Until I became a phone sex operator, I rarely talked about my attraction to women.
I knew from a young age, but I didn’t say it out loud or even fully understand it until I was well into my 20s. Growing up, I had a habit of developing intense, confusing one-sided female friendships that offered no answers, but I didn’t seriously confront the idea until I was in college. And by “seriously confront,” I mean I read a lot of lesbian erotica and thought about the Kinsey Scale. I experimented not at all. Experimentation didn’t even seem like an option for me. There was a lot of denial and repression, and then guilt because I understood that all this denial and repression was rooted in societal homophobia, and I did not like the thought that I could possibly in any way be susceptible to that homophobia.
I should note that I was also anxious about admitting my sexual attraction to anyone of any gender, including cis men. I was still expecting at this time to get married, relatively young, to a cis man, that this man would be the beginning and the end of my sexual history, and I’d get around to meeting him….eventually. While I did grow up in a religious household where sex was rarely discussed, this late bloomage was not because I thought sex was dirty or shameful, or that my value would diminish with every new sexual partner, but because sex seemed intensely emotionally fraught. I have always been terrified of confrontation, and what is sex but the ultimate confrontation? The idea of exposing myself to that with one person felt potentially dangerous. Doing it with more than one person felt like something for which I would never be emotionally prepared. Factor in that I had a mostly-dormant sex drive in my teens and early 20s, and this emotional risk was easily avoided.
So naturally, I became a phone sex operator.
On the first line I worked for, “April” was a character I played. While based on myself, we were not the same age, we didn’t live in the same city, and we had entirely different sexual histories. “April” had many more sexual partners than I did, and unlike me, she had acted on her attraction to women.
Surprisingly, this went over very well with clients.
In the past, I had always been annoyed by straight-identifying women who engaged in what I perceived as “performative lesbianism.” I.E. the old “make out with each other for male attention” routine. Now I was doing exactly that for work. I knew my clients enjoyed stories of Sapphic abandon, and I obliged. But they weren’t the only ones getting something out of it. For the first time, I had an outlet for this fraught thing I had always struggled to express.
While the cultural pressure for women to perform sexually with each other when they wouldn’t otherwise for male enjoyment deserves an article in its own right—one I am not remotely prepared or qualified to author—I think criticizing erotic expression on the basis of being “performative” wrongly assumes that anything performative must be a lie.
My first sexual experience with a woman did have a performative aspect. It happened in semi-public. Men were watching, we knew the men were watching, and that made it hotter. It didn’t make our attraction to each other or the pleasure we felt any less real.
This entire post has a performative aspect. There’s a reason I’m writing about this here, on a blog with a readership consisting mainly of my (male) clients who might find it titillating, instead of somewhere my civilian friends would be likely to see. There’s very little at stake in my telling the truth about myself here, just as there’s very little at stake in my telling the truth about myself on the phone. I have to deal with the fact that I am playing into the fetishization of bisexual women, but that doesn’t mean I’m being false. If anything, it gives me an honest way to vent intense emotion that I might not know how to express otherwise.
People ask me a lot how my becoming a PSO has affected my “in person” sex life, and the thing I keep coming back to is, it’s made me chattier and arguably, more performative.
I’m a loud person. I talk loudly. I walk loudly. I laugh like a drugged-up dentist. I tend to be at least somewhat performative even in my everyday non-sexual actions. When I’m washing dishes or wandering around the grocery store, I have moments where I know the imaginary audience is watching me and behave accordingly.
My volume or vocabulary during in person-sex is not necessarily indicative of how close I am to orgasm. Sometimes I’m just really, really happy to be having sex, delighting in my partner, and the way our bodies feel together, and I enjoy expressing that as theatrically as I can. Because it’s fun. Just like it’s fun to talk about a side of myself I repressed for a long time, in the relative safety and anonymity of phone conversations with clients.
And I’m still more comfortable doing that on the phone than face to face. I’m still not out as bisexual to the world at large, not because I’m afraid my family and friends wouldn’t accept me (I am lucky to know they would), but because I still, in many ways, feel like a fraud. Even though I’ve dated and had sexual experiences with women, all of my major relationships have been with men. I go out with men far more than I do women. The brief period I spent as a woman-seeking-women on Tinder was like getting lost in a hellscape overrun with unicorn hunters. I am more romantically attracted to men than to women. And I’m a sex worker who caters primarily to cis male clients. All this looks pretty straight on the surface. Not to mention, I’m still struggling with the shame that it took me almost thirty years to be honest with myself about it, let alone anyone else.
This has been a surprisingly difficult piece to write, both emotionally and in terms of figuring out my thoughts and how to put them into words. It was meant for June, for Pride Month, but true to form, I managed to drag it out all the way to September, to Bi Visibility Day. It’s not a complete or a perfect coming out story, especially since if you’re reading it, you’re probably a client who already knows, but it helps my reflection feel slightly more honest.