I was listening to one of your podcasts and was really surprised to hear you advise against the pull-out method. I’ve been using it for most of my sex life and have never had any problems. Same goes for my boyfriend and plenty of my friends! My guy doesn’t like using condoms, so that’s always been our go-to, and I’ve read it’s 96 percent effective. So what’s the deal?
Sorry to break it to you, Elena, but it sounds like you and your friends have been just a tad misinformed as to how “effective” the pull-out method is. Your guy is far from alone in his distaste for condoms, so I can understand why this strategy seemed the most appealing for you as a couple. However, if you’ve truly been relying on pulling out for the majority of your sex life, then let me just say that Lady Luck has been glued to your side.
According to Bedsider.com, 60 percent of couples have used the pull-and-pray method at least once, and 5 percent of couples have reported they regularly rely on withdrawal as a way to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong, I can fully understand the appeal of this particular practice. I know you could happily do without swallowing a pill full of hormones every day. No pills, no patches, no shots. Sounds great, right? Wrong. Not only is this so-called “method” unreliable to use in everyday life, it is also extremely unsafe.
Despite what you may have heard, bacteria and viruses can be present in pre-cum; some STDs, such as the widespread HPV, can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. In addition to bacteria and STDs, some pre-cum also contains sperm cells. I know, you probably read somewhere that pre-ejaculate was “sperm-free” and thought that you were home free. Unfortunately a 2011 study put that rumor to bed—literally!
In order for this method to be the most effective, your partner must be able to tell exactly when he is about to ejaculate and have the discipline to pull out in time, so that none of his sperm (pre- or regular) enters the vaginal canal. In other words, he has to pull out perfectly. Every. Single. Time. Even just a drop of unexpected sperm could lead to pregnancy, and those suckers really know how to swim.
Speaking of pregnancy, for every 100 women who use the pull-out method, a whopping 28 will become pregnant. While 72 percent may seem like decent odds to you, think about this: Would you eat at a restaurant with a C-rating? Would you purchase a car that had troublesome odds of keeping you safe in an accident? I’m going to guess that, no, you would not. So why would you take that risk in the bedroom?
Achieving orgasm isn’t always an easy task for women, and mindset plays a huge role in your ability to reach the big O. Peace of mind tends to go hand-in-hand with sexual enjoyment, but many couples surveyed who used the pull-out method reported feeling anxious during sex. More stressful, less enjoyable lovemaking? No, thank you!
Now, I’m not saying that pulling out is completely ineffective. For those in a stable, committed relationship, this method may be somewhat viable. Of course, that is only if the woman is already on some form of birth control, and both couples have been tested for STDs. Even so, accidents do happen, especially with this type of fly-by-night protection plan—couples who use this method must be aware of the consequences and ready to face them as a team. If you just started dating someone, or if you’re single and enjoying one night of fun, going condomless could leave you in a seriously sticky situation.
In my opinion, pulling out should be your plan C or D, not your main method. With all of the reliable forms of birth control out there, why would you want to play Russian Roulette with your body? While condoms might not seem fun in the moment, an unwanted pregnancy will cause way more trouble for both of you than putting your pants back on to drive to the nearest gas station.
Hope this clears things up! XX, Emily
Emily Morse is a sexologist, host of the Sex With Emily podcast, and cofounder of the intimate care line Emily & Tony. She has a doctorate in human sexuality and is the author of Hot Sex: Over 200 Things You Can Try Tonight and a weekly cohost of the nationally syndicated radio show Loveline With Dr. Drew Pinsky.