Thank goodness my bout with phone sex climaxed before the height of live web cams. Even adult chat rooms were pre-pubescent when I heard my first ad on the radio for a local phone sex line, at age 11.
A curious and clever child, I decided that I wouldn’t get charged $3.99 per minute if I dialed and hung up after 59 seconds. It took 15 calls, always hovering under a minute, to understand the sultry, recorded voice. The real surprise came a month later.
“Get your feet off the damn coffee table and tell me who called this number!” my working-class Catholic father bellowed. He jabbed his finger at the bill as my mother stood next to him.
My older sisters burst out laughing and turned toward my 18-year-old brother, Chris.
“I didn’t! I swear,” Chris denied, but he mowed the lawn for months to pay the $60 back for what would only be referred to as “that incident.”
During my first week at Florida State, my new roommate Marissa and I got stoned enough for me to mention the time I’d come so close to beating the system. Marissa thought it was cool. “Not the calling,” she said, “but getting paid per minute to tell guys to take their pants off.”
For kicks, we e-mailed a phone sex company and studied the brochures they mailed, deeming us “independent contractors.” This business was just for us. We were inherently rebellious, and flipped for boys, talking on the phone, and cash. How it worked: We called the main switchboard when “available,” and they forwarded callers to our number.
On our inaugural call, I giggled and feigned interest in the stranger’s apparel (birthday suit), measurements (standard 9 inches), and favorite position (woof, woof). I said mine was being on top, but I was actually a virgin (whoops). Between Meg Ryan’s infamous scene in When Harry Met Sally, Sex and the City and downloaded audio-erotica from Napster, we felt more prepared than any Girl Scout. I squealed like a dolphin until my customer finished up, earning a whopping $12.
We took calls when we were bored, getting smoother every time. We didn’t really have cucumbers in our mini-fridge, but I could tell men that while I made 60 cents a minute watching a pre-Scientology Katie Holmes battle over Pacey and Dawson on the WB.
“That was goooood, Mark,” I panted one night while I finished up note cards for Intro to Psych.
“Could you send me those panties you’re wearing?” he asked.
It sounded like a biohazard. I lived on the verge of a dark underworld, a place where men collected dirty thongs like baseball cards, and I felt like a whore. I justified the pseudo-sex because it was about the money, but it often entailed flaccid profits. Although we got paid by the minute, the calls came as intermittently as our customers. We could be home all night and get two paying hornballs, but other nights there were endless married men ringing up to whisper from their basements.
Then it hit me. We needed to cut out the middleman and snag all the money for ourselves. I befriended a phone slut I found on AOL, and she suggested we buy a toll-free number. We boasted our new digits in chatrooms and dropped sleazy flyers off at the local XXX store. Marissa donated an entire Tuesday night to making a smutty website while I set up a Paypal account to process our dirty money.
The 800-number glitch was that it couldn’t be turned off temporarily. Even if it rang at 5 in the morning, someone had to crawl from her extra-long twin bed to answer it. Also, it was impossible to tell if the call was from our regular dorm number or the hotline, so answering the phone was always an ordeal. Each time a man’s voice said “Hello?” I held back the urge to say “Dad?”
Then our suitemate, Holly, threatened to tell our entire hall we were cheap hookers if we didn’t own up to our constant moaning. We confessed. She wanted in.
“I’ll make $3 each minute?” she asked.
Marissa and I exchanged glances before offering her a dollar per minute for the calls she took, due to “overhead costs.” I then incorporated the business as an LLC and even visited a lawyer who advised us on tax issues: “Pay them!”
Instead of trekking out to find a man of my own, I labored over spreadsheets tracking frequent customers and booty-call times under the light of my non-halogen desk lamp each night. The business was on a nausea-inducing roll. At winter break we shut off the hotline and went home. We hadn’t slept in weeks.
By the end of finals, we cleared over $8,000 dollars. The money was amazing considering my meager background, but it couldn’t buy back my innocence. Men didn’t call sex lines out of loneliness; they called because their freaky quirks would petrify any normal girlfriend. I made peace with the world through buying my brother an Armani sweater for Christmas, the scapegoat for that old phone bill.
We came back in January, but never turned the number back on again. Marissa got a live-action boyfriend, Holly freaked over tax evasion and my new course load couldn’t handle the weight of sleazebags with fetishes that made necrophilia sound tame.
“I’ll never have sex!” I whined to Marissa one night.
“You will. You’ll just be more sensitive to guys who ask you to pee on them,” she said.
Tele-boning men was a goof for money, but I found an arena where I’d excelled. There was a savvy businesswoman, successful actress and sexual pioneer behind my breathy voice. On the hotline I could escape being gawky and adjusting to the whirlwind of college.
Although this naughty co-ed hung up on phone sex after a semester, I’ve been hung up on sex ever since. My virginity outlasted the business, freshman year and even college. After graduation, I moved away from Florida to start my life. I decided that people equaled possibilities, and there were more people in New York City than anywhere else. I had a degree in Communication and experience as a small-business owner, but being the CEO of COED-TITS looked sketchy on a resume. After weeks of dead-end interviews, I did what any dreamer would do and began legal temping, waiting tables and babysitting to pay the rent.
I moved to the city to start over, yet I couldn’t help but reminisce about my early success with business and men. I found solace in the Brooklyn bar scene and often spilled my woes to fellow PBR drinkers. The typical reaction to a flirty, boisterous, post-college redhead claiming sexual innocence was one of shock, disbelief and masked horror. My stunted growth, however, endeared me to many aging hipsters who kindly offered to update my sexual history on their brother’s roommate’s futon somewhere in the East Village.
Being seen as prude or fragile offended me, so I began to trump my own virginity with tales of the old sex line days. After my confession, men asked for my cell phone number and called in the wee hours of the morning with Jack Daniel’s-induced erections. Alas, I’m never telling anyone that I’m a virgin who used to interact adult fantasies for a few bucks a minute ever again.
Honesty is not always the best policy. At 23, I’m still holding out for love when it comes to real sex. Some calls are harder to make than others.