A new article in Spectrum magazine on Incels has been recently gaining traction. For those who don't know, Incel is a contraction for the words involuntary celibate or people (usually men) who can't find a sexual partner who want one. The old saw misery loves company rings true here in that there have been a variety of forums on Reddit and other places where these men have been able to hook up and commiserate.
There has been some controversy in this movement in that a small percentage of them have engaged in nasty misogynistic rants against women. Some of them have even threatened outright violence. A very few of them have even committed murder. The most well-known example of this is Elliot Rodger, "the virgin killer". He's an individual whose mother labeled him a high functioning autistic in divorce papers. Frustrated at not being able to find a girlfriend or even knowing how to ask a woman for a date, he went on a killing spree, murdering several women. Alek Minassian, another individual, praised Rodger and then ran over some persons with a van, frustrated at not being able to have sex.
Because of these outliers, there has been a tendency to paint autistic men who can't find girlfriends with a broad brush and label us as "entitled" "stalkers" or bad people.
The problems of involuntary celibacy are very real for many autistic men. The vast majority are not violent or misogynists who have a feeling of "entitlement". We just want to have normal heterosexual relationships the way non-handicapped men do. It is wrong to label us all this way and it does not help the situation.
But what if one of the people is someone who is a counselor who wants to give autistic individuals (as far as I know only men and no women) advice about sex and labels themselves "The Dr. Ruth of autism" An individual named Amy Gravino has done this.
Given my line of work, I have a great deal of empathy for individuals on the spectrum struggling to find and maintain relationships. Yet the harassment I and other autistic women have experienced with 'incels' has no parallel, and deserves no empathy... https://t.co/4ctpKQ4y6j
— Amy Gravino (@AmyGravino) May 13, 2020
Autism often becomes a shield that these men hide behind. It is deliberate, it is calculated, and it does not warrant a sympathetic portrayal. Autistic women have and do face as much rejection as autistic men, yet we aren't the ones making violent threats against others...— Amy Gravino (@AmyGravino) May 13, 2020
All of this stems from a culture that is rooted in the belief that men are entitled to have a relationship or sex with women. We need to teach healthy attitudes toward sex and relationships and do everything possible not to leave autistic men vulnerable to these incel sites...— Amy Gravino (@AmyGravino) May 13, 2020
I have faced sadness, heartache, rejection, and everything else in a country song. The difference is that while everything I do is to prevent others from experiencing the pain I have gone through, these incels want everyone to feel as miserable as they do. And that is not okay.— Amy Gravino (@AmyGravino) May 13, 2020
These are strange words from someone who claims they are a sex advisor like Dr. Ruth and states they want to help autistic men find dates and make a living from it.
I not only believe these comments are not helpful, but they are sexist and ableist bigotry.
Ms. Gravino obtained a masters degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from a lower tier college. Afterwards, she became a "certified autism specialist" from some diploma mill. She has a job at Rutgers University in New Jersey where she plies her trade without any type of state clinical license.
I never felt I was entitled to have a woman for sex. I never wanted to make others miserable. I realize there are some autistic men who stalk women. I am not one of them and I never defended this. I certainly never defended Elliot Rodger or Alex Minnasian.
The author of the spectrum article did engage in a bit of sensationalism in my opinion and I suppose it should be no surprise that it elicited a bigoted reaction such as this.
Though autistic men who have a disability that prevents them from having a girlfriend are by no means entitled, I do believe they deserve empathy. They do not deserve to be stereotyped in a groundless fashion. I pointed this out in a polite email to the author of the spectrum article and he replied and acknowledged this.
This is a real problem for many autistic men and others with disabilities and people should not use this as fodder for sensationalism and bigotry.
Though my loneliness and celibacy has caused me frustration. I'd rather have it than be a client of Ms. Gravino.
Another female neurodiversity proponent who has weighed in on this is writer Sara Luterman:
Nobody needs another sympathetic portrait of incels. I’m happy @Noahsasson got the opportunity to set the record straight on how his research has been misused, but this is very frustrating. https://t.co/8IiTE0UoxX— Sara Luterman (@slooterman) May 13, 2020
Also! Autistic women exist! Autistic non-binary people exist! We also have trouble getting laid and getting into healthy relationships! Somehow this has not morphed into a subculture that has inspired mass shootings!— Sara Luterman (@slooterman) May 13, 2020
Sara Luterman is someone who has repeatedly published in Spectrum magazine, Washington Post, and many other outlets. I don't share her view that the article was sympathetic to incels. Though it was fairly well-balanced, if anything it provided an unflattering portrayal of of autistic men frustrated by celibacy. The article mentions Adam Lanza and Seung-Hui Cho whose mass shootings had nothing to do with sexual frustration. I don't believe most autistic men are vulnerable to being turned into incel extremists. They are mostly likely born that way and don't become Elliot Rodgers or Alex Minnisians vis-a-vis indoctrination. This is a very insulting statement in my opinion.To be clear: Autistic men are being radicalized on incel forums. They’re vulnerable. It’s a huge problem. No one could reasonably deny that. I am happy researchers are paying attention to the topic.— Sara Luterman (@slooterman) May 13, 2020
But the media conversation consistently makes me want to claw my own eyes out.
One last point to ponder is Luterman's statement virtue-signaling autistic women as opposed to males because the males are the ones who engage in mass shootings. In the general population of mass shooters, regardless of sexual frustration being the issue or not, it is far more likely that men will commit a mass shooting than women. This is likely due to hardwired sex differences in the brain. So this is an unfair apples to hurricane comparison.
I can only hope anyone reading this post will be wary of the Amy Gravinos and Sara Lutermans of the world.