The guy at the other end of Virginia Bush's line was really, really into cross-dressing. The 41-year-old phone-sex operator from Cincinnati breezed easily through dialogues about frilly panties, tight leather mini-skirts, and black bustiers. And the guy seemed into it -- Virginia was getting more than the requisite number of Oohs and Oh yeahs out of him.
Then things took an unexpected turn. He wanted to talk women's shoes -- ones with sadistic arches, pointy toes, and heels sharper than a pencil point. Virginia froze.
"I'm no shoe horse," she remembers thinking. What to do?
Ever the cool little sassafras, Virginia invoked a baby-oil smooth intonation while switching on her computer. She typed the words "foot fetish" and "shoes," and in seconds arrived upon a list of references that would make any cross-dressing shoe-lover swell: brand names and pictures of designer styles, descriptions, and links to stories about high heels (think Cinderella, only much, much naughtier), tales of men masturbating in women's footwear, of women staking holes in men's hearts with their spikes.
Twenty minutes and $60 later, the caller had all he could take.
Virginia has Lakewood resident Friday Goldman to thank for the sale. A pretty, round-faced woman with straight black hair and a childlike demeanor, Goldman is the inventor of the first known sex-operator's how-to software. It's essentially a thesaurus and guide for phone-sex workers, containing terminology and story ideas for seemingly every kink known to man. Still unnamed, the software is already drawing bids from a pair of sex-industry competitors.
Such a program has "never before been used in the phone-sex industry," says Robert Lawrence, a former phone-sex worker and a board member of the Center for Sex and Culture, a San Francisco-based think tank for sex.
"The biggest thing with phone calls is that you need to sound confident and keep the conversation going," says Bush, who got to use the software when Goldman offered a demo to her company. "It's hard to do that when you don't know what in the world they're talking about. That's where Friday is phenomenal."
At 22, Goldman is already an old hand at the sex business. Always fascinated by human sexuality, she made her first foray into the industry at 16, when a dominatrix at a local feminist group invited her to work part-time in her lair. While still a high school student in a southwestern suburb, she ran errands and booked appointments, earning the pseudonym "Girl Friday." ("Friday Goldman" is also a trade name; she asked not to be identified for this story.)
"I found the psyche of these clients fascinating!" says Goldman, a women's studies major at Cleveland State, who speaks solely in the language of exclamations.
"You see all of these men and their weird fetishes, and then you start looking at your guy friends and your boyfriend, and you think, 'What kind of secrets are you harboring? Do you secretly want to sleep with your dog?'"
After finishing high school in 2000, Goldman took a job as a phone-sex operator.
"You're doing what?" screamed her mother, an elementary school teacher. "Why don't you just become a whore?"
But young Friday was a natural: In a world where 20 minutes on the line is a lucrative score, her first call lasted four hours. She made $350 a week, working part-time. On the side, she produced a 'zine called Talk Dirty 2 Me, which analyzed her more stimulating phone conversations. She also published a few pieces of erotic fiction and reviewed sex toys for drducky.com. "It was a good way to pass the time," she says.
She eventually quit the phone job to appease her mother, then approached the operation from a new angle. "I knew that I was one of the more intelligent people in the phone-sex industry," she says. "Most people do not know what to do when a guy wants you to dress him up like a whore."
So she began typing up a list of fetishes -- bestiality, lesbian sex, incest, cross-dressing -- and wrote down all she knew. She consulted other sexperts and compiled her findings into a massive document, including key words guaranteed to trigger reactions in men.
"If you come across a guy who's into cross-dressing, there's a typical apparel formula," she explains. "They all want to be dressed like big sluts, circa 1985. They want blue eye shadow, teased hair, micro mini-skirts.
"Really, it's all about word clues. And generally, if the guy's paying $3 a minute, he's going to be blunt about what he wants."
Goldman tested her program by hosting private consulting sessions for new phone-sex operators. Lana Becker, one of Goldman's trainees, says she was much more comfortable with the program in front of her.
"It's like having a support counselor right there in the room with you," says Becker, who considers the program an extension of Goldman's expertise. "She knows instinctively what men want to hear. She can be extremely personable, but she's also better at being a bitch than anyone else I know."
Becker isn't alone in her admiration: Goldman has become something of a sex-talk celebrity. She's given lectures to various college and feminist groups on topics like "Fat? So! Sexual Esteem for People of Size" and "Bringing Out Your Inner Bitch: Loving Dominatrix Style." Ohio University senior Lindsay Todd learned about Goldman via her advice website, www.askfriday.com. After happening across it in an internet search, Todd invited Goldman to speak at Ohio U's "Viva La Vulva Week." It was an instant success.
"The students appreciated having someone their own age giving advice," Todd says. "She was very hands-on and very good at coming down to their comfort zone."
Goldman plans to become a licensed sex therapist. In the meantime, she's banking on the success of her software. She declines to name either of the companies seeking her product, but says she's been offered $12,000 so far.
"I know that it's worth way more than that," she says. "I'm thinking $25,000, at least."
Her friends agree.
"The other day," says Becker, "I found out that there's this group of people who call themselves 'the small-dick guys.' They get off on you insulting their penis. I had absolutely no idea about this cult, so I turned on the computer. Friday, of course, had a whole section about it."