Picture this: you’re in the heat of the moment with someone you’ve been crushing on (or dating) for a while. You’re making out, taking clothes off, touching each other everywhere, feeling a crazy amount of passion, and it’s all naturally leading to the end goal, which is sex. As he gets closer and you both get more naked, and it’s about to happen, there’s one thing that is probably nagging you in the back of your mind: birth control. It’s at this moment that this pesky little thought can feel like something you can just push to the side to deal with when you aren’t consumed by sexual hormones, and so you think, “eff it. He can just pull out.”
This, my friends, is how I imagine the pull-out method became the second most popular form of birth control for adolescent girls (that combined with the endless stories from other people about how they always use the pull-out method and they’re fine). The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently released a study where they found that 60 percent of young girls relied on the pull-out method as a form of birth control, coming in second place to condoms. This is, well… not ideal.
The pull-out method is probably not the most reliable form of birth control out there. For those of you who don’t know, pulling out refers to the moment when you have sex with no condom or other form of birth control, so the guy pulls his penis out of a girl’s vagina right before he’s about to finish. He usually ends up finishing elsewhere on her body, thus ensuring that his sperm will not end up near her egg, avoiding a little unwanted pregnancy. Right?
Sure, in theory. But the pull-out method is not perfect, and if it’s not done correctly, you can still get pregnant. At this point, I feel compelled to address the fact that science has backed this withdrawal method. A much-discussed study from 2014 found that the pull-out method is almost as effective as condoms at preventing pregnancy – but, and this is a big but, only if it is used correctly. The study found out that if the guy successfully pulls out before ejaculating, then only four percent of couples using it will get pregnant in a year. However, if not done exactly right, 18 percent of couples will get pregnant – that’s a considerable jump.
At this point, you might be thinking something like, “It’s not that hard to pull out correctly. He literally just has to do it before he finishes.” Sure, okay. But actually, it can be sort of hard to do it correctly, especially if you’re a teen dude pumped with hormones with little clue as to what you’re doing when it comes to sex. Teen boys aren’t able to control themselves as well as they, and you, might think, and so mistakes could easily happen. The study from 2014 might sound promising to those who love pulling out and hate condoms, but a study from the Guttmacher Institute from 2017 found that people who use the withdrawal method have the highest rates of contraceptive failure. This means that of all birth control options, pulling out is the one that is likely to fail the most often.
So, yes, I stand by my earlier statement: pulling out is not your best choice when it comes to birth control methods. Not only can it still get you pregnant, but it does not prevent STDs or infections the way condoms do. While I get the convenience of just having your partner pull out and ejaculate on you instead of pausing things and finding a condom, it’s just not the smartest move out there.
If you are not convinced, and you hate condoms, and you want to keep having your partner pull out, then hey – I obviously can’t stop you. But here’s my suggestion: find an alternative method of birth control, and combine the two. So, for example, take birth control pills also, or get an IUD. It should still be noted that these won’t protect you against STDs either, so if you’re going to forgo condoms completely, make sure that this is a long-term partner you trust who isn’t sleeping with other people, and that you’ve both been tested.
In the grand scheme of things, the pull-out method isn’t the worst thing you can do, and I know there are a lot of people who defend it. But I just can’t stand by it as a responsible form of birth control. Please, please, please use condoms or the pill or an IUD, or just speak to your doctor about your options. If you don’t want to get pregnant, start relying on something more safe.
What are your thoughts about the pull out method? Have you ever used it? Let us know in the comments.