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How a 'nice girl' ended up working as a phone sex operator

One hotline operator told an online Q&A she thought of her role as “an acting job”. Here’s her testimony.

Image: Woman on phone photo via Shutterstock

IF YOU HAVE the right attitude, working on a phone sex hotline isn’t the worst job in the world – according to someone who has done it.

A woman who used to work as a “phone sex actress” hosted a Q&A thread on the Straight Dope Message Board, an adjunct to the popular Straight Dope column that’s published in more than 30 newspapers in the US and Canada.

“Tonya” says she’s a “nice girl” who worked in the industry from 1994 to 1997 because “the money was better than anything else I was qualified to do (or at least anything else that was legal).”

“Hey, as far as I was concerned, it was an acting job,” she wrote.

Anyone who had actually seen me playing solitaire on my computer, sipping coffee and wearing a cotton nightshirt with little duckies all over it when I worked would never have doubted that.

We reached out to Cecil Adams, administrator of the site, who gave us permission to share some of the Q&As from her post. We’ve slightly edited questions and answers for clarity.

Q: Can I ask how you got hired?

A: I read about the job in the Help Wanted ads in the local newspaper. There was a group interview in a hotel conference room. In that interview, we were told about the job and given some tips. Those of us who were still interested at the end of the interview were given applications to fill out, and then we did audition calls. After the audition call, a supervisor called us to tell us whether we’d passed and then, we could begin working.

Q: How much did it pay?

A: When I started, it was $8.00 an hour plus bonus. Bonus was based on requests from people who specifically asked for you. You have to get more than ten requests per month to get a bonus. Most months I ended up averaging about $15.00 hourly. I also got a 1, 2, or 3 percent raise every six months.

Q: Did you receive any kind of benefits?

A: The only benefit we got was our birthday off with pay. My husband’s job provided the health insurance.

Q: Did you have set hours? A separate phone line?

A: Yes, my regular shift was 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., which was timed for the kids being in bed. Because of my hours, no separate phone line was needed, but I did disable the call waiting while working.

Q: Were you working off a script, improvising within some specific guidelines or just totally making it up as you went along?

A: There was no script. It was all improv. We did have some general idea, though, because the call always went to an operator first, who found out what kind of woman the guy was looking for and if he was interested in anything specific. Then the operator would call me and say something like “I have a guy who wants a blonde with …” Then, when she patches the guy through, I already had an idea of what he was looking for. The rest, I was pretty good at drawing out.

Q: How did the phone system work?

A: At the start of my shift, I’d call in and let the operators know I was ready. They’d clock me in. When a call came, they’d patch it through to me. When the call was over, I’d call the office and let them know I was free again. Break times worked the same way. When my shift was over, I’d call to clock out.

Q: Did your employer ever monitor your calls?

A: Calls were randomly monitored for training (we did training calls with a trainer who would give us advice on how to improve our performance) and to make sure we weren’t breaking rules. And you never knew you were monitored until after the fact.

Q: What do you usually wear while working?

A: Well, the coy answer would be “whatever the client wanted me to be wearing.” The truthful answer would be a cotton nightgown or sleep shirt in the summer, sweats in the winter (my office was in the basement, and it got chilly down there).

Q: How much variety was there in the kinds of callers you received?

A: There was a pretty good variety. I had guys who would call with their girlfriends; I’d have women who may have been gay, or may have just been investigating aspects of their sexuality; I had guys who were into animals, bodily functions, married women who cheat on their husbands, whatever.

Q: Did you ever have a call that didn’t go the way you expected?

A: Well, probably the closest would be when the guy doesn’t so much want to talk about sex as he just wants to talk. I was pretty good at that, too.

Q: What was the strangest call you ever had?

A: There was the one guy who wanted to talk to an overweight, 30-something-year-old housewife. And I thought to myself, ‘Boy is he in luck!’

Q: How did you keep from just cracking up laughing?

A: Boy, it was tough sometimes. In fact, every once in a blue moon, I’d lose it, and fake a coughing fit.

Q: Did you ever actually get into it, or did you always fake your enthusiasm?

A: Just like anyone else with a normal, healthy sexual appetite, there are certain things that turn me on, and I did have some regular customers that I developed a good rapport with. About 98 percent of the time, I faked it, but the other 2 percent, I sometimes thought, I should be paying him.

Q: Were there things you couldn’t talk about on the phone because it’d be against federal law?

A: The number one Federal law concerned child pornography. I could not, at any time, portray someone who was under 18 years of age. I couldn’t talk about a time when I was under 18 and had sex (if a customer asked when I lost my virginity, the answer had to be 18 or over).

I also was not required (by the company) to participate in rape or forced sex fantasies. Although that was up to me.

Q: How did they keep you from taking your best clients and going independent?

A: We signed a contract saying we wouldn’t. But when I told one of my regular clients that I was leaving, he told me he wouldn’t talk to anyone else. I told him there was nothing I could do about that. I did however, offer to send him a photograph (not really of me, of course), and when I sent him the photo, I sent him a number I could be reached at, too.

I’m sure the company would have been very angry, and I’m not trying to justify my actions, but I really was going to be leaving anyway, and the fact that he was willing to pay me $100.00 an hour versus paying my former employer $85.00 an hour says something. He also calls me by my real name now, and I’ve seen him on TV.

Read the full thread with all the Q&As here.

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