Emily Depasse is a writer, yogi, graduate student, and aspiring sexologist. She has contributed to a variety of different publications, including HealthCentral and The Salisbury Flyer. In her interview with The Flat Circle, Emily discusses her goals as a writer and the challenges of writing about sex. She also notes how Carrie Bradshaw of HBO’s Sex and the City has influenced her.
Flat Circle: There are many sides to a complex subject like sex. What are you trying to accomplish through your writing?
Emily Depasse: Whether we, as a society, want to admit it or not, we are confronted by sex daily. I am not speaking to just the physical act of intercourse, but broader topics such as the difference between sex and gender, newsworthy trials about rape and abuse, the clothes we wear, the music we listen to, and the media we are exposed to. Sex is so interwoven into our daily lives that many of us are unable to transcribe the messages being sent. My writing focuses on dissecting those messages specifically answering the simple, yet expansive, question of “Why?”
I believe that we all have unspoken stories beneath our skin. Despite how dissimilar our journeys may be, there is potential to unite in life events that have affected us. Whether that be a new friendship, a move, mourning a long-term relationship, travelling to a foreign country, the death of a loved one, or in my case, an STI diagnosis. This list is inexhaustible. It’s easy to focus on the differences, rather than empathetically join in similar feelings that these experiences emote and the internal processes that are so often overlooked.
FC: You write about subjects that are very personal to you. How did you become comfortable going public with topics that are so private?
ED: From a young age, I remember telling myself that I was, “different to make a difference.” It is a phrase that echoes in my mind whenever I feel that my purpose, or what I feel to be my purpose, is misunderstood. I originally entered college with the desire to be an elementary school teacher. Along the way, I learned that I got the teacher part right, but needed to refine my audience and content. Four years later, I graduated with my BA in Gender and Sexuality Studies.
My experiences shape my research interests. My undergraduate research focused on the interaction that body image, awareness, and surveillance played in female arousal and sexual response. I suffered from an eating disorder when I was a junior in high school. This research presented me with an opportunity to explore something that affected me, and so many others, and present it in a new light. My herpes diagnosis afforded me a similar opportunity, one that I honestly did not believe I would consider to be a professional specialization. Although I spend a significant amount of time in feminist theory, scientific research and analysis have provided me solace in some of my darkest moments. I speak out about my personal experiences because I am familiar with the shadows that are attached to them. It is my goal that my voice can provide just enough light for the shadows to begin to fade.
FC: What are some challenges that you face as a blogger?
ED: Sex carries a stigma. When people learn that I am writing about sex, let alone studying human sexuality, there are usually three camps: 1) those that believe it is needed, 2) those that read my general interest in sexuality as a representative reflection of my sexuality, or 3) the (usually conservative) questioning of what I could accomplish with such a degree. As far as my audience, my content can be quite heavy, and as you suggested, considered private by many—despite its prevalence in our lives.
It’s never easy to go against what we believe to be true, but I try to challenge what we think we know. I recently started a series entitled, “The Marriage Myth.” 25 is apparently the age at which wedding invitations flood millennial’s’ mailboxes. I have been to at least five or six weddings this year alone. With each wedding that I attended, I grew bored of hearing the same psalms, vows, and virtually witnessing the same ceremony. It led me to the questions, “Why? Why do we participate in these traditions and where did they originate?” Many so easily assume that we have to participate—we have to have bridesmaids/groomsmen, have to exchange rings, have to host multiple events leading up to a wedding, and the truth is, you don’t need any of it. I do not disprove of couples’ marital choices, but I do think they should be privy to the historical origins and how they may or may not affect their personal views.
As far as my own limitations, prioritization can be challenging. I am working full-time and am enrolled in a dual-degree graduate program. My social work program is online, while my human sexuality classes are pre-determined weekends (9-7 and 10-6) throughout the semester. When I do have free weekends, they are devoted to schoolwork. When it comes down to writing a paper, versus researching and writing something for my blog, the paper must win. My education comes first at this juncture. I am a perfectionist to a fault, and by nature, I will always try to do it all with what I can, but my blog has taken a bit of a backseat since adjusting to schoolwork.
FC: One of your favorite television shows is Sex and the City. Has Carrie Bradshaw factored into your identity as a writer?
ED: Yes! Despite the critiques of Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw has been an influential writing figure of mine for nearly ten years. Though being a fan can come as a disadvantage at times. One family member suggested that I be more like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, another one of my role models, and less like Carrie Bradshaw. I took offense at this notion because I have never strived to be anyone but myself. Of course, we look to such figures for inspiration and hope for our dreams and aspirations, but both Carrie Bradshaw and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ legacies have manifested, Emily Depasse’s is still in the making.
FC: Are there any current television series that you believe are positive influences on sexuality and sex?
ED: Candidly, I am out of the loop when it comes to hip cable television and subscription series. I have one television in my household, but it’s never on. I have no cable subscription. I’ve exhausted my box collection of Sex and the City DVDs beyond repair. Literally, most of the discs have been watched so many times that they no longer work. With that being said, I feel as though I cannot accurately speak to this question.
FC: In addition to being a writer, student, and aspiring sex therapist, you have been a yoga instructor. Are there any outdoor spots in Philadelphia that you enjoy doing yoga?
ED: I am currently not teaching anywhere due to time constraints, but as far as outdoor spaces, anywhere near the water. During the summer months, I would recommend Yoga on the Pier. For the yoga-curious, I recommend trying multiple studios, teachers, and styles. There is more than just one style of yoga, and it will likely lead you off the mat and into your mind.
FC: If you were marooned on a desert island, what book, movie or TV box set, and luxury item are you taking with you?
ED: Since my Sex and the City Collection is no longer, I would download all seasons (now, 20) of Law and Order: SVU on my laptop. As far as luxury items go, I feel as though my SJP heels and sand would not quite work in one another’s favor. I suppose SVU and SweetBox Cupcakes will have to satiate me.
This is the fifth post in a recurring spotlight series on Philadelphia bloggers. You can check out the most recent interview with Philly blogger Sarah More, click here.