Teaching Withdrawal

Elisabeth Garber-Paul

Despite the taboo against unprotected sex, it turns out that the withdrawal method, a.k.a. pulling out, is nearly as effective as condom use when used properly. As more evidence surfaces about the reality of withdrawal, should we include it in comprehensive sexual education?

Despite the taboo against unprotected sex, it turns out that the withdrawal method, a.k.a. pulling out, is nearly as effective as condom use when used properly. As more evidence surfaces about the reality of withdrawal, should we include it in comprehensive sexual education?

According to a report in the June issue of Contraception, using withdrawal perfectly will result in about 4 percent of couples becoming pregnant within a year, but typical use will result in about 18 percent conceiving. Using condoms in a perfect manner, however, will result in 2% becoming pregnant, but the typical use will yield about 17 percent of couples become pregnant. Condoms are more effective—and also prevent STIs—but for a monogamous couple, it’s virtually the same.

So this raises the question of whether or not the method should be taught as part of comprehensive sex ed to teens. It’s only effective when used properly, and it would seem that teaching the specifics would make those inclined to use it more successful. An article on The Frisky claims that "a significant portion of the female population is ‘pulling and praying’—56 percent have used withdrawal at some point in their life, while 21 percent are using it now." So wouldn’t it make sense for sexual education to include a discussion of proper practice?

Perhaps it should be discussed, but certainly not encouraged. In a Broadsheet article yesterday, Scarleteen: Sex Ed For the Real World founder Heather Corinna says this isn’t an optimal option for teens.

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"Younger men have less awareness and control over ejaculation, and younger women are more fertile than older women. And if we’re being really forthright, we also can safely say this is probably the most-sabotaged method by male partners. In other words, it’s the one male partners will most often agree to, then not comply with, either by talking a female partner into just letting them ejaculate, or by saying they did so on accident when it wasn’t at all accidental."

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it shouldn’t be talked about in a school’s sexual education program—as long as it’s kept taboo and mysterious, teens will be curious and potentially unsafe. If the facts are laid on the table, withdrawal can be treated as a viable option for birth control for certain people, not an unmentionable act.

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