Tracy Quan, who is normally so sex-positive and has written extensively about her life as a call girl, has an article in the Daily Beast warning women against using withdrawal as a birth control method, even though new research has shown it to be almost as effective as condoms. When I wrote about the withdrawal study from the Guttmacher institute in May, I remarked on some of the same issues that Quan does with withdrawal vs. condoms: Withdrawal doesn't protect from diseases, and getting teens to use it properly is probably never going to happen.
What surprised me about Quan's argument against withdrawal was that it allowed grown women very little agency in their contraceptive choices, and takes an incredibly dim view of men. "The folk wisdom-endorsed by this paper-that withdrawal is a valid method puts women in a very awkward position when discussing contraception with male sex partners," Quan writes, "Getting men to take birth control seriously has never been easy. One laddish website is astutely touting the news as a 'happy hour fact to amaze your drinking buddies with.'" Quan even goes so far to say, "I can’t help but feel that researchers and health care providers who 'just kind of dismiss withdrawal,' as Jones puts it, are actually doing us all a favor."
Certainly, no one is recommending that women use withdrawal with casual sex partners who have not been given the full battery of STD tests. But keeping valuable contraceptive information away from grown men and women is doing everyone a disservice. Adult women should be aware of all of the contraceptive information out there so they can make educated choices about their reproductive lives. What's more, if you can't trust a man to "take contraception seriously," maybe you shouldn't be sleeping with him. We should be telling that to young women, rather than shielding them from the truth about withdrawal.
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