The XX Factor

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.”