The other day I wrote about the surprising efficacy of withdrawal as a method of pregnancy prevention. Several commenters wrote in, saying, “But… precum!”

This is an interesting example of the phenomenon I wrote at greater length about a year or so when I was writing about safer sex. People disregard science in favor of their emotions when it comes to evaluating the risks associated with sex, and their emotions are informed by all sorts of fears and shame, puritanical and otherwise.

The study to which I linked includes the risk presented by precum. Period. So saying, “BUT PRECUM HAS SEMEN!” is a non-sequitur. Yes, precum has semen in it.

And the study assessed the risk of pregnancy from sex in which the method of pregnancy prevention used was withdrawal.


  1. You seem to be on to something with this. A blog that I regularly follow recently posted this, which I found to be quite interesting and informative. As someone who follows this website fairly religiously with regard to the information they post via health, wellness, etc., this was both pretty interesting and something that I’d be willing to pay fairly close attention to — perhaps more from a cultural/sociological perspective than anything else:

  2. This leaves me wondering if the sex ed we received in school – which cautioned strongly against withdrawal – was based on incorrect science or something else. The message was definitely around the potential semen in pre-cum (I was so alarmed I forbade my teenage paramours from even dampening my knickers with the stuff !)

    Another good reason to use withdrawal with caution s the need to be able to trust your partner, and know that they know their limits. I imagine successful (well timed) withdrawal takes more self-knowledge and self-control than your average inexperienced lover.

    1. That’s, I think, the point. It wasn’t based on incorrect science. It wasn’t based on science. It was based on morality and fear. Yes, of course, one of the risks associated with withdrawal is absence of self-knowledge and/or self-control. That’s why the science is so interesting: it shows that, including those challenges, withdrawal is similarly effective to condoms. Which makes me think that, with someone with self-knowledge and self-control (and whom you trust) it may well even be MORE effective than condoms. Because what makes condoms fail is beyond our control usually, whereas, what makes withdrawal fail is, surely, sometimes, guys who are dicks.

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