Does the pull-out method actually prevent pregnancy? My boyfriend really wants to try having sex without a condom…

birth control optionsThis is a really important question, and we want to answer it in two parts. First, let’s talk about withdrawal, or the “pull-out” method. Withdrawal is a risky method of contraception because it’s not easy to prevent all ejaculation in the vagina during penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex. Even if the partner with a penis can tell when they are about to ejaculate or “come”, the fluid that is released from the penis before ejaculation can contain sperm from a previous ejaculation.

If partners use the withdrawal method perfectly every time (which is almost impossible), it’s possible to be 96% effective in preventing pregnancy. But perfect use hardly ever happens, and in reality, the withdrawal method is only about 78% effective. This means that if the partners of 100 people with vaginas use the withdrawal method, at least 22 will become pregnant in a year. The withdrawal method, and penetrative sex without condoms in general, do not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Second, you mentioned that your boyfriend really wants to try having sex without a condom. Without assuming any details about your relationship, we just want to remind you that the decision about what contraception method makes you feel comfortable, and the decision to have sex with or without a condom, are both completely yours to make. Consent is an essential, non-negotiable part of sexual relationships, and you can’t have consent if you are feeling at all pressured. If you and your partner have been tested for STIs and you are interested in trying penetrative sex without a condom, there are other birth control options that are a lot more effective than the pull-out method. But if you are at all unsure or uncomfortable with the idea of condom-free sex, you can and should be able to tell your partner “no.” A loving, healthy partnership means consent on all sides.