Events

Public Lecture: Phone Sex, Anti-Sex Work Feminism, and Masculine Socialization, Pittsburgh Humanities Festival

Event Date:
March 3, 2018
4:30 pm Trust Arts Education Center, Pittsburgh, PA

In a world of ubiquitous free internet porn and hook up apps, commercial phone sex seems so low tech that it is almost quaint. However, phone sex as an industry not only exists, but is thriving. I will argue that as a form of sex work, commercial phone sex provides a counterfactual to the persistent anti-sex work narrative that reduces all sex work to the purchase and consumption of bodies. Phone sex is a particularly pointed example since no physical interaction is possible and even the visual representation of bodies is limited to ads. In phone sex, what is purchased is not a body, but rather narrative or interaction, which is only sometimes sexual in nature.

I suggest that the reason that there is a market for intimate, nonphysical interactions primarily has to do with the constraints of masculinity. In a world where men are discouraged from expressing or experiencing intimacy outside of their sexual interactions with women, they couch their desire for interaction or their need for connection in ostensibly sexual transactions. It is less threatening to masculinity, in other words, to seek out a sexual interaction than it is to ask for companionship/friendship when lonely. Phone sex, as a medium that precludes the possibility of (physical, real life) sex, opens up a space for the intimacy that men seek but do not know how to ask for. I will provide several examples of what these interactions look like, and what I believe the value of this sort of labor is.