Cliff, how dumb is it to be using the pull out method for birth control? We’re fluid bonded and monogamous, he is diligent about pulling out in time, and we’ve been doing it for something like 6 months now with no pregnancies… is this a reasonable thing to keep doing or is it only a matter of time until I get knocked up?


The stats on the withdrawal method are surprisingly good for “perfect use” (i.e., actually pulling out every time)–only about 4% of people using it will get pregnant in a year, which is pretty comparable to perfect use of condoms.

But doesn’t pre-cum have sperm in it?  Well, maybe.  Some studies have found none, some have found small amounts.  The authors of the study I linked are very wishy-washy about whether that small amount is enough to get a person pregnant, and reading between the lines I think they’re saying it’s unlikely, but they’re wary of being overconfident and causing unwanted pregnancies with hasty words.

A much bigger issue than pre-cum sperm, and the reason that the “typical use” failure rate of withdrawal is an abysmal 22%, is that… well… mistakes happen.  You get carried away, maybe you’re in a position where it’s not easy to pull out on a moment’s notice, and the next thing you know, you’re shopping for diapers.  You say your partner’s diligent, and that certainly makes your odds better than someone who’s inclined to say “aw what the heck, just this once,” but nobody’s perfect.  Your odds of pregnancy, realistically, are probably somewhere in between 4% and 22% per year, and I can’t say exactly where.

Two suggestions, if you’re comfortable with this level of risk:

– Buy some Plan B and keep it around, in case of accidents.  It’s better to have it before you need it.

– Make sure you and your partner are on the same page about what you’d do if you did have an unintended pregnancy.  Find out before it’s an immediate issue, and if you have strongly differing opinions, that would be a very good reason to start using a backup method of birth control.

Awesome advice.

I’m a big fan of combining contraception so withdrawn and condoms are way smarter than either alone. (Condoms are quite good for disease protection since even with leaks or breaks they still offer partial barriers. Leaks count as contraception failures though.)

One peculiarity of the ridiculous popularityif “comeshots” in porn is that it models effective withdrawal.

The classic, Catholic model assumed the man would pull out at the instant of orgasm. Which was often way too late.

Porn has taught men, and their partners, to pull out long before ejaculation and dutifully wank as if they’d been watching sex instead of having it.

Aside: I swear this is one of the reasons unwanted pregnancies are way down. And pregncies in general. Well. That plus millennials and gen z folks are 100 times more responsibile than their boomer and gen-x parents and older siblings.

Anyway, one and a half cheers for modern withdrawal!