In the wee hours of the morning my sister messaged me on Facebook.
everything hurts. My anger bones hurt and my injustice bones hurt and my pity bones hurt. Also the PUA is like a bitchy jerk/grown up Michael Scott
WHY AM I WATCHING THIS I’M SO MAD
EVERY PART IS THE WORST PART
My interest was piqued, and I started the video as soon as I got the message. As I watched the opening five minutes, I got more and more worried about what I was about to see. It was like three in the morning, did I really want to watch mega-nerds try to talk to a girl, or find a crazy accessory that would draw the female eye? I decided that, no, I would rather just sleep than watch this and risk a nightmare afterward.
When I reached a safe space (Ari’s apartment,) I fired it up again. Shy Boys: IRL, a short documentary about love-shy men and so-called involuntary celibates, or “incels.” These types of guys are not so remarkable; they’re all over the internet. What’s interesting about these particular dudes is that their inability to ask out a lady, or their inability to get a “yes” from a lady has crystallized into a pathology.
The documentary follows three men, all members of the love-shy support forum. Michael is the founder of the site, who is not a virgin, but last had sex when he was 17, at least ten years ago. Advanced is an incel who claims to have a 100% rejection rate after three thousand proposals. The last, UrbanWhiteTrash, is a reformed love-shy who turned to PUA techniques in an attempt to cure his condition, but has become an incel instead.
All three of them have this attitude that there’s something inherently wrong with them. And while it’s not hard to see how that happened, it’s also not hard to see how they’re wrong and that their resignation to being incel is a self-fulfilling prophecy. There’s moments where I felt sympathy for all three of the guys. They’re cripplingly shy and unconfident, which, yeah, that’s rough. But it’s pretty inescapable how desperate, creepy, and misogynist they are. The PUA wannabe and Mister Three Thousand both end up saying some pretty crummy shit, and each exhibits crazy sexist behavior.
Looking through the love shy forums, I saw a lot of the same stuff. There seems to be a pseudo-MRA presence on the boards, talk of misandry, oppressive feminism. It’s unclear whether they blame feminism for their failures, or if they blame it for the lack of respect paid to the condition of love-shyness. Probably both.
The director and her cameraman have a small presence in the film, and sometimes get involved in the discussions between the three love-shies. Their advice tends to be shrugged off. At one point Advanced is unable to explain why women have sex, “I think it’s something that they do, I dunno, just because, I mean, like, the guy wants it, I guess….” And declares that women don’t have high sex drives. In the next cut, UWT says Kyle, the cameraman, seems to be a feminist. Kyle responds that he thinks women are people, and Advanced says “That’s bullshit! And if you don’t realize that, you’ve been brainwashed!” It’s odd to see them rejecting advice from people who have what they want. It’s odd, too, to see such a lack of knowledge on a topic they seem obsessed with.
Even as they complain about women never ever ever wanting to go out or have sex with them, they’re unwilling to educate themselves or consider that maybe their attitude is hurting them. They have no problems decrying modern society, the focus on sex, the expectation for men to pursue, for men to get girls, be successful, but tend to accept these values anyway, without really thinking about the effect they have, only being angry because they can’t succeed within that framework. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with them. Everything about them that makes women say no can be changed. Advanced says his main problem is that he’s ugly, but then later in the documentary, he pulls off the raddest look fucking ever:
UWT is likewise fixated on looks and clothing, saying that to have success with women, you just have to look good, be attractive, look good, be hot. He points to Kyle’s late-high-school getup as a model to emulate in some kind of cargo cult get-laid-quick scheme, but it doesn’t seem to occur to him that Kyle’s “feminist” mentality might be the secret instead.
Michael is the only love-shy the documentary really focuses on. UWT and Advanced approach women, and are shut down constantly, but Michael is too afraid to even try. He’s a very passive guy, and was easily the most agreeable. His problem likely stems from the same source as UWT and Advanced, a failure to sufficiently relate to women as humans, but the difference in attitude is really striking. Where the incels are aggressive and energetic, Michael is quiet, depressive, submissive. He’s defeated, wishing he didn’t exist just to spare him the pain of loneliness. Late in the film, when it’s just him and the crew, he jokes about leaping off the tower they’re filming on, and how it would be the ultimate artistic expression.
The documentary is planning a kickstarter for a full-length feature. Advanced and UWT are not on-board, displeased with the way they came off. The love-shy and incel community, from my very brief research, wasn’t too happy either. Personally, I would love to see more of this. It’s an interesting topic, and explores nice-guy resentment with a very up-close and personal lens. Regardless of cause or cure, it’s made clear that love-shyness is affecting these men in a powerfully negative way. Whether it comes out in blatant misogyny, or suicidal musings, their condition is causing them a lot of pain. But with a condition that arises from misconceptions, from damaging societal rules and roles, how helpful is a forum like Love-shy, when its members so often buy into and preach the same sexist ideas and norms that put them there?