I was flipping through BUST magazine last month when I came across a story about a Portland-based phone sex operator who makes all sorts of cash talking about food fetishes. Impressed and intrigued, the first thing that came to my mind was my all-time favorite South Park episode where Stan’s dad gets caught jerking off while watching the Food Network late at night. After his wife blocks the channel, he starts calling the Food Network hotline and talks to a sultry-voiced woman about deglazing and how moist the pan roasted chicken is. So when I heard about Tonya Jone Miller, I was beyond thrilled to think that conversations like this really happen in the non-animated world, and that a real live woman might be getting rich bringing foodie fantasies to life.
To my disappointment, Tonya tells me that the food fetish thing isn’t super-common but was a fun angle for the story, which appeared in BUST’s food issue. She is, however, a successful, full-time indie phone sex operator with plenty to say about her business.
I’m very impressed that you work under your real name. Any fear at all of stalkers?
Here’s the thing. If bad people want to do bad things to you, they’ll find a way. I’m a theater actress. Anyone can pay cash for at ticket to a play I’m in, sit a few feet away from the stage and watch me all night, then follow me home from the theater. At least with my callers, I know their name, address, phone number, email, and credit card number. Also, the anonymous nature of phone sex tends to appeal to clients who would have a lot more to lose from any kind of exposure than I do. By revealing my real name, I have essentially removed one of the biggest tools of intimidation stalkers or anyone else might use in an attempt to control me: fear of being exposed as a sex worker. I realize that a lot of women in the sex industry cannot reveal their true identities because of family, day job, religious, or social obligations. Why? Because of the social stigma that will only be removed when enough of us who can do stand up and say, “enough!”
I imagine you consider phone sex to be a form of sex work, right? People debate this, as I’m sure you know.
Of course it’s sex work. Anyone who wants to tell me it isn’t can do my job for one day and then talk to me. Men, and a very small number of women, give me money to turn them on and get them off. On the most basic level, it is a sexual service performed by someone being paid to do it. How is that not sex work? The simple fact that I don’t face the same physical risks as other people in the industry doesn’t invalidate my sex work. Are strippers not sex workers because they don’t actually get fucked by their clients? Frankly, it’s insulting, and unfortunately tends to come mostly from other sex workers. I would hope my colleagues recognize what role phone sex plays in the industry, but it’s like a gay person discriminating against a bisexual person for not “making up their mind” or being “gay enough.” Which yes, as a bisexual woman, I hear all the time. As far as most of the world is concerned, and certainly in the eyes of the religious right, the distinction between phone sex work and sex work is nonexistent; I don’t get to go a lesser Hell just because my fucking for money didn’t actually happen.
Phone sex comes with its own unique challenges. I am often asked to discuss sexual topics that would be illegal to actually participate in, or downright impossible to physically achieve. In most cases I am one of few people, if not the only person, that my client has ever revealed his fetish or fantasy to. Some of them don’t even know what they want, just that they can’t have it in the real world. I may not be in physical danger, but since the bulk of my work takes place in the imagination, I have to very mindful and aware of my mental and emotional state, much more so than my physical appearance.
Have you done any other types of sex work?
I’ve never actually physically fucked someone for a specific amount of money, though I’ve definitely had Sugar Daddy relationships in the past. I view those kinds of arrangements as long-term GFE escorting. Even if no set price is determined, everyone involved understands what’s expected of them.
I have done professional BDSM topping and bottoming, as well as foot fetish modeling and receiving foot worship, though I don’t actively seek it out. I do pain play for fun in my personal life, and given the added physical dangers inherent in those kinds of encounters, I am extremely selective about who I engage with in that capacity. I make an excellent pro-domme; I simply haven’t pursued it because the telephone keeps me busy enough. A lot of customers want to take it further sexually than I am willing to in a professional D/s context with limitations on my mental/emotional involvement. Also, given that it’s $175 per hour just to talk to me on the phone, my in-person rates are high.
How did you get into phone sex? Are you into it in your personal life too?
I needed a way to pay for acting school, and one of my classmates mentioned she had looked into doing phone sex. I thought it sounded fun, so I asked her to pass on what she found during her research. I got a job within a day, went through a couple of companies before I found one I liked, and seven and a half years later, here I am. The funny thing is, I remember wondering how to get into phone sex when I was younger and not being able to figure out where to find the work. The internet has made it a lot easier for independent girls like me to get into the sex industry on their own, and with forum boards, blogs, and newsgroups, it can provide a support network we didn’t have access to before.
I’ve always been a very aural person. I love dirty talk in bed, am very vocal, and get extremely turned on when my partner is too. But I don’t have much phone sex in my personal life because I’m not in a long-distance relationship, and I get enough of it when I’m working to satisfy any personal cravings I do get.
Did you do anything in particular to hone your perfect phone sex voice?
Actually, what I hear from my clients most often is how they like my natural voice the best. I can do a ton of different voices and accents, but obviously I’m most comfortable and natural in my true speaking voice. That genuine quality can’t be faked, and that is what guys respond to in my case. Besides, whether it’s my acting training or habitual instinct, even when I’m using my real voice, it tends to take on qualities (register, tone, timbre, rhythm) appropriate to the fantasy or character I’m playing. That said, it helps to warm up the vocal cords with humming and random noises/vibrations of the throat, mouth, tongue and lips. I also drink a lot of tea.
Are there any sexy voices you admire?
I think the sexiest voices don’t sound like they’re trying too hard to be sexy. Effortless confidence is sexy. I have a couple of callers who strike the right chord for me personally, but it’s not just the voice, it’s the whole package—voice, content, context. Famous sexy voices? Lauren Bacall, Kathleen Turner, Sean Connery. And anytime Angelina Jolie does anything with her mouth/lips, speaking included, it’s hot. I also have a weak spot for accents, especially British or Italian.
What are your most common requests?
I tend to get very extreme fetishes, I think partially because I do reveal who I am to my clients. They see that I am a real person, non-judgmental and open-minded, with strengths and flaws just like them, and they feel comfortable confessing their deepest, darkest secrets. But all phone sex lends itself to the bizarre/extreme; if they could get this in real life, why would they pay to talk about it? I’d say the most common phone sex fantasies involve elements which are taboo, either to the specific caller or to society as a whole. These include but are certainly not limited to incest, ageplay, rape/coercion, violence, snuff, religious roleplay, Domination/submission, and any kind of gender play/confusion.
One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that as something becomes less accepted by society, it will become more-often fantasized about and fetishized. Look at the porn niches popping up if you want a morality compass. When and why did “cream pies” and “internal cumshots” become a selling point, when traditionally the exterior cum shot has been the “money shot”? Well because now you are literally taking your life in your hands if you fuck someone without a condom. This also applies to impregnation fantasies, which are much more common now than they were when I started doing phone sex. Taking someone’s sperm into your mouth, pussy, or ass is a huge risk, and therefore can be seen as a validation or vote of confidence in that person. These days it says a lot about what you think of someone—who they are, how they’ve lived their lives, whether or not you have confidence in their decision-making abilities—if you share bodily fluids with them. It’s taboo, therefore it has become fetishized.
The most striking example I can think of is smoking fetish. This used to barely exist. I might have gotten one or two smoking fetish calls a year when I first started. But think about it: over the last decade, smoking has been outlawed in most urban public establishments. It’s a dirty habit now, not a cool one. You’re told you’re bad, wrong, dirty, smelly or undesirable if you smoke. The same kinds of things you hear if you fantasize about schoolgirls or rape or incest, regardless of whether you would ever act on those fantasies. It’s not uncommon to get one or two smoking fetish calls per week now. That’s not an accident or a coincidence.
What is the weirdest conversation you’ve had?
I don’t know how to answer that question. Most people would consider smelling your teenage neighbor’s dirty panties to be pretty weird, but that’s a relatively tame phone sex call to me. I’ve cracked eggs in my shoes, taken my first enema, and discussed how to build a gallows and properly hang someone, all on (different) phone sex calls. What’s strange to one person is commonplace to another. It isn’t the fantasies and fetishes I find weird; it’s the fact that so many people are, on such a basic level, so severely starved for human contact. We are hungry for intimacy on a level that transcends cocks and cunts. Lots of guys call me just to talk, no sex involved at all. My rate is $175 per hour, so why are they coming to me instead of a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor? I could write a book on that.
Do you have many regular customers?
Most of my callers become regulars. It is difficult for them to find what I provide elsewhere. I’m not saying I’m the best or that there aren’t other quality phone sex operators out there; I have been fortunate to run across a number of like-minded pso’s. But I do think those of us sex-positive phone girls who truly love our jobs, and respect ourselves and our clients, are in a small minority. Add to that my acting and improvisation training (phone sex is just an extended erotic improv after all) and my personal kinkiness, and it makes for an uncommon mix in this industry. I still have regular callers from my first week of taking phone sex calls—that’s going on eight years for anyone who’s counting.
So the BUST article was about foodie phone sex. How often does this come up?
Not terribly often, it was just a fun angle. I appeal to hedonist types; I think because of my personal foodie-ness, I can relate to that indulgent personality. Men who will spend money on a good meal will also spend money on a quality phone encounter. It’s less about the phone sex being somehow foodie that it is about two foodies getting together on something else pleasurable.
What are some of the sexiest food-related topics you’ve talked about?
Under-the-table fondling at a family/holiday dinner or in a crowded restaurant is always hot. I’m a sucker for any sex in a fancy restaurant- the bathroom or the walk-in refrigerator being particular favorites. (Another upside of phone sex? No cold shrinkage!) I also love/hate being distracted when I’m cooking, so “can you still concentrate when I do…this?” scenarios are good too.
Anything new you’re working on?
I just launched a new fantasy phone sex website. The main site I run, Bay City Blues, features only real girls like me using their real photographs. But the real-girl niche is a relatively small one in the phone sex world. Most companies use licensed photographs of adult models and have operators playing anywhere from 3-15 different characters. I think of those sites as “fantasy” phone sex sites, because everybody knows that’s how it works, and there’s a lot of willing suspension of disbelief employed. (Yes, this hot 20-year-old porn starlet is really sitting at home right now waiting for your phone sex call!) That’s how I started out, and it’s by far the main phone sex market.
I believe living as a public example to the contrary of negative sex worker stereotypes is my own form of activism. I know of other pso’s who use their own photos but very few who use their legal names. I’ve been interviewed on Seattle’s KIRO talk radio, appeared on HBO’s Real Sex, was featured on Thrillist.com, and did an interview in BUST Magazine. It’s easy to find my contact info online, so women who are researching phone sex work often run across my blog. I have at least 2-3 inquiries a week about job opportunities and had been sending most of them to the competition because for whatever reasons they wouldn’t or couldn’t use their own pictures/personas. Recently I had someone willing to invest in starting up a phone sex company along a more traditional business model, and I already have the talent pool to staff the phone lines, so I decided to take the plunge. And so far, business is good…