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“Pulling Out” Gaining Legitimacy as Effective Birth Control Method

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In a recent report, sex researcher Rachel Jones of the Guttmacher Institute claims that the birth control method of withdrawal— more commonly referred to as “pulling out” — is nearly as effective as using condoms.

However, she does not advocate for its use as the sole method of preventing pregnancy but instead suggests that it can be effective in conjunction with other means (i.e.: condoms, the Pill, etc.) or when there is no other alternative available.

“Hormonal and long-acting contraceptive methods, such as the IUD, are the most effective means of preventing pregnancy. However, these methods are not suitable for or available to all women,” Jones says. “Withdrawal can provide ‘extra insurance’ against pregnancy for all couples, even those using hormonal methods. And withdrawal is far more effective at preventing pregnancy than use of no method at all.”

She hopes that the study will encourage more couples to learn more about how to use withdrawal as an effective way to prevent pregnancy when practiced correctly. When compared to condoms, which have a fail rate of 2 percent with perfect use, the article claims that withdrawal has a 4 percent fail rate and presents itself as a legitimate form of pregnancy prevention.

But many people have fired back at Jones and her study, saying that it promotes use of withdrawal and suggests that it should be thought of as equal to using a condom. These opponents call to attention the importance of noting that condoms prevent pregnancy and are proven effective in protecting people from STDs. They also caution the use of withdrawal as the only form of birth control couples use because it can fail nearly 20 percent of the time when done improperly.

What no one disputes is that adding withdrawal to your current method of birth control will further decrease the chances of becoming pregnant. And those who would rely solely on withdrawal, particularly on multiple occasions, are exhibiting irresponsible sexual behavior when other more effective methods are widely available.

Add a Comment7 Comments

JMHO here:

Thank you to the male commentator for your valuable perspective.

It's far too much psychological, if not physical, pressure to put on the male partner to withdraw "in time." Whatever happened to enjoying spontaneous sex? If you're so darned worried about getting pregnant, there's an answer for that.

At the same time, I'm in total agreement with Diane.

June 23, 2009 - 8:31pm

I think that the withdrawal and condom methods are a godsend for couples who simply can't afford any other method of birth control. And if, as Jones suggests, withdrawal is an ADDED method (not the ONLY method), then I'm totally on her side.

But there's another point here, too. If a woman insists on a condom, she is taking charge of her birth control. For a couple to use only withdrawal, the man is in charge of the birth control. If he "slips up" and doesn't withdraw in time, she's vulnerable to pregnancy. Period.

A 1-in-5 chance of that happening is pretty high.

June 23, 2009 - 9:39am
EmpowHER Guest

Yeah---her idea of "effective" is 1 in 4 women have a chance of pregnancy each year?! Are you kidding me?!

June 21, 2009 - 7:48am
EmpowHER Guest

As a man I just have to say that it is really hard to do this. What about the first drops? And what about the second round that night? What about pulling out a bit to late?

Shure, if we are alle humans every time, why do we have war? Yeah, I know, "the others have started..." - as always. But no argument helps if you are pregnant. "It was his sperm." is not important then. :-) Maybe we should trust something that ist really good if we forget ourselfs in the loveplay: condoms, the pill, the little hormone stick... there are so many posibilities to have really brain-free playful and enjoyable sex - why do we want the stress and never be sure?

If a condom breaks, you know it. If you forget your pill, you know it on the same or next day. What if you both pulled it out "a tiny bit" to late? Nobody knows until maybe 5 weeks after. So, sometimes planned safety is really a good thing. Playing "Rachel Jones" Roulette at home is to risky for me.

I wonder if Rachel Jones is paying my bills if my fiancée gets pregnant to soon.

June 21, 2009 - 3:12am
(reply to Anonymous)

Thanks for your reply.

You are right: the "first drops" that you refer to are the pre-ejaculate on a man's penis, and can contain sperm.

I do not see this as a question of "gaining legitimacy", as this method (with a name I love: "coitus interruptus") is likely one of the first forms of birth control ever used and nothing has changed: the techniques are the same, as well as the low success rates (20-27% of women will have an unintended pregnancy within first year with this method when used alone). Pre-ejaculate can cause a pregnancy and the "typical use" of this method is more common than "perfect use".

The success rates for birth control methods are tricky when only referring to the percentages, as "perfect use" and "typical use" are not equal when discussing the various types of birth control. Some methods are easier to obtain "perfect use" (birth control pill taken once per month) whereas another method (withdrawal) is more likely to only have "typical use" as its ultimate measurement, as this takes consistent concentration, timing and other skills each and every time with intercourse. I believe we have a responsibility to refer to birth control methods with their more probably "typical use" rates, rather than their "perfect use" rate: human behavior is rarely "perfect", and can be harmful to suggest otherwise.

For couples who are sexually experienced with each other and have a mature relationship: the man knows when he is about to ejaculate, he does not usually ejaculate "early" or "too fast", he is able to pull-out in time, each and every time, and there is much communication and trust between the couple...all of these factors can equate to withdrawal as a birth control method that may prove to be effective. This method is not recommended to be used alone (without additional protection, such as a condom) for men who are in their teens, or for couples who are not mutually monogamous for a long period of time.

June 21, 2009 - 5:34am
EmpowHER Guest

my boyfriend and i have been using the withdrawal method now for 4 years with a 100% success rate... not that i'm advising people to stop using protection but just saying i agree with the artical.... oh and no i am not infertile :-)

June 19, 2009 - 7:12pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I'm happy to hear that it is effective for you. I'm so curious---do you actually like the way it feels?

My bf (now husband) and I would use the withdrawal method, in addition to my using birth control pills, and I disliked the feeling immensely. To explain without being graphic: having sex would be a pleasant, wonderful experience; sometimes I could kind of mentally "lose myself" in the moment...and then all of a sudden, there is an abrupt stop and he yanks out! argh! I would not be able to relax and "be in the moment" of our love making, when we used the withdrawal method, because I would be tense...wondering when he was going to abruptly, suddenly pull out. I'm just really not sure how any woman would find this enjoyable?!

June 21, 2009 - 7:52am
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