Reality Bites, Part III

Self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice.
— Elizabeth Cady Stanton

A quick thought on my previous two entries. I know they are longer than they ought to be: the recommended length for successful and engaging blog entries is 500 words. Because I am manically flushing out ideas behind the scenes, I am burdening my blog with the residual excesses.

Thank you for your patience. Hopefully, the pay off comes with the following.

In Part I, I covered why I originally went back to mainstream work, after many years of building a cushy comfort zone in my own business. In Part II, I observed how I thought the internet has changed phone work, creating a legal slave labor class, for whom the business is dog eat dog.

Now, I’d like to get to this story’s heart, and some of what I found wrenching beyond words. An email came into my inbox one evening. The subject line read, “You **MUST** see this, true love exists!” This was the subject line for a company email, in which the girls also post copies of their advertisements to be the “hottest little cum slut you’ve ever known, baby,” and advertise with some unsavory stories in order to market themselves, as I briefly described in Part II.

I read the subject line and thought, “Please, tell me more.”

The email was a photo essay, of sorts. A series of pictures of a couple. A perky young woman and a good looking young man. The first series of photos portrayed their courtship, the next were presumably when he asked her to marry him, she flashes a ring and a big smile, their arms are around each other. The next series portrayed his deployment in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

The pictures were not developed with facts or writing: rather, it was all about the evocative power of image, and these images were presented to pull the heart strings.

The next series of photos were of the young man in Afghanistan (I’m guessing Afghanistan). The next series of him in the hospital, body bandaged. The subsequent images reveal that he lost all four limbs, no arms or legs.

He returns home, with the perky young woman waiting for him with open, loving arms. Wedding photos follow. Then there’s a whole bevy of photos portraying her helping him get used to his prosthetics, day in and day out, by his side, smiling.  Perky.

There were literally tens of photos in this essay, I’m guessing close to forty, if not more, and not until the very end of the email is any text given. The text read something like: “SEND THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW. HE’S A HERO AND SHE’S AN ANGEL, AND TRUE LOVE EXISTS. GOD BLESS OUR TROOPS. GOD BLESS AMERICA. AND GOD BLESS THIS ANGEL.”

Something like that.

My head was swimming. I was gobsmacked by so many levels of irony, I could barely breathe for the chaotic onslaught.

Replies immediately started pouring in from all the company girls. “OMG, I started crying!!! That’s so beautiful!! God bless them both!!” “She IS an angel, and he IS a hero. Thanks for sharing!!!”

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

I tried to keep my mouth shut, that is, I didn’t immediately hit the reply button, as a million thoughts were flooding my poor synaptic overloaded brain.

So here we have some truly marginalized women, doing some pretty heinous, stigmatizing work taking care of men’s needs. Now, here’s where things get a bit overgeneralized, but bear with me, if you will: the majority of the clients are married, doing relatively well in supporting their wives who don’t have sex with them (I am oversimplifying, but it’s a truth of the industry), the phone worker being socially lower than housekeepers and nannies, both of whom are better paid than a mainstream phone sex worker, and both of whom usually work for the guy’s wife. Even if his wife works, he is still the primary bread winner. So the woman doing the dirtiest work on the block — and notably, not on Hestia’s sacred ground, but living well outside what is good and civil — gets paid the least. Meanwhile, the phone workers are sitting around on email valorizing a woman who sacrificially takes care of a man.

Could it all get anymore perverse?

That’s right, the bottom of the rung caretakers valorizing care taking, thinking that in this selfless act of devotion “true love” exists.

Then there’s more that I started obsessing about: the women who sell pornographic images of their characters (the images are all of porn stars, stock photos, and photos downloaded from the internet, all to create the character that they market), get all sentimental and dewey eyed over a series of images about “true love,” a porn comparable to if not worse in its illusions, than what they sell.

Love’s unrealized hope is an odious burden, especially for the sex worker: whereas, tits and ass are easily replaced.

When I decided to say something, I simply asked: “Do you think a man would stay with a woman who lost all of her limbs?” It seemed like an obvious question to me, posed to women who market sex and its images to men who go from character to character and are engrossed in if not enslaved to idealized images of female sexuality. I honestly don’t know, nor am I assuming. But for women who sell sex as their product, at the very least I would expect much more cynicism about male fidelity and the need for women to sacrifice, “in the name of love.”

In other words, I would have expected these women to hate men, for all that they had to put up with. Instead, they are valorizing a woman who gives unconditionally, and not questioning whether this man, or any man, would stay with a woman without limbs.

Given “the product’s” influence on every aspect of their lives, most do not tell family and friends what they do for income, many are in dysfunctional care taking relationships with men, I found this an excruciating oversight of the obvious.  Perhaps that’s the point.

The silences were deafening. It was a though I had dropped an atomic bomb.  I didn’t even mention what a stupid war it was for any young man to loose his limbs in, being that the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan have been nothing but big business sodomizing America for its own self-interests, all wrapped up in the fear and trembling of 9/11, and the most reprehensible, despicable narratives foisted on a voting Republic since G-d knows when. Didn’t say a word.

But these women, selling some of the most demeaning imaginative acts possible (remember, it’s all just “fantasy”), for less than minimum wage, were going on and on about true love for a woman who gives herself sacrificially to a man.

Whether they knew it or not, it was their own narratives that they were valorizing. The problem being, that the sex worker’s love is unrequited, financially, intimately, domestically. It’s a precarious existence at best.  The guy may say “love you baby,” but it’s an empty love of the moment, tethered to the moment, gone with the moment’s passing.  Certainly, none of these women see their consumers as being “true love,” but they do in fact give themselves near unconditionally as a life circumstance, if for no other reason.

I could barely stomach it, the heartbreak being near too much to bear.

I remembered a Lenny Bruce dialogue, that Dustin Hoffman portrayed, and posted a YouTube version of it in the replies.

The real meaning of obscenity, and what it looks like:

Shattering the myth of the moment, I took away hope, but it was an egregious hope, that needed to be called out. Though that bit of bad behavior, along with several others, probably cost me my job, such as it was, the price I paid was nowhere near as high as these women are paying for failing to ask a simple question: could you be loved as this man is loved? Could you be loved with selfless devotion? If so, are you? If not, what does that mean for your life? And, how should you live your one precious life, valorizing sacrifice, or finding a new narrative?

It always begins with a question. Or two.

A final irony that I’d like to add about what the internet has done to phone work: if the women are more damaged than before, so are the men, if not more. Porn’s proliferation has anesthetized men more deeply, and, perhaps, more irrevocably.  A sex worker may at some point find a way out of her economic and-or personal conundrums; men hooked on the “product” are less likely to walk away from the relentless stream of hungry new girls, the easy and cheap access to an ever changing menu of women who will cater to whatever passes between their ears, with no questions asked.

Sex is simply a consumer product.  But there’s an unfortunate truth lurking underneath consumer capitalism: the consumer becomes the consumed, one limb at a time.

Emotionally, they seem no different to me than the limbless Afghanistan hero portrayed in that disgusting bit of emotional pornography that passes itself off as some kind of moral compass.

Usually, for complex personal reasons that are then fed by porn’s easy comforts, the men seem to me worse emotional cripples than they were over a decade ago.  Many are barely able to walk and function in intimate relationships as full human beings, or reach out to another human without some some false prosthetic fantasy construction catering to their images, fantasies, and indulgences.  The fantasies  they choose belie a deep personal disconnect: prodding underneath those narratives reveals volumes of information, when one withholds judgement, has experience, and asks a few questions.

But that’s more storytelling, lots more story telling, for a later date.


“Woman’s discontent increases in direct proportion to her development.”

— Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Reality Bites, Part II

As a woman thinks, so shall she be.  

— All The Wisdom Teachers

(Graphic content warning.)

My brief foray back into mainstream work — apparently, I wasn’t as self-deprecating as I believed, for I was fired after about 3 months — was painfully instructive.

Here are a few observations I made during my jaunt into mainstream phone sex nether regions, as further introduction to what inspired this entry:

1)  The business has dramatically changed since my early days in the industry, when I started in the 1990’s.  Porn’s untrammeled proliferation on the internet, as well as shifts in sexual mores, have made any meandering of the imagination available for free on the internet. However, “free” internet porn often comes on the backs of trafficked women, and the world’s most vulnerable.  This isn’t to say that women don’t willing and successfully sell porn or freely participate in sexual acts that are then publicly shared; rather, I’m referring to some of the raunchiest most degrading stuff that’s available for free. Many of these women are not willing.  They are slaves.  One consequence for the paid phone worker is dealing with clients psychologically anesthetized by the most humiliating internet porn, so the phone worker will do anything, say anything, be anything for any price, and those prices are shamefully low, considering the costs on their psyches, and consequently their lives.

This is not a judgement.  This is a fact about the prices paid by women doing some of the toughest psychological work imaginable.  Having thought about these things for years, I’ve concluded that the work comparable to sex work would be inner city police work, “long term care” hospital work, psychiatric hospital work — in other words, any vocation dealing with the most demanding human behavior.  The internet has exacerbated those for prices for the sex worker, near exponentially, or so it seems to me.

For bottom rung sex workers, be they legal or illegal, there are no inbuilt support systems, no unions, and, not only are the wages essentially slave wages, but in mainstream phone sex companies, the women compete against each other.  Here’s a picture for you: stigmatized women often working below minimum wage, who are hourly bombarded by bad male behavior informed by internet porn, who must then compete with the very women who should offer camaraderie, the only people who can possibly get their predicament, all the while knowing they have to be a little dirtier, a little nastier, and a lot more clever than their comrade (i.e. competitor) if they are going to pay the bills.

Yet these realities seem never to sink into the worker’s minds.  The company that I worked for this year glibly promoted group spirit, split itself into teams, and fashioned themselves as a business just like any other.  “We’re primarily a marketing company,” I was told during my phone interview.  “Sex is our product, and we market characters who provide the product,” my manager enthusiastically told me.  Because they are a marketing company whose product is sex, they were able to conflate the most bizarre mix of presumed “business” talk, positive thinking, self-help enthusiasm, and sales jargon, while pitching the women against one another, all the while burdening workers with an intolerable excess of required behind the scenes tasks.

For the record, it was a company owned and managed by women, and this was their claim to moral superiority.  “We women” are doing great together!  We are independent!  We have a product!  We are sales driven!

“Go team!”

“Go women!”


Management hired women on the premise of a dollar a minute, but the amount of back work necessary to generate that dollar a minute, that is, the promise of needed livelihood for the workers to support themselves and, usually, their children, ends up taking a good ten minutes or so, at the very least.  At the very least.  All of this, as an independent contractor, i.e., no benefits, no withholdings, nada.  I never saw one of the women question that they had been marketed by the owner or the managers.  The junior marketers had themselves been marketed, and they never questioned this glaringly obvious fact, as they marketed themselves, or rather, their characters, in the most vulgar ways imaginable, to pay the bills. They were promised a dollar a minute.  They were not told about how much time they’d have to spend marketing, or the 800 number charges that came out of their paycheck.  Or the two hour long “team meetings,” which never once gave me an iota of information increasing my sales.  I’ll return to the whole, “asking questions” thing, in the 3rd installment.  Remember it.  It’s important.

2)  The women are more far more damaged and disempowered..  They sell a fantasy of being insatiable and available and ready for you baby, having all the free time to fuck at will without a thought, when most are burdened with kids, bills, poorly behaved significant others, and the like.  The company emails were a daily deluge of “please pray for my daughter, who is in the hospital,” or “pray for me, I am having my gallbladder removed,” or “I went to the emergency room after my boyfriend found me unconscious, and I don’t know what’s wrong.”  The torrent of requests for prayers and the personal suffering flooding the email list were numbing, but not surprising.

Stop here if you can’t take a reality bite. Just stop.  Because you may not want to imagine the psychic tolls exacted on the mainstream sex worker.  Perhaps you don’t need to imagine that you must fake coming like “female bitch in heat” when a dog mounts and humps you, and some guy calls you a slut, a nasty little whore who needs to beg for it, baby, now beg you cunt, take it bitch, cum again, louder, louder you fucking bitch, you’re not being loud enough, and now I am going to cum all over your face — oh, and I, Julia, your narrator, I am being gentle here, really, trust me, because I recognize that it’s a hard graphic dose, and this is just a slice. Not all calls are so bad, many are much worse. But, as the company tells the girls, it’s only fantasy, and we are a marketing company, and none of this is real.  None of this is real, but as a woman thinks, so she becomes.  And the emails rolled on — let’s all pause and say a prayer for Nicole’s gallbladder, and Amanda’s daughter’s heart, they discovered a hole in it, and Stacy’s son’s autism is getting worse, tests on Monday.  Then there were emails reminding the women, “make sure to get an authorization before you talk to the guy,” and I was left shaking my head that anyone needed to be reminded to get an authorization for 20 dollars, of which they will see 5 dollars maximum, to listen to a man masturbate while having to pretend to cum like a bitch in heat, only louder.

None of this is real, or it is all connected.

Go team!


(To be continued.)


Reality Bites, Part I

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours. — Henry David Thoreau


This spring, I was forced to move from my writer’s loft, and get a new place.

I had only lived in my loft for six months, after selling or giving away nearly everything I owned (including my library, a beloved lifetime of learning reduced to two large boxes, now kept in storage), declaring bankruptcy pro se (i.e., without an attorney, a near insurmountable feat for the lay person), and moving to the middle of nowhere to write a story that needs to be told.

“It’s going to be my Joni Mitchell moment,” I told friends.  “Joni moved into the woods to write Blue, that’s what I am going to do. But it’s going to be a book.”  Honestly, I can’t bring myself to Google to see if that story is remotely tethered to a single shred of fact. Somehow, I came to believe that Joni Mitchell wrote Blue in a cabin in the woods, so I should do similar, for the book.  Why, I don’t know.

That’s my story. It’s not the facts that matter to me.  It doesn’t matter if it was Joni Mitchell, or Gabriel García Márquez writing nonstop in his basement for a year (100 Years of Solitude took less than a year to write, an unprecedented creative act for the work’s sheer volume and scope, as his wife sold off their furniture to pay the bills, and buy his cigarettes), or J. K. Rowling on the dole, in a coffee shop letting the magic pour through her.  Hundreds if not thousands of anecdotes exist about writers, artists, musicians, those who were set on fire, who did what they had to do, for whatever the reasons they had to do it, dancing to a music that others could not hear.

However, rather than having my Blue moment, I was moving, yet again.   Before I uprooted myself from my digs and singularly insular life in Cambridge, my landlord had agreed to no less than a year lease, my giving way to her request for a three month written “trial period,” with the year lease to be signed after the trial ended, because she was elderly, and persistently expressed a deep fear of someone coming in and ruining her home.  Then, conveniently, or karmically, there are no accidents, after my life overhaul, and before we signed the actual year lease, she decided that she needed to retire two years earlier than planned, fearing for her health, or some such thing. At the end of the three months, and before signing the year lease, she suddenly needed to move to Florida to a retirement home.  At 67 years old.

Deep fear.  That should have been a warning.

Without much further sympathy for her fears, I let her dig her far too early coffin, deciding that the legalities about her decision were irrelevant and not worth fighting over.

I learned a great deal; I was to learn more.

Because I had placed myself in the middle of nowhere, in the center of the pine and woodland studded northeast, without transportation. There is no economy in these parts, simply acres and acres of freedom and woodlands.  Views of flora and fauna are great, but not really where one goes to “get a job.”  All I could do was ask, “where do I go, and what do I do, next,” and refuse to undermine myself with my internalized Mother’s voice scolding me for hubris and foolishness.

After a month of creative reinterpretation, a.k.a. “problem solving,” and nixing the idea of relocating yet again, I decided to stay in this area, though my cost of living would go up 100 percent, that without even thinking about car payments.

I called a few friends, who graciously helped with my relocating expenses.  The care shown me was so brilliantly beautiful, their no questions asked generosity still overshadows all the pain I felt as I picked up the phone and said, “please, can you?”

Should anyone ask, this is what living a dream probably means for most of the blurry eyed: An idea.  Or two.  Or three.  A story.  No car.  No viable income on the horizon.  Pushing through the anxiety of sleepless nights.  Finding reserves that you didn’t know you had.  Asking for help.  Knowing that you’ve not yet even started.  (Agent, what agent?  Proposal, eh, you mean the outline, right?)  Problem solving.  For this woman, living the dream also meant a phone and work experience.

Because, to pay the bills and write, I bit the bullet, googled, and found a company that would hire me for the raunchiest and most denigrating of calls, something I’ve not had to do in almost 15 years, having been spoiled by an elite clientele in my now bankrupt business.  Fifteen years of busting my backside, setting my own rules, usually serving those in a six-plus figure income bracket, completing graduate school, and I returned to square one by turning two-bit phone tricks with some of our most vulnerable for some of our least desirable, at less than minimum wage.

Living the dream, indeed.

(To be continued.)


Post coming soon.

I’ve been working on a lengthy poetry contest submission, so I’ve been remiss at drafting anything for the blog.


Death And Sex

A client introduced me to a bondage fantasy that skirts motifs found in snuff porn; his fantasy incorporates a twist on The Perils of Pauline, in which he is the one facing an untimely demise at the hands of a vixen villain.

His near death bondage fantasy got me thinking about sex and death, and many other erotic themes woven in experience:  the uttering of G-d’s name at the moment of consummation, the need for abandoning ourselves entirely in the moment with a lover, and the persistent appearance of death in love literature throughout history.

I wrote this, ad hoc, though it forms a central theme I’ll continue developing in my memoir.

(As an aside, “Thanatos and Eros” were controlling metaphors in my master’s thesis, themes that I mucked around in for over two years.  Confluences.)


Death and Sex:

“All literature is about death and sex,” and I appreciate sexual fantasies as literature waiting for articulation.  A few fantasies make it to the page, but too many become the bread and butter of, at best, blue collar craftspeople driven by economic and social pressures.  The multi-faceted psychological, literary, and spiritual dimensions of our fantasy lives rarely garner the attention they deserve.  Instead, they are treated as disposable consumer items, as are their creators, because the arbitrary socio-political divide between the sacred and profane dictates that our “darkness” be treated as a waste product, instead of revered.

In literature and psychoanalysis, “Death and Sex” are labeled “Thanatos and Eros.”  The death impulse and the life impulse, in Freudian terms.  Or the eternal Divine dance of creation and destruction, if one looks east to its mythological systems.  The inherent tension between sex and death lie at the heart of many of our most complex and compelling myths, literary works, erotic fantasies, and dream states.  In the west, the myth of Orpheus became one of the most recognizable: Orpheus’ music pleases the gods, and they grant him the privilege to descend into the underworld (thanatos) to rescue his beloved Eurydice (eros), but he can save her only if he doesn’t look back until they have both emerged from death’s grip.  Orpheus steps out from the underworld, looks back, and because Eurydice’s feet have not yet left the land of the dead, he watches his beloved depart forever into death, eros and death becoming inextricably mythologically linked in the Western imagination with Orpheus’ fatal glance.

I have a few ideas on the coupling of death and sex.  Just ideas.

Most of us live on remote control. We passively watch life, and switch channels for diversion. One day we are preoccupied with some drama, which will probably be smartly exploited by those with the power to keep us passive, and then move on when the drama / girl / boy / insecurity / addiction / addiction / addiction (because most of us have more than one diversion mechanism at our disposal) isn’t numbing us as it did a week, month, or year earlier. This is why we are all expert at “majoring in minors,” and miss the mark in creating a well lived life. We keep gorging on numbing diversions, one after another, and, unable to admit that we’ve been gorging on diversions, we wallow in more distractions while living lives of quiet discontent, failing to accept responsibility for our mediocrity, while successfully avoiding taking our lives into the realm of realized dreams and lived passion.

In short, we never learn to love ourselves enough to burn brightly and experience life fully, because we’ve been anesthetizing ourselves with bullshit nearly every day since our first failed existential decision, a decision that we may no longer even remember. Having failed in that ephemeral and inconsequential moment, and never having forgiven ourselves, we’ve conscripted ourselves to diversion prison, gripping the self-righteous keys as though our deaths depended on it.

Death jars us from the universal diversion remote. We realize that today may be it. This day and this day only may be all that’s left to us. Death’s ubiquity waits to wake us from our delusions, and catapult us back into life if we’re ready to look it in the face and recognize that this moment may be it, tomorrow may not exist, and life doesn’t come with a guarantee that a white male with a beard waits to welcome us into utopian banality complete with 24/7 harp music, a vaguely construed if comforting forever land where Sisyphean joys no longer exist.

When we’re not living with a diversion remote between our ears, we embrace this life and its potential, fully.  Death, rather than something to be avoided, can escort us to the presence of fully living (yes, I am heavily influenced by Buddhist philosophy, here).

Only when we’ve been escorted to life, can love appear.  No longer a grab bag of projections, expectations, and vapid advice from self-help manuals, we’re connected to something deeper and richer in ourselves, in others, and in the world.  When we are fully alive without attachment  — having been shaken from triviality’s stupor — we can love and feel without the bullshit that we pay therapists (the most over degreed, inexperienced, inane whores on the planet, second only to politicians) to help us understand.   The superfluous pages written, published, and marketed on how to get love and the nefarious creature named “happiness” become apparent for what they are: commodified diversion tactics waiting for consumption.

If we are smart, and wish to avoid being the products of other people’s diversion delusions, we embrace death instead of avoiding it, because from an awareness of death, a passion for our precious existence grows, i.e.,  the power of eros.  We move beyond the many teachers, whose only real job is to lead us back to kingdom of heaven within, to a full awareness that life is precious, here and now.  This is it.  So death and sex paradoxically sit forever coupled to one another, buried in metaphors and similes, literature and song, dreams and fantasies, be they high brow or low brow expressions.  Look around, our unconscious persistently tugs at our consciousness, yelling, “Hey, death, time to live, get it? Death, death, death, everywhere, wake up, wake up, wake up  . . . .”  At times this tugging manifests destructively through compulsions, because we fear the unknown, and unfortunately we live in avid avoidance of the greatest gift that we can give ourselves, if only we’d shut off the that damned diversion machine to which we’ve attached ourselves, and take a moment to listen.

Eros takes us into a depth of being that I believe we all yearn to experience, if we become courageous and take responsibility for our life’s beauty.  Eros is not about getting off.  Eros is about our fundamental engagment with all of life, the intercourse between self, world, and others that may or may not involve an orgasm — and, in the best circumstances, eros unites visible reality to invisible transcendence, the unconscious to the conscious, the head to the heart, the body to full awareness.  Tall order, eh?  And precisely why we need to be bitch-slapped by death in order to get it.

I believe that Orpheus, like Sodom and Gomorrah (sin city has nothing to do with angels and homo-eroticism, but congratulations on a job well done, idiocy), offers us a dire warning: never look back at what was, or we’ll loose the life that awaits us in the present, and loose the love waiting for us, here and now.