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Sperm Squirm:
A Review of Shanna Swan’s Count Down

[1]3,122 words

The Dissident Right overlaps with the environmental movement in an interesting place, and epidemiologist Shanna Swan tells us all about it in her recent book, Count Down. The subtitle to this popular science volume is a real mouthful: “How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.”

Okay, so mystery solved. Dissidents and environmentalists converge over their concern for falling sperm counts, which Swan argues is caused in large part by “endocrine disrupting chemicals,” or EDCs. The worst of these sperm-killers are known as phthalates, and they’re practically everywhere. Well, everywhere in the West, apparently, since sperm counts don’t seem to be falling at the same rates (or at all) in many non-Western nations. Dissidents differ from environmentalists in their explicit regard for the sperm counts (and overall fertility) of White populations, while the latter folks (Swan included) profess a more catholic view of the problem.

First, let’s get all the bad stuff out of the way. While hitching her train up to the mainstream environmental movement, Swan signs on to some of the loopier agendas of this and other Leftist causes. For example, at one point, she makes the serious argument that Homo sapiens is an endangered species and then tries to convince us that global warming is also reducing sperm counts. She also takes transgenderism very seriously and argues that gender fluidity is good because it makes society “more open-minded toward accepting people, however they present and identify in terms of gender.” Her admiring reference to sex researcher Alfred Kinsey is also hard to stomach. This is a person who tested sexual activity in children [2], including infants, solicited testimony [3] from rapists and pedophiles to skew his results, and died in a rather, um, degenerate manner [4]. Despite displaying real compassion regarding male (and female) infertility and a default respect for heteronormativity, Shanna Swan is not exactly a conservative or traditionalist in her thinking.

She also works a little too hard to make her popular science popular. Yes, funny asides and references to Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Sex (But Was Afraid to Ask) or Monty Python’s Meaning of Life in this context are appropriate, but since when must serious scientists resort to pornographic street slang when referencing human anatomy? A term that pops up a lot in Count Down is “anogenital distance” or AGD. This is the distance from the anus to the genitals, and it carries tremendous weight in Swan’s study since pregnant women exposed to EDCs during a brief “reproductive programming window” in their first trimester more likely to produce male fetuses with shorter AGDs. And shorter AGDs are linked to smaller penises, reduced testosterone levels, and lower sperm counts. Swan feels the need to refer to this legitimate biological term by its Urban Dictionary synonyms “taint” and “gooch,” words which made Joe Rogan squirm in their hilariously uncomfortable interview [5]. You don’t joke about a man’s junk.

[6]

Joe Rogan demonstrating AGD, otherwise known as “taint” or “gooch.”

Most notably, Swan overstates her case by making it seem that just about anything a man can do these days  will kill off his “little swimmers.” It’s as if men should be afraid to get out of bed every morning—unless, of course, his blankets are treated with flame-retardant EDCs, in which case he should just give up on having children at all. Well, not really, but Swan’s alarmist tone in Count Down is unrelenting and easy to poke fun at. This review [7] of Count Down by Gregory Bond does more than poke fun, however, and accuses Swan of cherry-picking data while asserting that much of her science is not settled. To be fair, I don’t know who is right or whom to trust more. All things being equal, I gravitate towards Swan’s alarmism rather than Bond’s skepticism since falling sperm counts are indeed a huge problem, and at least Swan is proposing we do something about it.

And now for the good stuff. Count Down will provide gripping reading for those concerned about the future of the white race in the West. Sperm counts are falling, and much of the cause is environmental. This is not just in humans. Swan makes a similar case with animals in labs and in the wild. In her final chapter, Swan describes the genesis of her interest in this field:

In 2000, John Brock, PhD, an environmental chemist, told me about a new effort at the CDC to measure phthalates in a sample of US residents for the first time. When he suggested I study them, my reaction was “What are phthalates?” He told me about some convincing studies showing that these “everywhere chemicals” were wreaking havoc on the genital tracts of male rats.

Similar havoc has been observed among fish, turtles, alligators, and other animals. Swan offers an abundance of statistics to prove that this problem is indeed real.

Between 1973 and 2011, sperm concentration (the number of sperm per millimeter of semen) dropped more than 52 percent among random men in Western countries; meanwhile, the total sperm count fell by more than 59 percent. We came to these conclusions after examining the findings of 185 studies involving 42,935 men that had been conducted during this thirty-eight-year period. To be clear: these men weren’t selected based on their fertility status; they were everyday Joes and Johns, ordinary men.

According to her own research, the sperm concentration of the average Western man in 1973 was 99 million per millimeter. By 2011, that number had dropped to 47.1 million. 40 million per millimeter is considered the cutoff for “impaired likelihood of conceiving.” A study involving 9,425 samples from nearly 500 men noted a similar decline between 2003 and 2013.  Sperm banks provide corroborating evidence since they are understandably reluctant to accept substandard specimens. The proportion of acceptable donors declined from sixty-nine percent to forty-four percent during the same period.

Concentration and absolute counts are not the only things plummeting these days. Sperm quality is also taking a hit. This means reduced vitality (percentage of living sperm), motility (the swimming ability of the sperm), and morphology (the shape of the sperm). Hand-in-hand with this are testosterone levels, which have been dropping by one percent per year since 1982. Swan also uncovers evidence that phthalates feminize boys in utero. Combine this with the triple whammy of how many Western couples are waiting to start families late in life, how sperm in men over forty have a greater chance of mutation—which increases the risk for autism, Down syndrome, and schizophrenia—and how age has a similar effect on pregnant women, and we can begin to piece together a bio-chemical explanation for the West’s decline.

[8]This is what initially drew me to this book. Yes, White Nationalists and other dissidents often argue brilliantly. Yes, we have the truth on our side. But what if a critical mass of white men are just not psychologically strong enough to reject the current anti-white orthodoxy, let alone fight against it? What if this weakness, this feminization, was baked in their genetic cake decades ago when their pregnant mothers and grandmothers were exposed to critical levels of EDCs in their makeup, hairspray, body lotion, and who knows what else? Perhaps phthalates are to the modern West what lead in the water was to Ancient Rome? I don’t believe that it is as bad as all that, but it is something we should consider when pondering the state of the race in post-Trump America and beyond.

Swan explains that while drugs are required to be tested for safety before going on the market, most chemicals that go into our everyday objects do not. She walks us through the chemistry of it all, how some EDCs “act like imposter hormones and bind to receptor sites where the natural androgen or estrogen is supposed to dock, thereby fooling our bodies into responding to them as if they’re the real deal.” Her reference to a study by Canadian environmentalists Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie (first presented in their book Slow Death by Rubber Duck), is worth quoting in full.

They designed a “test room” in Bruce’s condo and stayed there in twelve-hour shifts, exposing themselves to the test chemicals by applying personal-care products, using antibacterial hand soap, easting canned or packaged foods, drinking coffee or canned soda, and hanging out in the room where the carpet and the couch had just been protected with Stainmaster, which is designed to help materials  resist stains. After four days, they collected more urine and blood samples and had them sent to a high-precision lab for analysis. While the levels of the test chemicals increased significantly, from baseline to four days later, there was one standout, as Rick noted in the book: “The really dramatic result was that as a result of my product use, my MEP [monoethyl phthalate] levels—one of the chemicals that Shanna Swan had connected with male reproductive problems—went through the roof, from 64 to 1,410 nanograms per milliliter.” This was a direct result of smearing himself with scented toiletries, including hair-care products, shaving gel, deodorant, fragrance, and lotions, as well as using scented liquid soap and a plug-in scented oil in the test room.

Swan identifies the worst phthalates as di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and butyl benzyl phthalate (BBzP). In 2000, health professionals tested dozens of name-brand beauty products and found that three-quarters of them contained DEHP and DBP. These include deodorants, perfumes, hair gels, mousse, and hand and body lotions. Another chemical linked to lower sperm counts, Bisphenol A (BPA), appears in epoxy resins which go into protective coatings for water bottles, baby bottles, and food cans. BPA also is used in hard plastics. Pesticides and flame-retardant chemicals are other culprits. While many manufacturers stopped using the phthalates in question, Swan reveals how they often replaced them with other phthalates which were just as bad.

[9]Thankfully, Swan offers comprehensive lifestyle and environmental changes to help offset these trends. Of course, we should exercise and stay trim. Sitting around all day watching television or playing video games heats up a man’s package, which isn’t good for his little swimmers. Neither is intensive bicycle riding or spending extended time in hot tubs and saunas. Porn is also a no-no. It depletes dopamine reserves in our brains from overstimulation, and this results in lowered sperm counts.

Avoiding drugs is also crucial. Swan tells us that marijuana use is directly linked to lowered sperm counts. She claims the same about cigarettes but neglects to tell us why sperm counts were higher back when smoking was much more prevalent. Opioids and anabolic androgenic steroids also reduce sperm counts, as does, believe it or not, Tylenol. Ironically, testosterone replacement therapy has the same effect because it tricks the body into thinking it has enough testosterone, and so it stops making it.

As for diet, here is what she advises:

  1. “AVOID ANY FOOD THAT HAS A TV COMMERCIAL” (caps in the original).
  2. Eat organic fruits and vegetables.
  3. Purchase meats with the USDA Organic seal or meats in packaging which explicitly states that the animal was raised without added or synthetic hormones.
  4. Avoid soy, which is “rich in estrogenic compounds” and “may have a libido-compromising effect in men.”
  5. Avoid package foods with an ingredients list.
  6. Avoid processed and fast foods.
  7. Cook meals at home as much as possible.
  8. Avoid Teflon pans.
  9. Ban all plastic from the microwave.
  10. Avoid plastic containers, and use only glass, metal, or ceramic ones.
  11. Filter your drinking water.
  12. Consume only a moderate amount of alcohol—four to seven units per week, which may even be better than no alcohol at all for some people.
  13. Consume seafood (with skin removed) for omega-3 fatty acids, but not the kind with high mercury levels like mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, and tilefish.
  14. Consume monounsaturated fats, as from olive oil, avocados, and certain nuts.

As for environmental concerns, Swan tells us to have no cleaners in the house with the terms “danger,” “warning,” “poison,” or “fatal” on the packaging. She suggests visiting the Environmental Working Group website [10] for more details and encourages making our own cleaning supplies “using water, vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils.”

“Pay attention to the labels on personal-care products,” she warns. Keep an eye out for USDA Organic or 100 Percent Organic labels and look for “paraben-free” or “phthalate-free” on the packaging. Read the ingredients carefully. We should avoid anything that says “antibacterial,” and choose products in glass jars or bottles over those in plastic. The same goes for children’s toys. Swan also wants us to banish vinyl shower curtains, air fresheners, wall-to-wall carpeting, and plastic bags. She prefers we use reusable canvas bags for our shopping as long as we wash them regularly.

The list goes on. You can buy the book if you want a complete rundown on the do’s and don’ts of little swimmer preservation. Regardless of whether Shanna Swan is right in all of her assertions or whether her science is sound, she is addressing a critical problem currently facing the West and whites in particular. Race-conscious whites have everything to lose by ignoring the warnings and recommendations offered in Count Down.

***

[11]

You can buy Spencer J. Quinn’s novel Charity’s Blade here. [12]

And while we are pondering all the drastic life changes this might require, I want to point out something that might be of general interest and something that is definitely of interest to the Dissident Right. Many times in Count Down Swan goes off on tangents which, while interesting, have iffy connections to the stated purpose of the book. One such tangent involves epigenetics which is the study of how chemical changes in the body can alter gene expression (but not the genes themselves) to the point of making such expressions heritable. She goes through the mechanics of epigenetics, which includes DNA methylation, histones, and RNA, all of which can regulate gene expression in various ways. This boils down to the possibility of external trauma resulting in changes not only to the organism, but to the organism’s progeny.

To support this idea, Swan cites a study by Rachel Yehuda who compared stress response and cortisol levels of people who had at least one parent who survived the Jewish Holocaust versus those who didn’t. Sure enough, Yehuda found that the former group had a greater likelihood of developing Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and depression due perhaps to epigenetic changes incurred in their families’ previous generation. Of course, Swan does not mention what percentage of each group was Jewish and whether Yehuda even considered that in her study design. It would have been informative if she had.

The general interest lies in how epigenetics, as presented in Yehuda’s study, is indeed Lamarckian. This means that some biologists are now beginning to rehabilitate ideas that have been considered debunked for well over a century now. Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, of course, was the eighteenth and nineteenth century naturalist who posited that acquired traits can be inherited. For example, giraffes get their long necks from ancestors who had to stretch their necks real high to find food in trees. By the same a logic, a professional weightlifter will have strong children because he lifts weights. This natural and intuitive idea becomes ridiculous once we understand genetics as bequeathed to us by Gregor Mendel. Yet, epigenetics (derived from the Greek έπί, meaning ‘on’ or ‘over’) deals with changes around the genes which might be sensitive to external stimuli and make their presence felt in later generations through gene expression.

Who knows if this is true? Gregory Bond hesitates to say so, stating that Swan

…promotes some of the more controversial aspects of the “fashionable” field of epigenetics and posits that environmental exposures, lifestyle choices we make, and even emotions we feel can be passed on to future generations. It is presented as if there is scientific consensus about it, which is highly misleading.

Ehh. Swan does give a hat tip to the critics of epigenetics on page 136. Kind of. So, again, who knows?

Of interest to the Dissident Right is how epigenetics can be used to justify racial egalitarianism and give scientific cover for all sorts of anti-white policies which seek to redress past wrongs supposedly committed by whites against non-whites, blacks especially. I addressed this in my article “The Red-Pilling of Spencer Quinn” [13] in which I state:

After college, I began to study race from an egalitarian standpoint, wanting to understand why the races had markedly different outcomes in life. I was concerned mostly with black-white differences, but all races mattered to me. For some reason, I had always found this topic interesting. Despite vigorous research, I could only find one plausible explanation. It was presented in a little book called Chains and Images of Psychological Slavery by someone named Na’im Akbar. According to this Akbar, generations of physical slavery shackles the mind with a slave mentality, causing the descendants of slaves to inherit these shackles even if these descendants themselves are free. And with a shackled mind more often than not comes a life of crime, poverty, and low achievement.

This seemed to make sense. It certainly explained everything quite neatly. But its Lamarckian nature nagged at me. What exactly was the mechanism which caused black children to inherit psychological defects that their ancestors acquired during their lifetimes?

See how embarrassing this could be? I rejected Akbar’s assertions because they were Lamarckian. And back then, Lamarckian meant wrong.  But what if it isn’t wrong after all? What if blacks really do underperform academically and in life because of the emotional scarring their ancestors endured two centuries ago on the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and on antebellum plantations? This is certainly an argument blacks could make when demanding reparations for slavery. (It’s science! Pony up, Honky!)

Of course, it’s still nonsense. But we should at least be on the lookout for such nonsense and prepare ourselves to counter it. A true epigenetic defense of racial egalitarianism would have to deep dive into comparisons of all sorts of groups across and within racial lines. It would have to look beyond white and black. It would need perfect historic and familial data (was your great-great-great-grandfather really bayonetted in Nat Turner’s rebellion? Or did he really enjoy the cushy life of a house slave to a kindhearted Virginia landowner?) It would also have to genetically rule out the sources of IQ and talent and other indicators of success in life. Most importantly, if egalitarians claim that transgenerational epigenetic scarring can be quantified, then we should remind them that quantification cuts both ways. What if blacks who descend from New World slaves and African blacks whose ancestors had little or no contact with whites had the same so-called epigenetic scarring?

Wouldn’t that be the kick in the head that the anti-white egalitarians so richly deserve.

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