Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 1015–1024 | Cite as

Butch–Femme Identity and Visuospatial Performance Among Lesbian and Bisexual Women in China

  • Lijun Zheng
  • Guangju Wen
  • Yong Zheng
Original Paper


Lesbian and bisexual women who self-identify as “butch” show a masculine profile with regard to gender roles, gender nonconformity, and systemizing cognitive style, whereas lesbian and bisexual women who self-identify as “femme” show a corresponding feminine profile and those who self-identify as “androgynes” show an intermediate profile. This study examined the association between butch or femme lesbian or bisexual identity and visuospatial ability among 323 lesbian and bisexual women, compared to heterosexual women (n = 207) and men (n = 125), from multiple cities in China. Visuospatial ability was assessed using a Shepard and Metzler-type mental rotation task and Judgment of Line Angle and Position (JLAP) test on the Internet. Heterosexual men outperformed heterosexual women on both mental rotation and JLAP tasks. Lesbian and bisexual women outperformed heterosexual women on mental rotation, but not on JLAP. There were significant differences in mental rotation performance among women, with butch- and androgyne-identified lesbian/bisexual women outperforming femme-identified and heterosexual women. There were also significant differences in JLAP performance among women, with butch- and androgyne-identified lesbian/bisexual women and heterosexual women outperforming femme-identified lesbian/bisexual women. The butch–femme differences in visuospatial ability indicated an association between cognitive ability and butch–femme identity and suggest that neurobiological underpinnings may contribute to butch–femme identity although alternative explanations exist.


Spatial ability Lesbians Mental rotation Judgment of Line Angle and Position Sexual orientation 



This research is supported by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (SWU1709244).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality, Southwest UniversityMinistry of EducationChongqingChina
  2. 2.Faculty of PsychologySouthwest UniversityChongqingChina

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