By David Futrelle
If you were to ask one Reddit’s self-described “involuntary celibates” just why they were celibate, they would probably give you an answer something like this: Because I’m ugly and short and a socially awkward loser, and in today’s terrible world “Chads” get all the chicks — though back in the good old days I would have been assigned a wife through some sort of arranged marriage or something and thus I wouldn’t be alone and mad and, oh, by the way, women are a bunch of worthless whores.
Apparently these views are held pretty widely on Reddit. In a new paper, Menelaos Apostolou, an Associate Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at Cyprus’ University of Nicosia, looked at a Reddit mega-thread devoted to the question: “Guys, why are you single?”
With help from several other researchers, Apostolou sorted and categorized the 13,429 comments that attempted to directly answer the question, discovering that dateless Reddit dudes were most likely to conclude that they were dateless because they were ugly and/or short and/or socially awkward losers. Typical comments included:
Cause I am ugly as fuck and have been cursed with awful genetics.
Being under 6′0″ means I am invincible to women.
Because I have massive self-esteem issues, I think I’m worthless, and I don’t do social things because I don’t want to inflict my stupid, worthless presence on other people.
If I remotely have a crush on you I’m probably gonna be really fucking awkward.
Sounds a bit like the Braincels subreddit, minus the extreme misogyny.
It’s not clear how many respondents, if any, commented on “Chad’s” relative dating success, but Apostolou felt the need to inject it into the discussion, not as an incel obsession but as a simple statement of fact, declaring that “men who are … good looking may choose not to commit to a long-term relationship, but choose instead to have many different casual relationships.” (Guess what, dude? Men who are not conventionally attractive can do that too.)
Apostolou also brings up the arranged marriage issue, noting that men who are bad at flirting suffer in the contemporary world, in which people seek out partners themselves. “We can ask whether in a pre-industrial context, where marriages were arranged and/or male-male competition was strong, these same men would be single,” Apostolou writes,
The answer is most probably no. Flirting skills were irrelevant because men did not have to flirt with women: Wives were either provided by parents or obtained through force.
No wonder so many guys today are bad at flirting, Apostolou suggests: Evolution hasn’t prepared them for it!
[I]n an ancestral pre-industrial context, the selection pressures on flirting skills would be weak, resulting in many of our ancestors having poor capacity for flirting. This capacity has passed to contemporary generations who live in post-industrial societies.
And they. Apostolou suggests, are kind of screwed.
Apostolou isn’t just reporting what Reddit dudes think are the reasons they can’t get dates. He’s basically accepting their explanations as fact, and adding some convenient “evo psych” rationales to buttress their arguments. He’s taking the skewed perceptions of Reddit’s single men and treating them like scientific insights.
He is certainly aware that a Reddit thread is not a scientific or demographically representative survey, and that there is no proof that any of the answers given are actually true. He mentions both of these issues in his paper. But in the end he concludes that most of the respondents were probably telling the truth and that’s good enough for him. “We think … that most people have an accurate understanding of what drives them to be single,” he writes, “so this is not a major bias.”
Really? Because after spending nearly ten years reading (if not always posting on) Reddit, with much of my attention in recent years devoted to incels and MGTOWs and other dudes who can’t find dates (or who claim that they don’t want to), I would have to say that I am a little bit less convinced that Reddit dudes “have an accurate understanding of what drives them to be single.”
Well, that was a bit of deliberate understatement. I’m convinced that a pretty hefty chunk of Reddit’s single men have no fucking clue why they’re single. Incels are convinced that they are too ugly to date women, who only want to date the absolute handsomest of men. Neither of these things are true. When incels post pictures of themselves online to “prove” to the world what horrible ugly freaks they are, most of them look just fine. And women date less-than-perfect-looking guys all the time.
Hell, some of the most romantically successful guys I’ve known have included a pudgy goofball with a weird baby face, a guy with a cleft palate, and a short grouchy schlub who rarely shaved. A former roommate basically lived the life of an incel until his mid-twenties when he suddenly found himself dating a series of women most people would have assumed were out of his league. (And no, he didn’t learn “game”; this was more than a decade before any of that crap.) A friend of one of my close relatives is happily married to a lovely woman even though his face was burnt off by acid when he was four.
Some of these guys succeeded because they’re smart and funny and confident and genuinely decent people; the others, well, I’ve never been able to figure out what women see in them. But they share one thing in common: Seeing only their pictures, Incels would classify them all as ugly “subhumans” destined to spend their lives alone. And they would be wronger than wrong.
Apostolou’s study was posted online only a few days ago by the journal Evolutionary Psychological Science (note to self: do not subscribe to Evolutionary Psychological Science), and it’s already being discussed in the subreddits populated by Reddit’s angriest single men — where it’s seen as belated scientific proof for the incel worldview.
Not that they’ve given Apostolou much credit for coming to the same conclusions they came to long ago. While some took issue with the way the study was being framed — in a way that focused on the social awkwardness issue and downplayed the issue of looks (the incel obsession) — others complained that it was little more than a restatement of what to them seemed obvious.
Pointing to Apostolou’s discussion of arranged marriages, one Braincels commenter sneered: “I have been saying this for YEARS you hack.”
“Another groundbreaking study from the academic journal of No Shit, Sherlock” wrote a commenter in r/ForeverAlone.
If your “scientific” study simply reiterates the accepted, er, “wisdom” of some of the internet’s most hateful and deluded men, you might want to think twice about publishing it. Hell, you should probably reconsider your entire career.