Realities Of Being A Gay Phone Sex Operator (Who's Straight)

Before people were able to stream porn directly to their phones, anyone who wanted to get nasty without vacating the dent in their Barcalounger had to turn to ... the phone. The old-style phone, we mean -- the one you used to speak into instead of poke at and ignore when it makes that strange ringy sound. And some of them still do use the phone to get off, because tradition is important, even when you're masturbating. We spoke to Shane Bell, who was a phone-sex worker, and he told us ...

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6
The Most Important Thing In Phone Sex Is Not To Laugh

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Whether you're flipping horse-meat hamburgers, cleaning up jizz, or selling $700 septic tank cleaners on a cold call (all of which are jobs I've had), the powers that be expect one thing: that you keep a straight face. Gay phone sex was no exception. A classifieds ad labeled "actors/actresses wanted" led me to a nondescript call center office back in 2000, and for my audition, the lady there handed me a piece of paper with a cartoon drawn on it. "Please read the following lines as best you can," she instructed. I looked down at the sheet and saw a Tarzan-looking character in a loincloth. I proudly read the printed line: "I want to eat your big banana."

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There were more lines like that, and many of the others auditioning giggled like schoolgirls while saying them. Each was turned away. But a few others and me managed to do it totally deadpan. That was it -- we were hired. And once I eventually settled into my desk and headset, holding back laughter would prove to be downright essential.

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They paid my rent. They could use any produce-related dick metaphor they wanted.

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At first, I'd want to laugh out of nervousness or sheepishness, but other times, it was at the off-the-wall shit coming out of these people's mouths. I remember, for example, the first time a caller busted out with the word "man-pussy." I ask, "Your what?" He replies, "My man-pussy. You know ... my asshole." If I'd burst out laughing, I'd probably have lost that caller. Thankfully, there was a mute button.

At least once I did burst out laughing. I do my greeting, the guy sounds confident, and I'm like, "So, what are you up to?" He says, "I'm just here at work, and I have a few minutes, so I thought I'd have some fun." And once we get into it a bit, I hear a loud knock and a very high-pitch sort of yelp. "Gotta go!" he says, followed by the abrupt hang-up of a guy whose boss has just caught him with his very non-metaphorical dick in his hands.

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"You know those spammers, sir. Always trying to sell me large bananas."

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5
The Operators Aren't Necessarily Gay

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During training, we were taught the basics, with emphasis on creating illusions using your voice and getting into character. For guidance on the real nuts and bolts, I turned to my co-workers. I found myself in the smoking cage out back with a veteran of the job, a thugged-out gentleman who -- like everyone here, apparently -- happened to be straight. I asked him, "How do you do it? How do you do all this sex talk with men? Doesn't it make you uncomfortable?"

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He said: "If I'm talking to some dude, telling him I'm suckin' on his dick or whatever? I just pretend it's my girl telling me what she'd want to do to me, or what I want her to do to me."

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"She's got a deep voice."

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This was North Miami. So I was surrounded by a dozen or so street motherfuckers talking all tough to each other between calls. Then they'd get on the phones and turn into glorious sissy boys, purring like pussycats. Were we doing accurate imitations of what gay people really sound like? No, but it didn't matter, because the callers seemed to dig it. And the more you did it, the better you got, and the more you'd lose yourself in the role.

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Besides the advice of my peers, I had another resource at my disposal: a never-ending supply of gay porn magazines. The place was stacked with them. At first I'd spend my time in between calls thumbing through whatever comic books I had in my backpack, but my supervisor reminded me that Marvel wasn't work-related, and if I needed something to read, I had to grab a porno magazine. Had to. Early on, one of my co-workers noticed my exhaustion at looking through the stuff and said, "Don't worry, I got you," as he passed me a Hustler from his own private stash. Straight porn is only slightly more entertaining when you're already tired of sex, but I appreciated the gesture.

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Any lingering enthusiasm disappeared with the words "Papa Roach."

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I had a girlfriend at the time, and she found the idea of me getting guys off with my voice to be equal parts delightful and hilarious. (My mom, on the other hand, wasn't quite as amused, but lying to her would have been inconvenient.) I'm engaged to a woman now, and we have a daughter. But when you have guys getting off at the sound of your voice, it's great on your ego, and it's easy to lose yourself in the role. I wouldn't call myself bisexual. But months into the job, I found myself becoming more and more ... let's call it "heteroflexible."

4
Sometimes You Have To Avoid Actually Talking About Sex

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We had the two main phone lines: the credit card line (an 800 number) and the non-credit card line (a 900 number). For the 800 number, people used credit cards, and that was anything goes. You could say whatever you wanted, limited only by your own creativity and the desires of the caller. Then there was the 900 number. People calling that line were charged directly to their phone bill, which meant the line was regulated by the FCC. It was still a phone-sex line, but strict rules forbade the use of all sexually explicit or implicit language.

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No "shit," "fuck," "ass," "dick," "pussy." Also, no "penis," "anus," "butt," "hole," "nipple." Everything was codes and euphemisms. "Blowjob" was out, but "tongue bath" was OK. "Sex" was a no-no, so we'd call it "wrestling." Instead of asking, "How big is your dick?" I'd ask, "How tall are you lying down?" I slipped up once and got in trouble because I used the word "anal" in reference to "anal lube" -- the caller then revealed that he was one of my bosses, testing me.

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"Yes ... Test ..."

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Meanwhile, the actual callers could reply with the most uncensored, filthy stuff they could think of. It was our job to roll with it, and a good amount of the time they didn't even notice. A little moaning and flirtatious giggling goes a long way. It was a goddamn ridiculous system, but these are the kinds of ass-backward things that come about when members of a mostly puritanical society decide to start making money off of each other's orgasms.

3
You Might Have Been Talked Off By One Of The X-Men

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Before our trainers threw us to the lions, we were all given a homework assignment: Create 10 different characters to represent the kinds of calls we'd be getting. Being the dork that I am, I named all mine after X-Men. That helped me really flesh out my characters, so while some operators got notes on tweaking their cast list, my first submission was accepted right out of the gate. Of course, at the time, there weren't a million X-Men movies cluttering the X-eitgeist, so they had no idea where I was getting my characters. My list went something like this:

My main "generic hot guy" was Alex -- that's Alex Summers, who you might know as Havok from First Class. He sounded like me but had more confidence because he was so good-looking and secure. He was tall and blonde and muscular. Most of my callers spoke to him. Then there was Kurt (Kurt Wagner, Nightcrawler). He was my sissy boy, my bottom. He was a little shorter, 5-foot-7, brown hair, very thin. He was more submissive and sensitive. I used him plenty as well.

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Don't worry, BBM fans. I got one for you too.

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Then we had Storm. She was a vivacious drag queen. She was funny and confident and fabulous. Master Colossus was the dominator type. For his calls I got to use a little delaying trick I picked up called the "clap your hands" technique. I'd say something like, "YOU HAD BETTER NOT BE TOUCHING YOURSELF WHILE I'M TALKING TO YOU, YOU PIECE OF TRASH," and he'd be like, "Of course not, mistress, of course not." To make sure he wasn't lying, I'd tell him, "CLAP THOSE HANDS! I WANNA HEAR YOU CLAPPING SO I KNOW YOU AREN'T TOUCHING YOURSELF!" And sure enough, he'd do it.

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There were a few others (Magneto was my "daddy" type), and then there was Logan. He was my straight guy. I needed a straight guy because, occasionally, I'd find myself on a "couples call" with a random lady from the office, and we'd either pleasure the caller simultaneously or he'd just listen to us act out a sex scene. After a while, we started to recognize the voice of whoever we'd be paired with, and we'd meet by the water cooler afterward for a quick debrief. Our conversation was always strictly professional, even though we'd been faux-orgasming together minutes before. It was just like any other office conversation, only instead of discussing subscriber accounts or the recent merger, we'd be giving each other professional pointers on how better to simulate a throat-job.

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"Have you heard of Tibetan throat singing?"

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2
Closeted Teens And Lonely Men Called For Serious Help

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Most callers knew exactly what they were there for. But about one in 10, when asked what they wanted to talk about, would reply, "Uhh, nothing really. I just saw your ad and I really want someone to talk to." It'd be a lonely older guy, in the closet in real life and with no one else to speak to. Talking with him would be like going on a date with a shy girl and doing all the talking, asking a lot of questions because she won't really open up on her own.

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In other cases, it would be a teenager. We'd ask if he was 18, and he'd lie and say he was, but then when it came time to get down to business, I'd be emotionally blind-sided with something like:

Him: "I'm just really lonely, and my life sucks."
Me: "Why?"
Him: "Because I can't talk to anyone about who I am. I live in Texas. Whenever I've tried to talk about this, the other kids beat the shit out of me. My parents will also beat the shit out of me. I'm so alone. My life sucks." [Usually a little crying]

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No amount of audio comic-character banana-gobbling is going to help with that.

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At which point I'd try to make him feel better. Those conversations would mostly be me listening to their sad story of isolation, fear, and abuse. If they mention suicide, as many do, we advise them to find help, provide them with the number for a suicide helpline, and politely disengage the call. But it rarely came down to that -- the calls were usually 45 minutes of charging-by-the-minute fake friendship followed by a really sad and awkward, "Goodbye. I hope everything works out. No, sorry -- you probably won't ever speak to me again." Palpable disappointment on their end. Cue me taking a break to go stare at myself in a mirror while a Paul Simon song swelled in the background.

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1
There Are Protocols In Place To Guard Against Serial Killers

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Because it was such a charged environment, we had to keep things professional with our co-workers and were reminded to do so by frequent sexual harassment seminars. The stricter rules, however, were about protecting us from callers, not from each other. Our bosses repeatedly drilled into us that a serial killer could be targeting us at all times. Keeping us safe was a huge priority, even if only for liability reasons. So we were strictly forbidden from ever making any outside contact with callers or giving them any real information about ourselves. And believe me, there were many callers that tried, whether they were the sad guys I mentioned in the last section or just satisfied customers that wanted to speak to me directly again.

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"I just wanna thank you and shake your hand."
"No, thanks. I know where they've been."

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The place itself had decent security, with tinted glass, bars on windows and doors, and electronic locks. And they insisted everyone enter the building on time, even if we dilly-dallied once inside, because if we didn't, they'd assume we were out being murdered. Or perhaps they were just asshole bosses and sticklers for punctuality, and the "serial killer" thing was only an excuse.

Yes, perhaps that. One time, I came in 12 minutes late. When I got there, they already had someone covering my shift, and they told me I was done there. That was that. I walked out, found a working payphone, called my mother, and told her, "You got your wish. They fired me."

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I used my least sexy voice.

Ryan Menezes is an editor and interviewer here at Cracked. Follow him on Twitter for bits cut from articles and other stuff no one should see.

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