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- A Story of O’s
There’s an unsent draft in my gmail dated October 17, 2015. J and I were playing Addams Family pinball at The Standard, about two whiskeys in. The song “Crystals” by Of Monsters and Men was on the jukebox. And it came to me. My next show. I was literally struck by inspiration. It hit me so hard, it knocked the wind out of me.
J asked me what was wrong, but I couldn’t answer. I was furiously trying to find something to write with. Failing that, I pulled out my phone and opened the first app I could think of that would let me write and save it. I typed out sixteen words in the body of an email draft and went back to the game.
I didn’t apply for a single 2017 festival. The last year I wasn’t in any festivals at all was 2010. It’s…weird. But I spent the past two years working a “straight” day job and using every scrap of vacation and time off for the festivals I was in. I hadn’t had more than a couple days off in a row in a long time. Days off while healthy, I should say, since the better part of 2016 was spent hobbled by my knee injury and recovering from surgery. Still, my time away from phone sex was necessary, and my foray into the so-called normal workforce gave me some much needed perspective.
I used to joke that nobody ever draws a phone sex operator when they ask you in Kindergarten to draw a picture of what you want to be when you grow up. At some point it stopped being funny to me. Phone sex was a career that I stumbled onto and that suited me, but it wasn’t my dream. I needed to know continuing to do this form of sex work was a conscious choice, not an accident. I didn’t want to be the cliche so many crusaders use to vilify sex work- trapped in/by it, with no other options. Which I realize now smacks of privilege and internalized patriarchy and OH MY GOD why can’t any conversation be easy now? But I have to be honest and admit where I struggle, because the sixteen words languishing in my drafts folder won’t let me pretend any longer.
I don’t know how it works for other people, where they meet their muse. I don’t have a discernible artistic process, other than that at some point, I notice a story is “starting to arrive” inside me. Once I pay attention and commit to telling the story, I’ve just written until it feels finished. But not this time. This time the story announced itself in a split second and with all the subtlety of a fireworks display. It made me question everything I’ve believed about myself, my family, my childhood, my phone sex work, basically my whole life. And I wasn’t ready. I looked at the words I had written down, was drawn to them repeatedly over the next few days, and then spent the next year trying to ignore them.
I haven’t written. I haven’t been social. I haven’t wanted words, not to share them or use them or read them or hear them. I don’t want to write this show. I can’t even write this damn blog post- the first draft of this is from November of 2016 for fucks sake. If I write one word, here or anywhere, the whole thing might spill out, and I’m still not ready. I just don’t know how to fight it anymore. The effort is exhausting, and starting to manifest itself in physical maladies as it so often does inside me.
So I’m taking myself back to words. There’s so much story, too much, still jumbled but taking up space in my brain. I’m choking on the words trying to get out of body and wondering if there will be anything left of me once they’ve escaped. But this is a start. So far, I’m still here.
This post has been a long time coming. As you can see, I haven’t written much lately, mostly because I’ve been dreading writing this. I don’t know what to say or how to say it eloquently, so I’ll just spit it out. (Heh.) After almost twelve years of doing phone sex full-time, I need a break. There, I said it. Whew.
If you are or have been a client of mine, thank you from the bottom of my heart and depths of my cunt. I can’t begin to tell you what this job has meant to me, what you have meant to me…The amazing people I’ve “met” over the years, both callers and operators…The financial freedom it allowed me, which enabled my creative endeavors and tours…The countless orgasms shared with complete strangers to dear friends…The conversations, oh the conversations I have had, the things I have learned…I could never adequately express my appreciation…
But twelve years is a long time at any job these days, and I find I need a change. You probably already noticed I’ve been cutting back my phone sex hours drastically, and I’ve managed to tell many of you myself on calls, dispatch, or via email. I’m calling it a partial retirement, as I am still taking select calls by appointment. However, my availability is severely limited. I’ve been lucky enough to find another job I enjoy, with a small local company, and it’s even food-related, so I get to work with another medium I love. But it’s a M-F, 9-5 thing, and that means you get me on nights and weekends only.
I know this makes it difficult to arrange, especially when privacy is often impromptu, so I expect I’ll lose many of you. I hope you find a stellar replacement for me and only wish I had someone specific to refer you to. I fear phone sex is slowly going the way of the typewriter though, which is part of the reason I’m having to more or less close Bay City Blues. It’s just too hard to find other quality operators and keep them. Not sure what I’m going to do with the websites eventually, but I can’t bring myself to turn them off completely yet. Who knows? Maybe BCB 3.0 will rear its head someday.
But for now, I’m trying to adjust to life in the non-sex-work world. Did you know most people put pants on before they go to work? Lol! Seriously though, my new job is pretty great, and they’re even willing to let me do a few festivals a year, so I still get to fringe it up in the summers!
Speaking of which, it’s almost festival season again! I’m doing A Story of O’s in London (Ontario, not England) and Vancouver, and Threads in Ottawa and Indianapolis. This is my first time in Ottawa and Indy, and I’ve never done two different shows in one season, so there will be a steep learning curve I’m sure. But I’m looking forward to getting back on the road- after doing five festivals each year in 2012 and 2013, only doing Edmonton last year felt like I was missing something.
Anyway…So there you have it. My big news. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, maybe I’ll be able to post a little more frequently. This is not goodbye. It’s just hello to a new me that isn’t going to be at your beck and call quite as often as I have been for the last decade. Again, thank you, thank you, thank you for your support and patronage over the years. You’ve changed my life in unimaginable ways and taught me so much about love, sex, and human connections. I am honored to have been your phone sex provider and proud to call many of you my friends.
(Wow. I just re-read this and I’m tearing up. Feels like a big deal. I think I need to go cry now.)
The amazing Eleanor O’Brien (aka, the person who introduced me to the fringe festival circuit thereby changing my life forever) and the good folks over at Sex-Positive Portland have put together the world’s very first theatre-festival dedicated to promoting sex-positivity, Come Inside: A Theatrical Orgy of Intimate Acts! And I am honored to be a part of it!
There are four shows in the festival, receptions, workshops, burlesque performances, play readings, and an open mic…Something for everyone! Individual show tickets are less than $14 including the service charge, plus you can get a two-show nightly pass for less than $22! And if you aren’t afraid to go all-in, a festival pass is under $53 and gets you into every performance and event in the entire festival (except for the intensive workshops)! That’s a pretty damn good deal, if I do say so myself…
A Story of O’s at Come Inside: A Theatrical Orgy of Intimate Acts
7:30p Friday 12 September
9:30p Saturday 13 September (Post-show talkback Q&A @ 10:45p)
7:30p Sunday 14 September
@ Milepost 5, Portland, OR
Single-show tickets $12 (+$1.41 service fee)
Two-show evening pass $20 (+$1.69 service fee)
Festival pass $50 (+$2.74 service fee)
Talking Dirty and Roleplay INTENSIVE
1:00p – 4:00p Saturday 13 September 2014
$40 (+$2.49 service fee)
I did a podcast with my friend, Liam. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to talk to me for an hour and not pay $3/minute, it’s kind of like this…
Yesterday I sacrificed an hour and a half of my life in service to The Cause. (The Cause being my never-ending quest to root out and expose phone sex fallacies wherever I may find them.) I had been dreading watching For a Good Time, Call… ever since I heard about it. In my take on the Castle phone sex episode, I mentioned why I bristle when phone sex appears in films and television: because the media just gets it so very wrong most of the time. I need a day or two of stewing on the movie before I write my actual review, which I will probably submit to TitsandSass.com, but I’m annoyed enough to write about something else.
There are a couple of egregiously overused sex-worker cliches in tv and film, most notably The Hooker (not to be confused with The Escort), The Stripper, and The Trafficked Sex Slave. Slightly less abused, but no less demeaning and dismissive, is The Phone Sex Operator. The PSO cliche used to be an apathetic 300-pound, white trashy mommy, but over the last decade it has morphed into an archetype I find even more insulting and insidious. Picture Anne Hathaway in Valentine’s Day, or Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller in For a Good Time, Call… The key components of the new PSO cliche are…
Beauty. Today’s PSO isn’t an ugly troll, she’s gorgeous. She is much more beautiful than any of the adult models whose stock photos she uses to represent her phone sex persona. And the character is often portrayed as just an average girl, in the same way a Victoria’s Secret model is just an average representation of how any woman might look in lingerie.
Shame. These PSO’s are not proud of what they do. They take calls on the sly and keep secrets from everyone around them, from roommates to family to spouses to friends. They think doing phone sex is beneath them and/or makes them a slut.
Ambition. Phone sex is not a career or “real job” to these women, it’s a crutch. They do it as long as they have to and can’t wait to toss it aside for something “better.”
Well pardon me, but I object. To be fair, much of the phone sex part of For a Good Time, Call… is fairly accurate, including the operators who decide they know enough to start their own company when they get tired of paying management to “do nothing.” That I think it’s a crappy movie has little to do with its treatment of phone sex, and will be further explored in my forthcoming review. But I am beginning to tire of seeing the job I treat with respect and conduct with professionalism used as a writers’ default naughty/daring/shocking/embarrassing plot catalyst.
I can totally believe that Miller, the writer/star of the movie, has probably had experience with phone sex at some point in her life, as parts of it do ring true. But that’s like saying a couple drunken girl-on-girl hook-ups in college qualifies one to write an advice column on lesbian dating. For the love of authentic storytelling, Hollywood, the next time you make a full-length motion picture about women who start a phone sex company, talk to a real woman who has started an actual existing phone sex business. Trust me, the women I know in the industry could tell you true stories that are infinitely more entertaining than For a Good Time, Call…
Really? Again? Just to make a bunch of unnecessary work for me? There has been another wave of “corporate espionage” (makes me giggle just to write that phrase) over the last few weeks, some of it while I was on tour and some of it inundating me as I was trying to get caught up. I simply do not understand the point. ASK ME; I’ll tell you everything you want to know. I have no sure-fire secrets, no magic tricks, no phone sex genie chained to my bedpost. I love what I do, but I’m far from the most successful operator or company owner out there. Mostly because I refuse to lower my standards or compromise my ethics, and because I insist on having a fulfilling life beyond phone sex. What works for me doesn’t work for everyone, and I’m not getting rich doing this. I don’t snort coke for breakfast or date famous athletes or drive an expensive car. Living the high life for me means getting to travel to exotic places like Orlando and Winnipeg, stay with complete strangers, and tell my story to 50 people at a time, if I’m lucky. Glamorous, n’est ce pas? But whatever. I must be doing something right if people are still trying to figure me out.
Dispatch wankers. Believe it or not, there are guys who call the toll-free Bay City Blues phone sex number to try and wank to dispatchers for free. Some of them will go as far as giving false info right up until we ask for a credit card number before hanging up. I’ve also had cases of rival companies sending people to call and fuck with us. Or someone posting our number on inappropriate forums so we’ll be inundated with a bunch of calls that have nothing to do with phone sex, or from people who don’t want to pay for it. God knows why anyone would think this is a good use of their time, but it still manages to waste some of ours. Over the past week, I’ve gotten repeated calls from a couple different obviously overseas dispatch wankers. One of them was a verbally abusive Indian man who was very rude and persistent at 3am. I had to actually sign all the dispatchers out for 10 or 15 minutes to get rid of him.
The problem with international calls is that they come through on lines which generate dynamic phone numbers. So I can block each number that calls in, but there is kind of no point to that, since when they call back it just pops up as a new number by one or two digits.
So anyway. Today I had what sounded like a group of teenage boys, one of whom said they were calling from Saudi Arabia, call back over ten times. I tried ignoring them, bitching them out, even handing the phone to a guy to see if that might freak them out. Didn’t seem like anything would stop them from calling back until…
I just held the phone up to my computer speaker and played a bunch of clips at full volume over and over.
*listens to the sound of the dispatch line NOT ringing*
Happy New Year! All in all, 2011 was a fuck of a year. Some bad, plenty of good, more personal and professional challenges than I’ve faced in a while. I can’t say I’m sad to bid farewell to the old and start fresh in 2012…
This year certainly started with a shock. I found out a couple days ago that a still-dear-to-me former friend passed away on Sunday. She was the woman who hired me at Bay City Blues, way back in 2004 when I first started doing phone sex, long before I was a partner/owner. She taught me most of what I know about the business side of being a phone sex operator, and for a few years we were inseparable friends. However, I started developing my own philosophies about and approach to phone sex, which diverged wildly from hers in some places. We drifted apart over the years, and when we officially parted ways, it wasn’t on good terms. That unfinished business hasn’t sat well with me. I tried talking to her a year or so ago, but she wanted nothing to do with me.
I don’t blame her. I know that in her eyes, I made a hugely selfish decision in “coming out” as a pso, one that adversely affected her earning potential, as she was unable and unwilling to follow suit. I suppose on some levels she was right- it was a selfish decision. I don’t pretend to not be a selfish person; I know that I am. I believe that everybody is, if we get honest for a moment. But I also spend a great deal of my life in service to others on a myriad of levels, so I think I deserve to take care of myself as well. Still, it sucks knowing she felt that way about me. To this day, I miss having her in my life, and I always harbored the hope that someday we would reconcile.
I’ve been relatively lucky to have lost few loved ones in my life. And pardon me while I regurgitate some cliches, but there’s nothing like a sudden, unexpected death to make you reevaluate your life. To make you value your life. And I do. I am so grateful for everything and everyone that allows me the life I lead. As I prepare for the year ahead (Phone sex business expansion! Touring my one-woman show across the U.S. and Canada!), I am trying to be mindful of the little now moments that make it all worthwhile. You’re a part of that. Thank you.
Some of you might remember an interview I did some months back with Tits & Sass. If you want to know what we professionals really think, you should be reading this blog on a regular basis. Almost every T&S article I read leaves me thinking, “Damn, I wish I’d written that!” But never so much as THIS POST by escort extraordinaire Charlotte Shane. Please please please take a moment to read it.
I have written previously about my own run-ins with presumptions and misconceptions about my childhood, most memorably a DIGG commenter who noted “she looks like she was molested as a child” about a headshot that ran with an article I penned for Lemondrop.com about phone sex work. It’s hard for me personally to fight this stereotype, because frankly I go into a kind of shock when someone attacks me this way. It feels so unwarranted, I almost can’t believe someone could be so cruel to another human being. And I’ve never had the words to explain, but Ms. Shane put it brilliantly:
“It’s not funny. Why in God’s name would another human being’s childhood of abuse or neglect be something to laugh about? Tee hee, your uncle raped you! Your mother never loved you! Look at me, being witty! Aren’t we having fun? If you think you’re speaking the truth about someone’s past as a victim, and you’re using it to a) criticize them or b) make a joke at their expense, you’re pretty much a monster. I know comedians in particular are supposed to be edgy and un-PC, and many pride themselves on having no boundaries when it comes to race, kids with cancer, violent crime, or terrorist jokes. But most successful comedians do not pack their sets full of jokes about child rape and it’s not because the audience is a bunch of wet blankets; it’s because it’s very hard to make someone laugh about an atrocity.”
I nearly cried tears of relief when I read that. I was never molested or neglected, and the insinuation that I am somehow profoundly damaged stings, no matter how false I know it to be. Finally, an inarguable and succinct way of pointing out that those who would make such assumptions, and publicly no less, are nothing more than vicious, ignorant bullies. Which, deep down, they probably already know, but maybe a good public scolding might teach them to hold their vitriol where it belongs- eating away inside them at what’s left of their conscience and soul.
Whew. I feel like I just spent a half hour beating a pillow with a foam bat. *grins*
Sometimes I have to remind myself that no matter how hard I try, I can’t please everyone. Case in point…
I had a caller. In the interest of discretion, I will call him PHI (not his initials). I can only say that he has a very unique fetish, one I have indulged for him on phone sex calls, in photographs, and even in person. There was no actual sex involved, though I once asked him if he actually got off during our calls because it was difficult to tell, and he assured me he got sexual gratification from them.
I enjoyed our calls immensely, because the sheer oddity of the fetish freed me to be creative and outrageous. Even so, it wasn’t MY kink- I simply enjoyed helping him get what I figure he probably couldn’t get very many other places. Once he had empirical and photographic proof that I would actually engage in the fetish, our calls left the pure fantasy realm and I would always truly act out his favored scenario when we spoke.
He disappeared for almost a year at one point, and when he popped back up with news of work and health troubles, I felt very sympathetic and compassionate toward him. So when he asked me to make him a custom fetish video, I agreed to do it for a ridiculous price. Fifty dollars. Yes, I know that’s nothing; again, I felt for the guy. I got Cindy to help out- she starred while I directed and filmed- and paid her a whopping $25 for what ended up being at least 2 hours of work, not counting her commute. And guess what? He was disappointed because the video wasn’t of me. My voice was in it, but that wasn’t good enough. I thought that getting Cindy involved was so genius, I didn’t consider that maybe he’d had his heart set on having me on film. So I refunded his money, which meant I’d paid Cindy out of pocket.
I was pretty upset at this point. We’d exchanged a few emails, and as often happens minus tone-of-voice, we managed to ruffle each others’ feathers. I asked him to give me a couple of weeks to cool down and said we could try again after. Time passed, and I agreed to do another video. I made arrangements to have someone come film me, but then they had a personal emergency and dropped out. I delayed the shoot. PHI sent me money (which I had NOT requested yet) and many emails inquiring about the video, including one with paragraphs of very specific direction and requests. I felt my blood starting to boil, and I wasn’t sure why.
I’m still not sure. But I wrote PHI informing him I had changed my mind about doing the video and would return his $50. Again. Naturally, he was disappointed and upset, but his response was extremely hurtful and insulting to me, and I chose to simply file it away rather than respond in the heat of emotion. Now that I’ve had some time to think about the whole situation, I’ve realized a number of things…
First of all, getting really honest, I asked myself why I chose to ask Cindy to do the first video instead of doing it myself. Then I asked myself why I chose to rely on someone who often has personal drama to do something so intimate the second time around. Then I asked myself why I decided to cancel altogether.
While there are lots of justifications and rationalizations I could use which would all make sense, and although I can’t help pointing out that $50 really wasn’t worth this much trouble and heartache, the truth is that I simply hate myself on camera and should never have agreed to make the video.
And that, my friends, is how much a slave to my own vanity and self-loathing I still am, even after all these years and multiple epiphanies. None of this honesty fixes the situation with PHI, and frankly I’m still not sure who owes who an apology. What annoys me the most is the following line from his final email:
“I should not be surprised…I am just another client of yours.”
I think I would be completely mortified and unabashedly apologetic if not for that sentence. What the fuck is so wrong with being just one of my clients? I try very hard to make every single one of my phone sex callers feel special and appreciated, but at what point am I allowed to stop thanking someone for their patronage? Should I just get down on my knees (wait, don’t answer, I’m not done yet) and grovel because a person pays me for my services? Aren’t my callers also lucky to have found someone like me who CARES and puts in the kind of effort I do? And seriously, who else would even consider making a custom fetish video for $50?