I did some pretty dumb shit when I was a teenager. I suspect we all did. The difference is nowadays social media can propagate stupidity – especially amongst the yoof – faster than shit through a goose. Remember the Tide Pod Challenge?

Anyway, something going viral at the moment is teenage boys teabagging soy sauce. It’s everywhere, especially on TikTok – which I’d never heard of until today.

Apparently if you dangle your Love Spuds in a sweet or salty liquid you can actually taste it. Via your bollocks.

Yes, you read that right.

Really? This story dates back to a 2013 paper in – appropriately – PNAS which found:

TAS1R taste receptors and their associated heterotrimeric G protein gustducin are involved in sugar and amino acid sensing in taste cells and in the gastrointestinal tract.

They are also strongly expressed in testis and sperm, but their functions in these tissues were previously unknown.

So, ‘taste receptors’ not just in your mouth but in your knackers as well? And sperm can taste stuff? Crikey.

What They Did

It turns out TAS1R receptors are all over the place: in gut cells and pancreatic cells where they contribute to nutrient sensing and regulation of glucose metabolism, and also in your Chocolate Starfish. Why you need sugar sensors in your arsehole remains unclear.

Basically the first one is a receptor for sweet, salty and ‘umami’ flavours, it then gets the second one all jiggy – which is plays a big part in mediating basic taste.

The study was trying to find out what happens if both the genes TAS1R3 and GNAT3 are absent. So they made knockout mice for each of the two genes and tried to cross-breed them. But they couldn’t. They could breed knockouts for either but not both. So they looked harder and realised that female double knockouts were born fine, just no males. When both the genes were knocked out the males were rendered impotent – and this is how the Plum Connection was discovered by accident.

Anyway, they discovered these two receptors play a key role in sperm maturation. It was shown that if they are both absent the sperm just ain’t viable – and there were other problems evident with the testes too.

So, the same molecules sense taste in the mouth, have a role in sugar regulation in the gut and pancreas, play a vital role in spermatogenesis and likely a whole a bunch of other stuff. Biology is remarkably cool, messy and utilitarian all at the same time.

But Can You Taste Soy With Your Swingers?

No. Just no.

Your knackers can’t sense ‘taste’ in the traditional sense. I’m sure there will be a bunch of teenagers who claim they can but it’s really not a thing. Soy is pretty pungent so chances are if you dangle your nads in it you’ll be able to smell it – flavour comes from retronasal olfaction whereas taste is in the mouth. And much of what we think of as taste is actually flavour.

So why can’t this work? For a start the receptors are in the testes, not on the scrotum – and even if they were on rather than in your ball bag there’s no pathway that connects them to anything that processes ‘taste’. It’s a bit like iridology – the idea that the iris is a window on all the bits of the body not actually connected to it. It’s – well, bollocks.

In fact this is a really interesting bit of science that may shed light on problems like idiopathic infertility and all sorts of other stuff. Who knows? Not me.

But what I do know is we’re not even a full month into 2020, the Tangerine Shitgibbon has nearly kicked off WW3 in the Middle East, Australia has caught fire, there’s a new coronavirus in China I don’t like the look of – yet the media is obsessing about minor royals and teenagers are dangling their crotch nuggets in soy sauce.

We’re fucking doomed.