I am staying two nights in London, before I head up to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to present 25 nights in a row of Phone Whore. A London stay could be expensive, but my UK tour sponsors, the Sex Worker Open University, found me a billet at a "working" apartment, a place that an escort is using during the day for appointments. This means that I have to spend large swathes of the day out in cafés looking for internet access, but I'd be doing that anyway, so...
So, I was chatting with my host last night about my performances and my decision to not go independent with phone sex because it would interfere with my writing and touring, and then she told me about her photography work and how she'd love to maybe photograph me sometime. One of her projects is portraits of other sex workers, and, she said, "I don't know any phone sex operators."
This is something I hear often from ... Muggles? squares? the mainstream?... let's just say non-sex workers. I didn't expect to hear it from a politically active, well-networked escort. But it makes sense. In fact, I started knowing this way back when I first started, that most phone-sex operators—that is to say, PSOs who only do phone work, and don't combine it with face-to-face work—aren't particularly visible in sex-work politics, or indeed anywhere.
We don't need to be. After all, phone sex is one of the most anonymous and safe forms of sex work. It is legal in most states and countries, and it's relatively easy to hide from people who aren't sharing a wall with your work space; let's call it "customer service" or "call center work". Safety, anonymity... if you've got something to lose, why risk it by going public?
I certainly struggled with this when I first started. I had serious roommate woes for the first six months after I started—the sex noise was a real problem for wooden floors with gaps between the planks—and when my case worker for food stamps pressed me for details about my new job, I blushed and had to whisper.
But when I started doing Phone Whore, that all went by the wayside. I had to talk about my work, often and openly, and in conjunction with my picture, too. So I did, I learned how. I dove into writings by other sex workers, online and in $pread magazine, observing how people talked about what they did. And then, bolstered by the support of my existing friend network, I went forth and made new friends, not hiding what I did that made it difficult for me to go out and visit people, that made it SO MUCH EASIER to come visit me. I'm a born activist, so speaking up in public—about my job, and about the fact that I do consider it sex work—became a lot more natural for me, the more I did it.
Now I have reached the point where I tell border agents. THIS IS NOT HARD FOR ME. They may look at me funny, and occasionally smirk, but again, phone sex is legal, so what do I have to lose? I've disclosed countless times crossing the US-Canadian border, in both directions, and now the UK boys got it, too, when I was detained at Heathrow for six hours yesterday. They basically got my pitch: I'm here to perform my solo show Phone Whore, which is based on my work as a phone sex operator. Yes, that's how I make my money in the States.
If people have never met a phone sex operator, it will not be my fault.
If you liked this post, be sure to browse around some more. I’ve been blogging about my work in phone sex for almost four years, since six months after I started in April 2009. And if you live in the UK, you’ll have a chance this year to hang out with me while I’m on call! Okay, not really, but that’s what my award-winning solo play Phone Whore feels like, and I’m bringing it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival Aug. 1-25, and then to five other UK cities through mid-September. Follow those links to read all about the tour and my show, and if you do make it out, come up and say hi!