy recognition that incel violence can be an ideological form of issue-motivated extremism which would provide certainty that incels could formally fall within the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)—in addition to law-enforcement agencies—and would encourage tailored education programs focused on engaging young males at risk from indoctrination in this extreme subculture (along with their parents).