Rachel Jones of the Guttmacher Institute analyzed evidence from several studies and came to the conclusion that withdrawal is actually nearly as effective as condoms in preventing pregnancy. Her paper explains that couples who practice withdrawal perfectly over the course of a year (meaning the male partner always pulls out before ejaculation) only have a 4% pregnancy rate. More "typical" couples using withdrawal (those who sometimes mess up) experience pregnancy rates of 18%. Believe it or not, these numbers are very similar to the perfect and typical-user rates for the male condom, which are 2% and 15%, respectively.
The Kinsey Institute surveyed 18 - 30 year old women and found that about 21% use withdrawal regularly, typically combining it with another method -- like using condoms during their more fertile days. And what about sharing this information woth teens – who have been constantly told that “pulling out” is like playing roulette? Well Rachel Jones, cautions, "We're constantly told by people in positions of authority that [withdrawal] is not effective. But it does substantially reduce the risk of pregnancy. And that's why it should be part of sex-education classes." Youth advocates claim that although promoting withdrawal among teens may be a slippery slope, teenagers should armed with the knowledge that withdrawal can actually be effective (if done correctly) and be encouraged to practice withdrawal in certain situations - like if they don't have a condom. And for mature adults, who are more likely to be able to have the self-control to pull out in time, in a time of economic recession, withdrawal is free!
Photo reprinted with permission from P. Haines