Terrorism, Sexism, Misogyny and the Abandonment of Responsibility – NVC

The most recent ‘terrorist’ attack in Toronto is reported as the work of an individual who identified as ‘incel’. He is said to have killed 10 people and wounded 14 in that attack.

I, like many of you, probably had no idea what ‘incel’ meant prior to the news. I, like you, might have been surprised to learn it meant ‘involuntarily celibate’. I wonder if, like I, your head spun and eyes rolled in puzzlement when you read that for the first time?

Nonviolent Communication, as facilitated by our training company Restorative Communication located in Port Macquarie, teaches that ‘everyone’s needs matter’. Should we feel responsible for meeting the sexual needs of ‘incels’ to prevent killings then?

The answer, sorry to say for those of you who identify as ‘incel’, is a resounding ‘NO’!

Here’s why. Nonviolent Communication reminds us that we are;

  • Responsible for our own feelings and needs.
  • Not responsible for the feelings and needs of others.

It also reminds us that;

  • Everyone’s needs matter.
  • Labelling people can be viewed as a form of violence.
  • All our actions are in the service of needs.

Doing some background reading about incel’s one finds that they are mostly angry males who want sexual interactions with others, see those interactions as a right and are angry their expectations are not met.

(The term was apparently co-opted from a young woman who blogged about an exploration of her sexual identity. She explored her own sexual ‘drought’, only to find she was not sexually attracted to those her culture said she should be (men). Once realised, she happily moved on but the term she coined for herself was picked up by others.)

It shouldn’t be surprising to find that incel’s have given themselves further subdividing labels, like ‘truecel’, ‘mentalcel’ and ‘fakecel’.  Labelling people is violence after all, and ‘incels’ seem keen on violence.

I hear you say, ‘but if everyone’s needs matter’ and ‘all actions are in the service of needs’ why then aren’t we responsible for hooking ‘incels’ up for some quick sex?


Nonviolent communication teaches us that sex is not a need, it’s a strategy for meeting needs. Those needs could be many. Contribution, comfort, play, connection, creativity or many other universal human needs may be met by consensual sexual activity.

NVC teaches us that ‘contribution to life’ is a fundamental, universal need and that strategies that fail to contribute to life ultimately do not meet our own needs, thus, lead to our dissatisfaction. Ultimately, receiving sexual gratification that is not freely given is a doomed strategy.

Driving a van into a crowd was a strategy used by Alek Minassian to meet needs. If his need was to have his personal pain ‘seen’, as I suspect, it worked. The cost of that strategy is catastrophic for him and others, just as non-consensual sexual encounters are, and any strategy which involves us receiving something not given freely.

I don’t feel the slightest bit responsible for the sexual drought of ‘incels’. I do feel great sadness that our culture continues to teach people that others are responsible for our needs, that punishment is a legitimate strategy and that people are things to be labelled.

If only Alek Minassian had been shown that he was responsible for developing strategies for meeting his own needs. Strategies that made it more likely that others would want to give to him, strategies that contributed to life. If only he knew that his needs mattered and that others needs mattered just as much.

If you are interested in developing greater clarity about your own needs, and the strategies you use to meet them an NVC foundation training is a great place to start.