Turkey Baster Babies: Inside The NBA’s Sexist Sex-Ed Program
A mandatory program for NBA rookies is filling their heads with paranoid, baseless ideas
A curious allegation came up during Derrick Rose’s testimony in a recent civil trial concerning his alleged rape of a former girlfriend. Rose, who would eventually be found not liable, was asked why he chose to take his used condom with him after the alleged rape. He explained that’s what the NBA had taught him to do.
“In my profession they teach us to make sure you get the condom if you can’t flush it,” Rose said. “It’s kind of normal with my profession … You have to be very careful what you do with your condoms,” because, “you never know what women are up to nowadays.”
Rose was given this advice during the NBA’s annual Rookie Transition Program (RTP), a four-day mandatory orientation program for first year players. The program is run by the NBA and National Basketball Players Association and was created in 1986 to provide information and resources to help rookies deal with the rigors of a high-profile and stressful job.
A league source confirmed Rose’s testimony, according to the New York Post, and described the advice regarding condoms as “Nothing untoward. It’s a common thing.”
Vocativ spoke with two individuals who attended the RTP and were able to fill in some of the details. Both backed up Rose’s description, saying a speaker at the RTP informed players that flushing or wrapping up a condom is necessary to prevent a woman from being able to use the semen to induce a pregnancy. The implication is that a woman could then extort a player for child support payments.
One player who took part in the 2014 RTP said he was told to, “Make sure you throw [the condom] out, or you throw it away, because there was an incident that they gave us as an example: a girl using a turkey baster or one of those things and kind of getting herself pregnant by re-injecting herself with it or getting it frozen.”
Tony Gaskins, an author, life coach, and motivational speaker, who from 2010 through 2015 led an RTP session titled “Embracing Manhood,” also said that an RTP speaker specifically told attendees that a turkey baster was used as a tool to facilitate a pregnancy without consent. (Gaskins skipped this year’s RTP because he was recently hired by an NBA team as a life coach.)
“There were speakers who would share about some women, you know, getting the condom`and getting a turkey baster and sucking the semen out of the condom and then inserting it in their vagina and getting pregnant that way,” he said.
The NBA declined to comment when presented with these statements.
Beyond the RTP, in 2003 during the Top 100 Camp, an NPBA program founded in 1994 for elite high school prospects, participants were similarly told, “Never forget: when you leave that partner, always take the condom with you,” by co-instructor Jeanine Primm, according to the New York Daily News. The Daily News also reported that NBPA staffers at the Top 100 Camp repeatedly harped on the cost of child support payments—about $10,000 per month at the time.
“This is no ordinary sex ed class; these young men have a lot to lose,” said Primm, per the Daily News report. “They are potential celebrities (and) potential millionaires and a sexual decision can jeopardize all that.”
Multiple attempts were made to contact Primm. She did not respond.
The NBPA declined to answer questions from Vocativ about the RTP and the Top 100 Camp. Instead, they provided this statement:
“The goal of the Rookie Training Program is to prepare our players for many aspects of life on and off the court. That includes a wide range of topics including: financial matters, working with media, how to adjust to the travel schedule and many other areas that ease their transition into the league. The details of the program are confidential.”
But with regards to condom disposal, even if this degree of cautiousness may seem extreme, is the RTP correct in informing players of a plausible if absolute worst-case scenario?
Self-impregnation as extortion is a long-standing source of paranoia for the men’s rights movement, but the number of recorded instances can be counted on a single hand, and none of them involved an NBA player. A little digging reveals a ton of rumor-mongering in various gossip sites and their attendant comments sections, all of which assert that this is a widespread and common problem, though none of the sites name exactly whom it happened to.
Granted, reproductive coercion—the practice of sabotaging birth control or forcing a partner through manipulation to conceive—is an ongoing problem. Studies have even shown that it’s a form of intimate partner violence both males and females commit, but it is not the sole province of the hoary stereotype: a baby-crazed woman obsessed with her ticking biological clock.
But it’s nearly impossible to find a recorded instance of a famous athlete falling victim to the kind of extortion scheme the RTP warns against. In 2001, Boris Becker recanted an accusation that the mother of his daughter had induced a pregnancy without his consent during a tryst that took place two years prior in the broom closet of a high-end London restaurant, Nobu. (Becker’s lawyers also claimed that the Russian mob was behind this nonexistent plot, somehow.)
Vocativ spoke with Heather Corinna, a sex educator, author, and the executive director of Scarleteen.com, a sexual wellness and education website for young adults. After hearing about this particular portion of the RTP, Corinna was aghast.
She explained that expensive fertilization clinics exist because inducing a pregnancy remains incredibly difficult even under ideal medical conditions, let alone a DIY scenario involving a turkey baster.
“I’m backwards-walking the hypothetical crime scene,” she said. “Some woman that’s already been charting her fertility for months, then somehow works it out with the schedule exactly that she hooks up with this player at the exact same time that is. And she has a cervical cap [a device that can be used to aid consensual DIY insemination] or whatever in her purse and she needs to make sure somehow that the condom gets in the garbage. it’s fiction.”
“I can’t say it cannot happen, as it theoretically could,” she continued. Corrine added that semen left in a condom is often damaged, leading to a much lower rate of successful conception. “But happening as a one off or in an ongoing relationship? Wow. Wow, the planning that would be involved. If you think someone could be at least as diabolical as this, probably you shouldn’t be fucking them… You’re ascribing Disney villainess status to this theoretical person.”
Another individual that attended the sex and health seminar at the RTP in the last decade takes serious issue with the way women are portrayed beyond the question of condom disposal. This individual was not able speak on the record, bound by a non-disclosure agreement signed as a condition of attending the session.
According to the attendee, women were depicted as predatory creatures seeking only an athlete’s money. This despite the fact that the expert brought in to lead the discussion and respond to the players’ questions was a woman herself.
The source granted that, yes, it’s necessary to have an honest conversation about the perils of being young and rich and NBA players certainly don’t lack for casual partners, even ones that might do them harm, but he insisted that there are ways to engage in a healthy dialogue about sex that doesn’t fall into sexist tropes. What’s more, essentializing women in this way leads to seeing them as less than human and paves a path for violence, the source said.
For example, the Washington Post covered the 1991 RTP and reported that the NBA was running a theatrical ‘sting’ operation intended to educate and humiliate incoming rookies.
“The NBA has gone so far as to hire actresses to portray prostitutes and test whether rookies will give up their room keys or agree to sex,” the Post wrote. “The next day the actresses come to the seminar and put the players on the spot.”
A slightly tweaked version was still operational in 2002 and 2003, according to the Lawrence Journal-World.
“Often, on the first night of orientation, the rookies are cornered by those women in the lobby,” the Journal-World reported. “The women flirt, and in some cases, make plans for later in the week. Imagine the players’ surprise when the next morning, the same women walk into the seminar (some with incriminating audiotapes) and reveal they were plants — paid for by the NBA to illustrate the wild world the rookies are about to enter.”
A 1998 Washington Post article also mentions the use of actors pretending to be sex workers and quotes then-NBA vice president of player programs, Tom “Satch” Sanders, as saying, “Entrapment situations are always there.”
Gaskins described a shadowy web of women that have developed complex, profitable schemes utilizing their own specific social media analytics to force a player into a potentially compromising situation.
“I’ve met women who their entire job is to trap pro athletes. And they just game the system,” he said. “They have a system. Knowing how many times to retweet them on Twitter, how many pictures to like on their Instagram, how many tweets to like, knowing that they’ll eventually be seen, trying to make it look discreet, or make it seem like it was an accident, but then getting the player knowing that he’s young and dumb and then getting him to sleep with them and then blackmailing them from there.”
Then again, Gaskins told ESPN that part of the goal of his seminar is to scare players straight. He also believes women should withhold sex as part of a three-point plan to induce a partner into proposing. He also is of the opinion that any men who are desirous of a threesome do so because they’re broken human beings, “trying to fulfill a void from [their] childhood.” While he doesn’t encourage NBA players to remain celibate at the RTP, he does draw a red line between a committed, long-term partner and casual sex, and strongly pushes the former. According to ESPN, his presentation was a roaring success, with many attendees now following Gaskins on Twitter.
Gaskins told Vocativ that he still keeps in touch with the players he meets during the RTP, and continues to dole out advice like this: “Sowing their wild oats and sleeping around on the road and sleeping with random escorts and jump-offs is not the way to become a man. Pleasure will not lead to happiness; it will only lead to pain.”
He also said he encouraged any virgins in the audience to remain so and that he’s mentoring a few NFL players who have decided to refrain from sex until after they are married.
Further, during previous RTP’s, rookies have been subjected to images that could read like a form of aversion therapy. In 2014, they watched a “slide show juxtaposing photographs of beautiful semi-clad women with photographs of hideously diseased genitalia,” according to the New York Times.
Similar, if far more graphic, photos from the 2006 RTP were presented as evidence in an ongoing wrongful dismissal lawsuit brought by a former NBA employee. In an exclusive report by the New York Daily News in April, the judge in the case chose to make those images public, because, “The photographs … both demean women and represent a culture of sexual harassment and misogyny.”
Vocativ spoke with Kathy Behrens, the NBA’s president of social responsibility and player programs, about the RTP’s programs. She said via email that improvisational theater where women pose as sex workers is not currently part of the RTP.
As to why the league wanted to keep photos from the 2006 RTP under wraps, Behrens referred to a statement given to the Daily News when the story broke: “The photos obtained from court files today are a decade old and part of contested litigation related to alleged conduct involving employees that no longer work at the NBA. These claims from years ago are without merit and do not accurately reflect the NBA’s inclusive and respectful culture, and we will continue to vigorously defend against them.”
When asked if the NBA considers the images of half-naked women and severely diseased genitalia from the 2014 RTP as part of that culture of inclusiveness, Behrens said, “In a presentation from an expert in the field of sexual health, a discussion around STD’s is held with the point being that you don’t always know the full history of a partner.”
Does the NBA insist that speakers and other attendees sign non-disclosure agreements, though, as Vocativ’s source claimed? Behrens did not directly answer the question. “RTP is for players,” she said. “The additional attendees are working staff or experts who are aware of the confidential nature of the program.”
One of the RTP experts contacted by Vocativ described the program as “great” and was eager to discuss its merits, but said she needed to clear the interview with a “colleague” at the NBA first. She then stopped responding to emails. Vocativ also contacted numerous retired NBA players. They all declined to speak about the RTP
The NBA also declined to make any of their sex and health experts available to provide a fuller picture of the sex and health seminar. For Corinna, that’s just one of many indications that the NBA needs to rethink its sex ed curriculum. “I literally have spent most of this conversation with my hands over my face,” she said. “It’s really not funny… As an advocate for people in that age group, I’m mortified.”