Document Type

Honors Thesis


Computer Science and Sociology


Michael Haedicke

Committee Members

Jordan LaBouff, Brian Pitman, Judith Rosenbaum

Graduation Year

May 2023

Publication Date

Spring 2023


The incel subculture, short for “involuntary celibate,” is one that exists mostly online, but boasts a relatively large number of dedicated members. The goal of this research is to determine how the incel subculture shares their ideology and develops a sense of group identity. The study reviewed 76 threads of posts across two incel forum websites, and was able to conduct three interviews of members from one of those sites. That content was analyzed iteratively for cohesive themes. Several themes emerged, chief among them was the activity of storytelling, which appeared to be done in three different major ways, with varying effects depending on method of telling the story and theme. Methods of telling stories included: Repetition, in which users share similar personal stories; Co-creation, in which users are provided a fragment of a story and twisting it to fit cultural narratives; and Elaboration, where one user makes a claim about outgroups which other users expand upon. Themes of these stories often revolved around performances of gender, hopelessness, despair, and misogyny. Boundary work was also a prevalent activity on incel forums, taking the forms of veteran users policing newer users to ensure they are actually involuntarily celibate, distancing the subculture from the mainstream culture, and members of one forum critiquing other forums