The Donnelly Study also known as Involuntary celibacy: a life course analysis is the first academic study to take the concept of involuntary celibacy seriously as a life circumstance while using the phrase, "involuntary celibacy", verbatim.
It was cited dozens of times in academic literature, including in peer-reviewed, academic research. The study itself was also peer-reviewed and published in The Journal of Sex Research (2001).
This study was the beginning of the use of the word, "incel", as an academic sociological term. Alana’s incel mailing list was coordinating with a professor of sociology named, “Denise Donnelly”, and a team of Georgia State University researchers to use her community as a beginning for research on the causes of involuntary celibacy in early 1999. The study was co-authored by sociologist and professor Elizabeth Burgess who, as late as 2014, had described incel forums as “valuable.”
Popularizing Involuntary Celibacy in Academia and Solid Formation of Definition
“Involuntarily celibate” is a valid academic sociological term coined by Antoine Banier and abbreviated by Alana and subsequently popularized in Donnelly’s study, referring to people who would like to have a sexual or romantic partner but can't find one for six months or more. The date may seem arbitrary, but there had to be a cutoff point, and Denise Donnelly chose six months as that factored in that some sexually active people go weeks without sex, and people start to worry about their sex lives after a certain period longer than that period.
The questionnaire for the study was filled out by 60 men and 22 women who identified as involuntarily celibate. Findings showed that involuntary celibates may come from broad sexual and personal backgrounds. Three categories were developed: virgins were those who had never had sex, singles had sex in the past but were unable to establish current sexual relationships, and those with romantic partners, but were currently in sexless relationships (which included 28% of respondents).
Of the virgin involuntary celibates, 76% were male, and 24% were female. Men in the study reported they felt trapped by being stuck in the role of the initiator of dates, while the women in the study reported that they felt like they should not initiate romantic or sexual encounters.
Overall, 35% of respondents felt dissatisfied, frustrated, or angry about their lack of sexual relationships regardless of their current partnership status. Most involuntary celibates appeared to feel despair, depression, frustration and a loss of confidence.
The study also found grounding for a common incel concern– that as sexual and relationship milestones are missed, it becomes harder and harder to achieve normality going forward. Many incel people thought that their sexual development had somehow stalled in an earlier stage of life, leading them to feel different from their peers, and like they will never catch-up.
Incel is Now a Valid Academic Sociological Term
Donnelly’s study, while the sample size was small, has been cited 62 times in scholarly literature, including an encyclopedia about family life, a peer-reviewed sociology journal, and various books by accredited sociologists and an accredited anthropologist, giving the term, “involuntary celibacy”, academic legitimacy, at least as a sociological term describing a real-life circumstance.
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