Megan Maas, PhD, is an assistant professor in Human Development & Family Studies. Her work sits at the intersection of sexual violence prevention and sexual health promotion. She received her PhD in 2016 from The Pennsylvania State University as a pre-doctoral fellow funded by the National Institutes of Health. Her award-winning research, recognized by the American Psychological Association, focuses on adolescent sexual socialization, with an emphasis on the bi-directional role that social media, sexting, and online pornography play in the development of attitudes and behavior related to sexuality and gender.
As a developmental psychologist, she investigates processes of sexual socialization, or how we learn to be sexual beings through cultural norms, media experiences, parenting practices, and school environments. As a prevention scientist, she integrates feminist frameworks (e.g., objectification theory, theory of heteronormativity) that help to explain gender inequality with theories of behavior change (e.g. theory of health efficacy, social norms theory) to mitigate sexual violence and promote sexual wellbeing during adolescence and emerging adulthood. For example, her current work examines online sexual misconduct in K-12 educational settings and evaluates programming to prevent sexual harassment of students and educate public school workers on the realities of online sexual violence for today’s digital native youth.
Dr. Maas is concerned by the fact that women and girls have gained greater power in the educational, social, political, and economic spheres, but remain disproportionately exploited for sexual purposes both publicly and interpersonally. Her work responds to this problem through changing the way we socialize young children and adolescents to conceptualize and engage with their gender and sexuality. Through exploration of and intervention in the primary sexual socialization agents (parents, schools, peers, and media), she aims to transform this final frontier of gender inequity. Born and raised in California, Dr. Maas earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from California State University, Sacramento. As a certified health educator, she developed a popular lecture series which integrated peer-reviewed information on pornography use into sexual health and violence behaviors. For the last 10 years, she has been invited to talk on this subject for audiences of college students, parents, and mental health professionals at universities and organizations across the country.