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Douchebags vs. Assholes

Today I was looking for information on douchebags, and I got more than I was looking for.

Specifically I was looking up dirt on American Apparel founder Dov Charney — a high-functioning sleazebucket, by all accounts — after an acquaintance mentioned on a mailing list that she had seen some AA shirts she liked on sale and couldn’t remember what the reason is nobody was supposed to like American Apparel anymore. So I sniffed around and found all kinds of good stuff that should make anybody think twice about giving money to that company.

And then I found mention of Charney in something called “Douche of the Decade” that Gawker ran with last December. And that looked promising, especially this description — “Dov Charney: American Apparel CEO. Famous perv. Hater of unattractive employees. Lover of naked employees. America’s skeeviest fashion executive. Dov Charney.” — but what really caught my eye was the mesmerizing mini-essay contained in the comments section.

Now, Gawker commenters are pretty much the worst people on the Internet, at least after YouTube commenters and people who pretend they don’t look at 4Chan, but this one… this one should be separated from the herd. And studied. This one made me forget about Dov Charney and float away, serenely, on a little fluffy cloud of douchey magic, for the next 20-30 minutes, approximately, until my attention span was consumed by bingy noises.

I give you RollsRoyce Revenge, and the Most Awesome Thing About Douchebags You Will Read Today:

Consider the Douche: A Study

Tucker Max, douchebag, is famous exclusively for claiming to be an asshole. Yet all who know of him know that the term “douchebag” is the correct one. Why is this? What makes a douchebag a douchebag, as opposed to an asshole? The following thoughts have been set down by way of rumination on the ways and methods of the douche and how shall ye know him.

For the purposes of this essay, the douchebag is assumed to be male. While it is true that females can exhibit douchebag behavior, they are usually too busy fighting off male douchebags to do so. Those most often mistaken for female douchebags, Julia Allison among them, tend to be divas, another creature entirely.

It is also for this reason that I would argue against “douchebag” as being a sexist term. The Jezebels have pointed out that the insult is based on something a woman uses. I say that a smart woman uses a douchebag when she has to—and then she throws it away. Sounds like the perfect metaphor to me.

Douchebagging is a young man’s game. After the age of 40, the classic douchebag becomes a scumbag—which is to say, a douchebag left out to become all cruddy and murky with the bitterness of middle age. Scumbags, like hyenas, are still essentially bottom-feeding losers, but years of failure and sexual rejection have turned them mean and honed their low, animal cunning. A scumbag can be violent in a cowardly way if you let your guard down. A douchebag is always a coward, period.

Another thing to note: douchebaggery is primarily concerned with establishing channels of social power based on the pack mentality. There is never a lone douchebag—they are social animals.

The term “douchebag” does not apply to such as Rush Limbaugh or Lou Dobbs. Aside from the issue of age (both Dobbs and Limbaugh being heaps of decaying, rot-bloated, cholesterol-laden, pre-cancerous flesh), neither is interested in social interaction per se, or in sex, the other great idée fixe of the douchebag. They, like most politicians and media figures, are festering shit-swollen boils on the ballsack of Beelzebub, but they are not douchebags.

The simplest way of conceiving it is this: a douchebag is a failed asshole. The asshole is the true alpha-personality: the douchebag is the cowed, quivering copycat. The asshole rarely thinks of his own assholishness—the douchebag plots and plans his assholery, only to have it collapse into a wet splashy puddle of douche. The asshole can, on occasion, be charming, attentive, generous or cultured—this is what makes him attractive, and therefore dangerous. The douchebag is never anything but a schmuck. The douchebag worships and loves and hates and envies the asshole. The asshole never notices the douchebag, except on those rare occasions when he is inspired to crush the douchebag to a pulp. The douchebag dreams of being an asshole. The asshole does not dream—he’s too worn out by fucking the douchebag’s girlfriend.

Assholes can be talented, even geniuses—thus the frequency one hears the term; “Gee, X is absolutely amazing at BLANK, but he’s kind of an asshole.” In this case, some of the perceived assholishness of the asshole comes from his willingness to put his talent before other human interaction. Assholes win Nobel prizes, Olympic swimming competitions, Academy Awards. The douchebag has no talent other than an ability, under certain circumstances, to appropriate the asshole’s talent as his own.

Sex for the asshole is really about pleasure—his pleasure. That of the woman (or of the other man), comes a distant second or not at all. Sex for the douchebag is about power—first over the woman (in addition to being primarily male, douchebags are exclusively heterosexual), and then over the team of fellow douchebags he plans on bragging to of his conquest. Pleasure never enters the equation for either person because the douchebag always has one hand on his blog. Assholes can be discrete, basically because they don’t want people to realize whatever sort of kink they’re into. Douchebags are nothing if not vanilla in the sack, but are compelled to invent all sorts of grotesque practices, encounters and partners to cement their asshole status. Thus, Tucker lying about filming butthex in Opie & Anthony is the true epitome of douchebag.

Now, I’m not going to fly a big banner for assholes. Given the choice between asshole and douchebag, it is better to be neither. The life of an asshole is essentially a tragic one, leading to wasted talent, estranged families, friendless existences, financial ruin and something very, very, very wrong with your liver. No one possessed of a moiety of their marbles could ever point to a raging asshole and say: “Go thou, and do likewise.”

However—and here’s where Tucker Max comes in—true assholes never make a fetish out of their own assholishness. An asshole, like a tornado or a killer whale or some other initially impressive but ultimately destructive thing, simply is. James Bond, perhaps the ultimate asshole—a cold-blooded murderer, a spy, a sociopath—never once called himself an asshole. It was just: “Bond. James Bond.” (Conversely, Pussy Galore, also an asshole, never had to say: “Gosh, I’m good at fucking!’)

It is the burden of the douchebag to continually trumpet his own fake asshole status. If someone tells you “I’m an asshole” you are almost certain to be dealing with a douchebag. An asshole may tell you a horrific story of his past that leaves you thinking “wow, what an asshole;” the douchebag tells you the same story (which he heard first from the asshole), gingerbreads it to the point of obvious absurdity and concludes: “Yup, I’m really an asshole!”

Tucker Max has attempted to parlay his own weasely life into the Elysian Fields of Asshole, but belies his quest with every act. A remora fantasizing about being a shark, he describes himself as an asshole, blabs and boasts of his assholery, lies—obviously—about his stories, and is forced, douchebag that he is, to hire thugs to serve as his asshole-muscles (no asshole ever relied on some other dude to do his brawling). Panting desperately for the sacred status of mythological assholes such as Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando, Miles Davis, Prince Harry, Robert Maplethorpe or Mick Jagger, he has succeeded only in making himself look ever more the quivering, bullying, squealing, lisping, jelly-bellied, flipper-waving, khaki-pants-wearing, Mommy’s apron-clinging, frat-boy pee-stained sloppy-boppy poopy-pants pile of douche.

And this, friends and neighbors, is why Tucker Max is my vote for Douche of the Decade.

  1. Robyn
    October 7, 2010 at 10:55


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