Pulling Out Works

The world’s oldest method of birth control is more effective than you might think. While the withdrawal method—aka “pulling out“—is pretty much universally panned, studies have shown that, done properly, it’s nearly as effective as condoms at preventing pregnancy. Emphasis on done properly.

I’m going to let Planned Parenthood—which describes pulling out as “safe, easy, and convenient”—define this contraceptive method for you, because really, I couldn’t do better than this:

A man who uses withdrawal will pull his penis out of the vagina before ejaculation — the moment when semen spurts out of his penis. Withdrawal is also known as coitus interruptus and the pull out method.

Spurts! Eww. But anyway: This definition explains why pulling out gets so much slack—it requires a man to know and control when he’s about to cum. This is something teenage boys are not good at, which is why you don’t hear the pull out method being taught in sex education classes. This also requires a woman to just trust her partner will pull out in time. That’s not something a lot of people want to risk in a casual sexual encounter (besides which: pulling out doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases).

But if you’re in a monogamous relationship, with a grown-up man, then the pull out method isn’t an absolutely terrible idea. Particularly if you dislike condoms (and who doesn’t?) and can’t deal well with hormonal birth control (ahem). According to Planned Parenthood:


  • Of every 100 women whose partners use withdrawal, 4 will become pregnant each year if they always do it correctly.
  • Of every 100 women whose partners use withdrawal, 27 will become pregnant each year if they don’t always do it correctly.

While those odds might not sound especially auspicious to you, they’re relatively comparable to your odds of getting pregnant relying on condoms for birth control:


  • Each year, 2 out of 100 women whose partners use condoms will become pregnant if they always use condoms correctly.
  • Each year, 18 out of 100 women whose partners use condoms will become pregnant if they don’t always use condoms correctly.

How could someone whose partner always pulled out in time still wind up pregnant?

Some experts believe that pre-ejaculate, or pre-cum, can pick up enough sperm left in the urethra from a previous ejaculation to cause pregnancy. If a man urinates between ejaculations before having sex again, it will help clear the urethra of sperm and may increase the effectiveness of withdrawal.

Pregnancy is also possible if semen or pre-ejaculate is spilled on the vulva.

[Spilled! ... I think Planned Parenthood needs a new copywriter.]

You can always combine the pull-out method with “fertility awareness methods” of birth control for greater effectiveness. Fertility awareness (or ‘natural family planning) just means keeping track of your monthly menstrual cycle so you know the days when you’re most and least fertile. That way, if you’re trying to avoid pregnancy, you avoid sex or take extra contraceptive precautions during the days around ovulation.

According to a 2009 study from the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute, relying on a mixture of birth control methods is fairly common. More than one in five women (21%) reported using the withdrawal method within the four weeks prior, but very few women used either solely withdrawal or solely condoms. The majority of withdrawal users (68%) reported sometimes using condoms, and 42% of condom users reported sometimes relying on pulling out.

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    • Will

      Ahhh no. Mine is always leaking before the “spurt”. Call it what you want but i call it knocking somebody up if i don’t wrap it up!
      Aside from that id like to bring this up again:

      “This also requires a woman to just trust her partner will pull out in time. ”

      I couldn’t even trust myself to pull out in time. A baby is probably the best way to screw my life up right now, I have things I want for myself and none of them include a human I can’t take care of.

    • Sara

      There are also non-hormonal IUDs available, they are a great method if you cannot tolerate hormones and do not like condoms.

      • Elizabeth Nolan Brown

        Oh, yeah, I think the copper IUD is a great, great options for people who can’t tolerate hormones. The only reason I don’t have one is because I don’t have health insurance, and those suckers are expensive!

      • Sara

        Try Planned Parenthood, they have a sliding scale!

      • Hanna Brooks Olsen

        Even with the sliding scale, an IUD is several hundred dollars and a day off work. Also, really painful for some women, and hard to adjust if it’s, you know, not a good match.

      • Briana Rognlin

        I got an IUD at Planned Parenthood for very, very little money, but this is because I was earning nothing at the time and had no insurance. For most women, they’re very expensive, and it’s true, they aren’t a great match for everyone. I don’t think there’s really a one-size-fits-all kind of birth control, which is part of why I think coverage should be better…and why people should do their research about how effective various methods are. I’m surprised at how many people are willing to completely shun the pull out method but completely trust condoms–the difference really isn’t that big!

    • Fabel

      I’m glad to see this here! Pulling out is the method I use in my long-term, monogamous relationships & there’s never been a problem– although friends do give me the side-eye when I say that it works. Guys are actually better at timing that you might expect (although yeah, obviously teens wouldn’t be as in-control)

      • Elizabeth Nolan Brown

        I agree!

    • Kait

      We double up – hormonal birth control pills plus the withdrawal method. Maybe I’m just paranoid but it gives me some extra peace of mind compared to just using birth control.

    • Jennifer

      My first child is a “pull-out” baby. My husband and I privately refer to him as our wonderful surprise.

    • Renee

      “[Spilled! ... I think Planned Parenthood needs a new copywriter.]”

      Spilled is a correct variant of the past tense of “to spill” and is actually preferred to spilt: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spilled

    • Terry

      I guess many of us have used “the pull out” at one time or another. But it is risky when you just go for one more thrust. I think it is much more satisfying when you know the cum is contained. Condoms remain a good option.

    • Da fack is this shit?

      Pulling out is for retards.
      Fucking myth that using a condo doesn’t feel good, cuz dudes aren’t the ones carrying the pregnancy is easy to dismiss its risk and consecuences. I am a dude and condom does feel good. Very good.

      • ^Is a dickhead

        Pulling out is not for retards. You are a retard. If you pull out before you ejaculate there is there same amount of risk of pregnancy carried by using a condom. If you know how to control yourself during sex then you can avoid pregnancy. You must be a sailor if you like those condoms. FAGGOT!