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Earning hundreds to “talk dirty” in “My Phone Sex Secrets”

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Aisling Marks
WVoN co-editor 

I thought I had ceased to be shocked by the low calibre of television that Channel Four in the UK continues to churn out.

But last week, something caught my attention which proved me wrong.

‘My Phone Sex Secrets’: the story of five different women who, trapped in the economic crisis just like everyone else, turn to their phone lines as a way of making ends meet.

The documentary follows them as they “talk dirty”to lonely and willing males who require their services.

Is this sex work? Yes, I suppose it is. But the documentary glorifies it in much the same way as the portrayal of a London ‘Call Girl’ by British actress Billie Piper.

The documentary presents phone sex as an easy way to get money while keeping your knickers on. Is this degrading? Can it be compared to the harsh realities of sex work?

Anneka, a young, chatty woman, “talks dirty” to help fund a healthy vegan lifestyle. As the camera follows her into the kitchen, she slices through two juicy cucumbers. It’s as if she’s never working, she says, although she can earn up to £500 from one phone conversation alone. Blimey.

We then meet the sexually overt Jenny. At 56, she is portrayed as a sort of “mother superior” who had clearly been in the business for some time.

In stark contrast was 18-year old Rosa, a straight-laced maths student who works the phone-lines to fund her education.

The call centre is run by middle-aged Trisha and her husband, who act almost like pimps, engaging smartly-dressed women to answer the phone with the chatty line:

‘Welcome to The Pleasuredome, what age lady would you like to speak to..?’

But what about the men?

The documentary portrays them as weak individuals, being exploited by women because of their need for illicit sexual activity. And right enough, some of the conversations are just ludicrous.

Nevertheless, the implications for women are disturbing in that we are represented as unable to recognise our worth beyond our sexuality.

The documentary provides a casually postfeminist approach to strong-minded, healthy women who are actively exploiting their own ability to pander to this assumed “male deficiency”.

Whether taken seriously or not, it trivialises the wider harsh realities of selling sex. It’s not difficult to figure out  that the journey from phone sex to lap-dancing to prostitution to trafficking is not that long.

Just read Jennifer Hayashi Danns’ recent book, Stripped: The Bare Reality of Lap Dancing, for a pithy portrayal of the traumatic realities of sex-work.

As I watched women blithely marketing themselves to sexually defunct men looking for a new kick, I had to wonder how Channel Four could pass this off as “good television” and whether it had plumbed new depths in trying to do so.

  1. “It’s not difficult to figure out that the journey from phone sex to lap-dancing to prostitution to trafficking is not that long.” Are you SERIOUS? And phone sex constitutes “illicit sexual activity?”

    • MezzoPiana says:

      In terms of the male entitlement that comes in part from the fact that women doing this are essentially still buyable and sellable for sexual services, I’d tend to agree. I mean, yes it’s a large step for the women themselves participating to go from phone sex to prostitution, but these things are not unrelated. The problem as I see it with any women providing ‘sexual services’, of any kind even something as supposedly tame as ‘phone sex’, is that it reinforces the problematic notion that men can legitimately buy sexual access to women. In my opinion this fact helps to dehumanise all women in the eyes of men; I do not think there is any acceptable level of sex-buying because all of it contributes to this male sense of entitlement to women’s bodies. Just my 2c.

      • “I do not think there is any acceptable level of sex-buying because all of it contributes to this male sense of entitlement to women’s bodies” –Apparently males aren’t the only ones with a sense of entitlement to women’s bodies, and you’ve ironically just stated yours.

        I work as a phone sex operator. It’s a job where I can choose my own hours and pay rate (which is quite good), and where I have control over how, and to whom, I market my business. I can chose my customers and the topics I wish to discuss–if the caller or what he wishes to talk about offends me, I can end the call. I work safely and anonymously in the comfort of my own home. While I am educated and technically skilled, this is a job I truly enjoy. There is a huge difference between whispering an erotic story in a stranger’s ear while he or she masturbates in the privacy of his or her own home and meeting strangers to have sex, which involves physical contact, for payment.

        Prostitution is called “the oldest profession in the book” for a reason, and we’re not going to wish it away with privileged feminist ideology. I’m not happy with objectification and dehumanization of any person, regardless of gender, but the sex industry did not create the issue, nor does it necessarily perpetuate it, and if it does, it surely doesn’t hold a monopoly on it. Feminism should be about improving the status of women. Laws against sex work subject prostitutes to an environment of crime where their rights as human beings are not protected and where they risk criminal prosecution.

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