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Yes, this is a message to the Incels from my younger self.

When I published the recent post, Toronto Van Rampage III | Alek Minassian and the Incels, I didn’t explain that when I was 17 yrs old I was well on my way to being one of them.

Based on psychologist Brian Gilmartin’s research into ‘love-shy’ men in the 1970s, I was acutely love-shy then. I not only had no sexual experience – not even a kiss, not even a touch – I had no expectation of any. I had no plans to try for sex, had no idea how to try. Twelve years of school had left me with the impression that I belonged to some other human species, not the one I was surrounded by. Looking to the future, I was just hoping to get through life in one piece, while remaining free to read books and explore alone the wild places where I felt at home.

But by the time of the photo here (a 1968 miner’s identification photo), I did have some sexual experience. I had broken out of the love shy/ incel prison.

When I say sexual experience, I’m not just referring to full sex.

For example, one night I went to an apartment party alone, an event that had been recommended to me by a co-worker. He told me that I needed no invitation (this was part of the 1960s ‘British invasion’ of North America) and he was right.

I didn’t go there hoping to ‘get to know’ anyone (I wasn’t even sure what was meant by that). I only went there to see what such an event was like.

Admittedly, to help my courage, I had a couple of drinks before I left home. I had a couple more in that dark noisy apartment while I walked about, spoke with a few people and danced inexpertly with a couple of women. After 1-2 hrs, I left.

I was walking towards the elevators, when someone caught my sleeve from behind and turned me around. A young woman embraced me, gave me a long long kiss, then she went back in the apartment.

That’s all that happened. She may have given me her phone number, but if she did, it didn’t matter, for I was never able to phone women. I didn’t see her again.

But that kiss remains one of the most important events of my life. It was the first completely uninhibited kiss I received. I learned a lot about sex from that kiss, maybe all I needed to know.

Yes, you can learn from simple little things, even just a touch or a look. In fact, that’s where you have to start learning.

Do you see what I’m getting at? If you make your goal full sex with whoever you are trying to get to know, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Alternatively, if you shut the door and refuse to open it for anyone because you’re convinced that the game is rigged, then nothing is going to happen.

If you blame other people for the trap you feel yourself to be in, how are you going to get out of it? I didn’t go into that apartment with a chip on my shoulder. I went in, as Temple Grandin would put it, as an “anthropologist on Mars.”

In his book Be Different, John Elder Robison discusses this problem. Diagnosed with Asperger’s himself, he explains how he was never able to approach women, but they sometimes approached him. “I’m a chosen, not a chooser,” he says. He gives detailed descriptions of meeting women that way.

I was the same. Like Robison, I had no social skill, but I kept my door open. If a woman spoke to me, I tried to respond. Often it doesn’t matter what you say, as long as it isn’t offensive.

The key is not shutting yourself off from other people. In my book The Shyness Guide, I promote the use of detachment, but it is detachment from your anxiety, not from the world you wish you could be part of.

Anyway, Dr Gilmartin has said recently that he believes the young men who call themselves Incels (the ‘involuntarily celibate’) are the same ones he was investigating in the 1970s under the concept of ‘love-shy’. He has always said that they need understanding and attention, and believes that the refusal of society to accept that they exist and were in need of special treatment (“love-shy” was never accepted as a formal diagnosis) has led to the violent behavior we are now seeing.

The Incels may have painted themselves into a corner, but the rest of society helped them do it. Not only do they need to learn to ‘keep their door open’, but society needs to open its doors more too.

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