The Kinsey Institute, the very same researchers who gave us the magical sliding scale of sexual orientation, currently runs the Kinsey Confidential blog, which bills itself as a premier resource for sexual health information. Currently on the blog is a level-headed discussion about ye olde jizzing practice, the pull out method. Author Allison Yates argues pulling out, or ejaculating outside of a woman, is actually a whole lot more common and effective method of birth control than sentinels of sexual health have previously given it credit for. Yates notes, "It is important to keep in mind that although there may be certain cultural objections to the withdrawal method, including the idea that the male cannot 'pull out' in time, it does provide some security and its failure rates are comparable to those of the condom."
For at least a third of women, "comparable" is enough. A Duke University study conducted by Dr. Annie Dude (paging Dr. Dude) found that as much as 31 percent of sexually active women between 15 and 24 have used the withdrawal method as their form of birth control. This type of ubiquity is what New York magazine has called "the pull out generation." But how can something be on the rise when it's also the contraceptive equivalent of dialing a rotary phone. Coitus interruptus has been around for millennia, making a small appearance in a little known text called the Book of Genesis and winding its way back into fashion in 18th century Europe. Casual bar surveys will tell you pills turn you into hormonal zombies, condoms can feel akin to tight Glad bags slamming against your innards, and IUDs come packed with nightmare stories. Pulling out is an ancient practice for a reason. But then again, the Earth is also overpopulated for a reason.
According to Planned Parenthood, for every 100 women who use withdrawal perfectly, 4 will become pregnant each year. For every 100 women who use the withdrawal method only so-so, 27 will become pregnant each year. If someone told you that you had a 27 percent chance of being run down by a car every time you ate Twizzlers, you'd probably start to avoid Twizzlers. There are other low fat licorice treats out there like Twerpz and Strawz that probably don't taste as good but still satisfy the craving. Pulling out feels the best, but you're probably going to get run over.
The pull out method might be a quick in-the-moment fix when you're too embarrassed to shuffle out past your boyfriend's roommate to the bathroom to grab a condom, but settling for cum on your belly is basically playing Russian roulette with your reproductive organs.
And then there's a little viscus threat called pre-cum, or fluid that is released during intercourse before the actual orgasm moment. Though the Kinsey blog mentions the abundant risk of STIs that come with pulling out, they fail to address the very real concern of the confetti that comes before the party. While not always full of sperm, some studies have shown that up to 41 percent of men can have sperm in their pre-cum.
We can download various period tracker apps til the cows come home, but the very free and convenient pull out method also comes with one glaring pre-req: superhuman self control. It takes a lot of experience to not ejaculate in someone whose vagina is tightly hugging a very comfy penis. Agreeing to pull out is a contract between sexual partners that takes a grave amount of effort, communication, and responsibility. It boasts a supreme will power not unlike waiting until Downton Abbey is legal to download in the US. Before we all dub ourselves the "pull out generation" or look into whether it's "the right form of birth control" for us, we need to recognize that practically safe does not mean safe.
Image via Universal Pictures.