in"The Truth About Cats and Dogs," a cute and forgettable little film, there's a scene in which Janeane Garofalo is talking on the phone to her lover. If I remember correctly, he's under the misapprehension that he's talking to goddess/model Uma Thurman, and naturally, the conversation turns lightly to love. Or rather, to phone sex.
I happened to see this movie in a multiplex with my Irish Catholic grandmother in Ames, Iowa. During the scene in question, which was gauzily filmed in hues of golden candlelight, I shifted uncomfortably and tried not to look to my left. I could see that Grandma was turning to look at me, and back to the movie again. "Is that what you young people do nowadays?" she finally asked in a loud whisper. "I have never heard of such a thing."
Ha, if you only knew. Like the movie itself, that phone sex scene was cheesy and predictable. But it also pissed me off, because as I sat there watching it, I was filled with a sinking feeling. "My God, it's really come to this," I thought. "Phone sex has become such an accepted part of our mating dance that Hollywood feels it can represent it as a standard feature of courtship."
There's an argument that phone sex takes a certain amount of creative imagination, a willing suspension of disbelief, and can ultimately be a turn-on in and of itself. For those verbally inclined, it can be challenging to see if you can express yourself without having to rely on the same old dirty talk stories again and again. Finally, it's disease-free, 100% effective in birth control, and cheap ... if it's a local call, that is. The male character's thoughts presumably ran something along the lines of "OK, I can't have Uma's curves in person, but I can jack off to her deep, sexy voice." (We don't know what Janeane was thinkingtypically, Hollywood presented her fantasy as inaccessible.)
But really, how much of a turn-on is it to talk into a hard piece of plastic while listening to some disembodied voice? Phone sex takes the place of real intimacy. There's something sad about the unwillingness to engage in flesh-and-blood contact with another soul who's also longing for some kind of human connection. I'm not talking just about sex, either. Yet fear of AIDS and STDs has made phone sex about as prevalent as Internet sex. There's nothing wrong with it per se, but what is it taking the place of?
Just about all of my friends have engaged in phone sex at one time or another. They speak of it begrudgingly, as if they're confessing to having shoplifted. When I was geographically separated from my boyfriend, we used to have phone sex once or twice a week. But after hanging up, I always felt a little ridiculous. Occasionally, a paranoid thought would flit through my mind ... what if we were on a speaker phone, and his friends were there, and they were all laughing? The orgasms were never that great, either.
For a true depiction of phone sex, I nominate the Jennifer Jason Leigh scenes in "Short Cuts." She played a phone sex operator who worked out of her house, surrounded by kids, a sullen husband, and an untidy living room. Bored, she'd sit and file her nails or snap her fingers at her kids while she talked of placing some large instrument in the anus of her bound and gagged client. That seems to me what phone sex is really about.