There are a number of words I find unpleasant. There are the standards, the words most everyone hates–moist, panties–but there are others; ‘pussy,’ ‘suckle,’ and ‘juicy’ being the worst offenders. Phone sex meant hearing all of those words (except ‘moist’) on a regular basis. It’s hard to say what the worst part of the job was, but the words were certainly the most grating.

I had a caller, Jim, who loved the word ‘suckle.’ He was, in some ways, the best kind of caller. He directed the whole thing, I hardly had to speak at all, I could sit back, watch a movie (the sound turned down to a murmur) and give an occasional moan while Jim went on and on. In other ways, in suckling ways, Jim was the worst kind of caller. He would go into great detail about how he wanted to suckle everything. He wanted to suckle my lips, down my neck, my nipples, my clit. He would repeat the word over and over again, suckle, suckle, suckle. It’s a wet word, ‘suckle’, a sloppy word.

How could anyone find such a word sexy? It’s the auditory equivalent of being attacked with a bucket of pond scum, but Jim loved it. Perhaps he thought it sounded romantic, chivalrous. While he may have just been a control freak, there was something about the way Jim said everything in this contrived Barry White voice that made me think he actually thought I was gleaning some pleasure from the encounter. Maybe by using the word ‘suckle’ Jim thought he would make me feel as if I had been transported into some awful bodice ripper. It did not work. I would sit on my couch in disgust, hoping he would finish soon, cringing slightly at every ‘suckle’.

My one consolation was that Jim called my Russian line. The persona I called Sonia was very popular, I have mentioned before that she was beautiful, but it cannot be overstated. She looked like some exquisitely tattooed pre-Raphaelite painting. It might have just been the soft focus of the camera, but she glowed. She was my favorite. There was something wonderful about pretending, if just for a moment, to be this absurdly beautiful person. In addition to this, I could have fun with my screams of make-believe ecstasy. My friend Jenni had recently started learning Russian and had obligingly provided me with a series of entirely nonsexual phrases to scream out in the throes of my orgasmic performances.

I had to be careful. If I detected the slightest hint of an Eastern European accent, I would keep it at moans and go no further. But everyone else was treated to moaned exclamations about how there was a map on the wall, how I respected their point of view but was forced to disagree with them, how the jug was sitting on the table, etc. Jim assaulted me with his suckling; I mocked him with my ordinary events described in Russian.

‘Panties’ was not, of course, limited to one caller. Pretty much all of them used it at least once.

“What kind of panties are you wearing?” “What color are your panties?” “Take off your panties.” “I want to sniff your panties.”

Every so often I would get guys who just assumed I was wearing a thong and we could bypass the panties entirely, but they were few and far between. Unlike suckle–the word that sounds the way pond scum looks, muddy green, wet, slimy, sloppy–I can’t exactly say what it is that bothers me about ‘panties.’ Perhaps it’s just that it’s such a fussy, silly word. It isn’t quite so bad when you are speaking objectively about fussy, silly underwear, but when it’s brought into sexy chat it’s just so very unpleasant, like those pink hard candies that taste the way soap smells? I’d even prefer ‘underpants,’ ridiculous as that word is, but no, this is America and our chosen word is ‘panties.’ I had no choice but to describe my panties and listen to strange men rhapsodize about them even as I cringed at the words coming out of my mouth or pouring into my ear.

Even ‘panties’, though, was not so bad as ‘pussy.’

‘Pussy’ was the word I heard every night, multiple times a night. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve always found that particular euphemism for female genitalia to be absolutely disgusting. My vagina is not an animal–and though I adore cats and think they are second only to rabbits in the hierarchy of pets–the idea of having a cat between my legs is horrible. How would that even work? What would I feed it? Meatballs and necklaces? Would the cat have a mind of its own, or would part of my brain be given over to the control of this cat?

These are the things I think of when people use the word ‘pussy.’ These are not sexy things. These are disturbing, somewhat comical things. But every night it was tight pussy, pink pussy, young pussy, shaved pussy, all night. My callers would repeat that word, ‘pussy’ over and over. I suppose it heightened their experience, but to me it was an auditory assault. And of course, if ‘pussy’ was their favorite term, there was little I could do not to repeat it back to them.

It’s remarkable how taken aback people get when their phone sex operator just trots out ‘cunt’ where they were expecting ‘pussy’. ‘Pussy’ is soft, safe, non-threatening. It’s used as an insult, but one of the gentler insults. Children use it on the playground and only the strictest parents take issue with it. ‘Cunt’ though, cunt is brutal, potentially bloody. It is not a word for children. It is a harsh, blunt word.

One of the things that struck me about phone sex was my callers’ tendency to reduce me to the helpless. Yes, there were a few callers who called my domination line, but they generally only wanted to brag about their cross-dressing. Every so often someone who called the domination line would actually want me to play the dominatrix, to humiliate him and make him punish himself, but those were in the minority and almost all of them wanted to top from the bottom, stopping the scene in the middle to tell me how I wasn’t doing it right, here was how you were a good dom.

There were a few nights when I wasn’t feeling terribly enthusiastic about answering the phones and simply decided to be entirely honest with my callers. When I stated my real height (5’10”), several callers told me I was too tall and hung up, but when I pretended to be 5’6, or better yet 5’4 no-one ever told me I was too short. I’m not much of a giantess, but these men wanted someone tiny, someone pliable, a girl, not a woman, a pussy wrapped in panties they could suckle on.

I had to wonder: is this kind of bizarre, quasi-infantilization unique to sex line callers, or is it just how men are trained to view the ideal woman? It isn’t uncommon to be attracted to youth; I’ll be the first to say that young people–particularly young women–are often very, very lovely. I didn’t care if my callers were lusting over women less than half their age, so long as the women were consenting adults, but these childlike words were very uncomfortable. These men were not the pedo brigade. They were just regular guys who appreciated the charms of young adult women and used the strangely juvenile language that is commonly considered sexy.

But who thinks it’s sexy? I’m sure it isn’t just men, I’m sure there is a legion of women who think ‘pussy’ is the hottest euphemism ever, who love to talk about their panties, and who wouldn’t be even somewhat perturbed if someone dumped the pond scum that is ‘suckle’ over their heads. I’ve never met any of them, but I’m sure they exist and that many of them are perfectly normal, healthy, happy ladies.

Cathryn Berarovich is a bit of a renaissance sex worker; she’s currently employed as a stripper (and writer) but has held numerous interesting jobs in the industry. Each week, she shares her stories in Harlotry.