An online suicide forum that the family of a 25-year-old woman recently blamed for her killing herself is run by incels — or “involuntary celibates” — who own several other incel communities online, one of the founders disclosed to BuzzFeed News.
Incels are, in general, an online community of misogynistic men who think they are entitled to sex from women and are furious that they don’t get it because of their appearance. Some incels are part of the troubling trend in which toxic hatred online manifests itself in the physical world: Men have killed in the name of an “incel rebellion” or in homage to an incel shooter who murdered six people in Isla Vista, California, in 2014.
“Yes, I am an incel,” “Marquis” — a cofounder of the suicide and incel forums who says he is 25 and from Virginia — told BuzzFeed News. He claims the online spaces are dedicated to “helping people.”
Marquis said that he managed the forums “like a business” — bringing in very modest revenue — dealing with issues like servers and finances.
The strange overlap of these disturbing online communities provides a glimpse into how the darkest recesses of the internet operate both economically and culturally. The forums take in donations and ad revenue and operate under the guise of free expression and anti-censorship. Incels who discuss killing themselves are sometimes referred by users to the suicide forum that Marquis said he and cofounder “Serge” run.
Last week, police in Pennsylvania said they were investigating the May 22 death of 25-year-old Shawn Shatto. Her family alleged that members of the online suicide forum provided her with instructions and enouragement to kill herself.
After going through her phone's browser history, her family found Shatto's messages on the forum, which BuzzFeed News is intentionally not naming, and posted some of them online. In a now-deleted forum thread on May 22, Shatto described the method she was using to kill herself — while other members coaxed her along.
Marquis told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday that he and his cofounder are both incels and founded sites such as Incels.co, Incels Wiki, Looksmax.me, the Manosphere, and Blackpill.online.
Marquis provided screenshots to BuzzFeed News showing his email address linked to the management panel of a domain registrar that listed several incel sites and the suicide forum. He has also previously revealed on Reddit that he owns both the incel and suicide forums.
He claimed that the suicide and incel websites were on “separate corners” of the internet and were treated as such.
“I know that ‘incels running this [suicide] website’ is a bad look,” Marquis wrote in a now-deleted Reddit post, responding to people pointing out the link between the two communities.
He insists that he and Serge did not have any “malicious intentions” when starting the suicide forum — and there’s no public link between them, the woman who killed herself, or any incel activity on the suicide forum. Marquis claimed they are the only two incels on staff and that any biases they might have as incels are kept in check by other moderators who are picked from within the community and “trained” to look for predatory behaviors. Members who harass or insult others on the suicide forum, he said, are punished.
When asked about how his anti-woman bias manifests itself in the suicide forum, Marquis responded by equating the two communities: “I think the women on the suicide forum are suffering just like the incels are.” He says he started both sites because he’s against “censorship.”
A former member of the suicide forum started a subreddit to “expose” the link between the suicide forum and the incel forum. Alex — who did not disclose his last name — told BuzzFeed News that he was a 24-year-old man from the UK who had suffered from mental health issues. He said he joined the forum so that he could talk “openly about suicide without risking hospitalization” with like-minded people.
Alex said, however, that he was banned from the forum for asking questions about its link to the incel communities.
He said that there was a “huge possibility for vulnerable people to get preyed on by dangerous people” because of the “potential cross activity between the sites.”
“There are many many posts on the incel forum celebrating deaths of people they don't respect, namely young women,” he said.
As in most other incel communities, women are “banned on sight, no exceptions,” on Incels.co. Several threads by members of the site celebrate women’s deaths and advocate for violence against women, who are referred to as “femoids” or “foids.”
“If foids where [sic] being gendercided, and slaved and mass raped, I woun’t [sic] care,” one thread read.
On another thread, about the killing of a South Carolina college student who got into a car she’d mistaken for an Uber, members called her a “dumb foid” and said the story gave them “lifefuel” — a term sometimes used by incels in response to women suffering.
“Every time I think about femoids, specifically the ones that rejected me, I’m thrown into an uncontrollable rage,” one member wrote in a thread. “I can’t help but smile every time I hear stories of holes suffering.”
The member then went on to call a 16-year-old boy who was found guilty of the rape and murder of a 14-year-old in the UK last year his “true hero.”
There are also threads where incels talk about killing themselves and discuss suicide methods, with several mentions and links to Marquis and Serge’s suicide forum.
In one thread where an incel described trying to kill himself, another member directed him to the suicide forum but warned him “there are females there who can be pretty rage-inducing.”
Meanwhile, the suicide forum is used by many women, some of whom — according to Marquis — are victims of rape and abuse.
Incels spread messages that encourage targeting women for violence and discrimination — in both public and private ways. Several mass murderers and attempted mass murderers have identified as incels or said they were inspired by the 2014 Isla Vista massacre, including those responsible for the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon in October 2015; the April 2018 van attack in Toronto; and the November 2018 shooting at a yoga studio in Florida.
Marquis, who appears to be the media-savvy spokesperson for the communities, informed members of the suicide forum that he and Serge were incels who owned incel sites before BuzzFeed News published this story.
“I wanted to make sure I could get this out before the media did another smear job against this community,” Marquis told the suicide-forum members Tuesday.
The incel forum — which currently has more than 9,000 members — gets modest revenue from donations and by selling ad space, Marquis said, which is used for site maintenance.
Marquis and Serge started the suicide forum in March 2018 after Reddit banned a subreddit with the same purpose.
Marquis said that he and Serge had found “censorship-free domain registrars and hosting companies that support freedom of speech" to launch the incel website in 2017 and that they wanted the suicide forum to have the "same level of protection."
“Not much planning went into it,” Marquis wrote in a post detailing the origins of the suicide forum Tuesday. “We had the resources to do so: The money, domain, hosting, forum software, and staff.”
The suicide forum now has more than 6,000 members and has received a very small number of donations, he said.
Marquis said that he and Serge also founded Looksmax.me — a website “for men that want to improve their looks” — in late 2018. Topic threads on the site range from “Megadosing zinc (50 mg) to grow dick size if you're still in puberty” to “is my midface too long.”
Referring to the violent threads on Incel.co, Marquis dismissed them by saying, “There’s a lot shitposting that goes in the community” and those threads “are not to be taken 100% seriously.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org. You can also text TALK to 741741 for free, anonymous 24/7 crisis support in the US from the Crisis Text Line.