Woman talking on phoneThe phone rings at 5:56 on Monday morning, and I'm instantly awake. I listen to the recorded message announcing a 20-minute talent call and press 1 to answer.

Because of the day and time, I already know the voice on the line will most likely belong to one of two people. Justin likes gory self-snuff fantasies which require intense concentration, so groggy me is hoping for Tom, who will be satisfied quickly and easily when his little princess sneaks into bed with him.

It's Justin. I rifle through a mental library of torture-porn horror flicks for a new, preferably bloody way to off myself. It's important to him that I sound like I'm enjoying it, and I do that by challenging myself to come up with a more twisted scenario than the last call.

I revel in my creative carte blanche. It reminds me of an improv class I took where the teacher was constantly encouraging us to "get piggy with it" and go further. There is something exhilarating about just diving off the deep end.

Justin orgasms as the automated voice warns us we only have one minute remaining, thanks me profusely, and hangs up. Rolling over with every intention of slipping back into dreamland, I am drawn back to consciousness by another ring. This will be Tom. In a sweet, girlish voice about three registers higher than my true pitch, I greet him with a delighted squeal, "Daddy!"

He only takes three minutes, even though he purchased fifteen. I glance at the clock. I have made over $100 for less than a half-hour's work -- and all before I've even had my morning coffee. So, yes, to answer the first question everybody asks me once they find out I'm a professional phone sex operator, the money is good.

I always hesitate for a split second when posed the question, "What do you do?" I am a writer, performer and actress. I've made money doing all those things, but for the last six years, I mainly supported myself by talking dirty on the telephone.

When I tell people this, I can see them comparing me in their head to the stereotypical image of a phone sex operator and finding the disparity too much to comprehend. How does someone like me -- attractive, socially adept, impressive résumé, good background -- end up working in a specialized niche of the sex industry?

Six years ago, I found myself needing a new job to pay for acting school. My previous work as a concert and special event producer conflicted with my class schedule, and when a friend mentioned she was applying to be a phone sex operator, I thought, Hey, I could probably do that! I was right. Being open, articulate and sex-positive made me popular immediately.

I found my theater training gave me an advantage, tools many simply do not have, like the ability to maintain a variety of accents and voices. A phone sex call is essentially an extended improv or acting scene -- there are given circumstances and guidelines, but it's all about listening and reacting in the moment. My success as a PSO (as we're known) has grown not from an ability to pretend or an aptitude for lying, but rather from my willingness to be real, to stay in the moment, and to attempt to connect with another human being.

People assume that being an actress makes me a better phone sex operator, and they are correct. But what I have come to realize is that doing phone sex has made me a better actress. Nearly all of my directors have commented on how fearless I am onstage. My response is that there is nothing they could ask me to do or say that would be stranger or more embarrassing than the things I've done and said on the phone.

Any acting teacher will tell you that you cannot effectively portray a character you dislike, or one you judge negatively. Getting past judgment -- of others and of oneself -- is also key to being able to sensually describe fantasies you might personally find distasteful.

I believe the real service I provide is acceptance of another person at their most vulnerable. A basic need, but one which I can attest goes unmet for many. After all, where is someone like Justin going to find satisfaction for his fetish cravings if not for me?

The phone rings again. I pine longingly for my French press, but instead slip my headset back on.

"Hi, this is Tonya ..."

Tonya Jone Miller is an actress, foodie and aural courtesan in Portland, Ore. She is the proud owner of a filthy mouth and a clean conscience.