Preventing Babies, the Old-Fashioned Way

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
May 15 2009 4:35 PM

Preventing Babies, the Old-Fashioned Way

Men, skip this post. A new study revives a very old method of birth control, and it's not happy news for you. Withdrawal, says the Guttmacher Institute , is not a bad way to go. Many studies, and couples, don't really consider it a "method" so they don't talk about it or study it. But turns out it's almost as good as condoms (for pregnancy prevention, not for preventing transmission of diseases). For a couple that uses withdrawal every time they have sex, the woman has a four percent chance of getting pregnant, or a "realistic" chance of 18 percent. With condoms, it's a two percent and 18 percent.

Among the responsible class, withdrawal is having a revival as the more natural method. "You can still keep going, you can still have sex, it doesn't smell bad, [and] it doesn't have chemicals in it," one woman told the researchers.


Withdrawal will never have the glory of condoms. Going to the pharmacy to buy condoms is a teenage rite of passage, featured in every movie from Porky's to Dazed and Confused . Men can brag to their friends about using the condom. Not so much about withdrawal. Still, it's starting to have a kind of slacker appeal.

"I like pulling out in some ways-I see the yield," said one male participant. "At least it's some half-assed effort."

Hanna Rosin is the founder of DoubleX and a writer for the Atlantic. She is also the author of The End of Men. Follow her on Twitter.


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