Readers respond to that great piece from Ann Friedman on “the pullout generation”:
Your post on pullout method is lacking. For many couples, pulling out simply works. A 2009 study found that when practiced correctly, withdrawal only failed 4% of the time. Condoms, by contrast, had a failure rate of 2%. All things considered (health, risk, and pleasure), this risk differential is acceptable for disciplined, stable couples.
I think Marcotte misses big on this point: she talks about “decisiveness” versus “ambivalence”, and choosing “in the heat of the moment” (basically, “you should really be more responsible”) but neglects to think that some families simply choose not to make it a decision. Young couples who want children eventually don’t have to be “trying” or “not trying” – they can simply be married, have sex, and maybe conceive a child.
The biggest pregnancy scare I’ve ever had was actually with a condom.
On my birthday several years ago, in the heat of having sex with my girlfriend, I suddenly came when things felt especially good – because the condom had just broken, something I didn’t think to check in that moment of blinding pleasure. She wasn’t on the pill, since it clashed with her medications, so we both started to freak out. We immediately checked an online fertility calendar and discovered she was at peak fertility – so we freaked out some more. First thing in the morning she got Plan B from the pharmacy and no baby ever came of the incident, but it did make me realize how much condoms can give you a false sense of security. Nowadays I pull out even I am wearing a condom, paranoid it might be broken.
In a subsequent relationship, which lasted almost two years, she also wasn’t on hormonal birth control. We stopped using condoms after several months and switched to the pullout method -every single time we had sex, without any slip-ups. Maybe I just have Zen-like self-control, but we never had any pregnancy scares or actual pregnancies (and she had accidentally gotten pregnant twice in her life, both on the pill, so she was plenty fertile … though I guess it’s possible I’m not). At times I still felt irresponsible for only relying on the pullout method, and maybe we just got really lucky, but that long relationship left me convinced that coitus interruptus isn’t the horribly risky method that we were all warned about in sex-ed class.