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All the Lonely People: The conversation we should be having about men and virginity

If you read this blog, you know how important issues like identity and community are to us, including those of self-identified older virgins. In light of the killings at UCSB, and the torrent of misogynist hate speech 22-year-old Elliot Rodger left behind, I think there is an important conversation to be had that includes men and virginity right now. But it's not the one about the poor sex-and-love-starved virgin male (And by the way, there are many 22-year-olds who haven't become sexually active yet) Many of his rants were made on behalf of "incels" (involuntary celibates) with whom he identified but also despised. Before this weekend, most people had never heard about the incel community, but I know there are incel-identified folks in our audience as well as contributors to The V-Card Diaries. I also know the original community is a welcoming female-inclusive space far removed from the hateful rhetoric of Rodger and his ilk. (Tracy Clark-Flory did a great story focusing on that community's hate speech so I won't link to them here).

I wrote a story for Nerve as a way of framing the conversation about men, virginity and shame. I think it's important to point out that many adult virgins of all genders (who don't want to be virgins) feel some shame or frustration about their situation. It's how they deal with it and who they blame for it that makes all the difference. I'm grateful to the members of the You're Not Alone incel board for their participation and assistance in this story, and to our intern Alexa Cucopulos for her amazing research.

Here's an excerpt of the story:

“In a society where sexuality is always in our faces, if you don’t have the tools or access, or aren’t comfortable establishing intimacy it’s going to isolate you from social environments,” explains Dr. Burgess. “You don’t want to talk to your family or friends for fear of being teased or ostracized, and that’s why these incel groups have become especially valuable.”

So, why did the misogynistic groups proliferate, leaving the more introspective and female-friendly groups like You’re Not Alone, and other sites like the sub-reddits Forever Alone and Forever Alone Women, feeling like outliers?

Society still defines sex by intercourse and ejaculation, and masculinity by the tally of those sexual conquests. Men who buy into this mythology end up feeling both entitled to it, and frustrated at not getting their due. When they can’t fulfill their expected masculine roles, they blame women for not giving them what they think they deserve, instead of examining themselves and the mythology they were raised with [...]

I can only speculate that these men already had misogynistic and entitled ideas about the women they felt they were owed, and began to take advantage of the growing echo chamber and megaphone of the Internet, looking for kinship in spaces that reflected their attitudes back at them"

Please read the full story and leave your comments here.