Abstinence Project

Abstinence, the message that abstaining from sex is an option, is an important message in any sex education program…

…but abstinence can’t be the only message. 

We know that when it is the only message presented to young people, they experiment with sex earlier, unintended pregnancy and STI rates are higher, and it can have a lasting impact on adult sexual development.

Further, many abstinence only sex education messages are shame-based and utilize fear tactics in their implementation. Not only do we know that fear tactics don’t work in health education efforts, but shame-based messaging is harmful into adulthood


Founder // Educator

Kristen MARK

Dr. Mark created The Abstinence Project as a space for people to share their stories of the ways in which abstinence only and shame-based sex education impacted them.

She is the Joycelyn Elders Endowed Chair and Professor in Sexual Health Education at the Institute for Sexual and Gender Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School. You can find out more about her work here.

Rachel Elliott

Illustrator - Author

Rachel Elliott is an author-illustrator of comics and books. She grew up queer in rural Oklahoma, and vividly remembers the day Senator Tom Coburn visited her high school to share a scare-tastic slideshow about STDs.

She now teaches first-year composition, multimedia writing, and writing comics at the University of Kentucky, as well as a variety of comic and zine workshops for kids and adults. You can see more of her work here

Jillian Norwick

Educator - Advocate

Jillian Norwick grew up in NC experiencing abstinence-only education first-hand. She completed her undergrad at University of Maryland and her MS in family science at University of Kentucky where she completed her MS thesis titled ““Don’t Have Sex, You’ll Get Pregnant and Die!”: Female University Students’ Experiences with Abstinence-Only Education” that contributed to the original stories of the Abstinence Project. She currently works and lives in Brooklyn, NY. She loves trying new restaurants, spending time with her partner and friends, and the beach!

Carol Mason

Educator - Advocate

Dr. Mason is a Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, and a Professor of English at University of Kentucky. Her highly interdisciplinary and intersectional research has been funded by the Rockefeller Foundation for the Humanities, the Bunting Institute at Harvard University, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

She is the author of three books examining different aspects of the rise of the right since the 1960s. You can find more of her work here.