Seven Things I Learned as a Male Phone Sex Operator

Noah Brand talks about his days working phone sex, and the important lessons he took away.

Long and many a year ago, I spent a lean summer working from home doing phone sex. It was an interesting experience, and in its own odd way, a lot of fun. I don’t know how well my experience has aged; the long-distance sex industry has evolved a lot in the years since I lay on my bed with an old landline phone, practicing convincing fellatio noises. Nonetheless, I learned a lot of things from that job. Well, seven things.

1. Men can be commodified

Like the rest of us, I grew up in a culture where women’s sexuality is commodified, assumed to be a desirable product that can be advertised and sold. Men’s sexuality, on the other hand, never is. In the sentence “I want you” we’re always the subject, never the object. Any woman will tell you that always being the object of desire is pretty bad, and that’s true. But as a lot of guys, including Hugo Schwyzer, have pointed out, never being the object of desire can be pretty rough too. It was weird for me, honestly, being sold that way. A guy so desirable to talk to that other dudes would pay for it. It was unfamiliar, because I was being sold as a gay guy, which isn’t my thing, but there was a certain undeniable appeal to being able to be the object of desire, the commodity. Maybe it’s only because it was a novelty for me, but then, there is value in new experiences.

2. Male orgasmic remorse is a thing

Many men have written about the experience of orgasmic remorse, where you’re wildly enthusiastic about whatever’s getting you off, right up until you come, at which point your enthusiasm vanishes instantly. Sometimes it’s instantly replaced by shame or guilt, in guys who feel bad about what they were enjoying. Sometimes, related to that, it’s even replaced by revulsion. This has led to a lot of mistreatment of sex partners by messed-up guys who were happy to be fucking two minutes ago, but now their societal programming’s kicking back in and they’re right back to hating sluts or homos or whatever kind of hate gets them off.

Most guys, though, it’s just a lack of enthusiasm, a fast emotional comedown, a rapid closing of browser tabs. And with phone sex, the moment you come, you suddenly remember how much you’re paying per minute for this. And in the case of many of my customers, you suddenly remember that you’re straight and you have a girlfriend. (More on that in #5.) It was a rare case where a guy would stay on the line more than about ten seconds after orgasm… the most I’d get would be “That was awesome, thanks, CLICK.” More often I’d just hear them come, and then instantly CLICK, they’d hang up without another word. Some dudes, I’d just hear their breathing change as they started to come, and CLICK.

I don’t hold it against them, mind you. I did the same thing as a teenager when I called phone sex lines. Orgasm causes most guys to ask “Oh god, what the hell am I doing?” Sometimes the answer is “I’m in bed with someone I love and that’s awesome” but sometimes it’s “I’m paying five bucks a minute for a voice that’s doing a half-decent job of not sounding bored.” You’d hang up too.

3. Female callers are solid gold

The previous point notwithstanding, nature has blessed many of her children with the ability to get off and yet keep going. I am referring (mostly) to women. Female callers to male phone sex lines are rare but precious, and they were always my favorites. Partly because women are who I’m attracted to in real life, partly because it was a nice change of pace, but mainly because they liked longer calls and I got paid by the minute. One charming, lonely young woman stayed on the line with me forty-five minutes, not more than half of which was sex. Compare that to the five-minute average I had with guys calling, and you see how the business model shapes up. All gender idealism aside, a job’s a job.

4. Follow, don’t lead

Phone sex is essentially a form of improvisational theater, two voices contributing to a scene they make up as they go along. Professional phone sex means that the customer is always right, which means that a key rule of improv applies: never say “no”, always say “yes, and…”

If I was describing myself to a customer and he said “I bet you’re a pretty hairy guy, huh?” then by god, I would be. Not too hairy, but nicely fuzzy, kind of soft and warm… the key phrases people respond to are fairly obvious with a little practice. In a way, it has as much in common with cold reading as improv; I learned to take my cues from the signals guys didn’t know they were sending. Guys who described their cocks as “juicy” wanted to be sucked. Guys who excitedly asked if I was taller than them wanted to be topped. Guys who described themselves as unsure wanted to be seduced, wanted me to be unable to resist them, wanted me to take loud and voluble pleasure in the details of their bodies. (Pro tip: almost every customer I ever had loved hearing how much I liked tracing that line of soft hair down from their navel to their dick. I offer this knowledge for the public good.)

More than anything, guys wanted to feel wanted. Especially the straight guys.

5. Awful lot of closeted guys in this country

If I had a nickel for every call that started out “My girlfriend doesn’t know I call these lines”… oh, wait, I do. That was the arrangement.

I’m not saying all the guys I talked to were gay. I’m just saying most of them sure seemed to get off to having phone sex with another man, which is, not joking, not the same thing. I sometimes imagine how many marriages there must be where a guy is masturbating to gay porn while his wife masturbates to yaoi and slash, both thinking “No one must ever know” when if they just compared notes, they could have an awful lot of fun. Bisexuality, people. It’s a thing. Look it up.

6. More men than you think want tenderness and appreciation

Not all of them were calling for the sex, though. Often it felt a bit obligatory, as though they were saying to themselves, “Well, I did call this phone sex line. Better have phone sex, that’s what it says on the label.” That was fine with me; given what always happened after they shot their load, I’d just as soon put that part off. A lot of them, as I say, just wanted to feel wanted. Some of the closeted guys wanted to try on the idea of talking sweetly and closely with another man, to see if that was really possible. They wanted to lay bare a part of themselves that they couldn’t show anyone else, and be told it was okay. Honestly, I suspect some of the guys I talked to weren’t even bi. They were just so hungry for appreciation and validation that they were willing to pretend to be.

7. Awful lot of lonely people in this country

The one thing that male and female callers had in common, apart from liking my voice and saying they wished they could request me personally next time*, was how many of them really just wanted a voice. A human voice to speak kindly to them in the long watches of the night, to tell them they are good, and desired, and worthwhile. If you’ve never starved for lack of that voice, it’s hard to understand how deep that need can run. There were times in my life when I did the same thing, just reaching out for any kind of human connection at all, anything that would blunt the edge of the loneliness for even a little while. I was as kind as I could be to those customers, the ones who would pour out their hearts into my ear, the phone sex line more anonymous than the screen in a confessional.

I’ve been told that people who volunteer at suicide hotlines and teen-crisis lines get the same calls, folks just needing someone to listen, to acknowledge they’re alive for five minutes. It may be a sad reflection on our society that so many people feel that hunger for human connection and interpret it as horniness. Then again, that long-lost summer, I couldn’t complain. I suppose I helped some of them, and either way, they stayed on the line longer, and a job’s a job.

 

Photo—zigazou76/Flickr

*Bonus 8th thing I learned: Don’t work for a phone sex outfit that just puts you in an anonymous random pool. Regulars are where you build your business.

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Noah Brand

Noah Brand is an Editor-at-Large at Good Men Project, and possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.

Comments

  1. Could you write, or commission, an article just about male orgasmic remorse? I’ve never heard of it (aside from occasional stand-up comedy punchlines) and would like more insight into this phenomenon. I wonder if it happens to men in non-Western cultures too.

    Great read, by the way, Noah. I appreciate your personable writing style – the very same characteristics that probably helped you in this gig!

    • You might want to research Post-coital tristesse: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-coital_tristesse

      No primary sources found in my 2-minute Google-search, but most seem to think it’s hormonal (related to dopamine and/or prolactin) and that men suffer from it more often than women.

    • Yes! Please, please, write more about this!

      I actually thought this was something that just happened to me before reading this article. Thank you for talking about it. Understanding the neurophysiology would be really cool, but I can’t seem to find anything free online about it. I wonder if it’s linked at all to refractory period at all?

    • I’d also like to learn more about male orgasmic remorse.

  2. Alexis Rhone Fancher says:

    Terrific article. Makes me reconsider my future employment opportunities.

  3. I know men are human beings and they must want more than just sex. But, all they ever seem to offer is sex and selfishness for their own needs. How can they expect to find more if they ignore it or push it away when it is offered? I don’t need an answer really. I’ve done enough frog kissing.

  4. What I would really like to know is why someone would call when they are in a relationship that IS affirming and that offers real sex… is there something missing for that person?
    An interesting discussion would be whether or not this behavior from these men is actually cheating on their girlfriends that don’t know.

    • Michael says:

      An even more interesting discussion would be if “these men” had this urge and did not act on it, would they be cheating on themselves?

      • Surely you don’t really believe that, Michael?

        That someone who is being unfaithful to their partner would, really, be cheating on themselves if they don’t do what they’re tempted to do? Come on.

  5. I am a female phone sex operator and I must say the authors points are right on the money from my perspective. Nice post about the often forgotten phone sex industry!!

  6. I also worked as a phone operator these last few years and I’m amazed of how familiar this sounds.
    People usually can’t image how emotionally draining this line of work is…

  7. Michael says:

    I suspect that the guys are calling a phone sex line because something is missing from there relationships. I’ve met people who are near incapable of giving affirmation to others and didn’t realize it. It could be the guy is in a relationship that is not affirming at all.

    Also, many guys are raised to believe that no woman will ever accept who he is. It is hard to stop believing this, even when you know it isn’t true.

Speak Your Mind

*