Incels are the product of an incomplete sexual revolution

We all need more freedom to openly discuss—and engage in—sex. Instead, we all too often pounce on provocative opinions and hem in what is “acceptable” bounds of debate. This is a shame.

Consider the rhetorical maelstrom created when George Mason University economist Robin Hanson recently suggested that the Toronto attack— in which a self-described incel (an involuntary celibate) mowed down 10 pedestrians — shows that we should worry not just about income inequality, but also the sexual inequality that is leaving too many men sexually frustrated. Hanson, whose blog Overcoming Bias is dedicated to raising uncomfortable questions that cut against ingrained thinking, mused that “cultural elites” might consider “redistribution” schemes that could help incels get a fair share of the action.

This was a provocative suggestion, no doubt. But Hanson wasn’t really serious about it. He is a libertarian, after all, so talk of “redistribution” was more in the vein of a thought experiment. Still, many people were understandably offended by even the hint of a suggestion that men are “owed” sex, or that this particular man was somehow justified in his violence because of some societal failure to keep his sexual drive satiated. This was, after all, the second instance of incel violence in four years.

But almost everyone reacted poorly.