A few years ago, I wandered into Spring Lounge, a no-frills downtown Manhattan bar with my then-boyfriend. We weren’t on great terms, but he was still a decent drinking partner, apparently my most highly prioritized quality in a mate. I had settled into my vodka-soda when a cowboy sidled up to the bar. The exaggerated felt hat, bolo tie, denim shirt, boots were all in full, shameless effect. Then I realized this was no cowboy. He was John Mayer, fresh off a stay on his Montana ranch and riding solo. I don’t have a thing for cowboys or famous guys, generally speaking, and I certainly didn’t have a thing for John Mayer, until I talked to him.
Next thing I knew, he and I were holding court at a beat-up wooden table, clinking glasses and scanning the bar for girls who might be worthy of a hypothetical threesome with us, my boyfriend deep in conversation with some random chick. Half-joking, none were deemed attractive enough. It dawned on me that despite the absurdity of his getup and stigma of his reputation, I was totally into John Mayer, at the time possibly the world’s most vilified douchebag.
This wasn’t long after he’d likened his dick to a “white supremacist,” admitted his “biggest dream is to write pornography,” announced he could “outgay” Perez Hilton and said he jerks off so much that before he’s made coffee he’s “seen more buttholes than a proctologist does in a week.” Not that I think there’s necessarily anything wrong with those comments (perhaps I’m the douchebag here), but I did think he was objectively ridiculous and wasn’t sure how to reconcile my attraction. He was charismatic, we were laughing at each other’s lame jokes, and had I been single, I would have undoubtedly gone back to his apartment, which he made sure I knew was just down the street, and let him bang the shit out of me. Then I would have told all my friends about it in a state of deranged glee.
I’m still not sure how to harmonize the dissonance of my feelings, but I’m also not sure I need to. What makes someone a douchebag and what’s the shame in being charmed by one? Defined by Merriam-Webster as “an unattractive or offensive person” and defined by Urban Dictionary as “someone who has surpassed all the levels of jerk and asshole, however, not yet reach fucker or motherfucker.” They specify it’s not to be confused with douche, “a word to describe an individual who has shown themself to be very brainless in one way or another, thus comparing them to the cleansing product for vaginas.” Fair enough.
Douchebags are self-assured to the point of arrogance, which means they are more immune to rejection than other guys because they’re too blindly confident to care. More often than not, they’re shallow, crude, possibly airheaded. They’re self-satisfied schmucks, simultaneously eager to please and off-putting. They think they’re hot and merely believing it to be true convinces others. Similarly, they tend to style themselves with flair because they think they can get away with it. Again, confidence. They probably take and share selfies. They’re not dickheads; that’s another sub-species of guy. More elusive and enigmatic yet basic as fuck, they come in endless varieties, from the urban hipster to the fratty bro to the preppy trust-fund kid to the insipid male model and beyond.
I asked other women what classifies a douchebag, which tends to be a guy they want to have sex with despite their better judgement, or the fact they find them embarrassing. “They are objectively attractive, but you’d never want to spend your life with them.” Guess like the dumb-as-rocks hot girl you want to bone but not actually talk to, they’re not spouse material. “A guy who knows he’s hot is automatically becomes a douchebag. He has no depth and nothing to offer.” That’s a little severe. Another admitted her history of long-term relationships with douchebags, calling them narcissists who trick you into believe you are the problem when, indeed, it’s them all the while. One put it simply: “It’s like, ‘Why am I attracted to this person?’” Another put it even more simply: “The tanner the bod, the douchier the bag.” Another pondered: “Is it because they are so accessible and obvious?”
“They look a little bit like they’re wearing makeup,” yet another ruminated. “They’re in between corny and respectable. It’s along the same concept of sexy-ugly. Like Colin Farrell.” Other names mentioned were Kanye West, frequently voted “biggest douchebag in Hollywood;” Ryan Lochte, once unofficially deemed “America’s sexiest douchebag;” Jeremy Renner, who exists just outside the “typical hot-guy periphery;” and basically all the male cast members of Vanderpump Rules. According to an account by comedian Kathy Griffith, after she told him to not be such a douchebag, Leonardo DiCaprio responded with the arguably brilliant proclamation, “I am a douchebag.” Maybe if all these guys just admitted they’re douchebags, they would cease to be called douchebags. Probably not, but it would help.
I’d rather have a self-aggrandizing dick (with a warm heart buried somewhere down there, reserved just for me), and get over the possible mortification of being seen in public with him, than an overly nice beta boy destined to become my doormat.
But does it have to be an insult? When people ask, “What’s your type?” my standard response is, “Douchebag,” uttered with a semi-sarcastic smirk. I’m kidding, but then again, it’s true. He’s probably spread an STD or two because he’s sexual and reckless, two qualities I treasure in a man. He acts like he doesn’t give a fuck, even though of course he does, but he’ll do his best to convince you otherwise – and probably succeed. Maybe just looking at him reminds me of an erect penis. Hot. Am I twisted? Sure. Suffering from low self-esteem and therefore, have an inherent urge to be treated badly? Not likely. If anything, I suffer from high self-esteem. Do I have the nurturing inclination to fix them up and ultimately de-douche them? Not a chance. Who has the time?
I’m not alone. “I love douchebags” is apparently a pandemic sentiment echoed by females, even though most don’t seem to know why. You can’t articulate an attraction you don’t even understand. Perhaps it has to do with the unconscious urge to go for what’s easy and available. The thrill of the hunt is fun for both genders but so is mindless flirtation and unintellectual sex. There’s also a possibility we just want to lightly hate-fuck them.
I’d rather have a self-aggrandizing dick (with a warm heart buried somewhere down there, reserved just for me), and get over the possible mortification of being seen in public with him, than an overly nice beta boy destined to become my doormat. It’s not that I want to be treated like shit. It’s that I’m kind of an asshole so I require someone who’s a bit of a jerk, too. The notion of being rebellious is enticing, and it’s insurgent, without being overtly dangerous, to like someone everyone kind of hates.
Challenge me to admit my current “celebrity crush” and I’ll be honest: Simon Rex, the ‘90s-era MTV VJ now also known by his rapper pseudonym Dirt Nasty. He also dated Paris Hilton from 2004-2008, which sounds about right. Even though I find his Instagram posts consistently unfunny, I think he’s crazy-hot and would jump on him in a second. That’s because rationality doesn’t factor into attraction. Much of the time, we don’t know why we’re into the people we like. Whether owed to the very human disconnect between the cerebral and instinctive, mysteries of chemistry or power of pheromones, just like good sense and great sex don’t always go hand in hand, nor do logic and lust.
As it goes with John Mayer, maybe it’s society, not our all-knowing instincts, telling us these dudes are douchebags, unworthy of attraction or attention. Maybe we need to see past the douchebag to see the beautiful soul sparkling underneath. Maybe when we talk about the douchebags of the world, we’re really just avoiding addressing the douchebag within ourselves. Maybe deep down, we’re all massive douchebags. Eh, maybe not.