Joey’s studio apartment has one huge window with the blinds drawn, a bed with a mattress pad but no sheets, and a laptop. He almost never leaves. He spends all day chatting online, smoking Newports, sometimes going for two days straight. The blinds are drawn to cut down on the glare on the laptop. "Honestly I feel more real here, sitting in front of a computer. When I go outside I almost depersonalize a little bit and feel like I'm playing a video game,” Joey said. “I don't know why that is. It's just a state of mind. It's probably just a side effect of isolation.”

The internet world that keeps Joey in his apartment is “involuntary celibacy.” Joey is an incel, a 23-year-old virgin. Incels believe that they are doomed by society’s cruel rules to never have sex, because they are too ugly or socially awkward. On paper, Joey should not be one of them. He is attractive and smart and funny, and he has the social skills many incels believe they lack. But these are his people. “I'm addicted to it, because, like, I find the people I talk to online way more interesting than the celebrities that our society holds up,” Joey said. “I've just never met people this interesting, and you're willing to say things about yourself — that you would never tell anyone in real life — online.”

Most of the world was introduced to incels in 2014 when Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured 14 more at University of California - Santa Barbara. Rodger wrote a long manifesto blaming women for not having sex with him, and it made him a hero among some incels. On message boards and forums, they joke that they’re going to “go E.R.” In April, Alek Minassian, 25, drove a van into a crowd in Toronto, killing 10 people. He’d praised Rodger on Facebook. The attack made incels the subject of international news, a mysterious internet phenomenon to be feared and ridiculed.

We wanted to talk to an incel on camera, someone who could explain this subculture and where it came from. A source from the radical political internet world put me in touch with Joey. (They’d met in a chatroom.) After a few weeks of chatting on Discord, a text and voice app designed for gamers, Joey agreed to an interview, and a tour of his online world.

Joey doesn’t have a job, and he’s not in school. His mom pays for his apartment. He didn’t go to college, because he wasn’t mentally healthy when he graduated high school. He says he’s been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety, and social paranoia, the latter of which he says isn’t a thing. He’s been prescribed SSRIs, SSNIs, benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants. “I’ve literally been to some of the best psychologists in the country, and not one of them hinted that my problem may be societal,” Joey explained on Discord. “They all acted as if it was specific, and drugs were all that helped. Then when I started going online, I realized there is literally an epidemic of men just like me.”