The Pull-Out Generation: Why Is the Withdrawal Method So Popular Today?


By Heidi Oran

By now you’ve probably heard the buzz on the internet. From New York Magazine to CBC, everyone is discussing “The Pull-Out Generation.” Ask your friends and you’ll probably notice the same trend: little reliance on the pill and other forms of contraception.

The original article by NY Mag’s The Cut touches on the decisions of those as young as 15 to women in their 30′s. They vary of course – some don’t like bearing the weight of preventing pregnancy solely on their shoulders, some fear the long term-effects of hormones, and some of the younger women simply turn to the withdrawal method when they were “too shy to say anything” about contraception (this is awful for a whole list of other reasons). So we’re looking at a variety of motivations, but all with the same conclusion – pulling-out is the best option for them.

When I heard about this a couple things came to mind: I wondered what would the women who fought so hard for our generation to have access to birth control would think about this trend? Would they be disappointed? Would they be okay with it since it’s a conscious choice and not forced upon them? What would Gloria Steinem say?

And if we really look closely, could history and culture help to reveal why this is so common today? Author and Historian Neil Howe has written extensively about generations and the fact that our society today is incredibly child-centered, more than ever before. Perhaps this is subconsciously at the root of the trend?

Celebrities have glamorized pregnancy and Motherhood (you simply have to view popular blogs and read their stats to confirm this,) Gen Y is closer with their parents than any generation before them, and a recent study revealed that above being a good partner, being a good parent is a priority for us.

While there are many arguments for both sides of the story, I wonder, if there is an inherent positive perception about parenting could this be why our generation is willing to take their chances on an unplanned pregnancy?

Heidi Oran is a writer and career coach with a passion for change. She writes the blog The Conscious Perspective, and co-founded The Millennial Pulse Podcast. You can connect with her on Twitter here.



One Comment

  1. wow. with respect, what a short-sighted and silly article. perhaps one (maybe more) academic has “written extensively about how our society is incredibly child-centred”, but ask anyone who has made forays into questioning culturally-sanctioned parenting practice and you’ll be likely to find that the us (and the uk where i am) might be improving in terms of child-centredness, but there is a very, VERY long way to go. witness the high cesarean rates (particularly elective), low breastfeeding rates, continued rise of the “cry it out ethos” in the face of overwhelming evidence that it causes pyschological damage, ever-increasing numbers of younger and younger children farmed out to mass childcare, constant pressure to achieve ever-shifting targets once at school…i could go on but really, one only needs to have spent a bit of time in asian countries to see that western culture, as well as being profoundly frightened of female power, places children in a position of disempowerment from birth.

    and anyway, to make the assumption that pulling out during intercourse is indicative of subconscious desires to become a parent is only a tiny part of the picture. you don’t mention how many unwanted pregnancies this causes or how many women then panic and take the morning after pill.

    i’d say that the apparent rise of pulling out as a contraceptive “technique” (it carries huge risks of pregnancy for many reasons) is more indicative of a general crisis in western womankind stemming from a huge host of factors. yes, there might be a push towards becoming a parent; there is also a pull away from intrusive contraception that seriously fuck up our bodies and the environment. you don’t mention in the article how many of the “pull out generation” are using this method within the context of a relationship as opposed to spontaneous sexual activity. so it’s surely impossible to conclude that women are motivated by a desire to become a parent; the rise of pulling out’s popularity might just as well be motivated by women feeling they have to be sexually available even when they aren’t using contraception. or it might well be that women are certainly empowered to initiate and enjoy sex, but not to have the necessary conversation about contraception. since it’s women to have the ultimate responsibility for pregnancy in that it happens within our bodies, this is hardly empowerment.

    for myself, i discovered in my late teens that i loathe all methods of contraception. my husband of 17 years and i have never used formal contraception – but neither do we really make much use of pulling out, either. instead, i make a daily practice of tuning into my menstrual cycle, so i know when i ovulate. at this time and for 5 days or so beforehand, intercourse plays second fiddle to other lovely sexual activity, unless we’re baby making. so while i personally see an increase in popularity of pulling out as a potentially positive thing, i’d like to see it backed up by much more information about how to do this safely (i haven’t even mentioned std’s here, either), and not a re-mystification of women’s experience in terms of placing this phenomenon in the age old paradigm of “men want sex, women want babies”.

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