Nick Fuentes can’t stop talking about how much of an incel he is.
Fuentes, the white nationalist influencer and “America First” host, is a conventionally attractive 23-year-old who would visibly fit into your average state school’s third-best fraternity. He’s built a big fanbase, which jokingly refers to itself as the “Groypers,” by spewing noisy reactionary takes with charisma. Nonetheless, Fuentes always works to identify as a “true incel,” or “involuntarily celibate” — someone simply unable to land a sexual encounter with a woman.
In doing so, he paints himself as a warrior for the fringe-right counterculture, aligning his hate and agenda with that of his incel fans. Earlier this year, in a clip that went viral, Fuentes claimed that being an incel is the burden of his newfound influence.
“I’m not some person who has a wage-y job. I’m a creator… I’m a leader. I have lots of responsibilities. I don’t have the same priority. I don’t have the same life. I couldn’t be doing this if I was like that. I don’t need to rationalize it or anything,” he says. “‘Oh you haven’t had sex!’ Well I haven’t chosen to do that yet. I’m choosing instead to be a historical figure, and I’m choosing to lead a historical right-wing moment.”
That’s a strange way to frame his celibacy — it sure sounds like it’s voluntary, given Fuentes admits he’s graciously choosing to lead the world and change history instead of, well, getting laid. And indeed, Fuentes found himself in a tricky spot in February when the chatroom during his “America First” broadcast started claiming he was a “fakecel” after Fuentes revealed on air that he had once kissed a girl during high school. He stammered his way through denials, concluding that he was “born an incel.”
“I’m a misogynist. And I didn’t choose that. I didn’t choose to be born… I’ve never touched a woman in my life. I don’t even want that. I don’t want touch. I don’t want a relationship. You know what I want? Total Aryan victory. That’s what I want,” Fuentes said, shrugging and waving his hands. “Hugs and kisses, touch? Sappy stuff? Please.”
Is he for real? The opacity of it all may just be par for the course when it comes to incel influencers who leverage angry young men to build fanbases, claiming our social ills are the fault of feminism, immigrants and the loss of white pride.
Among a spectrum of hateful agitators, Fuentes is a perfect example of how the manosphere interfaces with the concept of inceldom, and why it’s such a convenient grift for anyone who wants to raise influence by stoking the existential fears of aggrieved men in need of answers. Fuentes, like Trump, Tucker Carlson, Jordan Peterson and so many right-wing wannabe talking heads, has taken advantage of the real pressure young men feel in order to seduce them with a victim narrative — one that we’ve seen often leads to more extreme bubbles of rhetoric.
Since the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency, Fuentes has evolved from a teenage Republican with mainstream conservative takes into an alt-niche white supremacist leader who once led a chant of “Destroy the GOP!” at a Trump rally in 2020. His arc mirrors that of other right-wingers who decided to turn their attitudes up to 11 in order to grift more effectively, and he continues to paint himself as an ally of inceldom regularly, including on Telegram this week. “The only people that complain about ‘incels’ are simps and feminists,” he proclaimed.
In these messages, you see a repeated theme in Fuentes’ narrative-building: To him, these views are just rational observations from the world. And it’s in a similar fashion that Fuentes frames his own alleged incel life, claiming there are bigger fish to fry (namely, the restoration of a white supremacist nation and “traditional values” of oppression) than worrying about the approval of a woman. It’s akin to a confluence of “hustle culture” and “Sigma male grindset” memes coming full circle, complete with the idea that progress and achievement is a zero-sum game of sacrifice.
But of course, Fuentes wants his fans to eschew women and focus on the bigger movement, given he claims he is the leader of a movement. And it’s equally obvious why he wants to act like an incel, in the hopes of attracting desperate young men like moths to a racist flame. Mainstream politicians now clearly understand the power of pushing anti-feminist thought, courting frustrated men by pointing to women and progressive culture as a clear and potent reason for their struggles. Trump himself won devotees by constantly, subtly pushing back against “woke” feminism. Six years later, South Korea’s newest president took a page from Trump’s book and expanded upon it, explicitly using anti-feminism narratives to buoy his conservative campaign.
This courting of incels is a major turn from older politics of masculinity, which championed “traditional values” and attracted men who could relate to the American dream of winning women with their success. Even Trump marketed himself as a bit of a playboy during his campaign, refusing to apologize for his past abuse and exploits in favor of a no-holds-barred form of male bluntness.
What’s changed is that young people are increasingly disillusioned with that American dream of prosperity, democracy and building a family. Male incels certainly aren’t buying into the notion they can “win” in the face of feminism, the Culture War® and “political elites” pulling the levers of power. In that context, a so-called “Chad” with a healthy social life and romantic opportunities isn’t the right messenger for revolution. It’s someone in the struggle, just like them.
In many ways, Fuentes is part of the vanguard of a social conflict that’s been bubbling for a long time. Young Americans are having less sex than ever, with a disproportionate rise in the number of “sexless” young men since the Great Recession. There are reports of similar shifts in regions like East Asia and Europe, and researchers have started to unpack some factors why: Economic issues around employment, wage stagnation, the lack of social mobility and struggles to forge interpersonal relationships, among other complex issues.
Agitators like Fuentes are conveniently hijacking this moment to preach that the reason for all our ills is the rise of modern masculinity and the politics that play to them. Indeed, it’s why Fuentes doesn’t stop at blaming feminism — he believes white men are losing ground in every way, and Fuentes peddles all manner of conspiracies about “homosexuals,” Black people, immigrants, Jews, Democrats and beyond in an attempt to create a coherent thesis: You’re an incel because they all hate you, and the only way to win is to roll back the clock to a time when white male hegemony kept things under control.
Fuentes also suggests that being an incel might be good for you, if you want to tap into the right-wing hustle and believe in something worthwhile. And what’s most sad is the pull that someone like Fuentes can have on his audience by shaping this exact message. Spend time on incel pages of Reddit, Discord chats, Telegram channels and hateful forums like Poal.co, and you’ll encounter tidal waves of despairing young men (and women) who feel there’s no way to confront their loneliness. It’s not as simple as just “working on yourself” and listening to women, even if young men really need therapy; the macro forces at play, like the problems with wealth inequality and mass hopelessness for the future, cannot be fixed through individual change. Meanwhile, incel aggression continues to grow in America, Asia, Europe and beyond, as young men lean into ignorant ideologies and feelings of helplessness, erupting in cycles of shame, isolation and sometimes even fatal violence against women.
Perhaps Fuentes really believes in his own inceldom; perhaps it’s more cynical than that. Perhaps all’s fair in war and love when it comes to bolstering his own movement and raking in the cash, even if it requires acting like you’re better than intimate relationships. But in the January video clip, Fuentes said something really strange: “I’m a proud incel, and when I’m good and ready, I’ll get married. I’ll still be an incel.” What does this even mean? Does a real incel really dream about being a preening, look-at-me podcaster who agitates for white supremacy? Does a real incel put their romantic life on hold over delusions of right-wing grandeur?
Maybe if you’re Fuentes, and you’re trying to collect $10 a month from as many subscribers as possible. Call it opportunism at the supposed end of masculinity.