Including Audio Version by Jim Goad!
The Difference Between a Man & a Douchebag
It’s a statistical fact that men die younger than women do, and not simply because we want to. The odds are so stacked against us these days that even though black women are supposed to be doubly oppressed, they outlive white men.
In America, the law and public sympathy are so lopsidedly biased against men that we are shouted down for daring to broach the subject. This broken modern world offers boundless support for women, but often forces men to walk into blizzards naked and unarmed, unsure if there’s anything waiting for us on the other side. Men are in a rough place, no question about it.
I’ve been a dogged critic of the ongoing defamation and ritual cultural emasculation of males. The record will show as I stand here today, ravaged top-to-bottom and inside-and-out with physical and emotional scars that lend me a ruggedly ugly charm, that over the years my poisonous quill has dipped into a testosterone-filled inkwell to write passionately vociferous defenses of douchebags, dudebros, and toxic masculinity.
Many others have also written in defense of masculinity. A lot of it is necessary, but much of it is painfully cheesy and unintentionally hilarious. The fact that men are under systemic attack in no way changes the fact that many men can also act like utter imbeciles and morons, especially in the name of manliness and particularly while acting amid groups of other males.
So my aim here is not to demean men en masse — only a certain type of adult male. One that is far too prevalent and one that threatens to drag us all down through his innate immaturity, tackiness, clumsiness, superficiality, and lack of grit.
I intend to make a sharp and ultimately unforgettable distinction between the noble “man” and the ignoble “douchebag.”
I need to define my terms here, because my definitions are arbitrary and won’t be found in any dictionary: When I’m talking about “men” and “douchebags,” I’m talking about personality traits, not physical ones.
I don’t mean “man” in the generic sense of “adult male.” When I say “man” in this context, I’m referring to an adult male with a strong sense of self and character. In contrast, a “douchebag,” regardless of his physical prowess, is crass, boorish, doltish, oafish, and more emotionally shallow than a raindrop evaporating on hot asphalt.
I use the term “masculine” in a strictly physical sense. Both “douchebags” and “men” can be either physically strong or frail.
These traits run along intersecting spectrums of character and physicality. To be a “man,” physical strength doesn’t hurt, but it’s not essential. There are musclebound steroid casualties who are emotionally infantile, while there are 90-pound weaklings with characters forged of iron. One can be a winner on both fronts: physically strong and intensely manly in matters of character. But one can also be a two-time loser: weak in both body and mind.
But one can never simultaneously be a douchebag and a man. Where it gets mutually exclusive is that douchebaggery implies a fundamentally juvenile lack of virtue and gravitas, whereas manliness implies the opposite.
These two personality types, the douchebag and the man, are not affected by intelligence or social class; they seem to operate independently of such factors. I’ve met convicts who are as dumb as rocks but carry themselves with a searing sense of personal dignity. I’ve met intelligent millionaires who are shallow, vain, and, at base, fiercely douchey. Whereas suffering doesn’t necessarily build character, neither does being pampered.
A douchebag can be extremely masculine — physically. But his personality is unmanly, unseemly, and unbecoming. For the douchebag, his masculinity is performative — sometimes to impress women, but mostly to impress other males. Douchebags tend to prefer the company of other males, possibly in hopes that it will be a multiplier factor for their own masculinity. Douchebags crave being around the smell of male sweat and male hormones. In their more tender moments, they are found squeezing one another’s muscles, snapping one another’s jockstraps, and sniffing one another’s balls.
On the other hand, manliness is not defined by how much you can bench-press, but how much adversity you can endure without crumbling. How much you can remain honest while swirling in a maelstrom of lies. How true to your word you are. A man feels things deeply, but he does not allow his feelings to ruin him.
A man only needs to be okay with himself; a douchebag needs constant reassurance.
A man sets goals for himself and doesn’t rest until he attains them; a douchebag lives thoughtlessly and aimlessly.
A man focuses on personal honor; a douchebag is obsessed with social status.
A man cannot be psychologically broken; a douchebag will snitch and sell out to the first bidder.
A man will go against the crowd if his heart tells him it’s the right thing; a douchebag will follow the crowd wherever it goes, even off a cliff.
Even amid a crowd, a man is still an individual, whereas a douchebag is a sucker for the blunt, soul-snuffing savageries of deindividuation.
From my observations, manliness of character is better developed in solitude rather than in packs. At first, it helps to have mentors and coaches, but many things can only be learned by experiencing life directly, with no one else blocking your view. One often needs time away from other males, and from people in general, to learn how to be a man. Being a man means being a wolf rather than a sheep. Yes, wolves also run in packs, but I’ve never heard of a “lone sheep.”
But solitude is also a dead end. A plug needs a socket, or it serves no purpose. Nature has made it so that no man is complete without a woman. He can never be complete merely hanging around with other men.
In certain pro-male/all-male/nothing-but-male online circle jerks, one often hears that it’s “gay” for men to try to impress females. Assuming that such a brain-dead assertion is true, what would that make men who try to impress other men? In the grand scheme of things, it seems far less gay to flex for a woman than for a man, but such a simple concept is far too complex for douchebags to grasp, which is why they often wind up commiserating about women with other douchebags.
There is a time for male bonding, and that time is childhood and puberty. Male bonding is a preparatory phase for mating. Once you start mating, things get more serious and you have to let the adolescent nonsense go, or you are at high risk of becoming a lifelong douchebag.
Male bonding should be seen as a rite of passage rather than an end in itself. Aggressive male-bonding should end around the same time that the “sowing your wild oats” phase ends. When you become a man, you put away such childish pursuits. Male bonding has a biologically encoded expiration date. After a certain point, it is a sign of arrested development.
Every boy’s fundamental project in life is to mature from an adolescent to a man. Douchebaggery is the norm when you’re a teen; it’s to be expected. But it becomes distasteful in adulthood and unforgivable at any point past middle age. An adult douchebag is an adolescent boy who has outlived his shelf life and is starting to stink. There’s nothing noble in being 14 years old forever. If you don’t outgrow being a douchebag, you can never be a man.
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