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Barry Greenwald, Ph.D.

After a few nights of working at a hotline, answering calls from people in various types of difficulties, the liner learns to respond to most problems with a type of "concerned objectivity." Yet, some problems seem to tap a system of responses which generally are not therapeutic and leave the listener with feelings of hurt, anger, or uselessness. One of the situations which probably does this more than any other is the call from a male or female who seems to use the service of the line for the sole purpose of masturbating to your voice. This type of phone call is received quite frequently.

The masturbator requires special attention because his/her calls not only have a very disturbing effect of arousing very strong negative emotions which may result in the call being inadequately handled, but also because the aroused emotions generally have a negative effect on the handling of subsequent calls.

The masturbator is someone with a real problem. S/He derives sexual gratification by making use of an unknown person's voice rather than deriving sexual pleasure from a relationship characterized by mutuality. While the problem is real, the masturbator is seldom interested in working on or resolving his or her problem. Nevertheless, our job is to remain polite, and in these situations, firm, appropriate, and consistent in our approach .

Characteristics of masturbatory phone callers often include:

  1. Voice seems devoid of feelings
  2. Hesitation in speaking
  3. Unusual phrasing of sentences or "catches" in the caller's breathing
  4. Presents self with boyish innocence about sexual matters
  5. Gives a first name immediately and requests name of the liner (the usual non-sex caller is so anxious and/or depressed that, if there is an exchange of names, it comes later in the call
  6. Will not speak with a man, although may express difficulty in talking with a woman
  7. Briefly states his "problem" and waits for counselor to respond (generally there is very little to respond to)
  8. Asks personal questions about the liner such as age, marital status, color of hair/eyes, d. what is the liner wearing
  9. Asks the liner's opinion about his "sexual problem" with insistence
  10. Resistance toward any resolution of the "problem" -- s/he just wants to keep on repeating it
  11. A great deal of silence by the caller
  12. Common story themes in presenting problem such as: sex with female members of the family, sometimes siblings, most often with adult members of immediate or extended family, lending his wife/girlfriend to another man, enjoying sex with young boys/young girls, insistently asking for sex information (often graphic) but refuses referral to organizations established for those purposes
  13. Some common opening lines: "I want to talk", "Can I talk about anything here?", "I have an embarrassing problem...", "Are you understanding?"

With this background, five possible approaches to handling the masturbator have been listed, in the hopes that these suggestions would not only aid the listener in a practical way when receiving such a call, but also make alternative behaviors available to the caller.

  1. The listener can respond by saying nothing or with controlled silence
  2. The listener can communicate that s/he knows what the caller is doing and firmly and politely discontinue the phone call. A liner does not have to feel obligated to be the inappropriate sexual stimuli for this type of call.
  3. The listener could try to establish a minimal relationship with the masturbator and urge him/her to call back after he has finished masturbating to discuss the reasons he seeks sexual gratification in this manner.
  4. The listener can stay with the caller, allow her/himself to be used if necessary with the hope that the relationship can move from this level to one in which they can be more therapeutic to the person calling.
  5. The listener can try to point out to the caller that s/he has a problem and explain it to him as briefly and as clearly as possible, so that he understands his behavior.
It should be noted that the majority of the masturbatory phone calls received on the hotline are from males calling in search of a female voice. However, it does happen that a woman will call to masturbate to the sound of a male liner's voice. Gay masturbators (of both sexes) are also calling hotlines to speak to listeners of the same gender.. While it can be unnerving to get such a call, the options for dealing with any masturbator are the same.

Success with these types of callers, i.e., helping them to see that this behavior is problematic, is very rare. Experienced liners become quite jaded about these types of callers and new liners are often unrealistically optimistic about what can be done. Each liner needs to find his/her own style and approach that is comfortable and respectful of the caller.

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