The Sexist

Sexist Beatdown: Wherever to Ejaculate? Edition

So ... ejaculation. It turns out that where you do it can greatly affect a woman's chances of becoming pregnant. Like: If you ejaculate straight up into her vagina, she's more likely to become pregnant; if you ejaculate into a condom or anywhere else in the world, she's less likely to conceive. Every 16-year-old boy knows this to be true, and now those 16-year-old boys have grown up to become the Guttmacher Institute's Lead Pulling-Out Researcher, Rachel K. Jones. Jones published her findings in the June issue of Contraception magazine [via NYT]:

“If the male partner withdraws before ejaculation every time a couple has vaginal intercourse, about 4 percent of couples will become pregnant over the course of a year,” the authors write.

For condoms, used optimally, the rate is about 2 percent. But more significant, the authors say, are the rates for “typical use,” because people can’t be expected to use any contraception method perfectly every time. Typical use of withdrawal leads to pregnancy 18 percent of the time, they write; for typical use of condoms 17 percent of the time.

Hey, that's information that helps us become better informed about our sex lives. Great, right? No. IT'S BAD, says the Daily Beast's Tracy Quan, who calls the study's results "folk wisdom" with a lack of "supporting evidence" and infers that the Guttmacher Institute is no longer "sane" for publishing this no good very bad information. Why? Because withdrawal is "caddish," "insulting," and it's FOR BOYS, NOT GIRLS. And we all know we can't trust boys to do anything. What else can't we trust? Science, for one! And while we're at it: We can't trust grown women in mutually monogamous relationships to make this choice for themselves, either, even though it's free, accessible, and feels better than a condom. THERE I SAID IT.

But enough about ejaculating outside of vaginas. Oh, wait, no: It's time for Sady of Tiger Beatdown and I to discuss ejaculating outside of vaginas some more! Join us!

AMANDA: 9:23 a.m. is a great time to talk about the ups and downs of not ejaculating into vaginas.

SADY: yes. personally, when i heard that not ejaculating into vaginas was a "reliable" form of birth control, i had my suspicions! i was like: apparently all of the dudes i have argued with about birth control have become scientists! who knew?

AMANDA: published in the renowned peer-reviewed journal of medicine, Maxim.

SADY: right. it strikes me as some flawed science, is what i am saying! for, even if withdrawal is a semi-effective method of "birth control," it strikes me as a highly ineffective method of Not Getting Various Diseases Such As The Herp Control. which i think is what Tracy Quan is saying, which is good common sense.

AMANDA: of course, but at the same time, real scientists who are not your ex-boyfriends have worked very hard to come up with dozens of methods of birth control that also don't prevent STDs

SADY: fair enough! the scientists, they do these things! i suppose i am a person who likes a certain modicum of control over these situations. and withdrawal as birth control, TO ME, relies on your partner having (a) really good timing, and (b) a solid commitment to not getting distracted or losing track of whatever he is supposed to be doing, during a moment that (AS I UNDERSTAND IT) can be kind of distracting! (I AM REFERRING TO THE MALE ORGASM. In case my incredible tastefulness and subtlety are working against me.)

AMANDA: this is a point that Quan made as well, and I agree that for a lot of people withdraw would not be a good option for this reason. But all forms of birth control come with a degree of human error, or in some cases, shit ripping inside your vagina error. say you're a couple who doesn't want to use condoms. and the woman takes her birth control pills, but the man, like you, can't trust her—for whatever reason—to take them at the same time every day. maybe she forgets sometimes!

SADY: fair enough!

AMANDA: he might not want to rely on her, either. and so if you forget a birth control pill, or a condom breaks, or you ejaculate into a vagina, you know, you can take emergency contraception as well. one of the interesting things to me about this study—and i'm just going to assume the study is accurate for argument, because i don't know anything about methodology with these things. is that it placed withdrawl slightly below condoms, right? and still, most of the response has been, 'there's no way this could ever work, this is some frat dude conspiracy.' and so perhaps what this study reveals isn't that withdrawl is a very good option, but rather that we have a bit too much faith in condoms

SADY: a fascinating point! and i agree, some of this may have to do with the fact that, as long as i've been alive, anyway, Birth Control has been less important to the discussion than Safe Sex. and most of the sex ed i have ever received has been like, "USE CONDOMS, also there are other methods but seriously just USE CONDOMS." and i'm still a fan of the condom, because it is cheap and does not require a prescription and has a lower failure rate and higher disease protection rate than other things! the withdrawal method, to me, requires what is (in many or most circumstances) a perhaps unrealistically high level of trust for one's makeout partner. but maybe this just has to do with the fact that i have been culturally conditioned to trust other people less than i trust the Trojan corporation.

AMANDA: of course. and the method is really counter-intuitive, because pulling out is something that irresponsible 15 year old boys are supposed to do, when really it's something that would be more appropriate for, say, mutually monogamous STD-free old people.

SADY: right. it is odd for me that something which is the centerpiece of much heterosexual porn is now a meaningful expression of committed monogamous trust. NEXT UP: how having sex on a bus can keep you from getting cancer!

AMANDA: hhahaha. yeah. i heard if you put a donut on it and then seductively bite it off it lowers the risk of kidney failure, or something

SADY: WOW. a doughnut, you say! i guess i've been doing it all wrong with the bagels.

AMANDA: i'm with the critics of Quan with this one, though – something that PEOPLE DO turning out to be less sexually risky than we thought is probably a good thing. she says a bit of anxiety is good, but i actually have a lot of that! and so reducing that is probably a good thing for a lot of people. maybe not for Quan, but it's not like we're getting rid of condoms! The Trojan lobby (sponsored by Tiger Beatdown) would never allow that.

SADY: true enough. i guess i am just concerned with the fact that there is already pressure on girls to be the "cool" ones who don't "make" the dude use condoms. i do not know why i think that the sort of dudes who apply that pressure are all going to show up with scientific studies and go through a careful risk-benefit analysis! yet i do. in conclusion: withdrawal is totally fine, if you want to do that and are reasonable about it, and not fine if you do not. CONTROVERSY!


SADY: there, problem solved. everybody does what they want to do. the real winner? the paper towel industry. hurrah!

Photo by amorphity

  • jules

    HOLY CRAP. My friends and I were just having this debate yesterday. Amanda, could you comment on pre-ejaculate?

  • Amanda Hess

    Well, I'm more of an ejaculate expert myself, but this is what the NYT has to say:

    "The authors say there has been a bias against studying or legitimizing withdrawal, partly because of 'preference for modern methods and the strongly held belief that pre-ejaculate fluid contains sperm, despite the lack of supporting evidence.'"

    So Rachel K. Jones, at least, isn't buying the idea that pre-ejaculate contains sperm, but scientists are still kinda iffy on it. Heather Corinna over at Scarleteen gets a little bit more specific:

    "There's no 100% way to know at the time if pre-ejaculate contains sperm, but it's generally agreed upon that it is most likely or only likely to when a man has recently ejaculated and has not urinated afterwards (urine flushes the urethra out, removing traces of sperm). It's generally considered to be least likely to contain sperm when a man either hasn't ejaculated in a while and/or has recently urinated before he's pre-ejaculating."

    What can also be present in pre-ejaculate? HIV. The more you know, etc.

  • Dave

    I had hoped the first hotlink would be about geographic location :(

  • Liz Aiello

    The study is true and accurate, but I certainly support your point making and wish you could emphasize it a bit more is the fact that condoms aren't really the best if your concerned about birth control. They're really the only way for STD prevention and since most frat guys don't get tested after withdrawing from their previous sorority girl fling, it's best to stick with the condoms. If you actually want birth control, get an IUD. 99.99% effective, Yay!

  • kza

    My girlfriend hates condoms and won't go on birth control because she said it makes her fat. What do I do? I usually pull out an hour early because I am really not wanting a kid.

  • Q™

    @kza, an HOUR early?!?! Some explaining may be necessary, LOL! Then there are men and women who are allergic to the rubber/latex.

  • Ja

    Is there ever a sentence that Sady doesn't exclaim?

  • ham

    The idea of pulling out an hour early is making me shake with laughter at work. Outside the margin of error, I suppose!

  • Sara

    I'm glad someone is finally not stigmatizing my birth control method. Thank you for the great article!

  • irvnrynn

    nice thing about dealing with a post-menopausal woman.. no more pregnancy concerns, and with a little bit of understanding, we can both have PMS and needn't call it that, but term it "old age" ~?

  • Sarah F

    I'm so glad this information is being more widely published. I was on the pill for 3 years and was sick of the side effects, plus I didn't trust it anyway and used the withdrawal method too. So I stopped using the pill and tried condoms. That was horrible. It took tons of research to find the simple information that the withdrawal method does actually work by itself. I used it for years, in a monogamous relationship - it has no side effects, no cost, and is easy to stop using if you do want to get pregnant (which I was able to do the first month of trying).

    There is a draw back for the man though. It is less satisfying to pull out. But the tiny violins will have to keep playing because for me, this is the best birth control method.

  • Pingback: Sexist Beatdown: We Love Everybody Edition! - The Sexist - Washington City Paper

  • ilya

    I'm so conflicted! I'm definitely turned on by the idea of ejaculating outside of my gf's vagina but when the time comes, she pulls me in close and I inevitably ejaculate inside of her vagina (she has an IUD and we both claim to be in a long term monogamous relationship with each other). And it is so so satisfying, like that's what my body wants to do even though my mind wants to pull out. If she let me pull out I don't know that I would.

    Which brings me to a point in the post above in which we consider the "distractibility" of the man who is just about to ejaculate into his partner's vagina. I call bullshit on all men who were too "distracted" to pull out. I think it just feels so good to ejaculate inside a vagina and in a purely selfish move he decided to maximize his pleasure while ignoring the consequences of his purely selfish action.

  • Sasha

    While statistics don't lie, there's no doubt withdrawal seems to work for some people. My ex-husband pulled out the entire 4 years we were married and we never had an accident, or even a scare. That being said, I would hate for young people to think they do not need condoms by reading studies such as this.

    Inexperienced people tend to be premature ejaculators and are probably the most likely to not get out in time. Withdrawal should only be used by couples who are stable and willing to deal with the consequences of a slip up.