A sub-narrative within incel and manosphere discourse is that “Chads” — men who are highly attractive or desirable to women — are cads. Chad is a misogynistic womanizer with hostile sexist attitudes toward women. Further, Chad has experience of women in ways that incels and average men do not. Chad is good with women, so Chad has spent so much time with women that he has seen their “true nature” firsthand. It’s ugly! Chad ends up sharing the same beliefs as incels regarding women, but formed through a different experiential pathway.
Chad is the beneficiary of female “short term” mating strategies. When a woman cheats it’s with Chad. Chad sees, from his side of it, all of the “bad” behavior of the fairer sex. Chad is the pool boy and the milkman. Chad is the hot bartender who has sex after work with the drunk girl who just got in a fight with her fiance.
Chad is high in the Dark Triad, an antisocial personality construct that consists of Narcissism, Psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. He is a “bad boy” with a criminal record. Chad cheats. Because Chad is bad, of course Chad devalues women as well. Chad is a fast-life history strategist who does not form long-term, healthy romantic relationships with women.
This is the flip side of the Halo Effect. There are some negative stereotypes associated with conventionally attractive men. I recently posted a photo of a handsome, jacked male fitness model on Twitter. I asked: why would you not prefer this man? The responses indicated that women perceived him to be a narcissist, potentially unfaithful, and sometimes gay. An article in Psychology Today, not tongue-in-cheek, entitled “Reasons Not to Date an Attractive, Masculine Man” boiled down to “he is more likely to cheat on you.” Indeed, high male attractiveness is associated with higher infidelity (although this does not seem to be the case with high female attractiveness).
Selmer et al. (2023): Chads are the real misogynists
In a recent paper, Selmer et al. (2023) wrote: “in our sample, the extreme misogynistic young men resemble the socially dominant, alpha-male “Chad”, who is successful with women and romantic partners, more than the stereotypical incel who turns his sexual frustration into hate of women and a desire for revenge.”
Selmer et al. used the sociosexual orientation inventory (SOI) measures of sociosexual behavior and sociosexual desire. Within the behavior subscale the number of past sexual partners is measured. They also created an Extreme Misogyny Scale (EMS) based on passages from the manifesto of Elliot Rodger, the incel involved in the Isla Vista shooting. A sample of 748 young men were recruited from Amazon MTurk.
They found that sociosexual behavior predicted higher scores on the EMS (b = 0.113). Meanwhile, a negative association between sociosexual desire and the EMS emerged (b = -.235). They concluded: “this gave us an initial indication that those whom we can (objectively) describe as incels (being sexually inactive but wanting to be active) on average hold less misogynistic views than others.”
Low/high sociosexual behavior/desire may not really capture incels, so they also found 74 young men in their sample who had no sexual activity, but who did have sexual intentions. In this group, they found no relationship between being an incel and the EMS (b = -0.0002).
Selmer et al. also found that extreme scorers on the EMS (men who consistently reported a 6 or a 7) scored higher in measures of social dominance orientation (SDO), SOI behavior, and the Dark Triad. These traits also predicted higher SOI-behavior (which is pretty consistent with past research).
Are they really, though?
That men high in sociosexuality score higher on a scale derived from the manifesto of Elliot Rodger than incels do is a big claim. Past research has found that incels do score higher in measures of hostile sexism and misogyny (Grunau et al., 2022; Hamilton, 2022) as do men lower in mate value (Bosson et al., 2022). Additionally, we may ask if incels (those who identify with the incel subculture and blackpill ideology) were captured in this sample at all. Most men who are involuntarily celibate in a literal sense do not identify with blackpill ideology nor the incel subculture.
To these ends I asked two TRUE/FALSE questions:
- I would call myself an incel.
- I have been without sex for more than two years and it is not by choice.
This let me split participants into two groups: self-identified incels and functional or operational incels.
I administered the Extreme Misogyny Scale (EMS) of Selmer et al. (2023) and my own novel scale for this purpose: the Chad Scale (CS). The CS was intended to reflect how incels perceive a “Chad,” as well as index physical and behavioral correlates of success with women. This is a 1-7 Likert measure. Here is the CS:
My sample consisted of 348 men. 95% of the sample was heterosexual and 5.5% was bisexual. 45 participants were self-identifying incels and 104 were functional or operational incels.
Cronbach’s alpha for the EMS and CS was .88 and .87 respectively, indicating high reliability for both scales.
Self-identifying incels had significantly higher scores on the EMS (M = incels 49.45, M = non-incels 33.39, p = 5.527e-09, d = 1.23). See Figure 1.
Operationalized incels, after removing self-identifying incels, also had significantly higher scores on the EMS (M = incels 37.59, M = non-incels 32.17, p = 0.001, d = .47). See Figure 2.
When comparing the top 10% of men on the CS — we can call them the Gigachads — with operationalized incels, the Gigachads also scored significantly lower (M = incels 49.45, M = Gigachads 31.65, p = 6.977e-08, d = 1.35). See Figure 3.
Scores of the CS and EMS were negatively correlated (p = 3.39e-08, r = -.29). Participants who viewed themselves more as “Chads” were less likely to score high in misogyny as measured by the EMS. See Figure 4.
After removing self-identified and operationalized incels from the sample (leaving only sexually active men) there was no significant relationship between CS and EMS scores (p = 0.069, r = -.12). Although not significant, the direction of the relationship was negative for CS associated with EMS.
And when comparing the top 10% of men on the CS with the bottom 50% of men (again, self-identified and operationalized incels removed) there was no significant difference between groups (M = top 10% 31.64, M = bottom 50% 32.59, p = 0.693, d = -0.08).
A Bayesian analysis with a high prior assumption (r = .9; a strong relationship where the more Chadly someone is, the more misogynistic they are) returned a Bayes Factor (BF) of 0.76, indicating weak evidence in favor of the null hypothesis.
What can we take home from this? Contrary to the results of Selmer et al. (2023), both self-identifying incels and functional incels (men who are not having sex and not by choice) scored much higher in extreme misogyny as measured by the EMS.
Within the non-incel sample there was no relationship between Chadliness as measured by the CS and misogyny as measured by the EMS.
Here’s the thing — we all knew someone who was a misogynist and who was good with women at some point. I didn’t find a relationship between EMS scores and CS scores for the non-incel men. Men who are sexually active can fall anywhere, but it does look like the men who are excluded from the mating pool entirely have more misogynistic attitudes.
What’s even more likely is that you’ve known someone higher in dark personality traits (the DT, SDO) who pulled a lot, but who probably didn’t share the extreme beliefs of incels. They may have been higher in benevolent sexism rather than hostile sexism, for example. Men high in hostile sexism are repulsive to women in ways that men high in benevolent sexism are not. When measuring the romantic “success” of men high in the Dark Triad, however, one should keep in mind that these are also men who are less selective or picky. If you’re willing to have sex with anything that moves — and your goal is novel sex by quantity rather than quality — you won’t have a hard time racking up a larger sexual history. This is part of why physical attractiveness only has a weak relationship with lifetime number of sexual partners.
We can also question if being high in the DT or social dominance is what makes a “Chad” per the incel narrative. Incels focus highly on the role of physical attractiveness in sexual success with women. Selmer et al. (2023) focus on these behavioral traits and link them with the more Machivellian strain of Pick-Up Artists (PUAs). But is an average man who learns “game” and accumulates many sexual partners a “Chad” per the incel caricature?
Sociosexual behavior may not capture this well. The Chad Scale, on the other hand, includes both physical features and sexual/romantic history that incels tend to ascribe to a Chad: men who are tall, muscular, physically attractive, and who have a romantic trajectory characterized by early romantic success and spontaneous attention from women.
Limitations & Strengths
Both Selmer et al. (2023) and my methodology rely on the self reports of men. As Selmer et al. point out, men high in narcissism and dark personality traits may be more likely to lie or exaggerate their number of sexual partners. It’s also possible that they might be more likely to have positive self-exaggerations on the Chad Scale. However, if that were the case we might also expect CS scores to be associated with higher levels of misogyny as high sociosexual behavior was in Selmer et al. In my results we saw the reverse: men who scored highly on the CS were less likely to be misogynistic. The CS might be more resistant to narcissistic self-assessment (I can’t know for sure), because although narcissists may exaggerate sexual success they may also feel systematically unappreciated by others. The CS includes items that ask men to estimate objective traits relative to other men (e.g. height) as well as perceptions of appreciation from women across the lifespan.
Bosson, J. K., Rousis, G. J., & Felig, R. N. (2022). Curvilinear sexism and its links to men’s perceived mate value. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 48(4), 516-533.
Grunau, K., Bieselt, H. E., Gul, P., & Kupfer, T. R. (2022). Unwanted celibacy is associated with misogynistic attitudes even after controlling for personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 199, 111860.
Hamilton, A. (2022). Characteristics of those who identify as ‘incels’.
Selmer, S. B., Lindekilde, L., & Petersen, M. (2023, September 22). Sociosexuality and incel ideology: Does a mismatch between sexual practice and sexual intentions predict extreme misogynist views?. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/wsvq8