Not all incels are created equal. This isn’t always immediately clear to an outsider — a person who has sex, that is — for whom every bitter man identifying as “involuntarily celibate” belongs to the same low rung of the social ladder. In fact, the incel obsession with hierarchies of power and advantage means that there are further micro-taxonomies within their own closed-off group.
Sometimes this manifests as scorn for self-described incels thought to be denying or downplaying their sexual experience to fit in with or co-opt the movement. That was the case with white nationalist grifter Nick Fuentes, who this year was denounced as a “fakecel,” or phony incel, after revealing that he had kissed a girl in high school. Fuentes fought the allegations and proclaimed himself the ultimate misogynist, entirely disgusted by the prospect of physical affection shared with a woman — because this is a useful persona to effect when courting an audience of young, alienated, far-right dudes. If his assurances rang hollow to some incels, this might come down to their division from volcels, or the voluntarily celibate. That Fuentes could get a girlfriend, and seemingly chooses not to, is enough to brand him a fakecel.
By dint of this bizarre gatekeeping, the status of a “truecel,” or one with zero history of intimacy, becomes almost honorific. And the initialism that attaches to this label marks just what the person has been deprived of in their lifetime: KHHV stands for “kissless, handholdless, hugless virgin.” No sex, but none of the more chaste activities that precede it, either. A total disaquantaince with other bodies. The dejection can be overwhelming: “i dont want sex i dont ask for anythign [sic] from women i wish that a girl would hug me thats my biggest dream that someone would be in love with a piece of shit like me,” a KHHV reported a few weeks ago on an incel forum.
Another commiserated: “It’s not right, we are so subhuman not even one female wants to wrap their arms around us.” Users in the thread argued that “kissing and cuddling are more elusive than sex” and that since “sex is bascly [sic] jerking off, life doesn’t change after a wank,” hugs, hand-holding and the like were in a sense more valuable and enviable.
Yet a nihilistic elitism comes with the territory. A KHHV who had just turned 28 years old reflected philosophically on the same message board. “A new chapter has opened in my life. I hope to reach new heights of suffering, loneliness and despair,” he wrote. “I also hope to attain even greater insights into nature, life and existence as a whole.” With pain comes a kind of dignity, or even authority. One recurring meme holds that 30-year-old truecel virgins become “wizards,” or somehow enlightened in the ways of the world, and less captive to the desire or social pressure to have sexual relationships. If you can accept your loneliness — perhaps a shift in hormone levels around this age plays a role — then you gain a seat at the high table.
Whether the KHHV argues that his fate is cruelest of all, or takes a counterintuitive pride in it, the tag confirms once again that incels are obsessed with categorization and one-upmanship to the detriment of any critical or constructive thinking about their situation. And the downgrade from pining for sex to the complaint that you’ve never kissed, hugged or held hands tells us how extreme the infantilization in these circles has gotten: It’s one step away from feeling cheated because you weren’t breastfed.
How much lower can a person sink? I fear we may find out.