The WNBA, Contraception, & Sexuality

Dr. Jarryd Willis PhD
14 min readJun 6, 2021

WNBA2K21 has the most sexuality diversity of any videogame ever made

Lesbians’ Testosterone > Straight Women’s Testosterone

Testosterone levels and competitiveness peaked around ovulation in athletic women (Crewther & Cook, 2018).
Lesbians already have higher testosterone than straight women (Gartrell et al., 1977; Juster et al., 2016; Loraine, 1971; see also Emma Eklund et al., 2020). Eklund et al. (2017) & Bermon et al., (2018) found higher testosterone was associated with more lean muscle mass & explosiveness for female Olympians.
Contraception Decreases Testosterone
Lesbians are less likely to be taking any contraceptive method than straight women (Charlton et al., 2019) & OCs tend to decrease testosterone levels (Crewther et al., 2015).
Lesbians have wider hands than straight women
, which may help in a sport like Basketball (Martin & Nguyen, 2004). In addition to lesbians having wider hands, “both homosexual male and homosexual females were approximately 0.004 units (or 33%) closer to the opposite sex in arm/stature ratios.”
Lesbians are more likely to have lesbian daughters than straight women
, (Pattatucci & Hamer, 1995) [Intergenerational Transfer of Sexuality]
Schumm (2010) found that LGB parents were far more likely to give birth to LGB children (20.3% of their kids were LGB) than heterosexuals (4.3% of their kids were LGB) (Schumm, 2010). Moreover, lesbians’ biological daughters were more likely to be lesbian & gay men’s biological sons were more likely to be gay (Schumm, 2020).

Imagine if we could do a study comparing the athletic performance of lesbians who aren’t on OCs to straight women who are on OCs…

see Swift-Gallant et al., 2020 — Swift-Gallant, A., Johnson, B. A., Di Rita, V., & Breedlove, S. M. (2020). Through a glass, darkly: Human digit ratios reflect prenatal androgens, imperfectly. Hormones and behavior, 120, 104686.

WNBA Study

We already found lesbian (non-straight) WNBA players to have better performance outcomes on a few metrics than straight women (non-lesbian) (Willis et al., in review —; the strongest effects being lesbians’ better performance in road games & lesbian guards (point guards & shootings guards) higher field goal percentage.

There has been a non-heterosexual Big 3 that lead a dynasty in the WNBA (Diana Taurasi [The GOAT], Penny Taylor [bisexual; Taurasi’s wife], & Cappie Pondexter [non-heterosexual]), but there has never been a gay or non-heterosexual Big 3 that lead a dynasty in the NBA.

Stated differently,

there is a difference in sexual orientation diversity between women’s & men’s professional sports.

To be clear, Diana Taurasi is the GOAT and everyone knows this.

Even in college, the greatest women’s teams are more likely to recruit star athletes who happen to be lesbian, bisexual, or non-heterosexual.

For example:

- Diana Taurasi (UCONN) 🐐
- Sue Bird (UCONN)
- Breanna Taylor (UCONN)
- Stefanie Dolson (UCONN)
- Tiffany Hayes (UCONN)
- Renee Montgomery (UCONN)
- Gabby Williams (UCONN)
- etc (UCONN)

Non-straight & non-lesbian are the official codings we used given that (1) it’s easier to rule out one of the monosexual orientations and (2) we don’t allow bisexual erasure in my lab.

WNBA Sexuality & Race

The WNBA’s White players (n = 28 total; n = 21 coded for sexuality) are marginally more likely to be lesbian (specifically, not straight)* than Black (n = 110 total; n = 74 coded for sexuality) & multiracial players (n = 9 total; n =8 coded for sexuality), χ2 (2, N = 103) = 5.33, p = .🏀7.

To reiterate → We coded 15 of 28 White WNBA players as lesbian. That means that most White women in the @WNBA are non-heterosexual, even if all 13 unknowns were all straight.

Using WNBA2K 🎮 Rosters

The WNBA’s White starters were more likely to be lesbian (specifically, not straight)* than Black starters in both the 2019–2020 regular season, χ2 (1, N = 47) = 4.56 p = .033, and in the videogame WNBA2K21, χ2 (1, N = 38) = 5.27, p = .022.

There are many, many gay male couples to stan…” remains impossible to say with the NBA (Cretaz, 2020 — Autostraddle).

The sexuality diversity of the WNBA & absence in the NBA is one of the largest sex differences in sports.

A key challenge in my lab’s WNBA research was determining the sexualities of athletes. Hints such as someone’s marital status and/or kids aren’t given as openly by WNBA players, whereas it pops up in basic Google searches for NBA players (see image below).

It’s like the males want to show it off… which could be considered a sex difference in itself. We had a reality tv show called @BasketballWives but there has never been a “WNBA Husbands” on VH1 or The Bold Type Freeform's (s5e02) - The Crossover ஜ ۩۞۩ ஜ

Moreover, most White men in the NBA aren’t gay. That’s a difference in sexuality diversity & inclusion. It’s a difference in inclusion (something the WNBA has succeeded at in terms of race AND sexuality; NBA has done so with race) because there ARE many gay & bisexual men who play in the NBA & other pro sports but they refrain from coming out due to toxic masculinity.

I’m sure they’d love to open the closet but the hegemonic man-box of toxic masculinity is blocking the door.

Note: there is no significant height difference between lesbians and straight women (Bogaert & Liu, 2013; Coome, 2020)

Some may suggest that the height difference between gay & straight men partially explains the lack of sexuality diversity in the NBA relative to the WNBA.

Even though straight men are generally taller than gay men (Bogaert & Liu, 2013; Skorska & Bogaert, 2017; Coome, 2020), players like Chris Paul — whose team just defeated the defending champion Lakers in the first round — remind us that there is more to success in the NBA than height.

The eye color of lesbians’ lovers tends to resemble their mothers just as the eye color of gay men’s lovers tends to resemble their fathers (Lisa DeBruine et al., 2017). The eye color of heterosexuals’ lovers tends to resemble their opposite-sex parent (Little et al., 2003).

Bisexual Mate Preferences & Egalitarian Courtship

The benefit of bisexuals is that they can answer mate preference questions that not even lesbian/gay subjects can answer when attempting to cross-validate gender socialization/constructivist, evolutionary, and adaptationist theories.

LG allow for the isolation of biological sex.

For example, there is a gender wage penalty for both straight wives & gestational lesbian wives after giving birth, but it dissipates within a couple of years for lesbians who give birth whereas it persists for much longer among straight women.

Bisexuals allow attraction to be treated as a constant.

For example, heterosexuals are unlikely to have any close opposite-sex friends (or make new ones) while dating or married as that is their sex-of-attraction. Both sexes are the sex-of-attraction for bisexuals, making attraction a mathematical constant. Thus, if we extend the heterosexual logic to its conclusion, we should expect that bisexuals who are dating/married wouldn’t have ANY friends.

This is hardly the case, as bisexuals continue to have their friendships. Moreover, LG who are dating/married maintain their friendships with their sex-of-attraction → same-sex friends.

Thus, it is only heterosexuals who seem to have issues maintaining their sex-of-attraction friendships while dating/married.

Sidenotes (The “Assume Direct Quotes” Section)

Male proposers of casual sex are perceived to have lesser sexual capabilities than female proposers (Conley, 2011).

Conley, 2011: Women and men agreed that female proposers were more intelligent, successful, and sexually skilled than men who made the same proposals.

(Conley et al., 2014)

Both bisexual men & women were more likely to accept proposals for casual sex more from women than from men.

It is only proposals from men that are disproportionately rejected by bisexual women. Data based on actual encounters suggests that they are turning down offers from men more than they turn down offers from women.

Both bisexual women and bisexual men perceived female proposers as more sexually capable than male proposers. Sexual capabilities are the reason that males are turned down for casual sex more often than females. Thus, the pursuit of sexual pleasure is the dominant force in sexual decision-making among bisexual individuals, just as it is in heterosexual, lesbian, and gay samples (Conley, 2011, Conley, Ziegler, Matsick and Moors, 2014).

Gender differences did not emerge in acceptance rates of actual remembered casual sex offers from women — differences only emerged with regard to actual offers from men.

This is consistent with other research indicating that even gay males don’t want to have penetrative sex with their lovers as much as straight males do with their lovers (de Visser et al., 2003; Grulich et al., 2003; Laumann et al., 1994). Thus, it’s not surprising that bisexual males would also turn down males.

From a mechanistic standpoint, the anatomic features associated with Xy gay and bisexual males may predispose their propensity to desire a form of intercourse that their would-be bisexual male partners may not always desire — as mad evident in this study.

Lesbians’ Lover Sexuality Preferences (Continued))

We did not include lesbian or gay proposals because lesbians have a more strongly negative impression of bisexual women than gay men do of bisexual men (see Rust, 1995).

See also → Matsick, J. L., Kruk, M., Conley, T. D., Moors, A. C., & Ziegler, A. (2021). Gender similarities and differences in casual sex acceptance among lesbian women and gay men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 50(3), 1151–1166.

Androcentrism/ Masculinity Preference

(Thekla Morgenroth et al., 2021)

Lesbians make more than straight women in nearly every country where the lesbian wage premium has been investigated. The assumption that straight women are more feminine/communal & that lesbians are more masculine/agentic leads employers to assume more long term commitment from lesbians & thus a higher salary.

Preferences for masculinity also influence how people see bisexuals (Morgenroth et al., 2021). People with androcentric views tend to assume bisexual men secretly prefer men & that bisexual women secretly prefer men… because everyone must apparently prefer men 🤦‍♀️

In addition, bisexual men & women face significant pay discrimination (Mize, 2016), bearing more semblance to the experiences of gay men than lesbians.

Morgenroth, T., & Kirby, T., Maisie J. Cuthbert1 , Jacob Evje1 , and Arielle E. Anderson (2021). Bisexual erasure: Perceived attraction patterns of bisexual women and men. European Journal of Social Psychology.

Two Spaces After A Period for Social Distancing

Please remember that at this time it is still permissible to have 2 spaces after a period for social distancing.

Performativity & Erasure

Heterosexual women who engage in performative same-sex kissing for a male audience contribute to the invalidation of those who identify as bisexual (Boyer & Galupo, 2015). “Additionally, women who kissed women are significantly more likely to be perceived as heterosexual than either bisexual or lesbian. Thus, even when same-sex sexual encounters occur they are perceived as heterosexual performance.

Emoji Erasure Chronicles

WHILE I was tweeting the tweet I tweeted below, my emoji’s hair literally changed from brunette to a blonde woman.

I recorded an email I sent to the Triton here at UC San Diego & my emoji identity changed upon pressing SEND

Full transcript of the emails from my birthday (May 25th) in the image below:

E1. Also, here is an image of the emoji I’ve added prior to sending this email. Let’s see if identity erasure happens 💁🏻‍♀️

E2. So this time the coding glitch didn’t change my sex but it changed my race, skin tone, hair color, hairstyle (was more symmetrical before), and shirt (the white linen on top of my emoji’s shirt is missing in this erasure version with a solid purple shirt). I mean, this isn’t as bad as facial scanners mistaking Michelle Obama for a man, but it’s a coding glitch that should be corrected as it relates to ppl’s digital identities.

When I list my pronouns in MMORPG as a female avatar, I expect my guildmates to address me with those pronouns, whether it’s a casual chat or we’re fighting a dragon.

Someone’s pronouns, identity, etc should also be reflected in their emoji selection without it glitching 🙇🏻‍♀️

E3. And now I became a male lols

I never use male emojis

Diversity Training Will Be Booming This Autumn

Given the recent series of fan attacks against NBA players & the overall decline in interpersonal racial diversity reported over the past year… diversity rehabilitation & training personnel are going to be working overtime this Fall.

Many of our auto-pilot sensibilities/ courtesies in intergroup relations may have to be relearned given that many monoracial people in racially diverse societies just lived through the least racially diverse year of their lives.

West (2019)

¨In line with social structural theory, participants reported a relative preference for marriage (versus casual sex) with White partners, but a relative preference for casual sex (versus marriage) with racial minorities. This pattern was further modified by sex: men reported a general preference for casual sex (versus marriage) with all racial groups except White partners. Women, however, reported a general preference for marriage (versus casual sex) with all groups, but this preference was strongest for White partners.

West, K. (2019). Interethnic bias in willingness to engage in casual sex versus committed relationships. The Journal of Sex Research.

Interminority Marriage

Carolyn: Why were Chinese & Mexican couples allowed to get married before Loving v Virginia?

Pelody: Interminority marriage was always legal for minorities. Minorities could always legally interracially marry minorities of other races.

Interracial marriage was NEVER 100% banned. Only interracial marriage that included someone White was banned.

White people weren’t legally allowed to marry anyone who wasn’t the same race & minorities weren’t allowed to marry anyone White.

Though in some places this meant a part-White Multiracial person couldn’t legally marry *anyone* because a White person wasn’t allowed to marry anyone who wasn’t White.

Carolyn: That explains why most multiracials prior to the 1960s were interminority whereas today they are mostly half-White 💁🏻‍♀️

Pelody: Correct — White singles are highest on the racial hierarchy of mating preferences & thus are the most desired monoracial group for interracial courtship among non-White monoracials = most multiracial individuals are half-White.

Lauren Davenport, 2018

Among interminority multiracials, Blasians (Black & Asian) are the most prevalent multiple-minority multiracials in the US as of the 2010 census.

Of the 2.3 million people who identified with more than one minority group in 2015, 62% chose exactly two races; just 8.7% of all multiple-race identifiers selected three or more racial groups. With the exception of Black-American Indian/Alaska Natives, no other multiple-minority category comprised more than roughly 3% of the overall U.S. multiple-race population.

Black is the category most frequently selected by multiple-minority identifiers, with 56% marking it as one of their races; Asian is the second most commonly chosen category, at 48%. Among those identifying with exactly two minority races, the fastest-growing label is Black-Asian, which rose 85% since 2000.

Lauren Davenport, 2016

“Across biracial subgroups and net of all other influences, economic affluence and Jewish identity predict whiter self-identification, whereas belonging to a religion more commonly associated with racial minorities is associated with a minority identification. Gender, however, is the single best predictor of identification, with biracial women markedly more likely than biracial men to identify as multiracial.”

Intergenerational Transfer of Religion (moreso than Atheism)

“A religious identity of “none” is harder to pass on to future generations than religious identities of “something” or “somethings”

Nones tend to generate additional nones less efficiently than Protestants, Catholics, and Jews do their own kind (Warner 1993, 1077).”

Minna Bromberg (2005) When Are the Two One? Interfaith Couples and Identity Construction

Towards Inclusive Catholicism

Jarryd → As a Catholic, my best friends & recent ex are Atheists. I think it’s important that we find space for everyone’s value horizon in our close interpersonal relationships. It seems kind of disingenuous to say one is open to religious diversity in the workplace or school while simultaneously believing that your colleagues/ classmates who disagree with you will burn in Hell for eternity because their belief system differs from yours.

I know that my path involves Jesus Christ but that’s not the only path. Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Atheism, Bahai, & other paths are equally valid.

There’s more than one lane on this highway.

Transracial Adoption Patterns (Kreider & Raleigh, 2011)

Contraception Decreases Testosterone

“Lesbians are the least likely to use any contraceptive method but bisexual women are more than twice as likely as straight women to use long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), a category made up of implants and IUDs (Charlton et al., 2019).

Straight women on oral contraceptives (OC) tend to have worst performance outcomes in collegiate soccer (Bozzini et al., 2020), consistent with research finding that elite female hockey players on OCs also had decreased testosterone levels (Crewther et al., 2015), and may have a greater recovery need after training.”

Conley, T. D. (2011). Perceived proposer personality characteristics and gender differences in acceptance of casual sex offers. Journal of personality and social psychology, 100(2), 309.

Schumm, W. R. (2010). Children of homosexuals more apt to be homosexuals? A reply to Morrison and to Cameron based on an examination of multiple sources of data. Journal of biosocial science, 42(6), 721.

On the Utility of Sports Data (Ertug & Moaret, 2020)

Our investigation also highlights the advantages of using sports data in social science. In our opinion, the biggest advantage is the transparency and replicability of findings. Even though the use of sports data is sometimes criticized based on (contestable) assumptions about narrow generalizability (Wolfe et al., 2005), an open platform of shared data across researchers is highly desirable, as it facilitates exchange among scholars and extensions of each other’s work.

…we believe that our analyses are a good example of the value of open exchange in terms of facilitating scientific progress, especially on important topics such as racial bias.

The Institute of Diversity & Ethics in Sports

WNBA 2020 Report Card (PDF)



Dr. Jarryd Willis PhD

I'm passionate about making a tangible difference in the lives of others, & that's something I have the opportunity to do a professor & researcher.