When I began preparing to work as a phone sex operator, I had an idea of what my clients would ask of me.

The vast majority of the clients I serve are male identifying and probably cisgender. I market myself as a Femme Dom and a Mistress. For those who don’t know what that means, I offer phone services as someone who takes the lead sexually and gives orders in the bedroom. I don’t receive sexual orders as a PSO. Additionally, in my personal dating experience, I’ve learned that men have a great interest, even much younger men, in serving a woman and letting her lead. What I discovered in my work as a PSO, is that many men long to explore beyond that.

Toxic masculinity is pervasive in our society. Toxic masculinity centers around expectations for men to behave in a particular way in order to be “real men.” This can take the form of being the boss, being a leader, being the primary breadwinner, dressing a particular way, being assertive, aggressive, dominant or even violent. Toxic masculinity doesn’t accept the softer side of men. The need for acceptance, love, tenderness, touch and feeling, as found in any human, is shunned or ignored. A real man isn’t expected to have tender feelings, an attraction to other men, or moments of weakness. These are the tenets of toxic masculinity.

I assume you can make the connection between toxic masculinity and violence against women pretty clearly. But what you may not see is how much this hurts men. I believe there are many men who are silent victims of toxic masculinity. Phone sex may be an outlet for some of them. As a sex coach, my goal is to provide a safe space for men to come out of the shadows and be accepted and celebrated for the multifaceted emotional and sexual beings that they are. Men, just like the rest of us, have been shamed for their sexual desires, preferences, needs and expressions. They have also been shamed for their gender expression.

I invite you to consider your own sexual shame. Has anyone ever “yucked your yum” and brought on that sinking feeling of shame? Did that experience cause you to close off a part of yourself and not want to reveal it to anyone else? Have you been able to find trusted friends, intimate partners or safe spaces to explore your desires? If you have been shamed or judged, you probably know the difficulty and pain that arises from that experience.

In my phone sex work, I witness many men, often at a later stage in life, who have withheld their secret sexual desires for decades. They use phone sex as an outlet for that expression. What surprises me is the varying expression of wanting to be feminized. Of wanting to be used. Of wanting to be “girly.” Of wanting to be controlled. Of wanting to be led and told to do things they wouldn’t do without someone “forcing” them to do them. I feel so much compassion for these men. I can only imagine that their lives are in some ways lacking. Perhaps the weight of a secret is difficult to bear. I imagine that some of their shame or secrecy comes from their partner not accepting their desires. Maybe they hold their secrets in order to preserve their relationships. Their diversity of expression goes from wearing women’s panties under their “boy clothes” to full-on collections of lingerie with stockings and heels. For these men, the desire to express femininity is vast.

When I see people in public dressing outside of gender norms, I feel happy for them and acknowledge their bravery. The current push to criminalize clothing and gender expression is very disheartening, to say the least. I live in a major metropolitan city and generally feel outside of that unfortunate reality. However, when I have been present with friends who cross-dress, identify as trans and are viewed as “outside the norm” I am aware of the possibility of criticism and/or violence that could result. As a queer woman with short hair, I too have experienced the vile reactions of some people. Just over my hair alone.

Which brings me back to toxic masculinity. The next time you find yourself having a negative or judgmental reaction to someone exploring themselves, their gender or their sexuality, please take a breath before reacting. Perhaps even question “what is the source of this reaction?” Is it your own or something instilled in you by society? Your simple withdrawal, gasp, disdain and harsh words can change the trajectory of how someone interacts on an intimate level with others.

Rather than judge, I invite you to look within yourself and realize how you may have been affected by shame or judgment. And open your mind to undermining toxic masculinity and patriarchal culture by not only accepting, but celebrating, the variety of human sexual and gender expression that exists. Not only for others, but for yourself. We can all benefit from some curiosity, compassion and celebration.

The Silent Sufferers of Toxic Masculinity

The Silent Sufferers of Toxic Masculinity