My Phone Sex Secrets, Channel 4 - review

This doc about the women on the other end of chatlines was dirty, cheeky and very funny, says Jack Seale

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My Phone Sex Secrets, Channel 4 - review
Written By
Jack Seale

Who's odder: men who ring phone sex lines, or women who staff them? OK, it's the men. But if this uproarious documentary was to be believed – and part of the fun was that it probably wasn't – then people who talk dirty for a living are not what you'd expect.

My Phone Sex Secrets unearthed eccentrics thriving in a world of clandestine Carry On naughtiness, earning a nice wodge by quietly unleashing a little bit of their dirty side, as strangers unleashed theirs in full down the phone.

The star was 56-year-old Jenny from Carlisle, who literally wrote the book on how to make a living from phone sex, yet seemed to be in the business merely to monetise her natural flow of innuendo. We saw her off-duty in a butcher's: "Can I have some of your cumberland sausage? A nice big ring. That'll keep me satisfied for a while, won't it, boys?"

Back at home, a shamelessly contrived set-up saw Jenny on the job and doing domestic chores at the same time, a cordless landline phone wedged under her chin as she repainted the kitchen. After some explicit introductory chat – Jenny made use of her tub of Tesco Value magnolia emulsion with a flair that suggested a second career in radio drama sound effects is a possibility – she sensed momentum building at the other end.

"Get into it then, come on," said Jenny, to a caller who either hadn't noticed or didn't mind how much she sounded like Jim Bowen encouraging the non-darts-player on Bullseye. "That's a good-'un, in't it, that one? Oooh! I've finished!" (She hadn't – she'd not painted above the hob yet.)

My Phone Sex Secrets hopped from one comic kook to another, with sly narration from Katherine Parkinson ("Jenny honed her skills in the armed forces...") and perky Pathe-style muzak.

Anneka was a giggly vegan whose kitchen worktop had two massive juicers. She didn't initially seem cut out for the job. We watched her at home, talking to a client who told her he was enjoying music videos on cable. Anneka uncertainly egged him on: "Katy Perry? She'd get it, wouldn't she... Girls Aloud! Good choice!"

But a shopping trip to Asda suddenly saw Anneka saying teeth-strippingly rude things into her mobile, right in the middle of Fruit & Veg. Similarly, audio dominatrix Marnie issued orders down the phone to her slaves while strolling on a busy towpath.

Marnie (above) did, however, have a weakness for what you'd think were mood-shattering ad libs ("Well done! Very good woofing") – as did Rosa, a prim 18-year-old maths student who was earning extra cash and rebelling against her military boarding school education. She was badly in need of training, so she pitched up on Jenny's sofa to learn the secrets of convincing simulation. "Don't forget to sound exhausted afterwards," Jenny counselled.

Apart from Trisha, who'd graduated to owning the sort of agency the other women worked for, and had a team of handlers in monogrammed polo shirts fielding new customers ("Welcome to The Pleasuredome, what age lady would you like to speak to..? Tina, 19, slim, lovely boobaloobies?"), all these women's flirtations with phone sex had to come to an end. This was when the documentary became bittersweet.

If you were wondering what effect listening to lonely, randy men all day has on a person – leaving aside the £400 for a really lucrative shift – you found out when Marnie explained she'd stopped dating. "I didn't want to believe it, but they're all w****rs. I no longer believe that it's possible that a man will look at just one woman." Marnie is 19.

Rosa was soon wobbling, too. So the way the film slapped on a theme of strong women beating the recession by cannily tapping into a natural resource and jolly well becoming their own boss – two of them mentioned that they weren't on benefits – was rum.

Even Jenny's prowess masked the pain of living alone. Phone sex couldn't help with that. Or could it? My Phone Sex Secrets had one more surprise up its grubby sleeve, as Jenny met one of her customers face to face...

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