| Some dare call it|
|What THEY don't want|
you to know!
“”This simply MUST go viral.
We're losing an entire generation....to soy.
|—Paul Joseph Watson, trustworthy source on science|
Soy boy is an insult towards an allegedly feminine or low-testosterone (and therefore unmasculine and unmanly) male. Its meaning comes from the pseudoscientific claim that soy contains estrogens (in fact, it contains phytoestrogens). These phytoestrogens, in turn, are claimed to cause feminization such as breast growth (definitely not) and reduce male fertility (the science isn't yet clear). In short, the reasoning appears to be: "We were saying that red meat is manlier than tofurkey all along. This proves it!"
The cultural obsession or moral panic about excessive soy consumption is largely contained to the West and is frequently lodged by the alt-right against leftist, liberal or other non-right wing males as an indictment of their allegedly low levels of testerone, feminized features and/or behaviors. However, soy is native to the continent of Asia and has been consumed for many millenia by its inhabitants as a staple in their diets without detriment to health.
Soy is making you gay! (WND)
There’s a slow poison out there that’s severely damaging our children and threatening to tear apart our culture. The ironic part is, it’s a “health food,” one of our most popular.
The dangerous food I’m speaking of is soy. Soybean products are feminizing, and they’re all over the place. You can hardly escape them anymore.
I have nothing against an occasional soy snack. Soy is nutritious and contains lots of good things. Unfortunately, when you eat or drink a lot of soy stuff, you’re also getting substantial quantities of estrogens.
Estrogens are female hormones. If you’re a woman, you’re flooding your system with a substance it can’t handle in surplus. If you’re a man, you’re suppressing your masculinity and stimulating your “female side,” physically and mentally.
Of course, the above is utter bullshit. Soybeans don't contain estrogen -- they contain phytoestrogens, and the difference is important. Rutz continues with a laundry list of complaints, including a claim that soy is the reason we have gays:
Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That’s why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today’s rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products. (Most babies are bottle-fed during some part of their infancy, and one-fourth of them are getting soy milk!) Homosexuals often argue that their homosexuality is inborn because “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t homosexual.” No, homosexuality is always deviant. But now many of them can truthfully say that they can’t remember a time when excess estrogen wasn’t influencing them.
Soy is making you girly! (Men's Health)
In 2009, Men's Health contributor Jim Thornton repeated many of WND's claims — except that the "feminization" didn't lead to homosexuality, but just metrosexuality. Thornton alleged that "There may be a hidden dark side to soy, one that has the power to undermine everything it means to be male" — which certainly sounds scientific and not overblown. Thornton continues to recount that "when you consume soy protein, you’re actually courting the Mr. Hyde side of two natural drugs: genistein and daidzein. Both act so similarly to estrogen that they’re known as phytoestrogens (plant-produced estrogens). […] [W]hen humans consume these compounds in high enough quantities, they may experience gender-bending nightmares". Thornton goes on to recount a single instance (that of James Price) in which soy might have been linked to his small amount of breast growth and mood changes. (It could also have been due to the death of his wife to cancer or numerous other dietary changes or almost anything at all, but hey — that doesn't make for a good scare story.)
Soy is making you girly! (Paul Joseph Watson)
“”Love to warn people about the dangers of soy feminizing men with no evidence while looking like a moist Edward Cullen pouting to the camera.
The "soy reduces testosterone and destroys manliness" claim finally got its limelight (soylight?) when Paul Joseph Watson of PrisonPlanet published a video on the subject, seeking to answer that age-old question: "Is soy food turning men into massive pussies?"
Ironically, as numerous Internet commenters pointed out, the supplement "Brain Force" sold by Watson's "gay, reptoid space alien lover" Alex Jones on Infowars contains soy. Watson responded in a follow-up video by stating that Brain Force included Alpha-GPC which he claimed increases libido, and therefore increasing testosterone. He then said that a bit of soy was included in Brain Force just to "balance it out".
Responses from the alt-right were hyperbolic and hilarious:
- 4chan members attempted to eat onions (the anti-soy, we presume) to boost their testosterone. Unfortunately, they weren't manly enough to overcome the taste.
- Stefan Molyneux pondered that "Some say lead poisoning in the pipes destroyed ancient Roman civilization — for the modern West, it could be soy in the blood."
- Faith Goldy asserted that "Soy is giving you b*ch tits & Leftism. This isn't a meme, it's literally destroying us from within".
- Mike Cernovich believes we are living in "Generation Soy"
- James Allsup opined that "If you are consuming soy you might as well be taking estrogen supplements #ExposeTheSoyAgenda"
- In contrast, NotPoliticallyCorrect came out strongly against Paul Joseph Watson, asserting that he's full of pseudoscientific bullshit, while also asserting that "East Asians seem to be adapted to soy". Tara McCarthy took a similar route.
- Lovely folks Richard Spencer, Katie Hopkins, and David Vance used the term with abandon.
All three of the major isoflavones in soy protein are phytoestrogens. This means they are structurally similar to, but not identical to, the actual estrogens produced inside the human body. Current evidence suggests that these isoflavones activate some estrogen receptors (like real estrogen does), but block other estrogen receptors. What effects, in total, does this have?
Testosterone and estrogen
“”Feminizing effect of phytoestrogens and soy products may be subtle, detectable only statistically in large populations; it can be of particular importance for children and adolescents. This matter should be clarified by independent research, which can have implications for the future of soy in the agriculture.
|—Jargin 2014, review of the literature|
- Messina et al. 2010 performed a review of the literature and found that "Isoflavone exposure at levels even greatly exceeding reasonable dietary intakes does not affect blood T or estrogen levels in men or sperm and semen parameters". They conclude that "men can feel confident that making soy a part of their diet will not compromise their virility or reproductive health." It should be noted that Messina is the Executive Director of the Soy Nutrition Institute, an organization funded by the soy industry.
- Hamilton-Reeves et al. 2008 conducted a meta-analysis of the literature in Fertility and Sterility. They conclude that soy-based phytoestrogens do not increase the estrogen level or decrease the testosterone level in men.
- Mitchell et al. 2001 found that when daily isoflavone supplements were given to healthy males over a 2 month period, they had "no observable effect on endocrine measurements, testicular volume or semen parameters over the study period."
- Allen et al. 2000 found that vegan men have significantly higher testosterone than vegetarian or meat-eating men — despite "soy" being nearly synonymous with tofu (and thus vegan/vegetarianism). The study controlled for "age, smoking status, vigorous exercise, time of day of venipuncture, time since last eaten at venipuncture and time between venipuncture and blood processing".
- Song 1999 found that (in laboratory mice) soy isoflavones are only weakly estrogenic, much less so than actual estrogen.
In Thornton's Men's Health piece, he mentions Chavarro et al. 2008's "Soy food and isoflavone intake in relation to semen quality parameters among men from an infertility clinic", which found reduced sperm per milliliter among people who ate any soy than among those who ate no soy at all (after controlling for age, abstinence time, BMI, caffeine and alcohol intakes and smoking). However, all 99 study participants were members of subfertile couples -- rather than a random sample of the population. More importantly, as NEJM Journal Watch notes, soy consumption was not associated with changes in total sperm count, ejaculate volume, sperm motility, or sperm morphology. In short, the study isn't applicable to the general public and its findings have been substantially overblown.
Interestingly, however, more recent evidence (extensively reviewed in Salas-Huetos 2017) does support Chaverro's hypothesis. The literature broadly suggests soy products may have a negative affect on male fertility. Before you chuck the tofu, however, note that Salas-Hueto document a substantial number of associations between food and fertility – in particular, high consumptions of meat also appear to reduce fertility.
One should further be cautioned that virtually all of these studies are observational rather than experimental. Instead of getting a random sample of the population and artificially increasing or decreasing their soy or isoflavone intake, researchers instead observed the current health and current diets of a subset of the population. It could easily be that men who like eating meat and tofu have lower fertility for other reasons.
In a nutshell
- Soy Boy: What is this new online insult used by the far right?
- Why the alt-right movement is using the term ‘soy boy’ to insult its enemies online
- Google trends on this topic
- Translation: the left over junk from making vegetable oil
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- Alex Jones Funniest Moments Ever! Part 3 by Steven Venus (Mar 18, 2013) YouTube.
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- Allen, N. E., Appleby, P. N., Davey, G. K., & Key, T. J. (2000). Hormones and diet: low insulin-like growth factor-I but normal bioavailable androgens in vegan men. British journal of cancer, 83(1), 95-97.
- Straight talk about soy, Harvard School of Public Health
- Jargin, S. V. (2014). Soy and phytoestrogens: possible side effects. GMS German Medical Science, 12.
- Messina, M. (2010). A brief historical overview of the past two decades of soy and isoflavone research. The Journal of nutrition, 140(7), 1350S-1354S.
- Hamilton-Reeves, J. M., Vazquez, G., Duval, S. J., Phipps, W. R., Kurzer, M. S., & Messina, M. J. (2010). Clinical studies show no effects of soy protein or isoflavones on reproductive hormones in men: results of a meta-analysis. Fertility and sterility, 94(3), 997-1007.
- Mitchell JH, Cawood E, Kinniburgh D, Provan A, Collins AR, Irvine DS (2001). "Effect of a phytoestrogen food supplement on reproductive health in normal males". Clin Sci (Lond) 100 (6): 613–8. PMID 11352776.
- Song TT, Hendrich S, Murphy PA (1999). "Estrogenic activity of glycitein, a soy isoflavone". J. Agric. Food Chem. 47 (4): 1607–1610. PMID 10564025.
- Ask the Expert: Soy, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
- Salas-Huetos, A., Bulló, M., & Salas-Salvadó, J. (2017). Dietary patterns, foods and nutrients in male fertility parameters and fecundability: a systematic review of observational studies. Human reproduction update, 1-19.