"I see gender norms and sexism as risk factors since they often undercut young women’s access to social and material resources and their leverage in negotiating with male partners. These ideas drive my current study of how socioeconomic resources and future prospects affect young women’s investment and power in heterosexual romantic relationships."
Construction of adolescent sexuality; cultivation of young women's sexual subjectivity; gendered power; youth empowerment; feminist theories and methods
Professor Laina Bay-Cheng earned her PhD from the University at Michigan, completing the joint program in Social Work and Psychology. She joined the School of Social Work in 2005 and served as PhD Program Director from 2012-2019. Since the beginning of her career, she has concentrated on the social determinants of young women’s sexual well-being. In contrast to the dominant equation of youth sexuality with risk, Bay-Cheng contends that young women’s vulnerability to negative sexual experiences stems from unjust social norms and material conditions. Reflecting her interdisciplinary background and perspective, Bay-Cheng uses diverse theories and methods in her scholarship and publishes in well-regarded journals across disciplines. She is pursuing two lines of questioning in her current research projects: 1) how young women’s sexual experiences, including of unwanted sex, vary at intersections of gender, class, and race; and 2) the impact of neoliberal ideology on constructions of young women’s sexuality. She also continues to collect data using the Sexual Life History Calendar protocol she developed, including a recently completed study using a newly digitized, self-administered version of it. Bay-Cheng is also a committed advocate for comprehensive and critically conscious sexuality education.