Involuntary celibacy

Involuntary celibacy

Involuntary celibacy (or incel) is the state of a person who has not established an intimate relationship or engaged in sexual intercourse for reasons other than voluntary celibacy or sexual abstinence. The term is used especially for adults who, despite general expectations, have had little to no sexual or romantic experience.


An "involuntarily celibate" person is someone who fails to initiate or sustain a sexual or romantic relationship, despite his/her desire to experience such a relationship. Afflicted people may suffer from loneliness, frustration, and may be mistaken for homosexuals who are hiding their sexuality.Dubious|date=August 2008

In her book "The History of Celibacy", Elizabeth Abbott devotes one chapter to involuntary celibates. She includes in this category a wide variety of people: [cite book |author=Elizabeth Abbot |title=A History of Celibacy |publisher=Da Capo Press |location=New York |year=2001 |chapter=Coerced Celibacy: Involuntary Celibacy |pages=303-337 |isbn=0-306-81041-7]
*Those in social circumstances that deny them access to potential partners (for example, being imprisoned, or living in a society with skewed sex ratios caused by the death of many men in a war, or preferential abandonment or abortion of females)
*Those without access to either birth control or the monetary resources to deal with a child
*Those denied the right to marry by social norms (for example, widows in certain Hindu communities, or younger sisters in societies that demanded the oldest be married first)
*Women whose families lacked money for the dowries required by their society
*People who would lose their jobs if they were known to be sexually active (for example, apprentices and journeymen in certain trades in Medieval Europe, or certain Western domestic servant or educator positions prior to the past century)
*Men castrated against their will

There is controversy concerning the duration of the celibacy needed to qualify for the label of involuntary celibacy. Some people class themselves as involuntarily celibate because they are not in a relationship "at the moment", though they have been in the past. Critics to this view suggest that the proper label for this is simply being "single", which, unlike "involuntarily celibate," is in common usage and does not carry potential social stigma, while involuntary celibacy is more or less a semi-perpetual condition. Donnelly and Burgess used a floor figure of six months of involuntary celibacy in their study design. Others apply the term only to those who have never been involved in a sexual and/or romantic relationship. [ [ Involuntary Celibacy ] ]


A study was initiated in 1998 by researchers from Georgia State University when a member of an online discussion group for involuntary celibates inquired about current research on the subject. [ [ For many, sexless lifestyle is not a choice] , Georgia State University News Release, July 24, 2001 (accessed December 14, 2006)] The study, "Involuntary celibacy: A life course analysis", [ [ Involuntary celibacy: A life course analysis] D. Donnelly, E. Burgess, S. Anderson, R. Curry, J. Dillard, "Journal of Sex Research" 38(2), S. 159-169. (2001) (accessed December 14, 2006)] was published in 2001 in the "Journal of Sex Research", produced by the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. A news article reporting on the study indicated that involuntary celibacy can lead to anger and depression. [ [ Study shows that involuntary celibacy can lead to anger and depression] American Association of Single People, November 12, 2001 (accessed December 14, 2006)] "Involuntary celibacy: A life course analysis" has also been included in an anthology of scholarly literature. [ [ "Sex Matters"], (accessed December 14, 2006) DEAD LINK! (Also: if this is a regular book, then citation should be by ISBN.)]

In a March 6, 2004 letter by Brian G. Gilmartin, who performed extensive studies on involuntarily celibate males (whom he termed "love-shy"), he noted that "as many as 40 percent of the cases of severely love-shy men would qualify for a diagnosis of 'Asperger's Syndrome'", a proportion supported in his 1987 book. [cite book |first=Brian G. |last=Gilmartin |date=1987 |title=Shyness and Love: Causes, Consequences and Treatment |publisher=University Press of America, Lanham, Maryland (701 pages) |isbn=978-0819161024]


Very little research has been published on involuntary celibacy, and few statistics are available, although it is finding its way onto university syllabi. [ [ Sexuality in Society] syllabus for San Francisco State University, Fall 2004 (accessed December 14, 2006)] [ [ Sociology of Sexuality] Syllabus for Washington State University, Summer Quarter, 2006 (accessed December 14, 2006)] It does not appear to be a concept taken seriously by those who do not experience it. However, conditions and behaviors associated with involuntary celibacy may include severe depression, [Flocker, Michael. 2004. The Hedonism Handbook. DaCapo Press. Cambridge, MA. p.129, ISBN 0-306-81414-5] self-harm, mental illness, self-medication through the use of narcotic drugs and alcohol, [Seabury, David. 1964. The Art of Selfishness. Julian Messner Inc. New York. pp.180-183 ] and even suicide. Also, involuntary celibacy could lead to self-absorption and an unhealthy preoccupation with human sexual behavior. [Russell, Bertrand. Of Marriage & Morals. Liverlight Publishing Corporation. New York. 1970. pp.290-291, ISBN 0-87140-211-4] .

Contributing factors

Lack of sex-appeal, social skills or charisma, disability, socio-economic factors, such as homelessness, poverty, a lack of education and unemployment [ [ revolution without a man to love::By Suzanne Fields ] ] may play a role in preventing courtship. Additionally a lack of suitable partners, or discomfort with the idea of sex outside of an established relationship may also be contributing factors.

In many societies (especially Western), heterosexual men are traditionally almost always required to assume the assertive role in pursuing the opposite sex and courtship is considered a competitive sport amongst single, eligible men, who typically employ verbal strategies and tactics to seduce women. Proficiency at these tactics, is called having "game" in American slang, and this is frequently equated with confidence, a trait that is popularly valued in men by women. Because confidence and "game" exist independently of socio-economic status, a man of lower education and status can frequently win a woman's attention away from a man of higher education and status. This attitude is taken by the seduction community, a group that believes that "seducing" women can be scientifically studied and improved.

Although involuntary celibacy is often associated with love-shyness, love shy individuals do not necessarily experience a lack of people who would consider them attractive. Love shy individuals may simply fail to reciprocate another's attraction toward them or fail to be proactive in pursuing potential romantic interests, even when success is in their favor.

Involuntary celibacy may also be perpetuated by cognitive biases and/or negative explanatory styles such as learned helplessness or fundamental attribution error. Learned helplessness occurs when, after experiencing repeated rejection, an individual is conditioned to assume all other potential prospects will also reject them. Every "signal" of interest may be dismissed, even when the object of one's attraction is genuinely interested. "Actual helplessness" occurs when there are no signals of interest to be misinterpreted. The Fundamental Attribution Error can cause individuals to see people as being mean or shallow towards them when they have experienced a rejection of some form, instead of explaining the behaviour through situational or environmental factors. Unmarried individuals living in rural or suburban areas are often unable to find a suitable partner due to social and marriage patterns.

ee also

*Attachment theory
*Average Frustrated Chump
*Nice guy
*Sexual addiction
*Unrequited love


External links

* [ Sexless in The City]
* [ Involuntary Celibacy advice and information (Incelsite)]
* [ Outsiders Trust, a UK-based organization founded to help the disabled and others suffering from involuntary celibacy.]
* [ IncelSupport, an Involuntary Celibacy support group]
* [ Incel Project]

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