What Sex Experts Really Think Of The Pull-Out Method
A recent study published by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics found that teens today are more responsible about sex than ever before. The good news is, contraceptive use has increased from 86 to 90 percent for females and 93 to 95 percent for males since 2010. And, nearly all teenage girls (99.4 percent) who've had some kind of sexual experience say they've used some form of birth control during. The bad news? While condoms still remain the most popular choice of birth control, the second most popular method is a bit troubling especially since we're talking about teens here.
According to the survey, 60 percent of teenagers say withdrawal or pulling out is their birth control method of choice. In fact, the number of teens who say they use the pull-out method has increased since 2002. But if you know anything about the pull-out method, you'd know it's not exactly the most highly recommended form of birth control out there.
"Using it 100% correctly requires a level of self-knowledge and self-control that is rare, especially among people who have recently begun having sex with a partner."
The pull-out method can be fairly effective against unwanted pregnancies. But as Karen Rayne, PhD, sexuality educator, associate editor of the American Journal for Sexuality Education, and author of GIRL: Love, Sex, Romance and Being You, tells Bustle, "The problems with the pull-out method are two-fold: One, using it 100 percent correctly requires a level of self-knowledge and self-control that is rare, especially among people who have recently begun having sex with a partner (as is true for most teenagers) and two, it does not provide protection against STI transmission."
In short, it's barely an OK option for teens who are mindful about preventing pregnancy and aren't sexually experienced enough to really know what they're doing. But it's definitely not the way to go if you want to prevent STIs. If you've weighed your options, and the pull-out method works for you, then keep doing you. But here's what experts really think of the method:
1. Dr. Emily Morse, Doctor Of Human Sexuality And Founder And Host Sex With Emily
"Research consistently finds that the pull-out method is 96 percent effective. What people don’t realize is, this statistic only rings true for people who have the ability to withdraw perfectly every single time. It sounds straightforward enough, but put into practice, not so much. To successfully pull out, a guy has to be able to tell when he is about to ejaculate and then also have the discipline to withdraw in time. This takes a level of experience and self-control that many of the couples who practice the pull-out method just don’t possess, especially teens with less experience. Toss in the pre-ejaculate that he may have unleashed before his withdrawal, and the effectiveness plummets.
Statistics shows that—in practice—the pull-out method had a 72 percent success rate. As I often put it to my listeners, that’s a C- success rate. Would you want to purchase a car that had a 72 percent chance of keeping you safe? Then why take a chance in this area?
Using the pull-out method provides no protection against STI’s. Condoms are the only form of contraception that lower your risk of catching an STI; even so, they still don’t protect against those infections that are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact (i.e. HSV-2 and HPV). Since condom users are more sexually satisfied than non-condom users, according to the 2017 SKYN Condoms Millennial Sex Survey, why not go for more pleasurable sex every time?"
2. Dr. Uchenna “UC” Ossai, Pelvic Health Physical Therapist And Sex Educator
"The pull-out or withdrawal method is like playing Russian roulette with your uterus. According to Planned Parenthood, "1 in 4" people get pregnant using the pullout method in comparison to the more effective forms of birth control such as condoms and hormonal birth control. Those are not great odds if you are trying to prevent pregnancy.
Many teens choose this method because they either don't know how to access free birth control, they have received subpar sex education and/or are misinformed, they are embarrassed or afraid someone will find out, or for the sheer fact that pulling out is just "more convenient". The sad thing is that these teens who employ the pullout method are missing out on not only effective pregnancy prevention, but also pleasure! According to the SKYN Condoms Millennial Sex Survey, people who regularly use condoms are more sexually satisfied than non-condom users. This is most likely because a person can make pleasure center stage during sexy time without subconsciously worrying about STI and pregnancy prevention."
3. Dr. Kat Van Kirk, Certified Sex Therapist And Resident Relationship/Sex Expert At Adam And Eve
"It can be somewhat effective if they are also practicing natural family planning and her menstrual cycle is regular. (NFP) involves the tracking of the menstrual cycle and counting out 14 days from the first day of her last period. On a 28-day cycle, this is when ovulation occurs. Considering that sperm can remain viable for up to five days in her body, this is when unprotected penetrative intercourse should be most avoided. Also, there is some sperm in his Cowper’s gland fluid (aka pre-cum) which can cause pregnancy. It has a 90 percent efficacy rate.
Overall, I think this trend of teens using the pull-out method is related to wider access to the morning after pill as well as less access to family planning services. However, I do expect that we will see higher STD transmission rates with less condom use."
4. Cath Hakanson, Sex Educator & Founder Of Sex Ed Rescue
"Withdrawal is very unsafe. Pre-ejaculatory fluid (or pre-cum) has sperm in it. It's not usually enough in volume to become pregnant, but it only takes one sperm to do the job. And most women aren't aware enough of their cycle to know when it is and isn't safe to have unprotected sex.
Having unprotected sex with someone should happen in stages. If you like each other and plan to keep on having sex with each other, you both need to have an STI screening. And then, as long as you aren't having sex with anyone else (and you trust them enough to believe that they aren't) and you are using some form of contraception properly, you can then have condom-less sex.
So my advice to a teen would be to not use the withdrawal method unless you are OK about becoming pregnant or catching an STI. Also, remember that there is more to sex than just penises going into vaginas. If you don't have a condom and you're feeling really horny, do something else e.g. oral. Or stop what you are doing and take a raincheck for another day for when you do have a condom!
It doesn't matter how old you are, but abstaining from sex when you are really turned on is really hard (no matter how strong your willpower is!). It's best to try to not get into the situation where it can happen. So if you have a date planned, always take a condom along."
5. Nicole Prause, Ph.D., Founder Of Sexual Biotech Company, Liberos LLC
"The pull-out method is "effective" in the sense that it dramatically reduces pregnancy risk over no method. It is only slightly less effective than using male condoms, although that could be partly due to inconsistent use of male condoms too.
Teens are very likely to use the pull-out method because it is cheap, less embarrassing than acquiring other methods, less embarrassing than learning to use other methods, and is not barred from access as some states and insurance plans block access to more effective methods. Condoms also are experienced emotionally as a barrier to intimacy, where teens may not engage other effective methods for developing emotional intimacy well yet.
I think the pull-out method needs to be a part of comprehensive sex education, rather than pretending it never works if it is mentioned at all. If teens find out you lied to them, and pulling out actually is working pretty well for them, we will further erode adults credibility in this already sensitive space. Of course, it also is desirable for them to choose something more effective: help them make the safest decision we can get them to agree to!"
6. Karen Rayne, PhD, Sexuality Educator, Associate Editor of the American Journal for Sexuality Education
"I loathe to tell groups of people of any age (including teens) what they should or should not be doing regarding safer sex practices because different people have different needs. But if I could impart one thing to all teenagers about sex, it's to be thoughtful. Thoughtfulness has the capacity to help them be more compassionate towards themselves and their partner. It will also help them slow down and consider the potential positive and negative impacts of their actions so that their decisions are more in line with their short- and long-term needs and wants."
According to Planned Parenthood, for every 100 women who use the pull-out method perfectly, only four will get pregnant. Again, that's if it's done correctly. As a recent report from the Guttmacher Institute found, doing it correctly is not exactly an easy thing. In fact, the withdrawal method has one of the highest probabilities of failure at 20 percent. For teens who have just started having sex, getting it right and pulling out at just the right time may seem more so like luck than anything else.
As Rayne says, it's hard to tell people what birth control methods they should or shouldn't be using. Plus, different methods work for different people. And the reality is, we can't really tell teens or anyone else for that matter, what they can't do when it comes to sex.
The important thing here is to always have open, real, and honest conversations about sex. Sex ed should be taught in a way that provides accurate facts without any judgement or biases. That way everyone has all the right information they need in order to help them make the right decision for themselves.