Much has been written, is being written, and will continue to be written about celibacy in the priesthood and its effects. Contrastingly, very little is written about persons who, for many reasons, find themselves alone despite related efforts to connect intimately with others. In the past several years, a psychological concept called Involuntary Celibacy or INCEL, has appeared in the psychological literature. Perhaps only those who experience this condition know how taxing and troubling it can be. From Wikipedia:
Involuntary celibacy is the absence in human sexuality of intimate relationships or sexual intercourse for reasons other than voluntary celibacy, asexuality, antisexualism, or sexual abstinence. The term (which is sometimes shortened to Incel) describes those who, despite being open to sexual intimacy and potential romance with someone and also making active, repeated efforts towards such an end, cannot cause any such end(s) to occur with any significant degree of regularity—or even at all.
As a concept, involuntary celibacy distinguishes itself from other various celibacy types by two major overall characteristics: First, it is a pattern-like, semi-perpetual condition that cannot seem to improve despite concentrated effort of the affected individual towards improving sex appeal and social skills to try to attract sexual partners. Second, involuntarily celibate individuals are at a complete or near-complete lack for intimate physical connection for very long spans of time—years and even sometimes decades, not merely weeks or months—and are also at a complete or near-complete lack of opportunities for sexual advancement in the first place, thereby making betterment of their own sexuality through accumulation of "sexual experience" impossible.
Many types of celibacy, including voluntary or semi-voluntary celibacy, exist throughout the spectrum of human sexuality; such instances of lack of sex are very common in the human experience. Involuntary celibacy is seen (chiefly by those who are affected by it) as a separate psychosocial issue to be taken seriously in its own right both because of the sheer extended lengths of time involved in Incel "dry spells", and also because such extended lack can have actual discernible negative consequences on a person's sexual development. However, despite corollaries such as sleep-pattern clinics that study insomnia, sex research clinics do not seem to have much interest in studying Incel.
What makes involuntary celibacy an especially difficult condition for its sufferers to deal with is the fact that most of the time the circumstance cannot be explained through external personal factors—most Incels, based on inquests by researchers into the population, are not especially physically unattractive, and most resemble in an interpersonal sense their peers who are not involuntarily celibate. Although a few of the involuntarily celibate population may have discernible personality disorders that preclude current and future sexual opportunities, the small amount of research done on this subject indicates that the Incel population are on the whole socially normal, healthy individuals whose frustration is merely a product of their lack of sex, and not vice versa. This makes an individual's involuntarily celibate situation extremely difficult to resolve through the standard psychological methods of pinpointing and "fixing" internal and external life circumstances.
The Journal of Sex Research (May 2001) presented an article, "Involuntary Celibacy: A Life Course Analysis--Statistical Data Included." There is also a Web site run by persons who consider themselves to be "Incels" with many different discussion threads. Within a Church where much time and effort are devoted to couples and families, acknowledgment of the presence of good people who experience this vexing condition may be an important pastoral concern.
William Van Ornum