Without a doubt, pulling out is among the least effective forms of birth control.
Perhaps surprisingly though, it doesn’t take the cake as the least effective. Better than spermicide and fertility awareness-based methods, withdrawal ranks only slightly worse than condoms at preventing pregnancies:
While different sources cite different figures, I’ve used the stats from the 2011 edition of Contraceptive Technology (run out and get your copies now, boys and girls). If done perfectly, they say 4 out of 100 women will get pregnant within the first year of using withdrawal. In more typical practice (for example, not always pulling out in time), the number jumps to 22.
Planned Parenthood puts the numbers closer to 4 (perfect) and 27 (typical).
Condoms come in at 2 pregnancies (perfect use) and 18 (typical use) so odds aren’t stacked that much against you if you pull out versus use rubbers.
Still, 4-22% is a big margin of error for good ol’ coitus interruptus. If you find yourself in a situation where withdrawal is the best – or only – option, do yourself a favour and learn how to make pulling out more effective.
HACK #1: Only the good die young
Don’t do it if you’re young. Just don’t. No, I can’t give you a cut-off age where you’re suddenly able to pull out in time. It’s not like driving: there’s no minimum age, there’s no test to pass and no license to acquire.
The way it is like driving though…? The more experience you have, the better you’ll get at it.
See, to make pulling out more effective, the penis-bearer needs to have a good understanding of their body. This is one of the main reasons I don’t encourage withdrawal in young people. The more sexual experience you have, the better you know your body’s tendencies, limitations, and how it responds to stimuli.
The first time a penis enters an orifice, I highly doubt the owner’s intention is to shoot out a load in under 30 seconds. But it happens pretty fucking often in first time sex experiences [author deems reference material not needed here]. I don’t have a penis, but based on others’ experiences, it sounds like first-time penetration is such a sensory delight that you just can’t help yourself. Fair enough.
When you try new things sexually you don’t necessarily know how your mind and body will respond. As you mature into yourself, you get better acquainted with these responses. I’d say that most 35-year-olds are better in control of their climax than most 17-year-olds. And if not “better in control”, at least more aware of when it’s likely to happen.
HACK #2: When I think about you, I touch myself
If you don’t already, start masturbating. If you do already, masturbate more. (Unless it’s taking over your life and keeping you from leaving your house and causing conflict in your relationship. In that case, definitely do NOT do it more.)
But seriously, this one ties into the first hack. Masturbation is a great way to get to know your body. It’s a stellar method for finding out that this much friction, at that speed, for this long, while thinking about (or looking at) these things is likely to take you to the point-of-no-return. The more you do this on your own, in a comfortable, safe space where you can just let your load go (no fear of impregnating your bedsheets), the more you can bring what you learn into the bedroom when there is a vagina, uterus, and potential for pregnancy.
HACK #3 Let’s talk about sex, bab-bee
Communicate, communicate, communicate. All that practice you’ve had from years of sex and self-pleasure and ejaculating all over the place? It ain’t worth shit if you can’t relay the important bits to your partner.
If you’re fucking me from behind while I lie on my stomach, I can use the combined strength of my thigh muscles and my pelvic floor to quite literally milk the come out of your cock.
And that’s just the tightness of my pussy. We haven’t even talked about my asshole.
Of course, the response is different for different penises. But for some of them, I can use my muscles in this position with remarkable vigour and startlingly speedy results.
If I don’t know your penis well, I don’t know what makes it come. I can get to know your penis better with experience, of course. But the more you can communicate to me, the faster the learning will be. Tell me things:
“Slow down a bit.”
“I’m almost there.”
Scared to hurt my feelings by offering suggestions for improvement? Couple the feedback with encouraging, supportive words of praise, and you’ve got nothing to worry about. If you say:
“Slow down but holy FUCK your pussy feels incredible.”
…my feelings will most definitely NOT be hurt.
HACK #4: Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore (I’m talking about urine)
To the people with penises: pee before you put it in! This relates to pre-cum, folks.
You know that juicy bit of fluid that often slides out the tip of a turned-on penis before ejaculation? It’s lovely and beautiful and helpful and can be a total turn-on for penis-owners and penis-admirers alike. But what’s it all about?
Sources I consulted suggest that the main purpose of pre-cum is to roll out the red carpet for the sperm’s grand entrance: it makes the urethra and vagina a more pH-balanced environment for the sperm.
It also adds lubrication, which feels great for body parts rubbing against each other and increases sensitivity inside condoms.
But does it contain sperm???
The debate about whether or not pre-cum contains sperm is as heated as your mom’s face when she reads this blog.
Some studies say no. Other studies say sometimes. A 2014 literature and research review says probably not, folks. And a reddit post says NOBODY SEEMS TO FUCKING KNOW, LET’S DO MORE RESEARCH ALREADY!!!
Given the proposed function of pre-cum, it makes sense that the sperm content would be negligible. So let’s proceed with that theory.
Even if pre-cum ain’t got baby-making potential on its own, its trajectory gives it these magical powers.
When you ejaculate, your semen goes a lot of places. It might end up on a partner, in a towel, or as hair gel (please tell me a reference to a mediocre late-90s film is still marginally relevant to life). But some of your semen and sperm, inevitably, end up sticking around in your urethra after you’ve blown your load. So when the pre-cum slips out, it can whisk the residual sperm cells from recent ejaculation along with it.
As you can imagine, this becomes a problem when you’re trying to avoid inducing pregnancy.
If only there was a way to flush out that leftover sperm before your pre-cum does the job for you… If only YOU COULD ALSO PASS URINE THROUGH YOUR URETHRA!!! Hold on a second…
In short, if it looks like you’re going to have sex in the near future and you’ve recently ejaculated, and if you think there’s even the slightest chance withdrawal will be the method du jour, take a trip to the john before getting busy.
If you’re engaging in marathon sex with no other form of contraception, relieve yourself between fucks to help your odds even just that little bit. But also, for the love of uteri, get some more reliable birth control if you’re keeping that busy.
While the debate about sperm living in pre-cum rages on, there is absolutely no debate about STIs: withdrawal is not an effective way to reduce the risk of STIs. Use condoms every time unless you and your partner are exclusive and know your STI status.
HACK #5: Baby got back(-up)
No hormonal help? No IUD in the uterus? No condom? Newsflash: there are still other forms of birth control that can serve as back-ups, alongside pulling out. Throw a little spermicide into the mix and if there’s a slip-up (or rather a “spill-out”) you’ve got a bit more protection.
Beyond that, the fertility awareness method (colloquially known as the rhythm method) can help you know when you’re most fertile so you can avoid sex that carries a pregnancy risk during that time.
But let’s be real, those two forms of backup require foresight and resources. You may be pulling out because of a lack of those very things.
So there you have it. While I don’t endorse withdrawal as your exclusive means of birth control because it just ain’t as effective as other methods, if you’re doing it already, use these tips to help make pulling out more effective.
At the end of the day, there’s no denying that pulling out is likely to be more effective than full-on ejaculating inside a vagina. Have fun and sploosh.
- Comprehensive article about the “pullout generation” on RH Reality Check
- Academic paper by Rachel K. Jones et al of the Guttmacher Institute about the importance of withdrawal
- Bedsider‘s article busting 5 myths about pulling out (although the author claims pre-cum does contain sperm, based on just one study whose methodology is questionable).