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ASK A PHONE WHORE: “Can I get your business number?”

Your feigned casualness makes my fingers itch.

Your feigned casualness makes my fingers itch.

Q. Can I get your business number?

No.

No.

GOD, NO.

I have fielded variants on this question hundreds of times, ever since I started promoting Phone Whore, thereby putting myself in the position of being publicly out about currently, actively doing phone sex. Yesterday evening I got asked four times in the space of four hours, while I was out doing Sidewalk Smut in Leicester Square, a heavily touristed spot in London, and it reminded me HOW VERY MUCH I HATE THIS QUESTION.

When the question comes in a little pop-up Facebook chat box, I don't respond and block the fucker immediately. In person, it is usually asked with a leer, sometimes with a completely dry, dead-pan face that the asker thinks will give them plausible deniability as "it was a joke! I was just winding you up!", but I can see the twitching little boner-on-the-rise in their eyes and I never laugh.

There are the logistical, practical issues for not giving out my business number:

  • I don't actually keep business cards for it, and I don't know it off the top of my head. I mean, I'M not calling that number ever!
  • I've said it before: phone sex is the safest, most anonymous form of sex work. I'd like to keep it that way for myself.
  • My boss would shit pallet-loads of cinder blocks if she found out I was recruiting real-life, face-to-face guys for the phone line. If they have other channels of reaching me, then I could take them "off the grid" at any time. Bad business!

There are other things oh-so-wrong about this question, layers upon layers of assumptions and misinformation that just rub me raw. Yes, reader, I phrased it like that on purpose. Go ahead and sit with that image, make it as crude as you like. That is how it feels to be asked, to my face, for my business number.

They think I must be on the prowl constantly.

They think that I do not discriminate in who I give my contact information to, which shows how much they've thought this through (sex workers are as cautious as anyone I know, if not more so, about giving out contact information).

They think that they have found a shortcut around making themselves vulnerable by admitting that they find me attractive and asking me for my personal number, or a coffee date.

They think they have got me up against the metaphorical wall (if I'm sitting down at my Smut Stand, I might be up against an actual wall, too). Obviously someone doing phone sex must be so desperate for money that OF COURSE I would give them my number. How could I turn them down?

These. Some combination of these assumptions is there, when a dude, or a bunch of dudes asks me for my number.

I modify my response depending on how safe I feel, how many of them are there, how drunk they are, how long I have to be in their proximity, who and how many other people are witnessing/listening. Is it a heckler at a comedy showcase or a festival line-up in broad daylight with other patrons listening or a longish conversation at a party where the exit is far away and blocked by a hundred other party goers? Rapid calculations of risk occur, before I make my response. Sometimes a curt "no" is all that is required, or the cut direct. Sometimes I have to banter them back.

But always I wish that I could spontaneously develop dragon-like fire-breathing abilities and scorch them into righteously smoking cinders. Always I want to say: If you meant that for a joke, find another one. Because that one has been hack since the first time it was uttered.

Sometimes it's easier to just leave it at "no".

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