You are here
Home > News > How Becoming A Phone Sex Operator Helped Me Heal From Sexual Trauma

How Becoming A Phone Sex Operator Helped Me Heal From Sexual Trauma

“Hi, this is Lolita. How are you doing, baby?” I faintly whispered into my cellphone, nervously shifting my weight from my toes to my heels and back again.

“Great, Lolita, now that I’m talking to you, honey,” the stranger on the other end of the line huffed through shallow breaths. “You in the mood to have some sexy fun tonight?”

It was my first night as a phone sex operator, and using my nom de guerre, Lolita, I stumbled through half a dozen phone calls, raking in several hundred dollars. I jumped around my studio apartment as I transferred the money to my bank.

Just weeks earlier, I had been discharged from a voluntary stay at the psychiatric hospital for my chronic PTSD, a relapse in my bulimia, and suicidal ideation. Despite what horror movies may lead you to believe, for me, being in the hospital feels like being wrapped in a warm blanket. It’s almost always the aftermath of a psychiatric hospital visit that’s most terrifying: After my 72-hour psych unit stint, I was newly jobless, one rent payment away from homelessness, and only semi-successfully managing my severe trauma. I knew that working a full-time job outside my home was not a viable option.

After wading through dozens of at-home telemarketer scams and online tutoring jobs that paid a non-livable wage, I stumbled across a website that had an ad for a phone sex operator position, and thought to myself, why not?

After setting up a basic profile through an online platform, I would sign in anytime I was online, and anonymous phone calls were routed to my cell phone. At the end of every night, the money was transferred to my bank account and I was worry-free.

From my first night as a phone sex worker I was, in every sense of the word, a “natural” at it.

When I was still a child, the memories of my father’s ongoing molestation were fragmented and incomplete; like shards of glass, I had only partial scenes, smells, sounds, and moments reflected. Every time I went to pick the pieces up, to reconnect the dots, I ended up emotionally cut in a new way. It wasn’t until I was 19, after my mother put a restraining order in place against him, that my memories of my father’s sexual abuse became clear as day. And it paralyzed me.

I wanted to weaponize the misogyny my father weaponized against me, and the other women in my life.

My trauma was ugly. My trauma meant spending nights frozen in child’s pose, with my face pressed to the carpet, hyperventilating. My trauma looked like self-harm. Like purging. Like attachment issues. Like routine trips to mental health treatment. My sexual abuse created a deep-seated shame, and self-blame in my core I couldn’t unearth.

To a great extent, my trauma also manifested as a deep distrust and fear of men. My father was the sole image I had of what I assumed all men were like: abusive, controlling, predatory, and manipulative.

At first, earning my income through phone sex felt like a subversive form of reparation for my childhood sexual abuse and for the mental health disabilities it left me with.

Whether I was playing the role of a submissive partner or dominatrix emasculating my clients, men paid hundreds of dollars to simply speak to me on the phone, while I relaxed in the comfort of my apartment. I was earning my income — that funded my health care, paid my bills, and put groceries on the table — through the very sexist culture that normalized the sexual abuse I experienced in the first place.

Through sex work, I was seeking restitution for being victimized, and trying to make sense of what happened to me as a child. I wanted to weaponize the misogyny my father weaponized against me, and the other women in my life. If men were set to objectify me, why not charge them for it?

However, like with any form of sex work (or any service industry job, for that matter), I began to have regular clients whom I’d talk to one to four times a week, for a couple hours at a time. As we built friendships, we became more transparent about our real lives. Eventually, though still semi-anonymous, I gave trusted longtime clients my real number. We’d exchange texts, pictures, and emails throughout the day. Sure, many of the conversations still revolved around sex, but my regulars took interest in my existence outside their fantasies.

I never shared my mental health struggles with them, but we’d talk about politics, the books we were reading, our lives, our day-to-day activities, and our future goals. One client routinely shared pictures of his fitness journey with me, while another client confided in me about a recent heartbreak that led to him finding my phone line in the first place. They never tried to stop paying me or disregarded the boundaries of our agreement: to my surprise, we built mutual respect.

My job title was no longer simply “phone sex operator.” For many of my clients, I was a girlfriend, a confidant, an intimate partner, a healer, and, above all, a connection to another human being that they couldn’t make elsewhere.

There was still a monetary transaction and I maintained anonymity, but much to my chagrin, I began to feel a sense of compassion for my regular clients. Truthfully, this shift in my outlook made me uncomfortable. I didn’t become a sex worker to empathize and relate to the men I serviced — I wanted to just make enough money to survive in spite of my mental illnesses, and I wanted to stay angry, dammit.

Anger was my patron saint: Sheer anger toward my perpetrator helped me survive, despite how desperately hopeless and unfixable I had felt at times in my life. But, while anger empowered me to a certain point, I began to realize that it wasn’t healing me. Beneath my anger toward men was fear, hurt and confusion.

There’s a misconception that sex work only entices clients who are entitled, disrespectful or predatory, yet this wasn’t my experience. Many people probably think phone sex is a dying field, but in truth, it attracts some of the most struggling and deeply hurt clientele: people with agoraphobia, people with intimacy issues, other sexual assault survivors, people with disabilities, and people simply needing a safe, healthy outlet to explore the parts of their sexuality that they or society deem “shameful.”

In fact, as my friendships with my clients continued to progress, I learned I was more like my regulars than I wanted to acknowledge. My clients and I had arrived on the opposite ends of phone sex — me as a sex worker, and them as a patron — but we sought similar resolutions.

Sex work, though often cast off as an industry that compounds onto existing trauma, was quietly contributing to my healing. I didn’t understand it at the time, at least consciously, but I realized I gravitated toward the sex industry in part to reprocess my trauma in an environment that was safe, to redevelop a way to have a healthy connection with men, and to explore my sexuality.

I’m not suggesting sex work is a cure-all for people who have gone through trauma. In fact, I know that I work in a privileged part of the sex industry, and have navigated my work largely unscathed, while many of my fellow sex workers have not. No one solution works for everyone, because the healing process that follows trauma is messy, complex, and nonlinear. Like the stages of grief, the effects of trauma and abuse will ebb and flow in ways survivors can’t anticipate, and healing can sometimes be discovered in the most unexpected of places.

Though my healing is far from over, sex work set me on a path to healing I would have never discovered otherwise. In fact, my job as a sex worker, in large part, helped me process enough of my trauma to redirect all the hurt I was feeling toward the right person: my father.

I still have panic attacks. I triple check the locks on my door at night, and rehearse in my head how I will escape if someone were to assault me. I still struggle with my mental illnesses on a daily basis, some days with curtains drawn, and other days where I am supremely grateful for any moment of peace.

There are still days I am more angry than sad, or more sad than angry. But there are also many other days when I can breathe and know I have the resiliency to survive, trust and continue healing.

Do you have a personal story you’d like to see published on HuffPost? Find out what we’re looking for here and send us a pitch!

Leave a Reply

Top