What Is A Douchebag, Exactly? An Investigation

“Douchebag.”

It’s a derogatory term commonly used to mock a man, not unlike the word “bitch” can be used to unfairly mock a woman. But while somebody could easily define a bitch as “A woman with an attitude,” a douchebag is different. A douchebag isn’t a man with an attitude, because that’s reserved the just-as-popular “asshole.”

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A douchebag is instead a sub-culture of the asshole, meaning he does live in the same family as the asshole, but he’s worse. At least that’s what Margaret, a 32-year-old woman I recently interviewed, believes.

Douchebags Are Men

You see, I surveyed a bunch of women calling for an official definition of the term, because personally, I don’t think anybody knows what a douchebag is, exactly. It’s more one of those cases where you know when you see one, but you can’t articulate a generalized definition.

Since that’s the case, let’s continue with my first response from Margaret, who loves the term:

“‘Douchebag’ is one of my favorite words. It’s one that is often widely applied to anyone who acts like a jerk. But generally, the term should be reserved for people of either gender who do or act SO asshole-y that “asshole” just doesn’t come close to capturing the revulsion. Plus, I can say it in front of my teen and tween. BIG benefit.”

What is a douche?

While I’d like to say the term douchebag doesn’t discriminate against gender, I can’t say that I’ve ever heard a woman being referred to as a douchebag. Even Google agrees, search results show that a douchebag is “An obnoxious or contemptible person, typically a man.” So on that front, I’d have to disagree with Margaret’s testimony. But Carolyn’s definition proved far more angry (and therefore compelling):

“A ‘douchebag’ is the smarmiest of assholes. D-bags are self-serving and defined by a warped sense of how they’re perceived by others. They see charming, others see creepiness. They exude confidence, others perceive aggressiveness.

D-bags make aggressive, unwanted sexual advances on others despite their overt disinterest. They perceive themselves as more intelligent than others and as such, fancy themselves influential or persuasive, though in practice they are merely pushy and obnoxious.

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NOT that D-bags should be confused with ‘assholes,’ the latter being simply jerky. ‘Douchebags’ are assholes steeped in slime and manipulation; primarily because they are simply too stupid to comprehend those emotions.”

Douchebags Are White

All of the definitions I received more or less reflected the two provided above. So I sought more context on the Internet. Namely, in an article on the now bankrupt media website Gawker, who provided a very insightful idea that I’d never before considered: “Only rich, white heterosexist men are douchebags.”

Interesting, right? The article’s author, Michael Clark Cohen, a professor at UC Berkeley, asks readers: “Have any of you ever called someone black or brown or Asian a douchebag?… How ’bout women or gay folks?”

And think about it: have you? I certainly haven’t.

Shit. Maybe Cohen’s onto something here.

Here is Cohen’s official definition in the article, along with the declaration that douchebag is the “White racial slur we’ve all been waiting for”:

“The douchebag is someone—overwhelmingly white, rich, heterosexual males—who insists upon, nay, demands his white male privilege in every possible set and setting. The douchebag is equally douchey (that’s the adjectival version of the term) in public and in private. He is a douchebag waiting in line for coffee as well as in the bedroom.”

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And when you think of douchebags — Justin Bieber, Donald Trump, Ryan Lochte, Adam Levine — each recognized douchebag does fit into Cohen’s archetype.

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But there’s more. You know how, technically, a douchebag is a hot water bottle attached to a rubber hose and is used to clean the vagina? Yeah, well, somehow Cohen has found a way to link this dated tool to the dreaded male we know and loathe today.

To do this, Cohen references a 2004 report by Dr. Mary Ann Iannachione, who states “Douching is unnecessary and carries inherent risks… leaving women at greater risk of upper and lower vaginal tract infections.”

With this result, Cohen links this outdated feminine hygiene product to the white men we recognize today as douchebags, simply stating “They are both useless sexist tools.” He then adds that it’s our inherent whiteness (see: selfishness) that had led to this lack of a definition: “It is white privilege itself that has blinded us to the true nature of the douchebag’s identity.”

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And Now For The Official Definition

So after all of that, let’s get to a more precise definition, shall we? Considering all of the information I’ve collected above, I feel confident saying a douchebag is — are you ready for it? — “An obnoxious, wealthy white man whose primary action is self-serving. The douchebag is both a jerk and an asshole in the worst possible way.”

How does that sound? You love it, right?

If not, and believe you’ve got something better — and trust me, I’ve gotten every Donald Trump joke on the planet in my survey, so let’s leave that as-is — I’d love to hear it. And answer honestly, will ya? Don’t be a douchebag. The irony is not lost on me.