Sexual-related frustration is a significant contributing factor to gun violence among mass shooters, resulting in a higher number of victims compared to other perpetrators, according to a recent study published in Homicide Studies. The research reveals that these individuals differ in terms of their psychological profiles and the nature of their attacks. Understanding the connection between intimacy-related frustration and public mass shootings is crucial for addressing the underlying causes of these incidents.
The study aimed to investigate the correlation between intimacy-related frustration and mass shootings in the United States, with a specific focus on individuals known as “incels” – those who identify as involuntarily celibate. While most incels do not engage in violent acts, the researchers hypothesized that intimacy-related frustration might contribute to a social climate that elevates the risk of mass shootings.
Researchers Adam Lankford and Jason R. Silva, a criminology professor at The University of Alabama and an assistant criminal justice professor at William Paterson University, respectively, emphasized the increasing threat posed by individuals who identify as incels. They cited the case study published by the U.S. Secret Service in 2021, which examined the motivations of a man who targeted a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, injuring six women. The perpetrator identified as an incel, expressed grievances about male “virginity burden,” and had a history of sexual misconduct. This case prompted the researchers to conduct a comprehensive study on the prevalence of intimacy-related frustration among mass shooters.
To conduct their investigation, the researchers analyzed a database containing information on 178 public mass shooters in the United States from 1966 to 2021. They developed specific criteria to identify shooters who exhibited intimacy-related frustration, considering factors such as explicit complaints, difficulty forming intimate relationships, solicitation of sex workers, stalking or harassment of desired partners, and engagement in illegal or inappropriate sexual behaviors.
The study aimed to answer four main research questions: the prevalence of intimacy-related frustration among mass shooters, the distinguishing characteristics of mass shooters with intimacy-related frustration, the behavioral patterns of these individuals compared to other mass shooters, and the victims targeted by mass shooters with intimacy-related frustration.
The results of the study revealed that approximately one-third of public mass shooters in the United States experienced intimacy-related frustration. These individuals exhibited various indicators of frustration, including explicit complaints, stalking, harassment, engagement in illegal sexual behaviors, and a focus on minors or violent fetishes. Additionally, they were over six times more likely to have a history of sex offenses and demonstrated a stronger desire for notoriety.
The researchers were surprised to discover that many of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, such as those at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas, Parkland, and Uvalde, were committed by individuals experiencing intimacy-related frustration. These cases had already undergone extensive study, but the researchers realized that statements made by the shooters, their online activities, and their broader patterns of behavior indicated a larger pattern connected to intimacy-related frustration.
Furthermore, the study found that mass shooters with intimacy-related frustration were more likely to be young, male, unmarried, childless, unemployed, and misogynistic compared to other mass shooters. Their behaviors aligned with seeking relief, power, revenge, and displaced frustration.
Regarding the victims, the study revealed that mass shooters with intimacy-related frustration had a higher victim count compared to other perpetrators. They were also more likely to target a greater proportion of female victims, driven by misogyny, power-seeking tendencies, and a desire for revenge. Additionally, these individuals frequently targeted schools in their attacks.
The researchers emphasized that while intimacy-related frustration is not the sole determinant of mass shootings, it plays a significant role in understanding the motivations behind these acts of violence. They explained that individuals who are not struggling with immediate survival needs, such as food or shelter, may still experience profound dissatisfaction in their lives due to intimacy-related frustration. When combined with factors like access to firearms, psychological issues, lack of empathy, and toxic masculinity, the risk of mass violence becomes heightened.
The study’s findings underscore the importance of further research on the topic, utilizing different analytical approaches and incorporating measures specifically related to romantic rejection. Additionally, examining the timing of events and behaviors in the lives of mass shooters could provide valuable insights into their decision to carry out attacks. Future research efforts could also focus on strategies to reduce intimacy-related frustration and its potential impact on aggression and violence.
The researchers emphasized that intimacy-related frustration is a complex issue that extends beyond the experiences of self-identified incels. It is not solely biological or based on the time since an individual last had sex. Instead, it encompasses psychological aspects influenced by expectations, entitlements, adherence to healthy or toxic gender norms, and more.
Addressing intimacy-related frustration requires addressing the broader societal factors that perpetuate unhealthy attitudes and expectations regarding sexual relationships. By challenging toxic beliefs and norms, society can work toward fostering more realistic expectations and reducing frustration among individuals. The researchers also acknowledged that other variables, such as desires for love and companionship or experiences of rejection and isolation, may interact with intimacy-related frustration in the lives of mass shooters, making it a multifaceted issue.
Ultimately, understanding the role of intimacy-related frustration in mass shootings provides valuable insights for prevention and intervention efforts. By addressing the underlying causes and providing support for healthy intimate relationships, society can work toward reducing the risk of mass violence and creating a safer future for all.