Is Pulling Out Losing Its Bad Rep?

Elisabeth Garber-Paul

Any time a friend has described their method of birth control as “pulling out,” I instinctively give them a judgmental look. We won Griswold v. Connecticut. We can buy condoms at any corner store. Sure, Plan B is over the counter, but why risk it?

Any time a friend has described their method of birth control as “pulling out,” I instinctively give them a judgmental look. We won Griswold v. Connecticut. We can buy condoms at any corner store. Sure, Plan B is available over the counter, but why risk it?

While this seems to be the standard reaction, it could have more basis in cultural stigma than in fact. Recent studies have shown that in this age of infinite options, withdrawal might be just as good as diaphragms and condoms. According to an article on The Globe and Mail, researchers and academics have been embracing the withdrawal method as a viable option of birth control.

“‘Withdrawal has a bad rep, but if you look at the research, it substantially reduces the risk of pregnancy,’ said Rachel Jones, a senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute in New York.”

So could pulling out finally lose its stigma? The answer, it seems, rests in the results.

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According to the article, “when it comes to reducing pregnancies, withdrawal rivals even the use of condoms. Failure rates for condoms hover at about 17 per cent, while 18 per cent of couples will get pregnant in a year using the withdrawal method, according to estimates of contraceptive failure from the 2002 national survey, which was based on reports from hundreds of women.”

If pulling out is as effective as condoms at reducing pregnancies—though not at preventing STIs—why wouldn’t a monogamous couple choose it?

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