Confessions of a Phone Sex Worker

We all know what those "Phone Actresses Wanted" ads really mean -- a blow-off job with flexible hours and a decent work-to-pay ratio for someone with the ambition of a beach-bum, the catch being that you have to eat, breathe, think and talk sex. Okay, didn't sound too bad -- "might even learn something," I thought to myself.The fat lady with too much makeup on sitting behind the desk told me that I didn't need a college degree for this job. (Oh, well.) She said that all I had to do was talk to them. "Like, you know how to do that by now or you're a moron." Okay, so, I'm not a moron -- this is gonna be easy.I had my very own cubicle with a plastic shower curtain. I was surrounded by unnerving sounds of ecstasy -- an incredible collective orgasm was taking place. But when the men got automatically cut off after ten minutes, the sources of those hair-raising sounds would emerge from behind their curtains. Immediately, there would be laughter and snide vulgarity-ridden comments about the men who just jacked off to the sound of their voice.I furtively listened to the woman next to me moaning and muttering enticing commands with a thick Spanish accent. She had no shame, standing there with her curtain wide open, giving me a sly and knowing wink as she ran her hand up and down her thigh. Hanging up, she lit a cigarette and exclaimed, "Asshole."ALL A GAMEI caught on quickly -- women have always been great at faking orgasms, at making men feel great, at convincing them that we're having a great time too. It became clear to me that this was all a game, it was all a dupe. More of the same pulling of the wool over naive, stupid, and lonely men's eyes -- many of them actually turned on by the sexy and alluring girls on those late-night commercials -- and subjecting them to the contrived sensuousness of our voice, of our tone and our words, lulling them along with visions of "Playboy "and MTV.Yes, at the phone sex company, men were considered to be another distinct and distant species, just as in any other gathered group of women. But this was a business and the point was to make tons of money off of that very notion.So I began to transcribe the most base and primitive shared physical experiences into something tangible and immediate, marketable and consumable. But soon after I lost my inhibitions, the FCC bowed to the grace of god and government and decided it was time to regulate this highly personal use of our public telephone lines. We were no longer allowed to pretend to participate in any acts of sex. As long as people were calling us, rather than the now more popular call-back services, it was a business line and therefore subject to federal regulation. So now we could only talk about it.IS THIS REALLY SEX?So many of the men who called up didn't know what to expect anyway -- was this really sex? Are you a real person? Is your name really Daniella? The number of guys who actually and immediately demanded to be jacked off was fairly small. And, after the FCC regulation, that wasn't what I was supposed to be doing anyways. It was my chance -- and justification -- to dig-in and attempt to find out the scoop.Probing questions about sexuality tend to create a form of instant intimacy and self-expression (remember "Sex, Lies and Videotape "). Safe behind the guise of the bold Daniella, I asked the kinds of questions I would never ask a stranger face-to-face, and I was increasingly told things that a man would never ever say to a strange woman face-to-face."What's your most intense fantasy?"("To have two girls at once.")"What's your favorite position?"("Doggie-style.")"What do you like to do when you're alone?"("Call you up" or "jack-off.")"What kind of women do you like?"("Anyone who'll go out with me.")All were typical answers.There were certain special instances where I really picked up on the guy on the other end, who I'd get along with in such a way that it would lead to sarcasm, to witticisms, to coy banter that became only edged in sex. I usually couldn't bring myself to get all fake and phony with them. Rather, I ended up actually flirting in a much more intellectual kind of way, challenging the whole set-up, picking up on their personality, asking lots of questions and offering my own insights and experiences. Then they're surprised:I asked Mike from Alabama what his fantasy was. He wanted to be on a beach in Mozambique writing The Great American Novel -- an autobiography about his 70s generation. He felt that the 60s generation left us with nothing but drugs and a huge unanswered metaphysical question. The love and peace never carried over. He made me laugh and we talked about Vonnegut. Then he told me that he lost his legs in a hit-and-run accident.UP-CLOSE AND PERSONALMy questions became even more personal and leading. I was hearing such bizarre things -- the kinds of things that I had only heard in the context of jokes before -- jokes that were an easy way of expressing fear, insecurity and noncomprehension of so-called deviant tendencies, which we may all be capable of. I wanted to know what the hell was going on and I was in a position to be an Oprah, a Phil, or a Geraldo -- but up-close and personal, confidential and, most importantly, anonymous. And most men were more than willing to talk.He told me that he was all dressed up.I asked him where he was going."Nooo. I'm all dressed up like a woman."I asked him about his mother."She was a very strong personality. The girls next door were in charge. They gave me a spanking if I didn't obey them."I asked him about his first time having sex. He said he was 32."She made me suck on it at first. Then she put it in me."I asked him if he likes to be hurt."I don't know... when she put me on her knee and hit me I felt taken care of. I felt secure."I asked him about his dressing up thing."I just like to be recognized as a girl. It's hard 'cause they expect you to be a male."HEELS AND STOCKINGSDo so many heterosexual men dress up like women when they're alone because our society, riddled with double standards, denies them the okay to do so? Why is it all right for women to openly dress like men? Ridiculing this behavior, rather than condoning it, breeds fear and resentment. And the women who participate in this ridicule become the ultimate target -- payback time. He was telling me about his slave and he kept saying "you.""I'd dress you up in heels and stockings, make you walk around and wear a collar... are you going to suck these heels?""No."Silence."You better suck these heels.""Or else what?""I'll hit you...with a paddle...on your ass."Now I was silent."Now, are you going to suck these heels?""No.""You're pissing me off."I didn't want to let them hurt me and I certainly didn't want to hurt them, but this was not what they were paying for. I was called "Mistress" again and again and asked to describe how I would punish them. I would be like, "what the fuck" and ask them why they needed to be punished. "I've been bad" or "because I'm dirty." I would ask why they wanted me to hurt them. "Because it makes me feel safe and taken care of" -- kind of like the guy whose fantasy was to be treated like a baby, with diapers and all. Mommy, mommy. Then he wanted to pee in my face.ASHAMED AND CONFUSEDThe sado-masochism thing was new to me. Never considering myself prude or closed-minded about sex before, I found myself cringing when the other women would sit there with their curtain wide open so we could all see, slapping their legs to animate what they were doing to the man on the other end. I didn't understand why they would want me to step on their balls with the heels of my shoes.Frankly. I became totally aggravated with these men and, in a moment of personal exasperation, I allowed Daniella to take over and I proceeded to pretend to whip some poor schmoe with a hairbrush -- the only thing he had handy. Then I told him to use the bristle side on the already sore spot on the inside of his thigh. I heard him whacking and each time he hit himself I commanded him, "harder!", making him scream out with each hit. "Louder!" I'd say as he moaned and groaned, as Daniella became more enthusiastic about it. And when the call suddenly ended, I sat there in a stunned silence, feeling ashamed and confused.And then there was Eddie, the vegetable farmer from Georgia. He described his basement torture chamber to me and I learned all about nipple clamps and other such paraphernalia. His mistress would get him stoned by shooting pot into his penis and then she would shoot up herself through her clitoris. They did "coke fucks" so that he wouldn't lose his hard-on, and then she would tie his arms up over his head to a swivel hook in the ceiling, tie his balls up to another one in the floor, and then spin him around while whipping him. At that point, I didn't even wonder "is this guy putting me on?" because I was learning that absolutely anything was possible.More and more, it became obvious that men were incredibly confused about gender, about how they're supposed to behave, and about what women want from them. According to so much of what they said, it seemed that men felt that they were being discriminated against because they are men -- just as women are, but in a much more less-obvious, underlying way. John thought that women are too aggressive. "They just want sex and don't think men could want anything more," and Pete-TV producer felt that women were only nice to him because of his job.CROSSING THE FANTASY LINEThen there were the guys who were lonely and actually latched on to you, who found something in your small talk that gave them that bright yet distant spark of light that they won't have to be alone forever more, that there may be hope yet.Mike who was 44 and lives out in the woods of Ohio with his two Irish Setters, who's a self-proclaimed "old-fashioned romantic" who likes to hold hands and take walks in the park and who called me "a good girl" for knowing where Lake Schroon in the Adirondacks was, for having been to Lake George. He desired more of me as I became more concrete, as the picture in his mind of the long- legged red-haired beauty that I'd described to him took on a more life-like form. He brought up the notion of real contact; he crossed the fantasy line and wanted me to write to him. He wanted me to talk about myself and tell him what I liked. I pictured being out in his deep woods and told him I liked lightening storms, he tells me, "listening to the rainfall from inside a tent."He started to take shape for me, out in the woods with his dogs, taking on a real paternal edge to his slight twang. I listened to him talk about sharing and caring, about "a woman's feelings, her emotions, and giving without expecting anything back." I asked if he was ever married and he tells me that his wife of 13 years was killed by a drunk driver. We end the call, not by being abruptly cut off, but by him wrapping it up with a "I guess this is too good to be true." Not once did we mention sex.BLAME THE MENThe realization that there was no real possibility (just another dupe) saddened me. I didn't want to add to these men's constant dissatisfaction with women and relationships. So many of the other women who worked at phone-sex goaded these men on, never seeming to realize that it was a fragile and serious sentiment for these men to see us as real people. Our common foe is supposed to be men, right? Who else is to blame for all of the miscommunication and dishonesty that seems to be the norm in today's relationships? Just like the group of prostitutes in the Pat Benatar video "Love Is A Battlefield," there was a camaraderie -- an "us and them" attitude that allowed us, as women, to unite with the common theme of male-bashing.Sometimes I thought that many of these women reveled in the fact that we were lying to these men and taking their money in order to get even with the abusive boyfriend or husband who was waiting for them at home, or an ex whose bad taste is still in their mouth.The type of woman, real or not, portrayed by phone sex either becomes the object of abuse and violence, or is revered as an all-powerful and dominating, untouchable figure. I wondered about women after the fantasy is stripped away. What were we left with? Trying to come up with some sort of answer to that question only led to heavy sighs. The men I spoke to had no clue.THE EMPTINESS INSIDE REMAINSTowards the end of my stint at the phone-sex company, I became bitter and brazen. It was becoming difficult for me to listen and talk to these men. Where I used to be curious, I was exasperated, and where I wanted to connect as a real person to a real person, the reality of what was going on became too much for me to deal with.Their responses of "I'd rather you be mean to me from the start than mean at the end," or "might as well beat me to hurt me... won't hurt as much as a broken heart" made me question what it is that we -- as men and women -- do to each other psychologically. We play our games, we raise our children wearing blue for boys and pink for girls, we create commercials that associate sex with material products to purchase, obtain and own.What kind of restrictions are these that are placed upon us solely because of gender? Okay, so we're all familiar with sexism by now, but it's not commonly recognized that it works both ways. For a man to cry openly, to dance freely, to act cowardly, to wear a skirt in public, for god's sake -- why the hell not?Phone-sex givers have an arsenal filled with manipulative techniques based on want, on desperate need, and on something that we, as women, have but that they, as men, do not. Is this what men are scared of? No matter how basic the analysis may be, there exists a vacuous fear in men that women do not really need them. The result is over-compensation, as far as control and power is concerned. Instead of dealing with these facts of life, we construct edifices of denial that do a delusive job of smoothing out the cracks. And, like a drug addict, the emptiness inside remains.How was I personally effected by this experience? No, my sex life has not noticeably improved, though I may be more open-minded and knowledgeable. Maybe I'm more understanding and patient when it comes to men but, then again, maybe I'm more cynical and jaded. Whatever it is, I'm glad to have had the chance to play psychologist without a PhD, I'm glad to have been a priest who heard many a confession without having gone to a seminary, and I'm especially glad that I was a welcome surprise to so many men who expected only the worst.

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