Just last fall, Chris Harper-Mercer, the 26-year-old who killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, was posting online about being "involuntarily" celibate.What set Rodger apart from other "virgin killers" (as headlines have dubbed them) was that he left an extensive digital footprint in an Internet world dedicated to men complaining about their solo state."Tell me the truth," she said, leaning in conspiratorially.
Previous mass shooters—from Marc Lépine in Montreal in 1989 to Pittsburgh's George Sodini in 2009—had expressed similar sentiments.Almost everyone I told about this article asked me, almost instantly, whether he was ugly—as in ugly to an extent that it would explain his sexlessness.The question made me sad, and resistant to describing Michael at all, as if to do so were to put my stamp of approval on our whole hierarchy of beauty.Other users call themselves "incels," meaning "involuntary celibates," or "Forever Alone," which requires no explanation.They use the site as an advice depot, confessional, and water cooler, complaining frequently about the impossibility of making themselves understood by "normies" or "noncels."Michael has sunk countless hours into the site. But offline, he almost never mentions it—much less that he hasn't dated anyone since he was 17, and has had sex just once in the decade-plus since.