I left University with a degree in Drama that I wasn’t sure I wanted but was fairly certain would be completely useless. I had no idea of what direction I wanted my life to take. The only work I could find was the part time selling of frozen food to posh people.
(Melo)dramatic events over the past couple of years left me feeling drained and lost (and lacking in self esteem without even realising it). Bullies at Uni, parents divorce, all the ultimate of #firstworldproblems.
I spent hours, days, weeks, months, procrastinating, the more jobs I applied for the less I knew what I wanted to do. I was lost and I hated it because I’d always known what the next step was.
The following things happened. A joke was made, a Google search done, and before I knew it I was being interviewed by a guy about my age for a job as an ‘operator’ for an ‘adult’ phone line. Hours whenever you want them, able to fit it in around your other job, and possible writing fodder/hilarious stories- what more could you want?
The interview was pretty standard, which I was relieved about because funnily enough Google didn’t have the answer to “What questions do they ask in a phone sex interview?”
My dramatic skills were clearly going to pave the way to my success
He asked me:
1. Tell me about yourself
2. Do you know the topics you’re not allowed to discuss? (Basically anything illegal, which I was more than happy to oblige)
And that was it. I suspect it was all just a formality to see that my voice didn’t sound like my throat was crammed with marbles and harmonicas (actually that might sound great).
The interview was cut short by a bee flying into his office and a few weeks later I was nervously logging on for my first call.
The man wanted to give me an enema.
After that first call things remained both terrifying and exhilarating. I was so nervous when the phone rang, never knowing what voice would be at the end, or what would be required of me.
Sometimes I was utterly bored and I’d pray for them to finish and hang up.
Sometimes I was fascinated when it became clear to me that there is no ‘normal’ sexuality. Sometimes I’d laugh with surprise as people were real with me and made jokes. Sometimes all I was required to do was moan over and over (and I learnt to keep a glass of water by the bed for such dry-throat inducing activities).
Sometimes I clutched the phone tight as I gave well-meaning advice and listened to stories that stayed with me, still to this day. Some men sounded familiar, one like a famous person, one reminded me of my Grandpa who passed away.
He lectured me on not being a practicing Jew and then spoke for hours about how guilty he felt for calling. His wife came into the room and he had to hang up. I hope he has found some peace of mind because he seemed so...tortured.
I started to get regulars. I felt almost affectionate to some of them and enjoyed the calls. I listened to men who felt such guilt and pain and loneliness. I become a therapist, a mother, a nurse, a comfort. It felt both rewarding and very, very sad.
One of my regulars would constantly ask if I had been talking about him, he wanted me to mock him, humiliate him. He saw a therapist for his numerous fetishes, he once admitted.
My friends found it hilarious and begged for stories and details and asked endless questions. None of them judged me, or if they did they kept it to themselves. They wanted to know the kinds of men who called, and the answer was usually white, usually middle aged, usually married and always so heart-achingly lonely.
The very strangest request was (cleverly dubbed by my friends) Chicken Man. He called and explained the scenario to me:
I was to be his owner and he was to be my pet chicken, he lived in the garden and was very trusting of me but I was to bring him into the house and cook him as part of a roast dinner and eat him.
I did just that. I lured the chicken into the house, plucked his feathers, washed him, stuffed him, and then cooked him in the oven as I prepared the vegetables. All the while talking to him and explaining what I was doing (chopping potatoes) and why I was doing it (hungry) to a ‘scared’ and ‘frightened’ Chicken-Man.
Once he was cooked (still alive and talking) I ate him slowly, he was very pleased to be “nourishing” me and after a while he thanked me and said he’d enjoyed the conversation a lot.
He asked if I would eat something so he could hear, maybe an apple, if he rang again.
People always ask how you managed to talk to him without laughing, but the answer is that it was too surreal to be funny.
Me eating some chicken nuggets, a bit more enthusiastically
Only one call turned my stomach and left me shaken afterwards, needing a hug from the boyfriend, the content kept turning to all the ‘taboo’ topics that are too triggering to list here. I was glad I had the protection of the company behind me and could threaten to terminate the call if he didn’t stop trying to steer things in that direction. I really wonder what had happened to this young man for these to have been his fantasies.
Eventually, after a while, I decided to stop. The calls left me feeling both desired and worthless. None of it felt real.
I wasn’t a woman with thoughts and feelings and needs of my own, I was merely a tool for them. The men called because it gave them an outlet to be completely selfish and demand what they wanted and hang up the second they’d finished. It was nothing to do with ‘me’ or who I was.
Which is fine I guess if that’s what they want, but it didn’t make me feel good about myself. And no matter how much I tried to justify ‘women’s right to choose’ ideologies, in my heart of hearts I felt like my actions weren’t doing womankind any good. I worried about explaining myself to Emily Davison.
I told the married men who opened up to me that they should be speaking to their wives. I told the man who hadn’t been in a relationship in years that he shouldn’t see a prostitute to stave off the loneliness. But I never knew what became of these little stories and tiny connections. I don’t know if they listened.
I pitied the men who rang and felt disgusted by them too. I started to hate them just a tiny bit for not filling the emptiness inside me, for still not making me feel like I was good enough. Instead I felt like I was less. Just a voice, an idea, barely even that.
So I had to stop because I realised that I was working for that line for the exact same reason that they all called- not for orgasms- but because of the utter pain of loneliness. In a relationship that wasn’t working and in a life that was treading water.
I wanted to like men again and trust that not all men are the same as the ones that called. And I wanted to talk to people who saw my worth as being deeper than the moans I made, the stories I spun, and the price per minute.