Hold on now. Wait a minute. Don’t get too excited. If you thought “pulling out” was a feeble and ineffective method of contraception for the reckless and unprepared, well it is. At least at first glance. But given that at least 38 million couples use it worldwide, coitus interruptus warrants a second look.
Coitus interruptus, with its ancient yet undistinguished history, is very easily dismissed as an effective contraceptive because of the widely accepted belief that the pre-ejaculate contains sperm. There is actually no conclusive evidence that this is the case. No one has actually found sperm in pre-ejaculatory fluid. In addition, it is all-natural, organic, hormone- and side effect-free, and affordable. It needs no tool that nature hasn’t already given us, except rigorous and unerring self-control. Well, in fact this is the big downside. Who has rigorous and unerring self-control? We are men, not robots. Pulling out doesn’t protect you from sexually transmitted diseases, either.
That said, a recently published study has shown for the first time in the modern era that withdrawal is more effective a contraceptive than one might think. Maybe we should look at the pull-out with a little more respect. The withdrawal method, when used with perfect technique, has a 4% failure rate. This falls behind vasectomy (0.1%), birth control pills (0.3%), IUDs (0.6%), and condoms (2%), but not by much. The actual (real life) failure rate is likely somewhere between 15-25%, which is really not far behind the actual failure rate of condoms, at 10-18%. So withdrawal is not that bad after all, only a little less effective than condoms. Perhaps men deserve a pat on the back for this. Well done.
However, if this were a contraceptive pill, a 15% failure rate would send its inventors back to the drawing board. For coitus interruptus is inherently flawed, and women who seek more control over whether or not they become pregnant are more likely to reject this method over the long term. One study revealed that women of higher economic status and education are more likely to insist upon a more surefire method of contraception. It appears that women simply don’t trust men’s timing, their control, and perhaps even the male sense of responsibility when it comes to contraception. They want more control in the matter. What does this mean for a male contraceptive pill? More on that next week.