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

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