Rise of the Stay-at-Home Phone Sex Operator

The lifestyle and retro appeal of "copulatory vocalization"

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[nicholassmale/flickr]

"He wanted you to cover your body in -- what?"

"Slices of American cheese," deadpans Domino, a surprisingly soft-spoken 27-year-old phone sex operator and stay-at-home mother who agreed to tutor me in advance of my scheduled stint as a phone sex operator.

Why would I try professional dirty talk? The decision actually began with a bit of reflection on wellness derived from occupational choices. While reading a recent Forbes article, "The Rise of The 1099 Economy: More Americans Are Becoming Their Own Bosses," I thought about my transition from sweater set wearing corporate peg (I worked as a bond trader at an elite investment bank from 2003 to 2006) to freelance writer. I realized a while ago that the day-to-day flexibility afforded by freelancing is crucial to my mental health, even at the cost of a regular Wall Street paycheck. What I didn't know was that I'm part of a larger phenomenon. Data supplied by Economic Modeling Specialists International shows a 14 percent increase in the number of people working mostly on their own since 2001, and, according to Forbes, the trend is expected to gain momentum.

Are these other 1099 devotees choosing self-employment for the lifestyle benefits? And in what fields are they working, I wondered -- partly because a freelancer is always on the lookout for additional sources of income.

Curiosity led me to Christine Durst, the co-founder of a company that places people in home-based occupations called Rat Race Rebellion. Durst explained that she works across a vocational spectrum encompassing everything from healthcare to consulting to engineering and phone sex. Regarding the latter, she cited a stark increase in the number of mothers becoming phone sex operators because the flexible hours allow them to spend more time with their children.

"I may not be a mom, but I completely understand that choice," I said.

Durst soon introduced me to Domino, who worked in the Sales & Marketing division of a Fortune 500 company prior to becoming a phone sex operator in 2010. We bonded immediately over our shared distaste for conventions such as billable hours and face time. From what Domino then described, the act of engaging strangers in sex talk seemed intimidating, but it also seemed doable from the comfort of my home. Far be it from me to spurn any method of earning an extra buck that will let me maintain my lifestyle.

***

On the morning of my phone sex operator debut as "Pussy Willow," I sat at my desk wearing the navy blue cotton shorts I've owned since college and one of my boyfriend's white V-neck tees, staring over my shoulder at the cable box's digital clock. It was 10:55am. Big Rick, the first to answer my ad in the adult section of backpage.com, was scheduled to call at 11:00am. Thanks to Google Voice, I'd set up a fake number that forwards calls to my cell automatically.

The difference between saying "I feel..." and "You make me feel so... " is truly remarkable.

As I waited, I called to mind Domino's main advice: "Being a phone sex operator is like Russian roulette in that you never know what you're going to get. One client might want me to tell him to swallow his own semen because he's totally into humiliation, and an hour later I could be blowing up balloons for another guy." I've seen too much pornography and one too many episodes of National Geographic's Taboo to qualify as sheltered, but as I imagined the realm of possibilities, I grew more and more scared that I wouldn't be able to stop myself from cracking up.

I'd also backed myself up with a beginner-in-the-industry standard setup. I left a porno clip up on my computer screen so I could hit play and describe what I saw in case I ran out of ideas. To my left, my iPad displayed photos of a shirtless Brad Pitt to get me in the mood. Also within reach was my Naughty Quadrant -- an original reference chart scribbled on loose leaf -- including sections for Pet Names (Handsome, Stud, Sex God, Big Daddy, etc.), Dirty Adjectives (hard, pulsating, throbbing, wet, etc.), Dirty Verbs (lick, suck, spank, engulf, etc), and Body Parts (tits, balls, tongue, lips, etc.).

I looked from Brad to porn to cheat sheet, then practice my sexy voice, which, Domino instructed, should be softer and slower than usual. Remember to drawwww out your syllables, I told myself, because aside from a hilarious request, my greatest fear was that I'd tire of speaking so unnaturally.

When the phone finally rang, a whole new crop of concerns surfaced.

Was there a standard number of rings to allow before answering? How did I neglect to go over basic etiquette with Domino? And why am I dressed like this? It takes a special kind of idiot to wear a shirt she associates with her real-life lover while ushering a stranger toward climax.

At the dawn of ring four I swallowed my emergency shot of tequila, and, I hoped, most of the self-doubt.

"Tell me this is Big Rick," I said, trying my best to lather each word with sensuality.

"Yup," replied a gruff, borderline blasé voice.

Did I speak too quickly? Or sound too babyish? Too ridiculous?

"Well, well well," I say, buying myself a second to be offended before remembering that it was my job to draw him in. "Does Big Rick want to get naughty? Because Pussy Willow's getting naked."

Presented by

Melanie Berliet

Mélanie Berliet is a writer/producer based in New York City. Her work has appeared in New York, Vanity FairElle, CosmopolitanSelf, Esquire, and McSweeney’s. She worked as a consulting producer on MTV's The Buried Life.

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