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The infamous pull-out method, known by many names (‘the withdrawal method’ or ‘going raw’), is completely unreliable. Yet today, many of us still consider the pull-out method as a practical form of contraception. The pull-out method is not a form of contraception. The end. More importantly, I don’t think this image is helped by various TV shows and films that show either the heroine or hero using the infamous pull-out method.

Take Season 3 of Netflix’s Sex Education. One of the various subplots in season 3 involves Olivia and her boyfriend Malek together in Olivia’s bedroom, before they have sex.

Malek asks Olivia: ‘Can I put it in without a condom? You know it feels so much better.’

Olivia replies after some hesitation: ‘Okay, okay. Just remember to pull out before you cum.’

This scene from Olivia and Malek’s subplot clearly references the infamous pull-out method. Right before climax, Olivia screams ‘Pull out!’, which he does, just in time. But it’s important to note that pulling-out doesn’t always happen ‘just in time’ and there are other risks involved. It’s also important to note that Olivia was clearly hesitant in using the pull-out method, something that Malek should have noticed and better yet, taken action. Rather than pressuring Olivia by placing his needs above her own, he should have used a form of contraception (e.g. condoms) or not have sex and maybe use the time to start an important conversation surrounding contraception.

Similarly, in Netflix’s Bridgerton, Simon and Daphne repeatedly use the pull-out method. Whilst Simon and Daphne’s situation is inherently different to Olivia and Malek’s, the use of the pull-out method are shown to thousands of impressionable young women and men.

We all know the pull-out method is not an effective form of contraception, it also is completely ineffective at protecting you from STIs. So why are people still using the pull-out method, when there are multiple choices of contraception?

I think one of the main issues is that there’s a lot of confusion and mixed messages about how effective the pull-out method is. This is primarily because statistics and information you find on the internet vary from source to source.

Another issue is that a lot of information surrounding the effectiveness of the pull-out method, uses a familiar formula such as, ‘X% effective when used perfectly/accurately.” But ‘perfect’ or ‘accurate’ is practically nearly impossible with the pull-out method. This is because it’s not just about pulling out at the right time. You have to consider pre-ejaculation (known as pre-cum), and even considering this won’t get you completely covered.

This brings me on to another issue: many people think that pre-ejaculation does not contain sperm. This fact is actually correct. However, the issue is that sperm has the potential to leak into the pre-ejaculation before making its way into the vagina, meaning there is a possibility for getting pregnant.

Perhaps another reason is that over the last 10 years, the use and preference of physical barrier methods has dramatically declined.

Moreover, there’s been a dramatic rise of cycle tracking apps which is giving women access to more knowledge about their periods and their fertile window too. However, fertile window tracking to prevent pregnancy is less effective compared to other contraceptive choices. It’s important to note that really fertile window tracking should only be used by women wanting to get pregnant and that it takes practice, dedication and several menstrual cycles before you’re more likely to accurately identify your fertility window.

My Advice:

It’s important to be aware of the available contraception and how effective these methods are. If you’re being pressured by a partner to use the pull-out method just because your partner ‘doesn’t like the feel’ of condoms, you need to put yourself first. You shouldn’t have to do something that you don’t want to do or feel uncomfortable doing. More importantly, it’s not worth compromising your safety.

The most important part about sex is that you’re safe and in control. Being safe and in control are two factors that just don’t relate to the pull-out method. Even though the pull-out method might be tempting, it’s not worth compromising your safety or being out of control.

I'm the Sex and Relationships Editor for Exeter and a third year student studying Classical Studies and English with a passion for literature, art and film!