Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Swallowing the Black Pill: A Qualitative Exploration of Incel Antifeminism within Digital Society

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Version 1 2021-12-08, 17:22
posted on 2023-09-26, 23:59 authored by Angus Lindsay

This thesis explores the online ‘manosphere’ subculture of Involuntary Celibates (Incels). Incels have been widely discussed in contemporary media in recent years and have been cited as harmful after several mass-murders and attacks have taken place offline. Previous academic research has largely focused on individual-level explanations for Incel mass-murderers, with few studies seeking to uncover the structural determinants of the rise of Incels. This thesis attempts to fill this gap, exploring the subculture’s negotiation with the changing features of contemporary society. The study utilised internet-based qualitative research methods over a period of three-months to collect data on two Incel forums: r/Braincels and The data was then interpreted through thematic analysis within a constructivist grounded theory approach. The research found that Incels negotiate their anxieties of a rapidly changing globalised world with a sense of victimisation and ‘aggrieved entitlement’ through a worldview that understands society as set up to economically, socially, and sexually favour women. It was also found that through such a sense of entitlement, Incels conceive of a hetero-patriarchal racial caste-system that relies on uncritical readings of selected biological and evolutionary psychological studies. This worldview is known as the ‘Black Pill’ and is employed to ideologically condition Incels against out-groups. Through a shared mythology of victimisation, the Incel ideology of the Black Pill functions to produce a form of ‘stochastic terrorism’ in which individual users interpret the spectrum of beliefs from enacting online gender-based hate-speech to mass violence in the terrestrial world. This thesis presents understandings that could inform future educational programs in critical literacy skills that aim to dismantle the conceptual apparatus that feeds the ideologically charged hatred of groups like Incels.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Institute of Criminology

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Social and Cultural Studies


Jordan, Jan; Harrington, Carol