Why do many straight women still turn to the “pull-out method,” the world’s oldest, most rudimentary form of birth control?
Estimates suggest that nearly 60 percent of American women have relied on their partners to withdraw before ejaculating at some point in their lives; and around 3 percent of 15 to 44-year-old women are currently using coitus interruptus at any given time — though researchers believe the actual number is likely much higher.
Despite its relative popularity, sex educators tend to dismiss pulling out as outdated and irresponsible — not so much a contraceptive method as a foolish afterthought.
And yet the women who regularly rely on the pull-out method insist that it’s not only a good option; it’s the best option for them.
Withdrawal is sometimes used in conjunction with “natural family planning” or “fertility awareness-based” methods; in which women track their menstrual cycles — as well as bodily changes that occur throughout — in order to determine when they’re most fertile.
Fertility awareness-based methods have long been viewed as a decidedly crunchy; but the emergence of fertility tracking smartphone apps also suggest there is real interest from a range of women.
But even women who rely specifically on withdrawal as their primary method of birth control disagree with the narrative that they’re simply ill-informed or ill-prepared.
Things every woman should know about the pull-out method
* The method is 75% effective
That may sound pretty good, but consider this: Out of the 18 different forms of birth control recognized by Planned Parenthood; the pull-out method comes in third to last in terms of effectiveness after spermicide (71 percent) and tracking your ovulation cycle (76 percent). Contrastingly, hormonal birth control methods are all over 90 percent effective.
* It requires skill
The reason the effectiveness is so low is because this method presents a lot of room for human error; says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D. and clinical professor at the Yale School of Medicine.
Many men indeed cannot withdraw immediately and the first few drops of semen that emerge from the penis are the most loaded with sperm.
It only takes one sperm to fertilize an egg. In order to practice this method properly, your partner has to pull out before ejaculation and ejaculate away from your genitals.
* It doesn’t prevent STIs
You may be thinking that the 7 percent discrepancy between condoms and the pull-out method isn’t enough to warrant a change in methodology; but remember that the pull-out method doesn’t prevent STIs.
That’s because even if you were practicing it accurately; some STIs like genital warts and herpes are transferred via skin-on-skin contact. Additionally STIs chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea can be carried in pre-cum, according to Planned Parenthood.
* The amount of men doing it on the rise
According to a recent survey from the CDC; men have been increasingly using the pull-out method over the last decade. The average use of withdrawal among men nearly doubled; from 9.8% in 2002 to 18.8% in 2011 to 2015.
* It’s Free
The fact that the pull-out method doesn’t cost anything is the only advantage I can think of. Indeed, condoms and female contraception aren’t always free; but neither are pregnancies, child care, or STI treatment medications.
* Some people use it to double up
As we’ve reported before, many women use the pull-out method; in addition to other contraception (the Pill, condoms, etc.) as a back up.
* Accidents happen
In order for this method to be effective, you have to get it right every single time.
If you’ve been relying on this method for some days in between pills or when you couldn’t find a condom; it’s best to be on the safe side and seek over-the-counter emergency contraception immediately.