I worked in a phone sex hotline. This is really what it is

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I have always been one of the broke students.

The exorbitant prices of student accommodation prompted me to hold two jobs throughout my first year to get by. Naturally, this had an impact on my social life – I worked weekdays at a school and weekends in my student union bar, leaving me little time to study, let alone socialize. By the end of my freshman year, I had exhausted all the internet searches for “easy ways to make money”, but none of them gave me much hope that I would be able to quit school. ‘one of my jobs.

Then I thought I had found my solution. I joined a Dirty Roulette sex hotline over the phone.

Friends and I had joked about sex work, and I know a few students who work for adults in clubs and online. As sex work gains acceptance and platforms such as OnlyFans continue to gain popularity, it’s no surprise that one in five college students have considered turning to sex work to help finance their studies. With a lack of financial support available for middle class students, rising accommodation costs, and rising daily expenses, many students, just like me, are struggling to make ends meet.

Uncomfortable with working face to face, or anything that compromises my identity – didn’t want to risk videos or photos of myself on the internet – I quickly and deeply fell into the world of adult phone lines , which allowed me to sell adult content while maintaining full control.

“The only skills I really needed were to be able to act and appear believable, which I was sure I could, to keep a straight face.”

I’ve read that the pay can be tough, but at worst similar to my minimum wage job. The only skills I really needed were to be able to act and look believable which I was sure I could – I had done acting before so I was confident to be able to improvise content – and keep a straight face. More importantly, the job requires you to mentally block adult content. It turned out that I couldn’t do it as well as I thought I could.

On the first day, I acquired a handful of regular callers, which allowed me to schedule hours according to theirs.. One of my first regular visitors was an older man with an interest in astrology. He wanted to know my astrological sign and discuss our compatibility, and check in daily to tell me my horoscope. Another regular caller just wanted me to give him permission to do certain sexual things, basically I was repeating the instructions to him. It wasn’t too traumatic.

In the grand scheme of things, I became a successful worker: as a “barely legal” worker I was very popular on the lines and easily earned enough to quit one of my other jobs. I generally found the calls to be quite amusing. I learned to be creative, simulating noises like walking in high heels and, when men too often asked to hear me pee, squeezing water from a bottle into a cup to make precise sound. And honestly, most of the comments weren’t too crude.

But I found that “blocking” what men told me was more difficult than I had imagined. Due to my “barely legal” age, callers often commented on how “young” my voice sounded. Callers commented on “workout bras” and “big girl panties” and often spoke contemptuously to me as if I was a young child who did not understand gender.

“Even in this job, using an anonymous hotline where I had no visual connection to clients, I still felt vulnerable.”

The chat line is supposed to protect its employees from calls of an illegal nature, but until the caller explicitly mentioned age, everything else was considered role play. On occasion, I felt so uncomfortable with the nature of these calls that I hung up the phone, leaving me to answer the supervisor, who lectured me on disrespecting customers and threatening to prevent me from working. Even in this job, using an anonymous hotline where I had no visual connection to clients, I still felt vulnerable.

It quickly became apparent that managers only cared about keeping callers connected for as long as possible so the business could maximize their revenue, and their business policies supported that attitude. At first, I assumed that this job, being self-employed, would give me more control over my hours and allow me to earn money while doing housework or writing study notes. Instead, I started to realize that I wasn’t going to get paid if I didn’t respect inappropriate customers.

While this is fair – I never expected to like men who talk badly on the phone – I could never have imagined the nature of these conversations. I was also struck by the fact that while I was getting a living wage callers were paying around £ 2 a minute for the privilege of speaking to me. I couldn’t deny the exploitative nature of the job, and after just a few weeks, I decided to leave.

Fortunately, I was able to live at home all summer where I worked as many hours as possible to save more money. I then heard of students who had participated in medical trials. Thanks to this, I was able to earn a decent amount of money which continues to support me, especially during the pandemic.

As sex work becomes more and more common and more women choose to work for themselves to earn extra money, I know firsthand that there are clearly still issues to protect these. workers. Young women seem to fall into the “trap” of a job that promises easy work. Being self-employed, working from home and earning over £ 10 an hour seems like ideal work for a full-time student, especially with the sleek advertising and the five-minute sign-up process.

But while adult chat line jobs are convenient and offer a sometimes much-needed solution for those struggling – and with sex work becoming more and more standardized – I’ve learned firsthand that it can be. easy to forget some of the difficult realities of working in the adult industry – even when you are working only over the phone.

Rosie Strathmann is a student at the University of Edinburgh

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