Love & Sex

Talking Dirty: The Women Who Still Make Bank as Phone Sex Operators

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Talking Dirty: The Women Who Still Make Bank as Phone Sex Operators

"I can be anything they want."

By Xander Peters

A phone rings — it's always ringing at this time of night. Conveniently waiting, sitting on the far end of her living room couch in her favorite pink robe, Kathleen Vassmer looks down to see which one of the mobiles is buzzing on the coffee table in front of her. Eyeing the lit screen closest to where her feet are propped, she hurries to pick up the call from an unfamiliar number before it goes blank, again. In an uniquely juvenile voice, one not entirely fitting the image of a mature woman working the evening block, she answers, "Hello." 

But the man on the opposite end of the wire isn't looking for Kathleen tonight. "Is this Abby?" he asks instead. Which she replies, in a dainty manner, knowing exactly who the caller is inquiring for, "Hi, honey." Because six days out of the week in the waning hours between midnight and sunrise, the late shift, Kathleen Vassmer takes on a role of more than just herself —she's "Abby," Daddy's little girl. 

As she runs the man's credit card for a requested ten minutes, the required minimum per call, Kathleen (or Abby) continues to stir their conversation. There isn't a lot of time on her hands — or his, for that matter — to get the job done. So she starts describing how nice it would if "Mommy" weren't around so much, and how she wishes that "Daddy," the caller, would pay the right kind of attention to his princess. "I'm wrapping my hand around the base of your cock and I'm stroking it slowly," she says. "Does that feel good? Now lay back, Daddy…"

The average earnings of a full-time Phone Sex Operator (PSO) earns around $40,000 per year. However, that amount would be considered pocket change in comparison to the incalculable billions sex-related professions earn each year as a whole. Even before a search engine could bring even the wildest pervert's dreams to fruition with a few keystrokes (pun intended) people across the globe have continually purposed increments of both time and money into getting off in their own zealous fashion. The PSO industry being a seven digit sub-genre of the industry in its own. 

Still, as access to rare sexual niches becomes increasingly convenient, talking dirty on a sex line with a total stranger — whose vague advertisement leaves almost everything to the imagination — has yet to lose its prevalence underneath the industry's umbrella. In Kathleen's opinion, what perhaps keeps customers coming back "to shell out the $2 per minute" is the personalized guarantee. "You can go to free porn sites anywhere and get off, sure," she says. "But I can be anything they want, wherever they want, because it's all geared towards them." The future, from ordering sneakers to taking BuzzFeed quizzes, is all about customization. 

Outside of her job as a PSO, Kathleen, 40, works as a trained legal secretary. She’s a single mother, raising a family in a suburban neighborhood, who participates in yoga and pilates classes on the weekdays, and packs her children's PB&J sandwiches before taking them to school every morning. 

But it was not until about a year and a half ago, after her own mother fell ill and in need of constant care, that her alternative profession (and the income it brings) became appealing. By then, bills were piling on top of each other and the debt collectors kept calling. As a caretaker for those around her, Kathleen knew something had to be done. Sure, it sounds like a Lifetime movie, but after receiving a compliment on her "bedroom talk" from a boyfriend at the time, she thought of a way to pay that bills that she never might have realized otherwise. 

This past summer, Cynthia Cannon, a student seeking her undergraduate degrees in Theater and French, encountered a similar financial predicament. While the notices to pay her tuition bills began to overlap, it became glaringly obvious that Cynthia would need a sustainable source of income besides grants or loans in order to finish her education. Yet, the idea of a customary position held by college kids — you know, working retail, waiting tables, tending bar — struck Cynthia as "mundane."

Instead, she acted on an idea that had been nesting in the back of her head — to become a PSO, like she saw in a movie as a teenager. Her boyfriend agreed. With a few clicks through the internet, an emailed application, and a two week wait, Cynthia received a phone call from the company's manager to conduct an interview. 

During their conversation, she recalls how the manager made sure to provide an ample disclaimer about what to expect in this profession. "You have to deal with really weird guys sometimes. Some of the stuff that you'll hear, if it's off-putting, then you have to be really accepting of it," her future employer had said, emphasizing the "dark, twisted stuff." In addition, certain skills were also going to be needed in order to land the job, such as "young girl voices." But due to Cynthia's background in theater, she nailed the "audition" and she was asked to immediately start training. 

"Since she warned me, I was more prepared," Cynthia says about the raw material she would soon be discussing after her training had been completed. "Especially because I've never done phone sex before and I've never done anything wild in sex before, like a threesome, not stuff (the callers) talk about." 

By mid-summer, she was putting in an excess of 60 hours per week logged-in for calls or writing blogs to promote her fictional characters and their authentic fetishes and opening up her mind to all variations of sex (some of which, Cynthia admits to never totally grasping). 

Of course, the after-hour commercials depicting PSOs lounging by the pool while flipping their curls of blonde perfection were not entirely accurate. After all, isn’t that a joke we’ve all seen in movies and TV a million times already? In all honesty, for Cynthia, work became rather boring. She passed the long and often awkward conversations by clipping her toenails, brushing her hair, occasionally smoking some pot.  

Cynthia remembers feeling a sense of empowerment over her callers while on the clock. Even when playing the subordinate role in a fantasy, she was aware of where the control ultimately rested. Which, became all the more reason for a select few of her regular callers to eventually become attached. "(One caller) kept saying how he loved me so much,” she says. “I was making up this story to him and I said, ‘Yeah, I'm kind of into geology.’ And he said, ‘No way, I'm a geologist!’ I thought, ‘Fuck…Now he super loves me!’"  

At that point, the weird would only become the weirder — such as making accommodations for vomiting sound effects or how another man expressed his fetish for rubber boots and calve muscles, insisting that Cynthia march around her apartment during their call. There were times where a bestiality call would happen and more than a few guys into poop. "This one guy just wanted to hear about how explosive my diarrhea was," Cynthia says. "And another guy wanted me to fart on his tongue."  

The stories behind Kathleen and the 16 different characters she maintains are not much different — yet, just as obscene on some occasions. As a mother, conversations about rape and murder were never easy to have, especially on a regular basis. Even though her highest grossing character is an early 20s, pedophiliac, stripper named Lauren, who insists that her four-year-old daughter join in on her and the caller's deviant play. 

A job is a job, though. The benefits — the compensation and fair treatment as an employee — outweigh any preconceived notions of what the day to day (or night to night) basis of being a PSO truly consists of. According to the stereotype, these women are masturbating every time they speak with a caller. "Not at all. I think I'd pass out," Kathleen says. "Are there calls where I do masturbate? Yeah. But nine times out of 10 it's just acting." 

On the other hand, what kind of girl isn't going to love a dozen men a day saying, "I've never came so hard in my life?" Whether it be Natasha, the dominatrix, or Chelsea, the transvestite, or any other of the diverse array of personalities, there's a certain aspect of admiration Kathleen feels for both her job and the characters, "her girls." Most women, in her opinion, have a fantasy of being "swept up and having some guy dominate them." To be admired, to be this sexual object, for Kathleen, it's a turn on. She says, "It's nice to feel sexy when you have a kid hanging on your hip all of the time." 

While as for Cynthia, her four month stint as a PSO took her on a journey through not only the offbeat sexual inclinations already in existence, but deeper into the idea of sex in itself as a stigma. Over time, she thinks, if our culture keeps on the trend that it's okay to indulge in these fantasies through certain personal and virtual means, then it will be relatively common to explore all of the intricacies behind sex itself. Because sex still sells, and that is true no matter what happens to everyone’s land lines.

Images via 1, 2, 3.