Talk to me, baby
June 11, 2008 1:01 PM   Subscribe

How would a person go about becoming a phone sex operator?

I have a great voice, a way with words, a remarkable imagination and...a nearly-empty bank account. While I'm struggling to find "real work," I've been thinking of becoming a phone sex operator.

However, I have no idea how to do so. And, in the initial research I've attempted, I'm confused. Anyone in the hivemind have any suggestions?
posted by CitizenD to Work & Money (16 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I have no idea how one becomes a phone sex operator, but based on the experience of a few people I know, I would advise against it. The people that run these operations are shady, and the businesses tend to be fly by night. It's very easy to get a few people, in your circumstances, to work for a few weeks, then shut down and move on, and never pay anyone. If you do decide to try it, be careful and look for someone as reputable as possible.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:36 PM on June 11, 2008

Too bad this poster was anonymous. Perhaps they could drop you a mefi mail if the things in that thread don't work for you.
posted by procrastination at 1:39 PM on June 11, 2008

Independent contractor? I.e., set up your own line?
posted by IAmBroom at 1:40 PM on June 11, 2008

In addition to the tag you used, check out the questions under this tag combo (esp. five fresh fish "I'm asking for a friend, seriously!" query).
posted by nanojath at 1:45 PM on June 11, 2008

Moreover, if you plan to work in academia either as an educator or a researcher after finishing your degree, you might find it helpful to not have questions such as this so closely linked to your name. I don't think it is right or fair, but there is a bias against people who have worked in the sex trade, and a very swift googling reveals the school you're a grad student at, several articles you've co-authored or written yourself, and your name, Denise. Maybe it doesn't matter to you now, but unless you intend to have a very non-traditional career path you might consider disassociating this profile with your email address, at the very least.
posted by stewiethegreat at 1:46 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: thanks, procrastination and nanojeth. i'm not very good at creative searching, and didn't see either of those when i searched for previous mentions.

and stewiethegreat, thanks for your comment, too. point well taken.
posted by CitizenD at 2:01 PM on June 11, 2008

Normally, or most usually, you work from your home for a dispatch service. You might want to read this and this to get an overview.

I'm sure other people will have more advice, but working with a reliable, reputable service would be a good way to learn about calls, callers, terminology, hours, rates, billing and all of that stuff if you're interested in going independent at some future point.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:42 PM on June 11, 2008

I have a friend who did this for a while, and she just responded to an ad in the back of the LA Weekly.
posted by InfidelZombie at 2:44 PM on June 11, 2008

Best answer: i worked as a PSO several years ago. there's plenty of decent info on the internets, dearie. join a few boards, (especially PSOChatandSupport), and read the archives. the links for resources and reputable companies are out has a few places listed that, from my experience years ago, are worthwhile to check out--if they still are operating. (she--Doxy Wringer-- quit the biz some time ago, but was really the smartest and most honest PSO i ever ran into, and worth reading even in archival form.)

it's true that many companies are shady, and if Brownwood LTD still exists, they have many subsidiaries that pretend to be independent. they have/had a terrible reputation with PSOs for an unfair pay system. (FWIW, though, i did work for them and though i was ultimately dissatisfied with their pay rate, i always got paid and treated decently. their advantage is that your only commitment to them is time and a phone line. IOW, you don't have to "troll" online, which apparently sucks. i never did it, but think of it as having to be a street hustler instead of an in-house ho.)

the best way to check into what's what is to listen in on boards, keeping in mind that there is a lot of cheap nastiness where people denigrate companies just because they're the "other guy." since this is a work environment where people literally *never* meet, it is an easy fly-by-night business and PSOs have been cheated out of paychecks. get the lay of the land before you set out. most PSOs are not very well-educated and take the cake for cabin-fever-driven, online cattiness. they are also a very suspicious lot, so i did a whole lot more listening than writing on the boards.

it is not an easy business to make money in. starting out, you'll probably have to work at one of the big dial-in, no-promotion-by-you sort of deals that get lots of calls, and advertise on cable TV. these companies pay shit, but you'll get some practice, and find out if this is really for you. and that's really the thing--you must truly have a dirty mind, and know how to work it with stuff that freaks you out and isn't hot to you *at all*. you'll have to work long hours, and they'll want you to work all night. and while that seems easy at first, it can get very draining to have to be "on" at all hours. (to get ready, read lots and lots of erotica.)

i did this job when i was flat broke, and there were some issues you should think about. you will probably have to get a second phone line, and buy a decent headset. (good volume control is very important.) working with a phone receiver sucks more than you can know.

do you live alone? will your roommate or the next door neighbor hear you when the client asks you to, literally, scream as loud as a murder victim? will this piss them off at three a.m.?

short term, it might work, but you shouldn't expect to make a good wage. the PSOs who do well are experienced, and have the wherewithal to promote themselves independently--put together their own websites and stuff. this takes time and commitment a short-timer does not have.

the other thing is that the more desperate you are for money, the worse this job is for your psyche. make no mistake: you *are* a sex worker, and you are being paid to say, within some possible company rules, *whatever* your customer wants. you are a phone-ho, and being at the mercy of the "johns" can suck a whole lot when you *really, really* need to keep them on the line for as long as possible. this means putting up with abuse, weirdos you suspect of wrong-doings, and some really fucked up shit. just when you think you've heard it all, you haven't.

also, there is the problem of having some sense of morality. you have to be perfectly okay with lying, over and over again, about who you are, where you live, what you look like, and what you're into. you will run into people that will fuck with your sense of self, and you will eventually be convinced you are talking to someone who is an abuser, though you will have no proof and no way of accusing them of anything real. you will be talking to a whole lot of men who are doing something they find kinda repulsive, and will treat you like shit. many of them are "cheating" on their wives with you. (one time, i was talking to a guy while his wife was *literally* breaking down their bathroom door--but see, i couldn't afford to hang up, and so i listened to the whole sobbing ordeal. awful.) you may find yourself feeling conflicted about keeping men on the line who are spending money they can ill afford, because they are "addicted" to you. you will be offered marriage, and you will be begged, over and over again, to tell your real name, or give out your real phone number. (something you must *never*, EVER do.)

this job can really mess with your sense of who men really are in their secret selves, if you aren't careful. and it can mess with your sense of who you are.

that all said... i found it to be fascinating, and without the pressures of money, i'd do it again just for the experience. as a writer, it was a window into the psyche that is pretty much unique, and i'd do it for that. i would hate to do it again if i really needed the money, and i was looking for work. YMMV.

so how? (i did get long-winded... apologies.)

1. read a lot online to figure out what companies have a good reputation. be very wary.

2. read up on phones/headsets. this is your "car" to work. it's important.

3. read this page, and treat it as your bible. she knows what she's talking about.

4. make the call/email. it's not hard to *get* the job, really. it's what comes after that can make or break you.
posted by RedEmma at 3:19 PM on June 11, 2008 [56 favorites]

These guys are one of the bigger players - PhoneActress
posted by Hellafiles at 4:17 PM on June 11, 2008

Response by poster: redemma, you're so awesome. thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. no apologies necessary...indeed, you've been very kind and generous with your time and experience.

i'd done a bit of preliminary internet research, and was flummoxed by all the back-biting and snarking, especially about different companies. i'd found some boards, but quickly discovered that i had no way of telling whether i could "trust" what was said (both pro and con). so, having been referred to doxy's site is exactly the kind of thing i needed. i just was having a hard time determining whose advice to follow.

too, i appreciate your comments about identity and lifestyle. one reason i've been considering the PSO route is because it does fit my lifestyle -- i'm single, live alone, in a freestanding house with no close neighbors, and i'm very much a night owl. my friends and i, for over 20 years, have been producing sex-positive events locally, and i have wide exposure to many paraphiliacs whose personal experiences and proclivities have helped me develop a deep appreciation for, and respect for, the vast continuum of sexual identities and practices. this includes a fair number of things which i, personally, have no interest in and/or find rather repulsive. i've come to term it "golden rule, even with golden showers" (i.e. respect others' titilations as i would want them to respect my own, even if the thought of it makes me gag a little)

fwiw, i do understand that golden showers will be among the least of the "ew, gross" things i might encounter...

the one thing i worry about the most is a point you mentioned -- how my psyche will deal with trying to "milk" more money out of clients whom i know cannot afford it. so, i've been doing a lot of reflecting on my views about exploitation, trying to wrap my head around whether i can do this.

the last 5+ years of my life have been an incredible time of discovery for me regarding many of the other issues you raise - morality, honesty, privacy, boundaries, desperation...and etc. again, many of the conclusions i've come to (which are far too long-winded to get into here) lead me to believe that i have the ability and strength to stay grounded and not be negatively affected by being a PSO. of course, i'm not sure about that -- which is why continued research is in order. but basically: i'm enough of a misanthrope to understand that even my worst nightmares probably only scratch the surface of actual deplorable human behavior. i understand that i cannot change this. and now, i'm trying to ascertain whether -- inspite of my knowledge and conclusions -- i can "stomach" making money despite and/or off of it.

much to consider and mull over. thanks, again, for such a thoughtful and helpful response.
posted by CitizenD at 4:18 PM on June 11, 2008

your experience should come in very handy, along with your ability to reflect. i forgot to add that it can sometimes be boring. sometimes it's as predictable as porn movie packaging. :P
posted by RedEmma at 4:37 PM on June 11, 2008

and *funny*. you will always have a tale for your buddies at the bar.
posted by RedEmma at 4:40 PM on June 11, 2008

This gallery is interesting, and the comment on the page linked to is amazing.
posted by you're a kitty! at 5:05 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks y-a-k for that great link. It leads to Phone Sex, apparently publishing next month.

CitizenD said she'd "been producing sex-positive events locally ... [and had developed] a deep appreciation for, and respect for, the vast continuum of sexual identities and practices."

You might consider that working as a PSO might ruin that for you. I have no personal experience, just sayin'.
posted by intermod at 9:13 PM on June 12, 2008

I agree with intermod
posted by nanoboy at 5:32 PM on June 23, 2008

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