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Do you want to talk about “play”? he says, and she says, Yes. Then let’s begin with the House. I wouldn’t know where to begin, she says. For starters, relax. Then, tell me the first thing that comes to mind. When she says nothing, he says, Anything at all. And when she still says nothing, he says, If you don’t want to — No, I do want to. So tell me the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the House? She hesitates again, then says, The phones. The phones? Ten in the morning, any given morning, and I hear them ringing before I step foot through the front door. What else about the phones? There’s no call-waiting on the flake line. Good, continue. Please don’t praise me; it’s embarrassing. But he ignores her and says, There’s no call-waiting on the flake line. What else? They’re big talkers, flakes, at least those who talk. What about those who don’t talk? They hang up.


Hundreds hang up. Probably leaves them feeling giddy all day, just thinking about hanging up. Then he interrupts her, What is a flake, anyway? and she says, Slang for a first-time caller or an unreliable client. In order to conserve time and energy, you learn the distinction between a hopeless flake and someone who’s going to pan out. How do you tell the difference? Experience. And practice, she sighs, You’ve got to practice; memorize and personalize the script. But you couldn’t handle a flake, much less juggle three or four calls and handle the books, all at once, if you weren’t working — you aren’t even allowed near the phones until you have a good twenty or thirty hours of sessions under your belt, depending. Some have a better phone manner, which certainly helps if you’re thinking long-term. Why not hire someone to answer the phones for you? Sure, she laughs, What do you suggest? Take out an ad for a receptionist? I’m sure someone could — No. We don’t bring outsiders into the House, ever. Not only for the obvious security reasons, but because you have to know the other women and their play styles, firsthand, in order to book them, and because you couldn’t possibly field the range of questions asked or answer with any authority unless you’ve been there and know the language. It’s a matter of fluency. Then how do you begin on the phones? First, you study the book, log your hours in session, and listen for a month or two, before you get to take your first call. It requires a lot of coaching. I can imagine. How? she asks, and he says, I meant the necessity of coaching. I doubt you can imagine. Some of the absolute worst days I’ve spent at the House were answering phones. It’s incredibly draining. Then tell me about the script. Pretty standard: “We cater to a wide variety of fantasy, fetish, role play, all aspects of B&D and S/M, with seven fully equipped play rooms at our disposal; we’re located in an elegant, private residence, with professional dominants, submissives and switches on staff — and, of course, there is no direct sexual contact involved in any of our sessions.” And you actually repeat this script for every flake? Each and every, fifty times a day, she sighs. Then how do you recognize a potential client as distinct from any other flake? Telltale signs: articulation, action verbs, correct usage, knowledge of slang, lingo, euphemistic terms, personal referrals — He interrupts her again, What euphemistic terms? I’ve told you before — Tell me again, and she says, A.P., for example. A.P.? She sighs, and he says, Humor me, and she says, “Anal play” — but we joke about that particular term all the time. What would you think if I said that I had “pussy play” with some guy, she says, laughing. But I thought you said there was no sex in any of your sessions? I did; I was speaking of euphemisms. But any flake who requests anal play in the course of conversation doesn’t know protocol; sounds flaky. How many callers solicit anal sex? No — Excuse me, how many request “anal play”? I’d say a third to half of flake calls, more on a bad day. I mean, can you imagine having to answer twenty, thirty calls per day from strangers asking if you’d fuck them up the ass, however euphemistically? I thought you said the term was “anal play”? I said the euphemism is “anal play,” but I certainly didn’t say that all flakes know the correct terms. Yes, well. Other euphemisms? Douche is classic. They want to watch you douche? and she says, No, douche, as in: “Mistress, I douched for you this morning.” She drawls, “Oh, you douched? For me?” That’s so faggy, though of course we welcome all sexual persuasions. Couples and doubles, especially. What’s the difference between a couple and a double? A couple is you and your acquaintance, male or female; a double: two professionals and you, alone. Or various combinations of sexes and sexual persuasions. Triples and group walk-ons are a total blast too — a much-needed break from the monotony. Of course, he says, and she continues, Seriously, I wish more women would call, we cream ourselves whenever a woman calls, practically fight for the scene. Were those all of the telltale signs of flakes? Not by a long shot. Those are a few basic indicators, but there are always those who have done their research — even though you can only fake so much — and then there are notorious flakes, the ones who call once or twice a week, every week, for a month or two, then drop out for five or six months. Notorious flakes book appointments, but never show. But if you know they’re flakes, why do you book their appointments? That’s the problem with flakes, unpredictability. Some flakes book and confirm their appointment — Wait, what do you mean by confirm? Flakes must book and then confirm their appointment twice before we give them directions. We refer to the second round as “finals,” as in, “Hey, your flake is on finals!” Why two rounds? To ensure discretion. We expect the vast majority of prospective clients will lose their nerve at the last minute. Also, anyone who calls and seems mostly concerned with obtaining our physical address sounds extremely flaky. And, often enough, flakes make finals but still don’t show. So it’s like being stood up by a blind date? Pretty much, but with twice the relief, or disappointment. Why would you ever feel disappointed? Oh, maybe their session sounded interesting, or challenging, or both. But just the same, even if you have an extremely enjoyable conversation with a flake, you really seem to hit it off, you can’t get your hopes up — that’s something you only learn from experience as well, even though you’re warned. Because most times, flakes get off on calling, the discussion is a rush in itself. That’s why we call them phone fucks. I’m still not clear on this. Often enough, we use the term literally, when you hear them jacking off. With heavy breathers, you can just hang up. But figuratively, loosely speaking, phone fucks are flakes with no intention of showing, who really get off on talking about their fantasy and hearing themselves being heard, and so some will call and call, hoping a different woman answers. That’s why flakes are unique to Houses, greater chance of speaking to a different woman. Go on. Another example? Please. Okay, take anyone who calls and asks if it is possible for two women to kick his ass, to really, really kick his ass. If he mentions a baseball bat, or if he mentions the duo repeatedly kicking him in the balls, if he mentions cleats or hiking boots, if he repeats any particular detail five or six times, for example: “Their fierce spikes trampling my groin . . .” apparently hoping you might clarify and embellish the scenario with your own adjectives, then chances are he’s a phone fucker. They actually request trampling? Trampling is not uncommon. What do you do in those cases? Put him on hold, take a deep breath, return, and reply, “Yes, I’m sure we can arrange that type of session. What time were you thinking?” So how do you know when to humor them, and when to hang up? That’s the trick. Sometimes it’s really hard to control your first impulse, like this guy who calls about once a week, and there’s always a baby crying in the background, and I finally said, “Excuse me, is that a baby?” and then he came right out and told me all about his divorce and the custody battle. He still calls us on his days off work, when he’s watching his son. The point is, never ask. Is the tipoff usually that obvious? Yes, and no. There are lots of clues — phrases, accents, a recurring noise. This one guy always sounds like he’s calling from a kennel, with this horrible yipping in the background. Would you like to hear more? Please. There was this one flake, the “brother-in-law.” This guy calls and says, “My brother-in-law gave me your number, and my brother-in-law says you’re the best he’s ever seen,” and I say, “Thank you.” Setting aside all concern for any sister/wife related to this guy, I say, “Can you tell me what you’re looking for?” and he stammers, as they often do, claiming, “I never talk about this with anyone.” Whatever — I don’t argue with him or ask about his brother-in-law. I just give him a moment, tell him to take his time, as I always do, and finally, the man says, “What I’m looking for exactly is a drop-dead gorgeous woman who gives good head in the morning, and takes it doggy-style,” and I say, “Well, aren’t we all?” You didn’t actually say that, did you? No, of course not — that’s my point. Are you ever surprised by a request? Ummm, nothing comes to mind. Nothing? Once in a while, but not too much anymore. I’d like to be surprised, but when I am, it’s usually for the worse. Specifically? Well, generally, you hear the stranger requests while fielding calls for submissives. Like this Ob/Gyn who kept calling, and who wanted to do things he couldn’t do to his patients — something involving ovaries. Are you kidding? Why would I kid about such a thing? There was this one other caller who wanted to gag a submissive with a soiled pair of his little girl’s underwear. How did you handle that? I avoided further discussion by explaining the reasons why we don’t allow our subs to be gagged, then I hung up. As it turned out, they dealt with him elsewhere, eighty-sixed him, and called to let us know, as a professional courtesy. Eighty-sixed? He’s never allowed to return. Occasionally, clients who’ve been eighty-sixed try to sneak back into the House by calling on the flake line, and changing their name, or their date of birth, or they lower their voices a register, she laughs, Some will cop a fake accent — another reason why we don’t put new girls on the phones right away: they haven’t heard all the stories, yet. Also, any prospective top who tells you that he’s been doing this for twenty-five years or more, I never believe them, especially flake sadists, not until proven guilty. Regardless, I certainly wouldn’t book them with an inexperienced sub, I’d probably book them with a switch, tell her that he’s looking for a straight submissive, and not to blow their cover. Why the deception, if they’re paying to see a submissive? If they’ve never been to the House, we don’t know anything about them, and we have to look out for each other. Book them with a green sub, and you’re asking for trouble. Honestly, most new tops will pick up a whip, without any training, not even five minutes of training — they’ll pick up the most vicious whip available, all impressed by the eye candy, but they don’t think about the fact that you have two kidneys, a spine, muscles. When you correct them, however many times they wrap — Slow down, wrap? Technical term for when the ends of the whip literally wrap around your waist, hips — really jarring, and you can bruise someone pretty easily, that way. Of course if it’s intentional, that’s another story . . . So what happens when you inform them of their poor technique? Well, usually when you finally tell them that they’ll have to learn to use the implement if they want to see you again, however gently you might suggest that they take lessons from a dom, or switch with you, chances are you won’t ever see them again. Not that you’d want to, either, but the point is that most don’t care to be corrected — they’d rather risk injuring you than learn proper technique. And once warned, they usually either deny any wrongdoing, or they’ll suddenly feel guilty about endangering your body and get all sheepish, or some bullshit. Or, there are those who will say, “You aren’t a true submissive . . .” You hear that enough times from some flake, walking in off the street. That’s when most subs start to burn out, or they switch, or they go strictly dom — usually the latter, if they’re going to work long-term. Switches burn out almost as quickly as subs; you’re up, you’re down, day after day. Not to say that you don’t get some phenomenal players, there are definitely those who’ve been doing this longer than I’ve been alive. Total pros. You still work as a submissive, then? No, but even if I did, I would never admit the fact to any submissive client. Tell them as much, and they’re likely to think, You aren’t a true dom . . . Then he pauses, and says, I don’t think I could handle the masturbatory element of the job. She laughs, Masturbatory element? You know what I mean. Yes, but we prefer “self-release.” Isn’t that much nicer? And he laughs, and she says, I knew you’d appreciate that one. But as far as the masturbatory element, you’re probably right about your limitations. Isn’t that standard, though? Not in my scenes. The first year or so, you don’t think of it as much, you aren’t as confident in your ability to pull off a scene without allowing them to jack off. But you find out who the real players are. That’s one more reason why it’s important to screen properly on the phone, find out their actual intentions. If their focus is sex, they’d do better looking elsewhere, because their getting off is definitely not our priority. That doesn’t strike me as completely honest — it’s sex work. Yes, it’s highly sexual, sexually charged and motivated, but that’s the line. And that’s why they won’t hire other sex workers, strippers, prostitutes, different boundaries. He says, A fine line, just the same. Only if you’ve never played, before. Haven’t you ever called? No, you know I haven’t. Why not — you’re so curious — have you thought about calling? Not exactly, but I am curious, yes. Well, whatever your reasons, get your information right. Because it really pisses me off when I hear rumors, when people lie. Lie? Lie, joke, exaggerate, or claim that we solicit these conversations. We offer nothing, we never get up and offer to beat someone, that’s bullshit. The same goes for the “whips and chains” line of inquiry, which is so lame I find myself laughing. Don’t you realize it just covers up what really goes on? Then why do the jokes bother you so much? If you had to check the answering machine every morning and deal with the freaks and belligerent drunks who call. I mean, if you heard some of the messages we receive, you’d understand. How do you expect me to understand, if you won’t tell me? Like, “You filthy whore, I know where you are, and I’m gonna fuck you with a hunting knife, and you’re gonna thank me when it’s over” — stuff like that. He laughs and she says, Does that sound funny to you? I’m sorry. Was that you who called? Of course not. Then don’t apologize. Then he pauses, and says, Personally, I don’t like pain. Now who’s starting? Talk about misinformation, masochism is not a prerequisite — over half my scenes involve no physical pain whatsoever. A dom once told me a story about this submissive, after my practice session. The story goes that she took a heavy pain scene as her first professional session, and she never used her safe word; she thought the whole point was to see how much physical pain she could humanly endure, and she was left pretty beat up. Exactly why were you told this story? As a comparison — he was comparing me to her. But the point is, I was completely ignorant when I began. You’ve never actually told me how you began. You never asked. I’m Old School, and before he interrupts, she says, Old School means you train to dom by working as a sub first. Paying your dues. The vast majority of women drop out within six weeks of starting. That’s how you start at a House? Yep, you interview, and if they think you’re for real, and you can handle it, then you sub to a man in a practice session, which is similar to an actual session in that you’re naked with some man you don’t know, likely never laid eyes on before. They find out how you’d handle the real thing; your limitations, responsiveness, and not just the physical side; they might try any number of mind games, mindfuck you, just to see if you’ll break, what might set you off. If I could do it all over again, I’d train with a well-established independent, even though there are definite advantages to working at a House. It’s like a sorority, an incredibly depraved sorority, the things we do together. Are we through with the phones, then? No, what I was going to say is that even independents — I assume you know what an independent is? Yes, thank you. Even independents answer their own phones, at least during their phone hours. Why? Smart business — you’d be surprised how much information you can learn simply by listening to their questions: how they ask, what they ask, tone of voice, how nervous they are. Your own questions, for example, are self-evident. How so? What do you think I’ve told you about myself? You’re passive-aggressive, so you’d likely try to top from below, and chances are you wouldn’t be particularly responsive in your first scene, probably intellectualize the experience, assume you understand based on what you’ve read — Then he interrupts her, I don’t think there’s any need to — And then she interrupts him, I am speaking, and he says, Excuse me, you were saying? And she pauses a moment and says, To finish answering your question, my guess is that you’d probably be somewhat vague in negotiation, sidestep and say something like, “I will leave myself in your most capable hands,” or “Do whatever you most enjoy,” and he laughs, and she says, That always drives me up the fucking wall. Why? What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that a sign of their desire to please? No. It’s a sure sign of their desire to be pleased. And a submissive would never say such a thing; the very redundancy of the declaration casts plenty of doubt, besides which, I hardly need some novice telling me how to do my job, thank you very much. Then he laughs, and she says, If you said such a thing, I’d recommend you give the matter far more thought, beforehand, and decide if it’s something you’re genuinely interested in, beyond the novelty. Because the fact is that I’m paid to be perceptive, not clairvoyant. Just the same, I would guess you were into bondage, sensory dep, and a few other things, but again, I think it’s your responsibility to figure that much out, yourself. Sensory dep? We prefer sensory deprivation, as opposed to “Do you enjoy blindfolds, sir?” Or, “Do you enjoy ball gags?” That tends to scare off the timid, you understand. I’m familiar with the term, I just hadn’t heard the abbreviation. How would you? You cannot assume based on a handful of conversations — On the contrary. By the way you’ve handled yourself in this conversation — you dip one toe at a time, then back off, it’s your entire mode of inquiry. Fine. Let’s pretend that I do call. Why pretend? Are you calling, or not? I’m willing to try. All right — but you aren’t the kind of flake who’s going to hang up on me, are you? No, I’m a potential-client flake. Then let’s have it, already. Give me some hints how to begin. There! From the start, I know you’re not a potential-client flake, besides which we never give hints. That’s not our job, at least not at this initial stage. Why don’t you tell me where you found our number? I saw your advertisement. I would note that, as well. Pardon? Advertisement, short-i, emphasis on second syllable, as opposed to advertisement, long-i. You’re well educated — not that that makes you special or provides any assurances. Where did you see our ad? Your voice changed. I know, I’m in role. Soothe, lull, arouse, provoke; you know. Where did you see our ad? In a magazine. Which publication? I forget; and she says, I would never coerce an answer to a question, but, seeing as you sound promising, perhaps Black and Blue, or maybe Bitches With Whips? and he says, Yes, I saw it in B.W.W. Strike two: you’ve reassured me that you are not in the know, because we have no qualms saying, Bitches With Whips. It flows. Just the same, what do you enjoy in session? What’s the difference between a session and a scene? Intensity. In my case, you assume it would be a session? You want an educated guess? Never mind. You’ve really never done this before, have you? No. That’s fine, we welcome novices, provided they’re open-minded about the experience. Are you open-minded? I should think so. Naturally. Where would I have seen an advertisement, someone like me? Well, how serious are you? Very. Do you have any personal experience? None. You would have seen us on the Net. Why the Net rather than a trade publication? Partly due to changing demographics — when I started, less than three years ago, you would have used D.D.I. Dominant Directory International. It’s D.D.I., but not B.W.W.? Correct. D.D.I. costs twenty bucks, so it used to be anyone who’d shell out twenty bucks seemed far more serious than those who only coughed up a buck-fifty for a weekly sex-trade rag. Regardless, you still have to speak to them on the phone, beforehand, and feel them out. Never underestimate the power of a woman’s voice. Good phone skills make all the difference between a flake who shows, and one who calls elsewhere. One last question? One. What is good phone manner, in your opinion? You involve them in the conversation, encourage them to open up and speak freely; you provide information, and pique their interest without offering too many specifics, whether that means you sound domineering, or disinterested, or naive, or confiding, or any combination, depending on personal style. Really, whatever makes the caller feel most comfortable and trusting, granted that they interest you. Manipulation, basically. You were saying? Yes, I saw your website, and I was interested. You’re interested in general information, or in booking an appointment? Both. Wonderful. But before we continue, you wouldn’t call on a cellular phone, would you? No, I have a cordless. You’d have to call from a hard line. Why? House policy, we only accept calls placed from hard lines; cellular calls are routinely monitored by scanners, and that’s not very discreet, is it? So first, why don’t you tell me what interested you about our site? Why don’t you tell me what interests you? Now you sound like a genuine-article phone fuck — remember, I didn’t call you and we aren’t here to discuss my fantasies. I’m only interested in finding out if you actually want to understand, if you’re genuinely willing, as you say you are. If you aren’t up for it, that’s fine, but don’t tell me you want to understand, and don’t think for a second that you understand anything about my line of work. Do you want to play or just talk about it, because I still think that you want something for nothing. That is certainly not my objective, and don’t overestimate your powers of intuition; I already told you that I was willing. Yes, you told me you were willing, but you still haven’t told me what interests you. I don’t know, I’ve never played before. I’m not so sure of that. So let’s try again. What intrigues you? B&D, D/S. So you have done some homework, after all. Nevertheless, are you asking me, or telling me? I’m telling you. You’re telling me what, exactly? You’re telling me that you might enjoy B&D, that sort of thing? Yes. Fine, but could you possibly be any more vague? I doubt it. If you don’t want to play — No, I do. Then I need you to answer as specifically as possible. Let’s just start with the first thing that comes to mind  . . . 

©1998 Courtney Eldridge and