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Dear Em & Lo: Can I Use the Withdrawal Method?

Fri, Apr 23, 2010

Advice, Dear Em & Lo

Dear Em & Lo,

I’m really new here to this website, being from the Philippines. It makes me happy to have found you because the topics here are very helpful to me. So, I’m seeking advice. I really love having sex with my boyfriend, I can’t stop myself from doing it, it makes me feel so extremely happy. We’ve been doing it for over a year now.  Is it okay that we are just doing “withdrawal method”? I don’t really want him to use condoms due to the not so satisfying effect of it. And am I safe to such ovarian disease? What can you suggest to us? Use condoms?

– Newbie

Dear Newb,

We’re glad you found us! Unfortunately, we must admit we know very little about the socio-sexual culture of the Philippines. But even if we did, we’re not sure that would change our advice, so here goes:

The withdrawal method may be somewhat effective, but ONLY for couples in long-term, monogamous, committed relationships who have complete trust in one another, who have made an educated decision to be bodily-fluid bonded, and who would not be too bummed with an unintended pregnancy. We’re guessing that you don’t fall into this category: you’re not married, you sound very young, you are in need of some good sex education, you are probably are not ready to have a baby, and you certainly aren’t ready to deal with a sexually transmitted disease (STD), because really who is?!

When you, as a woman, rely on the withdrawal method, you are relinquishing all control over your birth control. You’re basically losing autonomy over your body, relying on another being to do right by you. Women have fought too long and hard in Westernized cultures for the freedom to make their own choices about their own bodies for you to just pass that power over to a man. It’s our understanding that there are several birth control options available over the counter without a prescription in the Philippines, so we think it’s important that you take advantage of that opportunity and use a more reliable form of birth control that YOU actually have control over.

Because the withdrawal method IS unreliable. Many experts agree that after a man ejaculates but before he urinates, sperm can hang out in his piping. Which means if he goes for round two before peeing, there’s a good chance his little swimmers will ride the wave of his pre-ejaculatory fluid (a.k.a. pre-come) into your vaginal canal, rendering a perfectly timed pull-out pointless.

Also, with orgasms, people lose sense of time and space, they lose the ability to think straight and speak normally, and they lose control of all facial expressions. Something with that kind of power over a person’s mind and body can and most likely will throw off their timing, as well as their best intentions. Sure, a small, rational part of his brain may be planning on pulling out, but in the heat of the moment, every other fiber of his being is telling him NOT to do that. Who are you gonna put your money on?

Finally, and this is the biggie, the withdrawal method doesn’t protect you from STDs! While we’re sure you trust your boyfriend, you just can never know — he might have a moment of weakness and cheat, or perhaps a partner before you came along had an infection.  Condoms significantly reduce the risk of STD transmission — that’s what makes them so great (well that, and the easy clean-up). With withdrawal, you’ve got nothing — you’re just giving bacteria, viruses and parasites unlimited backstage access to your or your partner’s naughty bits. Yes, condoms may not feel quite as good as going bareback, but that’s a small price to pay for some peace of mind, for reducing your chances of getting a virus that you might have for life (or one that might even shorten your life!). Very few men will choose no sex at all over sex with a condom — if your boyfriend is in this minority, then you should break up with him. If he cares about you, then he will honor your desire to be safe and responsible by using condoms. There are plenty of quality condoms that are made from strong yet thin material with sensation-enhancing textures available online internationally.

Be smart, be safe,
Em & Lo

portions of this advice appeared in a previous post

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10 Responses to “Dear Em & Lo: Can I Use the Withdrawal Method?”

  1. Rei Says:

    Withdrawal method doesn’t work, I know many women who’ve gotten pregnant doing this. Condom or the Pill or some other form of birth control needs to be used if you don’t want a pregnancy.

  2. Madamoiselle L Says:

    Em & Lo said: “The withdrawal method may be somewhat effective, but ONLY for couples in long-term, monogamous, committed relationships who have complete trust in one another, who have made an educated decision to be bodily-fluid bonded, and who would not be too bummed with an unintended pregnancy.”

    That, in a nutshell, what My Man and I are doing and have been for many years. We tried NFP (Natural Family Planning) and I got pregnant several times in what was supposed to be my “safe” time. Obviously, women with irregular cycles, (as you use your cycle as one of the parameters to use NFP) cannot use this method. Also, when using NFP you record not only your temperature (as there is a drop WHILE you are ovulating nad you are supposed to keep track of when you ovulate each month, based on history) but your cervical mucous. Women who are “juicy” tend to have more problems with this, as do women who have a lot of yeast infections etc. I am saying this because every time I mention My Man and I use Withdrawal someone mentions NFP, and we have found Withdrawal to be VERY effective.

    In efficacy, it is actually MORE effective than condoms alone, in actual use. (Condoms alone, (no spermicide) have about a 21% pregnancy rate and Withdrawal has a 19% or less pregnancy rate. We found it MUCH lower than this, as we were very fertile, and I have never had a pregnancy, unless we DIDN’T pull out.) I think I have these numbers right. We found them better, as we have had too many condom breaks, and NO pregnancies with properly used withdrawal.

    However, I trust My Man implicitly, I have no problem “relinquishing” our family planning to him, because I know he is on the same page as I am, we ARE A Family, and he also is able and willing to “pull out” before ejaculation begins. Or decide that his orgasm wil occur somewhere other than the woman’s vagina (and anal sex is no guarantee, as semen can drip forward and actually cause a pregnancy. We have a way around this, as well.)

    Some say “younger men” are not candidates for withdrawal (or even NFP, as in our case, our “non safe time” was as long as 4 weeks per cycle, which is too long for most co-habituating or high sex drive couples to go without sex. We simply used a barrier method during this time, as we were using NFP because of a lack of other options, not “religious reasons” and barriers were better than NO sex.) but we used it when he was much younger and our desire not to have children until I was finished with college (when we started using it, after problems with every other form of bc) was a good enough incentive for him to be diligent with the method.

    My Man had no problem adhering to the terms of Withdrawal and even Planned Parenthood recommends it for SOME couples. I did the PP “widget” on Birth Control and between my allergies, UTIs, migraines, endometriosis and other health problems, Planned Parenthood agrees this method is the best one for us.) I don’t have the link to the widget. But Withdrawal is one of the options. It chose this for us, when I did the online survey.

    Obviously, it is NOT for sex with someone you don’t know well, for men who tend to ejaculate quickly with no warning, for ANYONE you don’t trust completely, and of course it does not prevent disease so it is out of the running for many people.

    We found out a long time ago, many men (including mine) may not have any appreciable sperm in their “pre-come” or pre-ejaculate fluid. (If so, we’d have had about a half a dozen more kids than we already have. *shudder* OK I would have figured it out before then.) Some men do are more likely to have sperm in their pre-ejaculate, but most studies have shown simply urinating before sex will clean the urethra of sperm.

    As for whether an unplanned pregnancy would “bum us out” it didn’t used to, but we are getting older (The Old Man is 50) and it might be a problem. The one time we had an “issue” with this method, I simply backed it up with Plan B and we were fine.

    All in all, it is certainly NOT for every couple. Em & Lo pretty much laid out who it is good for, but if you use it correctly (no yelling “I don’t care!” and not doing what is neccesary at the last minute, that’s how we got our first kid, and resolved to “care” when we didn’t want an other one. But, she was wanted, just a surprise.) We found it to be less stressful and more efficable than NFP, more usable than condoms, (I am allergic to latex and non-latex condoms don’t come in enough sizes in the USA) unlikely to cause damage to my urinary tract system, as the diaphragm did, (it crushed my urethra and I needed a horrible surgery to correct it, plus I found later I am allergic to latex) less dangerous to ME than the hormonal methods or the UID, and we have been happy with it for years.

    You may want to go to the Planned Parenthood widget if this method doesn’t seem like it is right for you.

    Em & Lo, I don’t want to speak for “newbie” but maybe the reason she is asking is that the Philippines is a strongly Catholic country, and although the Church doesn’t sanction withdrawal, some Catholics see it as less of a problem with their faith than other methods.

    Also, withdrawal does NOT predispose you to ovarian disease.

  3. Mandy Says:

    you know… I hate condoms and all, but I find the pull out method to be just as disruptive. Maybe it’s just me but pulling out right at the moment where you’re about to cum isn’t a hell of a lot of fun.

  4. Jess Says:

    Please go get some birth control pills, or use a diaphragm or VCF (Vaginal contraceptive film), which is basically like spermicide, or a Today sponge or a IUD or something if you are unwilling to use condoms. Talk to your doctor or family planning clinic. Otherwise make no mistake about it, you WILL end up pregnant, probably sooner rather than later. Also, make sure that both you and your bf get tested for all STI’s or you could end getting one, or maybe getting infected with HIV.

  5. Linda Says:

    I just wanted to say that it is refreshing to see someone acknowledge that withdrawal is a valid method. I agree with what was said about it as well. It works from some people, but you need to be in a place where you won’t be too bummed if you do get pregnant.

  6. Madamoiselle L Says:

    Jess, VCF (over the counter Vaginal Contraceptive Flim) is probably the least effective birth control method. The theory is spermicide (Noxinol 9) mixed with a gelatin, which is a small square which one is supposed to place over the cervix (which many women cannot even find and some are afraid to try.) and wait about 15 minutes before any contact for it to soften and release the small amount of spermicide. It RARELY stays where it is put, it RARELY is placed properly, some women do not have the chemistry in their bodies for it to soften properly and it is a BAD form of attempting to prevent pregnancy.

    In real life use, it fails more than it works. There is barely enough spermicide in it, many women cannot place it over the cervix in the proper area, and even then it can move out of place very easily, and although it is supposed to “melt” it rarely does in the place where it will stop semen from entering the cervix. (I used it ONCE many years ago, it burned and then afterward came out in a wad which looked like crumpled saran wrap. I was terrified not only that it hadn’t melted, but that even though I had no fear of “touching myself” and did place it over my cervix (as I knew where it was, many young women do not) it evidently didn’t stay there OR melt. Yuck. I was lucky I wasn’t ovulating that day.

    VCF is about as effective as crossing your fingers. Most experts will warn you away from this, as well as even more effective foam or gel spermicides by themselves. Real life use prevention only approaches about 60%, if I have my number right, and VCF’s efficacy is MUCH lower.

  7. Mandy Says:

    I’ve used the VCF many times. With my partner I’ve found the best way to do it is to have ~him~ put it in though, my fingers are really quite small. And the only times I’ve had issues with it not melting is when I didn’t wait the full fifteen/twenty minutes.

    I also use it (inserting it myself) when I’m with a new partner, or a non-serious partner whom I also make wear a condom just to make sure.

    I have yet to become pregnant (although I suppose that doesn’t mean a hell of a lot) and with my more steady partner it’s just financially better than using a condom every time, when you’re having sex several times in an hour.

  8. Madamoiselle L Says:

    Mandy, I’m glad you had luck with it. Of course, using it with a condom increases the efficacy of both methods.

    Probably best to use any form of spermicide with a barrier method also.

  9. Hyrbid Says:

    “When you, as a woman, rely on the withdrawal method, you are relinquishing all control over your birth control. You’re basically losing autonomy over your body, relying on another being to do right by you. Women have fought too long and hard in Westernized cultures for the freedom to make their own choices about their own bodies for you to just pass that power over to a man.”

    LOL WUT? Seriously, ladies? Women have fought too long and hard in Westernized cultures for the freedom to make their own choices. PERIOD. That’s where your sentence should have ended. You sound like the “feminists” who screech at women who choose to be SAHMs or SAHWs. We fought for the right to choose what’s best for us. I’m sorry you somehow missed that little lesson.

  10. Wendell Says:

    “LOL WUT,” Hyrbid? You really found that passage “screechy”? God forbid they should get specific over which choice they’re talking about and why.


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