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Sex: Midnight Callers

The women on the other end of the 1-900 line.

Much attention is paid to men who dial 1-900 numbers for sultry conversation—whether for titillation or out of loneliness—but what about the women behind the breathy voices? Researchers interviewed female employees at a phone sex company to find out who they are and why they work at a job they can't mention in mixed company.

The women we talked to ranged in age from 21 to 45 and came from a variety of educational backgrounds, from high school graduates to graduate students. Many felt that they held an important social role. While some lost respect for men as a result of the job, others believed that by talking to callers with rape fantasies, they kept potentially violent men from enacting real-life crimes. Because some callers profess to be virgins, some employees reported that they were educating men about female sexuality.

Still other workers had more humorous takes on their calling, citing the casual environment or the chance to have fun before settling down in a more serious career as perks. The main reason they took the job: money. Most workers gave phone sex part time and made about $15 an hour, more than many felt they could make elsewhere. Being employed in a socially stigmatized job comes at a price, however, and most workers didn't plan on giving phone sex forever. As one woman joked: "I'm more honest with my credit card company than with my own family."