Understanding Phone Sex
It's not just about getting off
Published February 28, 2000 in Crave

Phone sex is a multimillion dollar a year industry -- I just don't get it. Phone sex just doesn't do much for me.

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... in the Crave section
... from February 28, 2000

I've tried -- God knows I've tried. Inevitably I start laughing. The absurd mechanics of trying to remove my pants and deal with God-knows-what while holding a phone is enough to kill the mood for me right off. But hey, that's just me, and I'm obviously in the minority.

Since I couldn't figure out the allure of phone fucking on my own, I thought perhaps I should enlist the help of a friend of mine, Divina, who has worked in the phone sex industry for many years. I figured I could spend some time with her, interview her a bit, listen to some calls, study her habits, and then document all of my findings in an essay of extreme sociological importance.

I hadn't seen her in quite a while, so I called her up, told her what I was doing, that I'd like to hang out with her while she worked the phones for a day so that I might lift the veil from the face of this secret world, exposing the truth of whatever lay beneath, and tell the story to the world.

"Yeah, whatever ... you got any booze?" was her reply.

I affirmed the presence of liquor in my cupboards, and she said she was on her way.

Here's the way a basic phone sex system works: Customers thumb through ads in publications that range from glossy porno mags to local neighborhood papers. They come across a small advertisement, usually in the back of the publication featuring a very alluring male or female, with a phone number to call for "some real hot talk." In the past, the number would typically begin with a 900 prefix. This meant that the caller's next phone bill would contain a pirate-like gouge, probably something around $3 a minute, just for dialing the digits.

Now one is more likely to find an innocuous 800 number with the word "FREE" and many of its synonyms surrounding the number encouragingly. Calling that number patches you into a central office (I believe Divina's is in San Diego) which gives you a pleasant recording of a female voice that is best described as hot. Once you hear how much it will cost to continue the call, I would imagine most callers simply call back and listen to the free hot operator again, do what they need to do before the toll kicks in, and call it a day. That's what I would do. But many don't.

After the arousing discussion of the bill, a caller is given the option of either dialing an extension or listening to a selection of prerecorded voices of girls who are just hungry to take his or her call.

Divina has given me the access number. I call it and listen to her message. It tells me that she is 5'7", 110lbs, blonde/green, married, with 36DD breasts. None of this is true.

Meanwhile, on the other end of things...the girls that will actually be taking the live calls call the central office in San Diego and log themselves on as available and working.

They are paid on a commission basis, meaning that while they are sitting by their phones watching midget lesbians beat the hell out of each other on Jerry Springer, they do not get paid. Once the phone starts ringing, the money starts flowing -- an amount that is determined by the length of the call.

The guy calling listens to a barrage of minute-long messages from various women, allowing him to hear the woman's voice, her physical description (yeah, right), and her interests which, coincidentally, are never anything less than extraordinarily sexual.

So the guy picks someone out, and presses her buttons, so to speak. Back on the live girl end, her phone rings a special "priority" ring to distinguish this call as "special," allowing her to get into character. Once she picks up the phone, he incurs tolls, and she starts getting paid.

Divina comes over to my house (she cited a messy house caused by her cat's anal rupture as the reason she had to come to my place...I did not argue). As soon as she steps in she starts jiggling a bottle of muscle relaxants and singing an improvised song I'll assume is called Let's Get High because those are the only words. It's not a bad song, actually. We take some pills and she washes them down with Tequiza. She says she has to take Valium to do this, because otherwise she gets disgusted. She calls San Diego to log on and have her calls come to my number.

So far so good. But then she starts talking. And she doesn't stop. It's truly frightening, and yet fascinating. She somehow manages to ask me an occasional question without ever allowing me to answer. I can only assume that it is a result of trying to stretch her calls out to maximum imaginable length to get more money...but still: spooky.

I have all but blocked her out when there's a funny double ring coming from my phone. She clears her throat and picks up my phone.

The first call is a man who wants to discuss a scenario in which she drugs him and cuts off his penis and hides it in the freezer. The callonly gets stranger as it progresses. Ten minutes into the call she has removed his unit and he has come to, sans penis, and is freaking out. She has him put on some high heels to calm down. At one point, I almost blow the whole call by laughing: They are talking about his unit being in the freezer, and she has asked him what he wants to do with it, and he says he wants to play with it. "Well, walk those heels into the kitchen and get that dick outta the freezer, bitch!" Soon she is describing both of them stomping on it together with high heels. Then she commands him to put it in the garbage disposal.

The next guy has a fairly strong obsession with leather and pies in the face -- two great tastes that taste great together. The next gentleman caller wants Divina to kill him while he sucks her husband's dick. Twenty-seven minutes of that. It would go longer, but they are interrupted: "Oh shit!" he says, "I've got Crisco on my dick, porn all over the bed, and my wife just pulled in the driveway!"

"Well you better get wipin' and hidin'...call me back."

Next call.

This guy is from Sacramento and stutters. Bad. Needless to say, his call takes a long time. Forty-seven minutes to be precise. The weird thing about this is that at $3 a minute, he doesn't even talk about sex.

"Oh yeah ... he would just kinda talk about this part of his life and that part of his life ... very strange. You could tell he wasn't even spankin' it," Divina will tell me after she hangs up.

The fact that someone would pay someone by the minute just to talk depresses me way more than the notion of someone paying someone to talk about sex, which already depresses me pretty heavily.

As she is taking these calls, she is fully clothed, wearing sweats, sitting on my bed, eating peanut butter cups and watching Baywatch with the sound muted. She rolls her eyes frequently and mouths words that I can't make out, but are clearly expressions of disgust. I'm no prude, but listening to these calls reveal psychological issues that I never could have invented.. Divina has made over a hundred dollars in a very short time, but at what cost? She is heavily medicated, and even in that state, most of the calls disturb her: She is in a much more cynical, bitter mood now than when she arrived.

Once she leaves, I think I understand the allure of phone sex: It is not so much sexual as psychological. The primary interest of the callers, what excites them the most, seems to be the idea that they are talking to another human being about things they could never possibly share with anyone else without being locked up and placed on very powerful, professionally dispensed medication.

It's phone sex operator as confessor, a nonjudgmental peer with whom to share your darkest, most depraved secrets.

At $3 per minute.