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No amount of plastic surgery can fix what ails incels: Thoughts on that New York magazine cover story

By David Futrelle

New York Magazine has a remarkable cover story out now on incels — more specifically, on the subset of the “involuntarily celibate” who obsess endlessly about getting plastic surgery in order to transform themselves from supposedly hideous unfuckable monsters into handsome Chads with perfectly chiseled faces.

For some incels — as the story’s author, Alice Hines, makes clear —  plastic surgery isn’t just a fantasy. They shell out tens of thousands of dollars to get the procedures they think will fix their lives. Spoiler Alert: It never does.

Hines’ story centers around two central characters — one a surgery-addicted incel calling himself Truth4lie, the other an Indiana plastic surgeon named Dr. Barry Eppley, the go-to-guy for dudes who want to turn themselves into Chads by artificial means.

The story of Truth4lie is not a happy one. As Hines tells it, he began his descent into the incel underworld on the Sluthate forum after several unsuccessful years as a would-be pickup artist. Sluthate, which began as PUAhate, was morphing from a pickup-debunking forum into a forum for incels obssessed with their alleged ugliness,

Truth4lie took “the black pill,” a concentrated dose of noxious misogyny and body-dysmorphic self-hatred; instead of memorizing pickup routines he spent his time sitting in what he described as his dark, dingy, fruit-fly infested apartment railing against the allegedly shallow women he felt were rejecting him for his less-than-perfect appearance. And more and more he started to fantasize about getting the plastic surgery necessary to “correct” his self-diagnosed facial flaws and transform him into a Chad.

Then he took the plunge, flying from his home in the Netherlands to Indiana to visit Dr. Eppley to get a jaw implant and a “rhinoplasty revision” to correct an earlier nose job he’d decided made him look too feminine.

Truth4lie had high hopes that the surgery would change his life utterly. “I need women, lots of women, to make up for my miserable life,” he wrote on the Sluthate forums.

I want to live in hotels in tropical countries and live a playboy life there, only fucking hot blonde European girls. 

Truth4lie did feel transformed by the surgery — for a time, at least. But he kept noticing new “imperfections” that he felt needed fixing, and returned again and again to Eppley’s clinic for “revisions” and new procedures, one of which, Hines notes, resulted in “an open wound that took months to close.”

He continued getting surgeries in the Netherlands, but he was never fully satisfied. The last time Hines talked to him he was in the hospital recovering from a suicide attempt triggered by the excessive swelling caused by his latest surgery. But he told Hines he was going to keep going until some plastic surgeon finally got it right. “The prospect of a better surgery result is keeping me alive,” he explained.

He’s not the only incel who has discovered that surgery can’t fix all that ails them. Hines quotes an incel called LegendOfBrickTamland, who found himself getting weirdly angry that people were nicer to him post-surgery. “Getting treated better after surgery feels sickening,” he posted on the forums after getting $30,000 worth of work done.

It’s like, I am the same fucking person, and yet I am somehow better because I spent some money and had a man cut my face up. 

Hines’ article is dotted with “before and after” selfies that incels have posted on what is now Lookism — depicting themselves as they are and, through the magic of photoshop, how they dream they could be after plastic surgery. None of them are ugly; indeed most would score reasonably well on the ten-point scale of looks that incels and other manosphereans are so obsessed with.

It’s certainly possible that plastic surgery could make them look a bit more like their idealized photoshopped doubles — with their male-model cheekbones and stronger chins.

But it hardly seems worth the pain and expense, especially when it’s so abundantly clear that the real problem isn’t with the precise configuration of the bones in their faces but with the poisonous ideas in their heads, ideas reinforced daily by the other commenters on Lookism and other incel sites.

But if Truth4lie’s story is a sad but predictable cautionary tale about the futility of the quest for physical perfection, the Dr. Eppley’s story is in many ways more disturbing. One of the reasons he’s become an idol to incels seeking Chadification is that — unlike some plastic surgeons who turn away wannabe patients who seem to suffer from body-dysmorphic disorder — Eppley apparently takes on all comers, no questions asked.

Indeed, he’s evidently so incurious about the motivations of his patients that — despite his huge incel fanbase — he told Hines that he didn’t even know what incels were until she brought the topic up with him.

And that’s a problem, I think. While I believe people should be allowed to get pretty much whatever plastic surgery they want if they think it will make them feel better about themselves, this approach can become a hugely problematic one when you’re dealing with a community of bitter, self-hating misogynists preaching utterly delusional nonsense not only about their own allegedly imperfect faces and bodies but also about the relations between men and women.

These are people who literally believe, against all evidence to the contrary, that no man who is less than an 8/10 on their supposedly objective scale of attractiveness can ever hope to have sex with any women of what they consider reasonable attractiveness. These are people who think that the mythical Chad literally lives a life of financial independence and endless sex, coming home at night to “a threesome with two supermodels,” as one incel put it in a forum post that Hines quotes.

Given their ridiculous assumptions about the allegedly magic power of “Chadlike” looks, there is no way that any amount of surgery will ever satisfy a hardcore incel — even if they’re not, like Truth4lie, obsessing endlessly about imaginary flaws that no amount of surgery can fix, or, like LegendOfBrickTamland, getting angry that people are treating them better. Because no amount of surgery, no matter how innovative, no matter how skillfully performed, is going to bring you nightly supermodel threesomes. Because no one in the world is having those.

Again, the real solution for incels isn’t implanting silicone to “fix” their chins; it’s extracting them from the incel subculture, and draining out all the poison in their brains.

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Robert
Robert
3 years ago

I like my face more at 58 than I did at 18, and damn glad for that.

Happened across a photo of me in first year of college, and was amazed that I’d ever gotten laid back then. Then I remembered that I had put conscious effort into my personality and behavior, and it made sense in retrospect.

yzek
yzek
3 years ago

>From previous incel coverage on this blog, I’d gotten the impression

… which was intended by WHTM and it’s inhabitats, whose opionion of this group is obviously skewed.

>that incels generally rejected or ignored the prospect of plastic surgery, like everything else classed under self-improvement

No, they don’t; the idea of “looksmaxxing” (by “gymcelling”) is quite common, but plastic surgery is rarely considered because of its costs.

IMO most incels also do not have BDD in any form and their focus on body improvements originates from opinion bluntly expressed as “you’ve got to be 8/10 to score”.

yzek
yzek
3 years ago

> Where were men in the 1990s when famous actresses started turning into lollipops and millions of young women strove to follow suit?

Maybe In the gym, trying to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Rabid Rabbit
Rabid Rabbit
3 years ago

@Luzbelitx

Not to mention, if they’re living in hotels in tropical countries, where are all these blonde European girls going to come from? Is he going to be shipping them in himself? Or are they going to be shelling out the money themselves to visit the tropical country simply for the sake of shagging him?

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee

Yzek,

In what universe was Schwarzenegger held up as an ideal that all young men should live up to? I was a teenager in the 90s and that was not a thing.

And I’m not qualified to diagnose anyone with BDD, so I won’t try, but believing that you have to be an 8/10 to find a partner is not a healthy and normal attitude. Even when I had an eating disorder, I knew that wasn’t the case.

Rabid Rabbit
Rabid Rabbit
3 years ago

Was Arnie ever a sex symbol, except to men who thought Arnie was what women wanted, in the same way that penis extensions are about other men, as is Vladimir Putin’s hypothetical hotness?

https://shortpacked.com/comic/false-equivalence

yzek
yzek
3 years ago

Yeah, I should have expected that you somehow assume that unrealistic male body images don’t count :>

comment image

yzek
yzek
3 years ago

Oh, and don’t forget that these Hulk-wannabies are a margin; models from commercials always represented a large variety of weight, height…

Lainy
Lainy
3 years ago

Oh great, they brought up the feminist barbie thing. What are you? from 2003?

Crip Dyke
Crip Dyke
3 years ago

@Lainy:

No, they brought up the fact that people seem to be ignoring that men, too, have unrealistic role models.

There’s a lot to be said about why these things are different, but if yzek’s impression was that we were actually denying that unrealistic role models for boys and men exist, then that retort would be on-topic and appropriate, if a little under informed about how body types are less hegemonic for boys and men than they are for girls and women.

…meanwhile…

Schwarzenegger is an interesting case, because he clearly wasn’t held up as het women’s favorite dreamboat (and thus impact the development of young, straight men), but his look did have a psychologically unhealthy effect on gay men’s gym bunny culture.

Rabid Rabbit
Rabid Rabbit
3 years ago

As the comic I linked to points out, the Barbie model is unhealthy because girls are made to aspire to that on the grounds that it’s what boys want, but the He-Man model is different, because he’s what men assume women want, without asking the women if this is accurate. In other words, He-Man is Chad.

The Barbie model is not entirely inaccurate, as the quote in the OP about wanting to live on a tropical island banging hot blonde European girls demonstrates. It’s part of the whole “Men only want to bang 10s” claptrap; it’s also true that women who try to conform to conventional beauty patterns are likely to get a lot of attention from men, though not necessarily men they should want to impress. This is not a good thing. (The model also contains its own opposite, teaching girls that if they do everything they can to not look like Barbie, they can evade the attention of douchenozzles of this sort. But this bit is rarely emphasized.)

The He-Man model — which is in another form what the incels going in for plastic surgery aspire to — is toxic in a different way, because it doesn’t have even that (unfortunate) element of truth to it. Men go into it unaware that they’re only impressing their fellow men, and are then baffled and angered at why it’s not working. It’s like spraying yourself with too much Axe and then bitching that underwear models aren’t immediately rubbing themselves against you.

Both these models, though, have in common the fact that they’re about the opinion of men.

Note: This post contains gross overgeneralizations. I’m aware of the fact.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee

Yzek,

How old are you? You seem to be really struggling to grasp what the male beauty conventions were in the 1990s. If you ask nicely, I might tell you who the major hotties were. As a male attracted teen girl, I would know.

Here’s a hint. One of them was someone that the manosphere moans about a lot to do this day.

Of course, my point was not that there were no beauty standards for men. More that specific subcultures excepted, they weren’t so unrealistic that men were en masse going to dangerous lengths to meet those standards.

John
John
3 years ago

So, we’re all just going to ignore the fact that this post is illustrated with a photo of Hermann Rorschach? Yes?

Lainy
Lainy
3 years ago

@Crip Dyke

Well that’s ridiculous. I’ve written an 8 page research paper on how beauty standards hurt young men and teenage boys. And I chose that topic because I felt very strongly about it.

Dalillama
Dalillama
3 years ago

@John
What significance do you attach to this that needs attention?

Lainy
Lainy
3 years ago

@Dalillama

Is your profile picture thing a character or an original art? I see it all the time and it looks so familiar but I can’t place it?

John
John
3 years ago

@Dalillama

None? I just thought it was funny. Kind of a random choice. (Although I suppose he was handsome.)

Catalpa
Catalpa
3 years ago

@Lainy

Dalillama’s avatar is Agatha Heterodyne, from Girl Genius: http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/

Nequam
Nequam
3 years ago

@John: Having never seen a picture of Hermann Rorschach ’til now, I wouldn’t have known to comment on it. Now that I know– well played, David. (And doesn’t Herr Rorschach look kind of like Brad Pitt?)

Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)
Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)
3 years ago

yzek:

… which was intended by WHTM and it’s inhabitats, whose opionion of this group is obviously skewed.

I freely admit my knowledge of incel culture is heavily based on David’s selection of what I assume are the more shocking parts of said culture, because it’s something I’d rather not research on my own. I mostly hang out here for the humor and community spirit. I was basically just asking for David to comment on this apparent inconsistency.

No, they don’t; the idea of “looksmaxxing” (by “gymcelling”) is quite common, but plastic surgery is rarely considered because of its costs.

I’ll take that as a data point. I have passingly heard of “looksmaxxing” before, and I’d say generally the steep focus on looks seems like a strategy to avoid considering most aspects of self-improvement.

IMO most incels also do not have BDD in any form and their focus on body improvements originates from opinion bluntly expressed as “you’ve got to be 8/10 to score”.

IIRC, some other “inhabitants” of this blog have also sometimes opined that incels aren’t generally nearly as distressed as they claim to be. So their deeply weird beliefs wouldn’t be so much about rationalizing BDD or depression as something else.

yzek
yzek
3 years ago

> If you ask nicely, I might tell you who the major hotties were. As a male attracted teen girl, I would know.

Reverse stance is called “mansplaining”, I guess.

Lainy
Lainy
3 years ago

Hey Yzek

How about you actually listen to women for once. You know the ones who deal with these creeps. And don’t disrespect weirwoodtreehugger like that. She’s earn what she’s got in this community. You haven’t.

yzek
yzek
3 years ago

> I mostly hang out here for the humor and community spirit.

This humor and community spirit is based on mocking and ridiculing people like me. Pleas don’t expect any respect from me beyond common netiquette in return.

Lainy
Lainy
3 years ago

This humor and community spirit is based on mocking and ridiculing people like me.

Well if the horse shoes fits up the ass buddy. Don’t like it you can leave. Or better yet stop saying crap that people can mock you for. And leave Bookworm alone. She’s one of my favorites and I will fight you about her.

Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)
Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)
3 years ago

yzek:

“People like you”?

Pardon my charitability. From your half reasonable conduct, I didn’t immediately realize you’re like the extremist incels we mock and ridicule on this blog.

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