This article originally appeared on VICE US.
Oh Regan, what have you done?
Earlier this week, a Wisconsin teen posted a TikTok, insisting that men can taste food with their testicles, staring intensely into the camera as she cited a study that had been published in The Daily Mail, of all places. "Did y'all know that if a dude puts his balls in something, he can taste it? He can taste it?" she said. "If you have testicles, please dip your balls in something. It's for science, and I must know."
She followed that up with a second clip, reminding everyone that she is a minor and to please stop sending her videos of "your hairy grown man balls"—but she also specified that any potential sack-dips should involve "soy sauce or something sweet like sugar water," because apparently testicles are basically hummingbirds with skin? We have no idea, but we also have no idea why so many men are doing this, and why anyone, male or female, would accept second-hand anatomical knowledge from a random internet teenager, or from a British tabloid, in that order.
Regardless, men are doing this. They are pouring soy sauce into open containers that they can lower their testicles into, and posting the results online. "I just went and got some soy sauce and we're going to do this little science experiment together," Alx James said. "I'ma let my little boys try it out."
James, who opted to wipe the sauce on his junk with his finger, immediately reacted, claiming that he could "taste the salt." But according to an actual doctor, that's probably less about what he'd rubbed on his genitalia and more about opening a plastic cup of soy sauce inside a closed car.
But let's go back to that Daily Mail article that Regan referenced, which was an almost seven-year-old summary of a 2013 research study called "Genetic loss or pharmacological blockade of testes-expressed taste genes causes male sterility." In that paper, which the Daily Mail got slightly wrong, scientists from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia discovered that two proteins involved in taste detection were also expressed inside the testes of mice.
"This paper highlights a connection between the taste system and male reproduction," lead author Dr. Bedrich Mosinger said at the time. "It is one more demonstration that components of the taste system also play important roles in other organ systems."
But it is very, very important to note that Mosinger and his team discovered two proteins that are a component of taste receptors, and they were found inside the testes. They did not find a set of taste buds embedded in the skin of a mouse's miniature ballsack.
"The study (or any that have followed) hasn’t shown that any animal can actually ’taste’ via these receptors like we’d taste something from the mouth. There is no scientific or medical evidence to back up any claims that men can actually taste things through their junk," Dr. Kieran Kennedy told Australian Men's Health. "So in theory, even if we could detect some form of flavor from the testicles (balls), the soy sauce would have to diffuse through the scrotum (sac) and into the testicles, which is largely not possible."
Kennedy also suggested that anyone who believed that they were "tasting" the soy sauce through their scrotum was probably just anticipating the salty flavor of the sauce, or they were having an involuntary reaction to its smell. (Sorry, Alx. You've become the face of soy-basted ballsacks for nothing.)
Popular Science further debunks any 'But I can taste it!" claims, by providing a refresher course into how the complicated sense of taste works. "Taste buds are little pores containing many, many sensory cells with little hairlike projections on them that increase their surface area," the website explains. "Those 'hairs' have many thousands of receptors embedded in their cellular membranes, and it’s these receptors that enable you to perceive taste."
The taste receptors then relay that information to the brain, which then determines which flavor, or combination of flavors, that is being tasting at that moment. (This is the Cliff's Notes explanation but, let's be honest: if you're currently soaking your scrotum in a liquid condiment, we probably don't need to get more advanced than that.)
So, although taste receptors have been discovered elsewhere in the human body, including inside the intestines, in the bladder, and, yes, in the testes, they aren't connected to the brain in the way that the receptors inside the tastebuds are, and they have nothing to do with the sense of taste. Still not convinced? Even Dr. Oz doesn't believe this shit. "What comes out of your testicles may have taste but your testicles themselves don't have tastebuds," he told TMZ.
Now please pour the rest of that soy sauce into the trash. Nobody wants to use it now.