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Confessions of a Phone Sex Operator

Almost no one uses their phone to make calls anymore—except for a growing number of lonely men who call women like me.

The relationship between the sexes and our epidemic of loneliness are topics we return to again and again at The Free Press. It’s one of the many reasons we chose the legacy of the sexual revolution as the subject of our very first live debate. (Get your tickets here.)

The sexual revolution, combined with the internet, has brought us several hundred dating and sex apps—everything from Tinder to Grindr to Cougar Life (self-explanatory) to the Atlasphere (for Ayn Rand fans)—but also a whole new set of anxieties about dating online. 

It’s brought us camgirls and Pornhub and Ivy League sugar babiesbut also the reality that young people are having less actual sex.

What gives? How to explain these paradoxes? Has the sexual revolution failed to liberate us? Or is it simply incomplete?

We know many of you won’t be able to make it to the debate, which is September 13 in Los Angeles (don’t worry, we’re going to record it). Meantime, over the coming weeks, we wanted to bring you a few essays that speak to these themes.

Today, we’re happy to publish Jenny Powers on the unexpected realities she encountered as a phone sex operator.  —BW

The first time Alec texted me, his attempts at flirtation were the obvious stuff.

“What are you wearing?” he wrote. “What would we be doing if I was there right now?” 

I was wearing a pair of ratty sweatpants. 

What I typed back was: “It’s what I’m not wearing that’s more interesting.” Then, “I could think of plenty for us to do. The real question is—where should we start?” 

A few texts in, he called. 

Alec had a Southern accent and his speech was hurried, betraying his anxiety. To put him at ease, I suggested we play a game.

“Tell me something no one knows about you,” I said.

I offered to go first. It was easy. I told the truth.

“No one knows I’m a phone sex operator. Now it’s your turn.”

The silence on the other end made me think we’d been disconnected. 

“I’m afraid I’ll be eating my breakfast one morning and choke and I don’t want to die alone,” he answered.

The tiny hairs on my arm stood at attention. I had no naughty reply. 

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