The Pill Vs. The Pullout

Hormonal birth control is something that works for some women, and not for others, which is okay. Yet as Jill discusses in this Feministe article, the author of a new book called Sweetening the Pill takes her own awful experience on the pill as evidence “that the Pill is terrible for all women.”

Generalizing from one person’s experience to everyone’s is, of course, a bad idea. As Jill writes: “And most of my friends who are on the Pill don’t have the same side effects that I had, and are perfectly happy relying on it as their primary means of contraception. Also, one friend feels like she gets in her best shape by running, another by doing Barre classes and Pilates, whereas I prefer yoga. Shocking news: People are different, and our bodies work differently! The Pill works really well for a lot of women. It works less well for others. It’s intolerable for some.”

Even more inexplicably, according to this Slate article, larger numbers of women are relying on the pullout method for preventing pregnancy. The pullout method, of course, is far from flawless, and exemplifies what’s being called “pregnancy ambivalence.” Sort of an “if it happens, it happens; if it doesn’t, that’s okay too” attitude.

I find this perplexing. Again, I know hormonal birth control isn’t for everyone, but there’s a wealth of other options. The good ol’ female condom is still around, for instance, and it doesn’t present many of the issues that people dislike about condoms (one of the biggest bonuses is that the woman is in control of it from start to finish, eliminating concerns about the male partner not being diligent about condom use).

I wonder what’s up with this pattern of arguing against the pill and for the pullout method. Are higher numbers of women feeling secure enough to risk pregnancy even when they’re not actively trying to have kids? Is this a response to some kind of social pressure shaming women for taking too much control of their sexual destinies? Or is this caused by something else? I wish I knew, so I could make an educated effort to combat misconceptions about birth control in America today.

About Jeana


Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.