Pulling Punches on Pulling Out

A few months ago, the Guttmacher Institute issued a report that argued that the withdrawal method “deserved a second look.” The report combined findings from a few different studies, both qualitative and quantitative, and found that withdrawal is “almost as effective as the male condom — at least when it comes to pregnancy prevention”. The report also found that the use of withdrawal as a method of birth control is underreported, especially to the extent that withdrawal is being used as part of a combination birth control strategy also involving condom usage and rhythm. The authors concluded the report by emphasizing the need for more information about how withdrawal is used “in order to better understand the role of withdrawal as a contraceptive method and to accurately estimate failure rates.”

As Miriam pointed out back in May, there are certainly valid reasons that sex educators have been hesitant to promote withdrawal; one obvious one is that it’s not effective at all in preventing sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. This is a big deal, and I by no means intend to ignore or even downplay the aspects of withdrawal that provide insufficient protection for folk in some situations.
Yet, this is no reason to dismiss the entire withdrawal report, which advocates finding out more information about withdrawal- a contraceptive method that is currently being used by millions of people worldwide- to get a better understanding of how people are using it, what its true failure rates are, and how it could be used to more effectively prevent pregnancy.

Despite this seemingly straightforward mandate, the report has caused a lot of controversy since its release in May, and attracted a lot of critics, in the blogosphere and beyond. But what’s really alarming about this is that these critics are attacking not only validity of the idea of using withdrawal, but the morality of those who dare to discuss withdrawal as a means of contraception publicly.



Abc.com reported that the lead author of the report, Rachel K. Jones, “was showered with criticism” in the aftermath of its release, and that “even sex educators” think that “very little could be worse”. Famously sex positive Tracy Quan of the Daily Beast penned an article called The New Unsafe Sex , in which she chides the Guttmacher Institute for endorsing “folk wisdom” and for providing facts to “amaze your drinking buddies with.” In the latest display of public shaming, NY magazine included the study in the “Despicable” category on its approval matrix last week.

Providing people with comprehensive information about sex, sexuality, and contraception has been proven over and over again to be more effective at curbing unwanted pregnancy and STD’s than leaving people in the dark about the contraceptive choices available to them. So what is at the root of this resistance to having a public dialogue on the real facts about withdrawal?

Ms. Jones told me that she was “disappointed but not surprised” by the reactions to the report. “Doing abortion research, I am kind of prepared for and used to people being dismissive and moralizing something that is, to me, a research topic…But I am taken aback that the criticism is coming from people who are supposed to be writing from a professional perspective, a more sex-positive perspective.”

Indeed, even the usual strongholds of sexual sanity have chosen to engage in the same folk wisdom that they supposedly detest. Rather than welcoming genuine public debate over an issue that affects millions of women- and men- across the world, many critics are endorsing knee-jerk reactions involving accusations of irresponsibility that trivialize the facts and sensationalize the discussion.
Ms. Jones questions, perhaps rhetorically, what it was about this particular topic that evoked the morally critical reactions that it did. I’ve got a theory: Invariably, conversations about contraception are conversations about sex, and public dialogue that shames or dismisses new ideas or information about contraception are grounded in shaming and dismissing news ideas and information about sex. These tactics, no matter who employs them, are related to the same old drive to exert control over other people’s bodies.

Upon the release of the withdrawal report, Jezebel asked “Can we stop shaming women who use withdrawal now?”

A few months later, as the criticism continues to pile up, I’d like to pose this (admittedly less concise) question: “Can we stop shaming researchers, scientists, journalists, and anyone else who attempts to further the public dialogue about sex, sexuality, and contraception now?”

Because if we encourage those people to pursue and promote the most scientifically accurate and truthful information they can about contraception, we just might have a shot at progressing the public dialogue beyond thinly veiled shaming tactics. We just might have a shot at granting more people access to sound information. And we just might empower an international population of sexual beings to make their own informed decisions about how, when, and whether they want to have sex.

Ironically, critics of the withdrawal report, in attempting to shut down conversations about withdrawal as a contraceptive method, are necessarily advocating another form of withdrawal- the withdrawal of information about how to have safer sex from the public eye. Now there’s some risky behavior. One might even call it a “pull and pray.” Instead of leaving it to chance, let’s take this opportunity to answer the call issued by Ms. Jones and the rest of the report’s authors and learn more about withdrawal by starting to fill in the research gaps that exist on the method.

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39 Comments

  1. flamingofeminist
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree. Shaming the researchers is insane. We can’t even have more information about certain practices? Wow.
    As a former sex educator (but, as my friends will roll their eyes and tell you, there really is no such thing as a “former” sex educator) what scares me about the withdrawal method is the ability to accurately judge when the male will climax, and be able to pull out in time.

  2. stellarose
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I have thought this issue quite a bit- more in the context of the hellstorm that rains down on people who use/write about Natural Family Planning (not rhythm, but theme method where you chart your cycle and make decisions about your risk of conception on a given day on that basis).
    Putting the issue of STDs aside (since IMO if there’s a question about that, condoms are clearly wise), its true, both withdrawal and NFP involve a risk of conception. However, there’s a risk of that with every contraceptive method and as you point out people have a right to know the quantum of the risk for all methods so they can make informed decisions. For some (e.g., in relationships, pregnancy would not be a disaster, can’t for watever reason to use hormonal bc), a slightly elevated risk of preg might be acceptable compared to alternatives.
    I think the real hostility here is that as a society we have this fixation with technology being an unmitigated good, where more old-fashioned ways of doing things are dismissed as “old wives tales”, even in the face of evidence showing that they actually work. Technology/medicine is fabulous, but its not the only way of doing things and its not always for the best for every person…take most people’s attitude the choldbirth can only safely happen in a hospital with lots of beeping machines. This remains unchallenged in the USA (and passionately defended) despite the ample evidence homebirth for low-risk women is just as safe. For me its all about the fact that modern medicine (esp. in the USA) is unwilling to admit there are other ways of doing the things it does that may be just as effective.

  3. Lynne C.
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s really safe to count on “pulling out” as an effective means of birth control. What about all those guys that say “don’t worry, I’ll pull out” in response to requests to use a condom? Many times it’s a lie, and they don’t pull out.

  4. naivemelodie
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this post. I use the withdrawal method in conjunction with FAM (fertility awareness method) and I find the combination of the two to be empowering.
    With these methods, I don’t have to give my money to drug companies and pump my body full of hormones that make me feel nuts. I have nothing against condoms, and am fully aware of their benefits, especially for those who are worried about STIs, but for my partner and I, using one every time just wasn’t working out, so I educated myself on other methods. I’ve learned a lot about my body from taking my temperature and checking my cervical fluid every morning… it’s really quite fascinating.
    Of course withdrawal isn’t for everybody. I’m married and 30 years old and my husband and I have discussed our plans for if our methods fail. I know that personally there’s no way I could have handled FAM and withdrawal when I was a teenager, but as an adult with access to the right information, I feel confident that I know what I am doing. Of course I could end up pregnant, but I could also end up pregnant by accidentally missing a pill or breaking a condom.
    So it was shocking to me to read comments on blogs after the withdrawal study first came out. Apparently my choice is stupid, crazy, and immoral! Even just the statement I made above – “for my partner and I, using a condom every time just wasn’t working out” is something that could potentially be met with a barrage of incredulous and outraged comments, despite the fact that we are in monogamous relationship and are only at risk for STIs if one of us cheats (and if this DOES happen, it’s really not the world’s business, either!).
    Whatever happened to choice?? I know that it was drilled into my head in health class that withdrawal was a stupid, ridiculous method that would get you pregnant every time, but shouldn’t adults be able to look past what they learned in 9th grade sex ed?

  5. naivemelodie
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this post. I use the withdrawal method in conjunction with FAM (fertility awareness method) and I find the combination of the two to be empowering.
    With these methods, I don’t have to give my money to drug companies and pump my body full of hormones that make me feel nuts. I have nothing against condoms, and am fully aware of their benefits, especially for those who are worried about STIs, but for my partner and I, using one every time just wasn’t working out, so I educated myself on other methods. I’ve learned a lot about my body from taking my temperature and checking my cervical fluid every morning… it’s really quite fascinating.
    Of course withdrawal isn’t for everybody. I’m married and 30 years old and my husband and I have discussed our plans for if our methods fail. I know that personally there’s no way I could have handled FAM and withdrawal when I was a teenager, but as an adult with access to the right information, I feel confident that I know what I am doing. Of course I could end up pregnant, but I could also end up pregnant by accidentally missing a pill or breaking a condom.
    So it was shocking to me to read comments on blogs after the withdrawal study first came out. Apparently my choice is stupid, crazy, and immoral! Even just the statement I made above – “for my partner and I, using a condom every time just wasn’t working out” is something that could potentially be met with a barrage of incredulous and outraged comments, despite the fact that we are in monogamous relationship and are only at risk for STIs if one of us cheats (and if this DOES happen, it’s really not the world’s business, either!).
    Whatever happened to choice?? I know that it was drilled into my head in health class that withdrawal was a stupid, ridiculous method that would get you pregnant every time, but shouldn’t adults be able to look past what they learned in 9th grade sex ed?

  6. naivemelodie
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this post. I use the withdrawal method in conjunction with FAM (fertility awareness method) and I find the combination of the two to be empowering.
    With these methods, I don’t have to give my money to drug companies and pump my body full of hormones that make me feel nuts. I have nothing against condoms, and am fully aware of their benefits, especially for those who are worried about STIs, but for my partner and I, using one every time just wasn’t working out, so I educated myself on other methods. I’ve learned a lot about my body from taking my temperature and checking my cervical fluid every morning… it’s really quite fascinating.
    Of course withdrawal isn’t for everybody. I’m married and 30 years old and my husband and I have discussed our plans for if our methods fail. I know that personally there’s no way I could have handled FAM and withdrawal when I was a teenager, but as an adult with access to the right information, I feel confident that I know what I am doing. Of course I could end up pregnant, but I could also end up pregnant by accidentally missing a pill or breaking a condom.
    So it was shocking to me to read comments on blogs after the withdrawal study first came out. Apparently my choice is stupid, crazy, and immoral! Even just the statement I made above – “for my partner and I, using a condom every time just wasn’t working out” is something that could potentially be met with a barrage of incredulous and outraged comments, despite the fact that we are in monogamous relationship and are only at risk for STIs if one of us cheats (and if this DOES happen, it’s really not the world’s business, either!).
    Whatever happened to choice?? I know that it was drilled into my head in health class that withdrawal was a stupid, ridiculous method that would get you pregnant every time, but shouldn’t adults be able to look past what they learned in 9th grade sex ed?

  7. naivemelodie
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    By this logic, the pill isn’t safe or effective either, because a woman could lie and say that she was on it when she really wasn’t.
    You can’t measure a method’s efficacy by people who egregiously misuse it! If a man lies and says that he withdrew and really didn’t, that isn’t points against the withdrawal method, but points against that particular guy.
    (also, sorry everyone for the triple post down there =()

  8. Mighty Ponygirl
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    I think the problem a lot of people have about this is not so much what the study says, but rather how it will be reported on. The news media has shown again and again how it can twist and distort research to make a glossy headline.
    Obviously, not all people are the same. I know people who use the Pull and Pray method and haven’t gotten pregnant, I know people who found themselves knocked up with regular condom use. Me, there’s no fucking way I would have ever used that method, but that’s because I don’t want kids, and using that method would be too similar to Russian Roulette.
    But if the media just throws the headline “Pull-out is as effective in preventing pregnancy as condom use” without really delving into the details (particularly about disease transmission), and it gets disseminated (ack, no pun intended) to the public and especially if it gets widespread coverage, it could have some pretty serious consequences to public health. If your average d00d hears “pull-out as effective as condom use,” they’re going to eat that shit up because … hey, no more condoms! This means more pressure put on girlfriends who want condoms to just let them pull out, this means more disease transmission, this means more unwanted pregnancies when they realize that they’d rather not pull out, after all.
    I mean, we can’t hold the researchers hostage for the facts that a) the media does a shitty job of reporting on scientific findings and b) immature men would leap at the excuse to behave immaturely–but I think it does do an interesting job of illustrating the fact that there is research out there that could actually be harmful to society because of these two facts.

  9. kisekileia
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    I agree with this, at least when the guy is not someone you know well and have good reason to trust. As a woman, you’re basically relying on the guy to make a decision at the peak of sex that will reduce his pleasure, and to do it every time. That’s more problematic than relying on a woman to take a tiny pill once a day.
    Withdrawal may be very workable in long-term relationships, when the couple is fluid bonded, dislikes or can’t afford condoms, and the woman can trust the man to pull out. However, it’s likely not a good option for more casual sex, when the woman may not know if she can trust the man and disease transmission is a greater risk. And because of that, withdrawal is not really equivalent to condoms.

  10. Lily A
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    I agree with MightyPonygirl and kisekileia.
    And of course even if withdrawal is as effective as condoms when practiced perfectly, my understanding is that it’s much more physically difficult for a man to pull out completely before ejaculation perfectly, every time than to use a condom. So the even though the “real world” failure rate of withdrawal and ejaculation (according to the report) are similar, I bet it’s easier to teach men and women to properly use condoms and improve that rate than to train men to pull out on time, every time.

  11. Siby
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    The withdrawal method may work well for couples who trust and know eachother, but I would never use it for a situation where I don’t know the other person well.
    The problem that I have with withdrawal is that I want to be in control of what happens to my body. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t think that men are trustworthy enough to pull out, just that I don’t want to rely on anyone other than myself to prevent pregnancy. It’s great for other people to have this option, but I prefer options where I can be the one responsible.

  12. dormouse
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 1:40 am | Permalink

    It really depends on who your having sex with and that nature of the relationship or lack thereof. Just because withdrawal might not be the best option in every circumstance doesn’t make it a bad option. (Just as other methods of BC don’t work for various individuals and couples for various reasons).

  13. Eliza-Rose
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    This. A hundred times this.
    I’ve been using withdrawal for over a year and I’ve never been happier with a contraceptive method, or felt (which obviously is not always the same as been) safer. I trust my partner far more than I trust a condom manufacturer.
    Obviously other people’s choices are theirs, but I love this method. I think if the trust is there and the STI risk isn’t, it works for me.
    Great post, thank you.

  14. Eliza-Rose
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    This. A hundred times this.
    I’ve been using withdrawal for over a year and I’ve never been happier with a contraceptive method, or felt (which obviously is not always the same as been) safer. I trust my partner far more than I trust a condom manufacturer.
    Obviously other people’s choices are theirs, but I love this method. I think if the trust is there and the STI risk isn’t, it works for me.
    Great post, thank you.

  15. Jennabun
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    That is exactly my concern too. I like taking pills and making sure I do it at the right time and I like being the one to put on the condom. It really eases my mind (I’m a 19 year old college student – babies would NOT work) in a way that withdrawal definitely would not.

  16. Sabriel
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    I have an IUD, and that is my method of birth control, but I really hate the post-sex drip. Thus I have told my partner that he can either use a condom or pull out, his choice. We’re both clean and monogamous.
    He generally prefers to pull out. He says it’s not that hard, and he has never once failed to do so when that was the plan. Based on what he says, I think that men may be exaggerating when they talk about how hard it is to pull out before ejaculating. It’s probably different for different men, but if men in committed relationships can be relied upon to pull out (and it seems like they generally can) then the only reason men in hookups couldn’t be relied upon would be selfishness…
    I think that we should give men a little more credit in this case, but also raise our expectations. As much as it is a stereotype that men are hedonistic animals when it comes to sex, that’s not true. Maybe it is a stereotype that some men benefit from because it excuses irresponsible behavior, but most men have plenty of self control when it comes to sex and should be expected to act respectfully and responsibly.
    I am not advocating that women use withdrawal in casual encounters with men that they don’t know very well. I completely agree that you should maintain control over birth control in those situations by taking the pill or putting the condom on yourself (or watching him put it on).
    What I am saying is that “I can’t pull out because it’s so hard” should be treated as the bullshit whining that it actually is. QQ some moar, asshole. If you’re mature enough to have sex, you’re mature enough to pull out. Being an adult means doing things you don’t want to do because you know that it’s the right thing. And having sex means taking on the responsibility of obtaining consent and respecting the wishes of the other person when it comes to what you do with their body, especially whether or not you ejaculate in it.

  17. Adrian
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    There are problems with all methods of birth control. For some, the problem is the failure rate. For some, it’s how difficult it is to use, or the other problems it can cause. It’s not sensible to say “Hormonal birth control pills are best for everybody because they have a lower failure rate when used as directed.” It’s just as silly to say, “Condoms are best for everybody because they don’t cause migraines, depression, or weight gain*, there’s no risk that they will change libido or fertility in the long run, and they also protect against disease.” The abstinence-only argument is that everybody should have the same values and life circumstances, so what is best for one must be best for everybody–why even consider anything else? We should do better.
    *You might believe the risk of gaining 10-20 pounds is not really important, and that no sensible person would think of it as important. But fat stigma is really daunting for a lot of young women.

  18. frolicnaked
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    “I don’t think it’s really safe to count on “pulling out” as an effective means of birth control.”
    I’m not sure this — one person’s opinion about what is or is not “safe” for populations of people — is the point. Certainly, if withdrawal — or any other form of contraception — isn’t a good choice for you personally, don’t use it.
    But I think, well, 2 things here:

    1) What’s likely to be safe, effective, or manageable for any given couple depends on a variety of factors and can vary widely from couple to couple. Just like relying on withdrawal doesn’t work if one partner doesn’t withdraw on time, pills aren’t so good if people forget to take them, and condoms are less effective if the couple remembers them too late (this was one of my problems with condoms when I used them). Additionally, the relative amount of acceptable pregnancy risk can also vary: I’ve known people who need something 99+% effective with typical use, and I’ve also known people who’ve been comfortable using a method that was ~75% effective with typical use. What’s important is not whether their methods would work for me or anyone else; what’s important is that their methods are ones they can make informed choices to accept.

    2) Part of my concern about withdrawal is that we have so much less information about it than we do about some other methods. And there’s a climate that actively discourages further investigation about both the efficacy and real-world effectiveness of this method. And I’m not sure how metaphorically plugging our ears and going, “LA, LA, LA!” instead of encouraging factual discovery can be a good thing.

  19. Mina
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Also, isn’t the “pre-cum” actually a bit of semen itself?

  20. SomeCommenter
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe Feministing seriously posted this. How irresponsible.
    ‘Pulling out’ does NOT work. It does not protect against STIs. Pre-ejaculate can contain sperm. And it IS physically hard for men to do; not making excuses for the poor ittle mens, but it’s a fact. Being an adult is actually about realising what you can and can’t do, and not promising to do things you can’t deliver.
    Methods of actual contraception work if used effectively. ‘Pulling out’ is not actually effective.

  21. femme.
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for writing this, Lori. It is really disheartening when people barrage online articles and study reports with comments about how women who practice withdrawal are stupid, crazy, and/or morally bankrupt. Especially when the comments are coming from so-called pro-choice and/or feminist individuals/entities. What ever happened to honest dialogue? What ever happened to advocating for truly comprehensive sex education?
    Arguing about whether withdrawal is a wise, feminist, mature, or moral choice is not what that study and articles about it are talking about. Arguing about the validity of withdrawal as a contraceptive option silences the researchers, scientists, journalists, and educators who are trying to have a honest, factual, open dialogue about all of our contraceptive choices.
    A few months later, as the criticism continues to pile up, I’d like to pose this (admittedly less concise) question: “Can we stop shaming researchers, scientists, journalists, and anyone else who attempts to further the public dialogue about sex, sexuality, and contraception now?”
    Amen to that! My biggest concern about the public’s reaction is that this pervasive shaming may discourage further research and open dialogue about family planning and reproductive health methods/topics that are taboo in our society.
    I am not trying to say withdrawal is a great choice for everyone. I am advocating for women and teenage girls to start using withdrawal as their primary contraceptive method. I am just appalled by all the shaming going in so-called pro-choice spaces.
    Full disclosure: I have used withdrawal as my primary contraceptive method with my current domestic partner. Why: Most of the time I primarily use birth control (a low-estrogen daily pill). There have been occasional gaps in my use over the past two years because I am uninsured and sometimes it takes two or three weeks to get in to any of my local Planned Parenthood clinics because they are so busy. We don’t have any STIs, we have always been monogamous, and he has a low sperm count (a doctor confirmed this). He’s definitely still fertile, but it’s more difficult for him than the average guy. My personal experiences with withdrawal have nothing to do with my opinion on the shaming of researchers, educators, journalists, and scientists, and I have no opinion about withdrawal’s failure rate because no one knows that for sure.

  22. frolicnaked
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    According to this table from Contraceptive Technology, the typical use stat for withdrawal (which indicates the failure rate as it occurs in real life) is that it’s 73% effective over the course of a year. Comparatively, couples using no method over the course of a year have about a 15% chance of not becoming pregnant.
    From the credible sources I’m seeing — and assuming my math is correct — withdrawal is actually about 5 times more effective than is using no contraceptive method.
    Whether that’s enough for any given couple to use it as a sole method of contraception, as one method in conjunction with another, or to avoid it altogether is that couple’s business and not mine or yours. But it’s overly simplistic to the point of being inaccurate to just say withdrawal is “not actually effective.”

  23. Zula
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Pre-cum does not have sperm in it; it’s used to “pave the way” for ejaculation. However, if a man ejaculates once then has sex again without peeing in between to clear out his urethra, there can be leftover sperm hanging out in there that get mixed in with the pre-cum of Round 2. It’s not a huge threat, though.

  24. Zula
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Uh, the whole point of this study is that, yes, withdrawal IS effective. You’re right that it doesn’t protect against STIs, but if people are in a relationship where they don’t have to worry about infection, it’s a very legitimate method.

  25. Sabriel
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    I am advocating for women and teenage girls to start using withdrawal as their primary contraceptive method.
    I am just going to jump the gun here and say that the above quote is clearly a typo. She obviously meant to say “I am not advocating for women and teenage girls to start using withdrawal as their primary contraceptive method.”

  26. IndigoCharm
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Uh, so far it’s worked for me for about two years now. And so far my boyfriend had been able to pull out every timer without problem or complaining.

  27. IndigoCharm
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    *time, sorry for the typo.

  28. UnHingedHips
    Posted August 8, 2009 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    “What I am saying is that “I can’t pull out because it’s so hard” should be treated as the bullshit whining that it actually is. QQ some moar, asshole. ”
    This. 10 years with the same partner here and we haven’t ever had a “oops! surprise orgasm!” (which was for the mess factor for me and not birth control since I believed the bit about pre-cum having sperm in it, but is now sounding a hell of a lot nicer than hormones, metal in my uterus, or latex).

  29. Phenicks
    Posted August 9, 2009 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I think anyone who bashes a woman for her birth conrol choices are showing just how much of a misgynist asshole they can be.
    It’s HER body! How hard is it to get through skulls that it is HER body? You can’t even talk people into getting tested regularly and many who bash the withdrawal method would go ape-poo over ANYONE even inferring a mandatory STD/STI testing for sexually active people.
    Seriously? The guttmacher reprt showed that the pill can fail and is the reason why a LOT of women end up in abortion clinics, as do condoms. I think the withdrawal method UNCTION WITH condom use regardles sof what the woman decides to do with HER body as a form of MALE BIRTH CONTROL. Women shouldn’t bash withdrawl anymore than men should bash pill use. If both partners were using a form of birth control to control their own anatomical fertility and reproduction then birth control would be SO much more effective.

  30. alixana
    Posted August 9, 2009 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    You’re right, it would be way more responsible for Feministing and scientists to not study and report factually and without bias on whether certain birth control methods work or not. Silence and myth is much better.

  31. Tara K.
    Posted August 9, 2009 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Two years ago, I would have said that withdrawal was not a legit form of contraceptive.
    Now, having been through horrible experiences on hormonal methods and having found out that IUDs aren’t a possibility AND having latex allergies — I am grateful for withdrawal.
    FURTHER, I think it’s important to acknowledge and study methods that may be most feasible for people who can’t afford other methods. There are a lot of people out there who don’t have access to condoms or contraceptives regularly, whether for financial reasons, lack of transportation, or b/c they’re teenagers who can’t reach these resources. These people still deserved to be able to reach legit info about the options that are most accessible to them.

  32. SilverAeris
    Posted August 9, 2009 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Except just like women, all men are different. I’ve been in a good relationship with a guy that planned to pull out but pulled out while ejaculating and he was all worried and felt bad about it. Just like any method, it’ll work well or it won’t. I just agree with Ponygirl that many guys will think “Well it’s as good as a condom so I’ll just pullout” and end up fudging up.

  33. Gretchen
    Posted August 9, 2009 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    The reason I stick to the pill is because I’m a total control freak, as much as I hate to admit it. Back in high school, I had a pregnancy scare involving condoms, which was the reason I switched to the pill in the first place. I’ve only had sex with 2 people – one being a current serious boyfriend, the other being my serious boyfriend before him – so it’s not as though it was a lack of trust in either of them. Like I said, I’m just a control freak, and any form of birth control that *I* can’t control makes me uncomfortable.
    That said, I am all for COMPREHENSIVE sex education, meaning up-to-date information on ALL methods of contraception, whether it be condoms, the pill, IUDs, withdrawal, fertility awareness, or any other method out there. If a particular method works for a particular woman, why shouldn’t she use it? As long as she is educated about the risks (like how withdrawal isn’t effective for STIs, etc.), NO ONE has the right to judge the method chosen.

  34. Diana Landen
    Posted August 9, 2009 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Actually, I think there is a problem with the way this story was reported. Withdrawal is as good as condom usage because condoms aren’t always used right. It is, however, a very poor form of birth control. You can improve the success of condoms by using them properly. Not much can be done to improve the success of withdrawal.
    Furthermore, condoms are a vastly more empowering for women. You can check that a guy has put on a condom. You can make sure he does it correctly. You can take steps to make sure that it is a new one. To be sure withdrawal works – your choices are prayer or suddenly talking about maggot-ridden corpses. (And even that could fail if he releases some sperm before he ejaculates.)
    It’s not wrong to research or talk about withdrawal. The problem is that when scientists start talking to reporters, they have to be very careful what they say. The headlines that got out were things like withdrawal isn’t so bad or it works as well as condoms. The reality is that withdrawal stinks as a method of birth control and provides no protection from STDs.
    A better, more accurate summary of the research would be: people who use condoms or withdrawal for birth control get pregnant a lot. Couples can reduce their risk of pregnancy by learning to use a condom better. Condoms also protect against STDs.
    So yes, I think people should be mad at the researchers for promoting inaccurate information that may seriously harm people.

  35. Sabriel
    Posted August 9, 2009 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    Withdrawal is as good as condom usage because condoms aren’t always used right.
    This is a very good point. When used properly, condoms are vastly more effective at preventing pregnancy than withdrawal. Although some of us may have understood that, it needed to be said because it needed to be a part of this conversation.
    It is, however, a very poor form of birth control.
    The point that people have been trying to make higher up in this thread is that sometimes failure rate isn’t the primary concern for women when picking a method of birth control. It’s not like withdrawal has no effect. For a couple who want to have more kids but not necessarily have a baby every year, a method of birth control that cuts their chances of a baby down to 25% (or less when combined with fertility awareness) may be sufficient. If they did get pregnant, it would be welcome, but they want to space it out. Who are you to judge them for that?
    Furthermore, condoms are a vastly more empowering for women.
    I agree with all of your points about this. One big problem with withdrawal is that, for women. it’s a passive form of birth control. The woman can’t take any active steps to protect herself. Withdrawal is the least empowering form of birth control in that respect.
    It’s not wrong to research or talk about withdrawal. The problem is that when scientists start talking to reporters, they have to be very careful what they say. Yes, the problem is the media. However the responsibility of the scientist in that case isn’t to not do the research; the responsibility of the scientist is to be outgoing and make sure that truthful information and corrections are available to people.
    A better, more accurate summary of the research would be: people who use condoms or withdrawal for birth control get pregnant a lot. Couples can reduce their risk of pregnancy by learning to use a condom better.
    Um… sort of. People who use condoms incorrectly still don’t have nearly the pregnancy rate of people who don’t use any form of birth control at all. The same goes for withdrawal. Yeah couples can reduce their risk of pregnancy by using a condom better (and everyone who uses a condom should learn how to use it correctly) but couples can also reduce their risk of pregnancy through a variety of other methods. For example, a couple could reduce their chance of pregnancy and STDs by not having sex. That would be even better than a condom wouldn’t it?
    What’s that? No? Sometimes people have extenuating circumstances that make abstinence not a realistic option?
    Same is true for condoms. And sometimes STDs aren’t a concern.

  36. GREGORYABUTLER10031
    Posted August 10, 2009 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    “Whining” or not, if you use withdrawal, you are trusting a man to pull out every time.
    Considering that pulling out before cuming is something that many men do not like to do, how realistic is it to put your fertility at the mercy of a man’s willingness to engage in this unpleasant act?
    You can pelt a man with moralistic lectures like this “If you’re mature enough to have sex, you’re mature enough to pull out. Being an adult means doing things you don’t want to do because you know that it’s the right thing. And having sex means taking on the responsibility of obtaining consent and respecting the wishes of the other person when it comes to what you do with their body, especially whether or not you ejaculate in it. until you are blue in the face – but be aware that, for many men, that lecture will go in one ear and right out the other (and once he’s inside you, it’s entirely up to him)

  37. stellarose
    Posted August 10, 2009 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    It also worked for me for quite a few many years (ages 19 to 27 in conjunction with FAM, in three separate relationships where both parties had been tested for STDs before sex and I trusted my partners to do what they had agreed to do). I started to think I was just infertile, but then just a few months after I started trying for a baby with my husband I did get pregnant (x2 now).
    That said, every woman’s/man’s fertility level is different. I have a friend whose gotten pregnant twice while using condoms…during what basically amounted to isolated incidents of sex (as opposed to regular, daily/weekly sex). So anecdotal evidence is just really not that helpful in assessign risk here. That’s why studies like this are even more important! And in the end, its a question of each individual couple’s risk/benefit analysis…i.e., how much of a disaster an unplanned preg would be vs. how much they cannot/don’t want to use other methods.
    In light of all of these extremely fact-sensitive factors, I think its just impossible to make a rule about what is best for everyone or what works for everyone.

  38. Nimue
    Posted August 10, 2009 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    We need to keep in mind a global perspective on this. For many women worldwide, condoms, hormonal methods, and other “modern” contraceptives simpy aren’t accessible.
    This will probably start a flame war, but it should be said that withdrawal will reduce the risk of transmitting some STIs, i.e. those that are transmitted thru body fluids but not thru skin-to-skin contact. No, it’s not perfect, no, it’s not as effective as condoms, but it is better than nothing.

  39. Sabriel
    Posted August 10, 2009 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Yes, if I have sex with a guy I’m trusting him to pull out if I say so. I’m trusting him of that regardless, even if he is wearing a condom and I am on birth control. What if I get scared or hurt during the act and need it to stop? What if it happens to be when he is about to come? Yes it will be hard, but I am trusting him to do his best to pull out ASAP.
    More than fertility is at stake if you can’t trust your partner, so we’re talking about more than just birth control. So yes, you are pointing out a risk that is there. Yet another reason to have sex with men you can trust. I never advocated using withdrawal with men you don’t completely trust, now did I? In fact I said that women should use other forms of birth control for casual encounters.
    The situations where I see withdrawal being used are situations where no other options are available (admittedly rare in modern countries) and in situations where the couple is committed and willing to accept a higher risk of pregnancy. For example, a married couple who plan to have some kids but not a whole brood. In the first situation, the woman may well be aware of the risks of pulling out, but she’s doing what she can, and by shaming her for using withdrawal you are essentially shaming her for having sex. In the second situation, one would assume that she trusts her partner because she’s committed to him and willing to risk having his child, and if he’s not trustworthy, I would go ahead and say that the woman is in for bigger problems than a “whoops” moment and an unintended pregnancy.
    My moralistic lecture was aimed at the men who can’t be trusted. They’re selfish assholes for considering their own pleasure over the physical boundaries of their partner, and I stand by that statement even if it would be completely ignored by many men. And yes, I am aware that it would be. The kind of mindset that promotes that type of selfishness is very damaging and dangerous regardless of the situation. I also stand by my statement that most men probably can be trusted, mostly because I choose to believe that most men are good people. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t thoroughly assess the reliability of a specific man before having sex with him.

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