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May 22, 2005

Talkin' Phone Sex Community Blues

It's hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head. ~ Sally Kempton

Ironically, there was no category for "Phone Sex" before this entry in my blog. It seems that a phone sex slut blog would have a phone sex category. Not that those particular words are missing from my site, but, you know, I go to make an entry, select from my little dropdown of Primary Categories and there isn't one. What have I been blathering about all this time?

No one answer that.

Recently, there has been a bru-ha-ha in the one PSO forum that I've remained a semi-active member of. It's probably the only remaining source of legitimate PSO conversation that remains worth anyone's time and I'm pained to see it under fire.

We don't have water coolers. We don't have weekly meetings. What we do have is the occassional on-line forum. And, even under the best of circumstances, PSO forums are a sticky business.

You may well ask why.

Well, first you have the fact that many PSOs (and owners of PSO companies) tend to be a catty lot. Me? I'm catty to the nth degree. Sarcasm running fluent in my veins. But PSOs are a different breed of catty. It's like WWF with keyboards. Roller derby ain't got nothing on the hair pulling that goes on between phone sex sluts at a full rabid foaming froth.

I've often pondered the reason for this and I don't know that there is any one answer. In part, there is the competition factor, and in part I think there is the fact that being your own boss means you're not accustomed to answering to anyone but yourself. Then, there is the fact that because we are forced to fly below the radar of mainstream business, our practices are still a bit final frontier shoot-from-the-hip Kirk-like as opposed to let's-be-diplomatic-at-all-costs Picard-esque. And, unfortunately, there is the bad blood element. Girl X once fucked over Company Y and vengeance was vowed, etc and they both see red anytime the other is mentioned. Believe it or not, there are about a billion other sideline issues. What results is that, even under the best of circumstances a PSO community is no easy row to hoe (npi).

The topics flying loose and fast on the forum lately have included the fact that there are some of us who feel that certain practices drag down the industry and keep us as second-class citizens of the business world. Which is not to say I think I should have final (or any) say over who gets to do what with their own service. It's just that, as a community, you generally have a code of conduct most players agree on. Though there will be variations in marketing schemes and business ethics, we mostly like to believe there are some fundamental majority beliefs / opinions / whatever we can all agree on. But then there are always those who want to play the eternal devil's advocates and say black just because someone else says white. It was always thus, and the debate doesn't really do anyone real harm. Except its tedious. And, as you have probably gathered from reading my blog, I'm like a dog when a bone when it comes to a debate. Also I have an ornery little Southern girl temper and a repertoire of a million different ways to tell you to go fuck yourself.

Friends have offered me cash to stay off message boards. But I'm fueled by dialog and addicted to debate.

Anyway, the PSO community...

Because it's a private Yahoo group, there is a moderator (a good egg, and I wouldn't wish to take the reins from her for all the tea in China). I personally don't want to be a member of a forum that isn't moderated. I believe freedom of speech is most sacred among all our American doctrines, but, while protecting such freedom is the duty of our government (though, obviously not the current administration), it is not guaranteed to us by our peers carte blanche. People who don't understand this amuse me.

Yes, it would be nice to say that everyone has a right to their opinion in every forum, but, for those of us who have borne witness to great forums and mailing lists crumbling, the cause was ever some annoying bastard who didn't know when to leave the table, or who seemed relentlessly determined to play devil's advocate until no one cared anymore, or who just got off being the thorn in the collective side.

I have probably been that person on occasion, given my knack for passionate rhetoric, but that's neither here nor there.

Such freedom of speech has been of issue lately in the forum.

There are a number of phone sex operators (members) who are intimidated by the fact that phone sex service owners post in and monitor the group. We've had a number of owners posing as PSOs and wagging their agendas in everyone's face lately. It gets annoying. Kind of like sipping coffee in the break room and having a bitch session with co-workers only to have the company cheerleader come in and start tsk-tsking you.

The moderator has opted to ban owners/managers/etc from the group and I'm in full support of it, but I also have mixed feelings regarding the practicality of it. My overall belief is that owners, given their experience, could be good contributing members. The problem is all owners have a shifted point of view from the average PSO and, as such, their agendas and "advice" is often tainted. And, owners have the ability to be vindictive and fire ops just for speaking their minds -- an opportunity that ops don't hold against their peers. For a peer community, allowing people with higher powers to be counted as peers defeats at least part of the purpose.

Take for example, the most high profile EZboard community associated with Phone Sex. It's run by owners. Its traffic boosts the Google juice of those owners' sites. Nothing wrong with that, except that I don't think most of the ops who post there and/or link to the place know that. Which sort of irritates me, but then I was a geek girl who always did her homework and was bewildered that others didn't.

On the EZboard there is always an agenda. They have a high censorship policy which boils down to "anything we disagree with, we delete." And they remove anything negative spoken about a company. The official line is some whitewash about legal protection, but the real reason is that owners watch out for other owners. And, let's face it, if you had a policy that allowed other ops to bash services, you'd either have to make the call to delete those pertaining to your own service, or leave them up. That would be a tough ethical choice and I think they'd rather not make it.

So the advice on EZBoard is mostly what the owners want you to hear. It puts forward their points of view, the practices in the industry they want to promote. I've read advice there given to newbie ops that made me want to choke. But, you know, you can't save everyone. Hopefully they get second opinions.

In addition to the EZBoard group, you have other forums that are company-owned, but more undercover about it. This is slink and sleaze to my thinking and the main reason I won't post on a message board registered to a "Domains By Proxy" type crap account. You also have, in addition to the owners, a lot of clients privately reading such boards. Guys gathering info quietly for both benign and nefarious purposes.

As you can see, the players and their purposes get twined and meshed. I don't envy anyone the job of trying to hold order amid such a cast of characters.

But, does blocking those who identify themselves really do any good? On one hand, of course, it will, if nothing else, keep them from opening their mouths. That's a bonus. "Owners will be seen and not heard within this PSO peer group" is a good message and perhaps the only real benefit this change will allow. There are, after all, many owners forums and mailing lists; owners don't really need to intrude upon a PSO community for the conversation (though they will).

Only now that we've barred those who are up-front about their identities, doesn't that just assure that only the most tricky and sneaky will wiggle under the fence? Then again, they'd get through no matter what -- their kind always does. So, is anything really gained?

I feel like I'm swimming upstream against a current made of my own backwash. I try so hard to present a positive view of this profession -- to assure those that I may be a prissy, sexually explicit, dirty little phone whore in playful spirit, but the services I offer are handled with ethical concern.

I wish it was a given in the minds of the mainstream that ethics are not only possible, but as natural in this profession as in any other. In mainstream business there are war profiteers and Enron scandals and any number of other breaches of good practice. There is no inherant lack of ethics in an industry where sex (or its psychological equal) is on the table. That this job is neither inherently bad or inherently good, but just a business that happens to involve some tricky intimacy mines to navigate. I feel a little like being in the sex trade means I have to be twice as ethical because I'm presumed to be unethical. It's not fair, but it is the way of the world. And maybe that's why it goads me so much when petty concerns like this take over the positives in my mind.

Still, I feel I'm right. I think if you took a sampling of about any number of women working most jobs and any same number of women working phone sex, you'd find about the same percentages of behavior patterns, levels of conflict and ethical standards. For every PSO who screws a customer, there is a women working the register at Wal-Mart that's dipping her hand in the till, or shoving items in her purse before she heads home. I know that there are just as many women sitting in cubicals plotting against other women for no good reasons other than personal differences or competition. As Chris Rock says, every woman thinks there's another women who is out to destroy her.

I'd like to think it's only a woman issue -- a quirk of my sex, but there are male phone sex service owners that get in on it, too. I suppose that can be attributed to the strip club owner mindset, tho.

I'm just exhausted by it all sometimes. Working twice as hard to put my best foot forward and still being counted as a card-carrying member of the freak show. There ought to be merit badges for this kind of crap. "See here, this is my PSO message board badge."

Poor readers. I know you've gotten all this way, listening to me rant and ponder and you're probably thinking I'm leading up to some insight or personal position, but I'm really just frustrated and venting and no closer to knowing how to feel about this than I was two days ago when it came up.

The Yahoo group is, literally, the last semi-public place that's worth the time to hook up, converse, and debate with fellow PSOs (imho). I don't want to see it fold in on itself and become incestuous and protection-paranoid (not that I think it's there yet, but we all know how the writing on the wall starts for this kind of thing). At the same time, I don't want to see it tainted by those with agendas against the purpose of the group (I already had to take a breather because the owner bullshit was too ripe for a bit).

Mostly, I'm just glad it's not my call.

Maybe Rome is always doomed to fall against the invading horde. Maybe that's why our government can only come up with band-aid bullshit when they propose homeland security issues.

Isn't there a way to fix it so that invaders can't use your own systems and practices against you?

And, if not, then WHY NOT?

Is a happy medium always doomed to be a fragile temporary thing balancing between over-censorship and every-crazy-gets-a-ticket too free to be useful?


These are supposed to be the little things we don't take too seriously, aren't they? So why can't I get my head around this one and settle on a single position that feels right in my gut?


I really am glad this isn't my call.

Phone Sex by Doxy at 10:21 AM | permalink | talkback (0)


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