If there was a contest for Most Upsetting Corner of the Internet, 4chan would be a heavy favorite to win. The totally anonymous, anything-goes message board is basically what you’d imagine the disfigured lovechild of Reddit and the ninth circle of Hell to look like, an unholy launching pad for cruel hoaxes, awful pranks, and some of the worst and weirdest memes the internet has ever known. There is one redeeming thing about 4chan, however: Sometimes it pulls the worst pranks on itself. Like when 4channers convinced themselves to eat raw onions to be more manly.
For the (blissfully) unaware, 4chan is comprised of a series of smallish subforums known as “boards,” the most infamous of which are /b/ (which technically stands for “random”) and /pol/ (as in “politically incorrect”). Although /b/ — the site of countless horrors — has garnered quite a bit of media attention over the years, /pol/ has emerged as a top contender for the ever-coveted title of the most toxic community online after coming into favor with neo-Nazis and the most diehard members of the alt-right.
However, /pol/’s latest obsession is a bit more obscure than the usual vitriolic hatred found gracing its forums. In fact, it’s downright baffling: For some reason, the denizens of /pol/ are all eating onions, en masse, in an attempt to up their testosterone.
The Plight of the Onion Lads
In a Sunday evening /pol/ post first noted by Will Sommer, creator of the essential “Right Richter” newsletter tracking the online movements of the new far right, a 4chan user describes the “Individual and Political Consequences of Onion Juice.” According to “science,” onion juice has been found to “boost testosterone levels — sometimes threefold,” a totally-not-at-all-crazy claim that the poster backs up with a brief, yet glorious, anecdote about drinking a single cup of the stuff. It is physically impossible for me to convey the uh, beauty, of this experience myself (given my womanly brain and all) so please, let OP tell it:
Needless to say, consuming onion juice was a trying, though masculine experience, and my entire house smells as if an uncleaned NFL locker room and Mexican kitchen converged upon a single point. I can feel the onion juice flowing through my body, coming into contact with every organ, every cell, and every bodily fluid …
Though this has been an overwhelming experience, I feel far more energetic, youthful, and viral. I might try this once or twice more to get the full experience. I am in need of a testosterone boost, and thus am willing to smell like an onion for a few weeks or months.
Yes, you read that right: men drinking raw onion juice to increase their T levels — it’s a thing. And despite how utterly ridiculous it may sound, it got popular. Fast. The comments were quickly filled with other users detailing their own experiences with onions and a riveting discussion about which onion is the most “white”/”least degenerate.” Turns out, this is far from the first such post to grace the boards of 4chan. As of Monday morning, I was able to find similar posts on not only /pol, but also /fit/ (a fitness-focused board) and /r9k/ (“incel,” or involuntarily celibate, stories):
It’s impossible to know where this idea first originated, as 4chan doesn’t maintain an archive (posts are deleted once the “record” gets to page 15), but I was able to find Reddit posts on the subject dating at least five years back, almost all of which cite this specific 2009 study on the effect of onion on sperm health.
In short, the study focused on three groups of Wistar male rats — two of which were given varying amounts of fresh onion juice, and one which was not — over a period of 20 days. Researchers noticed that the oniony rats experienced a “significant increase” in both their total testosterone levels and sperm count. While this may sound well and good for the Onion Lads of /pol/, it’s worth noting that the journal this study was published in, Folia Morphologica, has a Journal Impact Factor of .341, which basically means that the stuff it puts out is almost never cited by other scientists. Additionally, even after an hour or so of digging on JSTOR and Google Scholar, I wasn’t able to find any other independent studies which verified these claims (in either rats or humans). This all begs the question of, well, why? Why would a bunch of alt-right bros on /pol/ flock to this obscure, relatively unknown 2009 study about onions increasing sperm and testosterone now, of all times? Unfortunately, the answer involves another utterly bizarre internet phenomenon: the Soy Boy.
The Demonization of the Soy Boy
Simply put, the Soy Boy is 2017’s cuck.
The term, derived from the long-rumored middle-school urban legend that consumption of soy, which is said to be high in estrogen, results in the feminization of men, has gained currency as an epithet thanks to promotion from the likes of Richard Spencer, Mike Cernovich, James Allsup, and, in particular, the cult Twitter account Michael Porfirio Mason.
Please enjoy this lovely description, as per Cernovich’s website:
Soy boys have frequently been spotted in and amongst socialist gatherings and liberal college campuses. Although let’s just be honest with each other. What is the difference between those two at the moment? Soy boys also tend to unite under the common goals of remaining celibate, creating a whole new shade of body odor, and seeing just how tight their pants can get. The tight pants may be having a direct physiological correlation to the soy boy phenomenon although the research is still out on that hypothesis.
“While ‘cuck’ was about racial anxiety and animus — with the stereotypical ‘cucking’ in adult videos featuring a black man doing the act , ” writes Will Sommer on Medium, “‘soy boy’ seems more about fears of internal weakness, and a distrust of the food supply and the rest of the modern world.”
Far-righters’ heightened concern over their manhood and its inherent precariousness is reminiscent of the panic-driven, reactionary sentiments expressed by members of the same group in the political sphere. Like whiteness (in more ways than one), sperm is conflated with one’s self-worth, in some strange act of psychological synecdoche; when it’s under attack, so is the whole.
With the Anti-Soy Boy Movement in mind, the rise of the Onion Lads seems only natural (in a demented, disturbing, internet sense of the word).
The mere idea of a world filled with Soy Boys and women asking to be treated with basic human decency scares the absolute crap out of these men. It makes them fear their own dicks are at risk. And so, they’re left grasping at straws — or, in this case, at onions.