In 2006, I was twenty-five, working a third-shift tech support job that was slowly crumbling out from under me, and swiping office supplies to make myself feel better. After a time, not even the stolen binders and the reams of paper made me feel better, so I turned to writing, and eventually, to professional phone-sex.
Phone-sex seemed like the perfect match for my late hours and innate desire to overshare with strangers. The agency I applied to seemed to think so as well — after a phone interview and a faxed copy of my driver’s license, I was hooked up and ready to take calls. To my surprise, it was incredibly easy. I had a handful of personas and fake accents; and pretty soon, I could clear between twenty-five and fifty dollars an hour on a good night. Independent phone-sex operators make more, but I didn’t care to mess around with tracking down assholes who canceled their cards after a four-hour session.
I made sure to keep a belt on hand that I could use to smack my couch cushions.
Professional phone-sex was almost exactly what I expected. Most of the men who called wanted someone to moan along to their fantasies, and I was ready and willing to help out. For the more hardcore customers, I made sure to keep a belt on hand that I could use to smack my couch cushions, and there was always a glass of water nearby by for the odd caller who liked watersports. I also had a pair of battered high heels by my desk so I could cater to fantasies of a domme in five-inch stilettos. I was prepared for just about every kink someone could come up with, but it didn’t take me long to realize that it wasn’t the kinks I had to watch out for.
One of the first genuine surprises the job had in store for me was how often I’d end up acting as someone’s Kink 101 teacher. Not long after I got started, I had a fairly tame call from a young man in Missouri who wanted to worship my feet. He called me “ma’am,” and it didn’t take more than some moans and a few descriptions of my feet on various parts of his anatomy before he was a very happy customer. I was telling him what a good boy he was when he sighed.
“I wish people did this in real life,” he said quietly.
“Oh, but they do!” I blurt
ed out, and for the next fifteen minutes, I told him all about how to get in touch with the various kink organizations in his city. He was hesitant, but I was firm; if he was as polite to the kinksters as he was to me, he was going to be fine. I like to think that he’s out there having the time of his life with a woman in super-high heels.
One night, my sultry greeting was cut short, and an angry voice asked me if I had seen the film 300. I said yes, and was immediately treated to a seven-minute rant on everything that was wrong with the movie, from the portrayal of the Persians to the war rhinoceros, which, shouting, he said, “looked like machine barf.” He ended on a particularly vicious note about people being too dumb to wear armor and how ridiculous the Spartans looked. There was a pause where I could hear him breathing hard, and for a second, it was just like a normal call.
“You all good?” I asked him tentatively.
“Yeah,” he said after a moment. “I think so.”
He hung up, and I shrugged and picked up my knitting again. I hadn’t thought 300 was that bad.
I lived in dread of mixing up my phone-sex job with my tech support job. While a sexy laugh and a description of my breasts might have gotten me good results from retirees who needed their televisions fixed, I couldn’t imagine it going over well with my managers. What I didn’t realize was that that wasn’t the way the mix-up was actually going to go.
The session itself wasn’t anything to write home about. I told him all about how good he made me feel and how much I wanted him, and he was done in pretty short order. He was one of the ones who stuck around for pillow talk. More time means more money for me, so I asked him how his night was going.
“Well, after that, I’d be great all around if my fuckin’ Internet worked!”
“Oh,” I said without thinking about it. “Are you going through a router or are you plugged straight into the wall?”
As it turned out, he was using a router. One hard reboot later, he was back online, and I realized that my life was getting seriously weird.
Sometimes, I didn’t feel like working very hard at all. My company required that you work at least four hours a week, but these hours could be whenever you pleased and broken up into as many chunks as you wanted. As long as you clocked the hours, you could stay on the payroll. You only got paid if you took calls, of course, but that suited me just fine. If I wasn’t in the mood to work that week, I’d log in at 2 p.m. on a weekday and spend some quality time surfing the Internet. Once, I had the bright idea to do that on Easter, because well, who calls a phone-sex line on the day of Christ’s resurrection?
“I miss him,” he said. “I miss him so goddamn much.”
As it turned out, only two or three guys will, but they will keep you on the phone forever. I ended up clocking more than six hours in a row that day, and it all passed by in a haze of fake whimpers, squelching noises I made with my hand and a bit of lotion, and a whole lot of men telling me how much they hated the holidays. Later that year, I elected to not work on Thanksgiving. Long calls pay the best, but holiday bitterness, I decided, was a line I was going to have to draw.
I was good at phone-sex because I’m pretty good at giving people what they want. Sometimes, this was a lot of fun, like in the case of the macho guy who called in on one of the standard lines. He wanted a nice and submissive girl who would “take it any way he gave it,” but something about his voice told me that that wasn’t all he wanted if he even wanted it at all. By the end of an hour-long session, he was writhing around on my strap-on and whimpering whenever I called him a nasty little girl. I’m still pretty proud of that one.
Sometimes, however, I got this little tickle at the back of my head, especially when one of my customers would hang around after they were done. I can’t even remember what this man called in for, but there was a catch to his breath after we finished up, and for some reason, I put down my sewing project.
“Honey?” I asked gently. “Are you okay?”
“I miss him,” he said, his voice flat as a board. “I miss him so goddamn much.”
In fits and starts, he told me about his best friend and how they had grown up together. His friend saw him off when he shipped out, and during the course of his tour, his friend only got more and more unstable. His voice broke just once when he told me about how he got back to the States right after his friend killed himself, and when I asked him when that was, he hesitated.
“Seven, maybe eight days ago?”
What do you do when that gets dropped in your lap? I was never trained for this. I knew how to sip water in the middle of a moan and how to troubleshoot a faulty Internet connection. But when someone’s doing that badly, you just have to do your best, no matter what.
I ended up talking with him for more than an hour. I curled up in my chair and told him that it was going to be tough, and that none of it was fair, and that he wasn’t alone. He cried, and I made shushing noises at him. Telling someone that you’re stroking their hair isn’t that different from telling them you’re stroking their cock, after all. When he calmed down a little bit, I asked him if he had a place to go and people to talk to, and he said yes. I asked him if he was safe, and he told me he was.
“Can I talk to you again?” he asked shyly, and I winced to myself. There’s no way to be sure that you’re going to get the same operator even if you call in on the same line, and I never worked regular hours in the first place.
“Maybe, sweetie,” I said. “But you make sure that you talk to those other people too, okay?”
He promised me he would, and now, more than five years later, I still wonder about him. I hope he got the help he needed, and that he’s having a better night than the one he was having when I met him.
Being a phone-sex operator was a lot like sitting in a confessional when the priest is away. You hear private things that should probably be told to someone else, but they need to be told to someone, so it might as well be you.
As it turned out, the late nights and the tech support job turned me into a crazy person, and not in a good way. When I got a chance to move, I grabbed it, and unfortunately, my company didn’t do business in the state where I was headed. I packed it in with a little bit of relief, a little more regret, and a real understanding that as long as I had a landline, I’d always have groceries and a source of really awkward stories to tell my friends.
I absolutely do not regret my year on the phones. After all, it was odd, often hilarious, and once in a while, just a little tragic. Considering that every job has its fair share of quiet tragedy and that most aren’t blessed with as many singular moments as this one was, I’d have to say it was one of my favorites.