If you see the guy in the next cubicle typing frantically during his lunch break, it may not be because he's trying to meet an important deadline. He may just be hooked into a worldwide sex network based in a drab suburban Denver office building.
Men from around the world use their computers to link up with the female strippers of Club XTC (www.clubxtc.com), who instantly make typed fantasies--from S&M to "horny co-eds"--come true. As far as can be ascertained, this may be the only operation of its kind based in Colorado, an electronic-age linkage that is to phone sex what the space shuttle is to the Model T.
It's clear to the people who work at Club XTC that more than just your average Californians are coming to the Denver suburbs.
"I'm always amazed at how many executives call the dominatrix line from their offices during lunch and ask us to make them submit," says Lisa St. John, the 34-year-old owner of Club XTC. She says that the sexual scenarios provided by her company are so enticing (you can order up two women having sex, for example) that customers seem to be having a hard time on their keyboards.
"You can tell when a guy is--how should I say--'excited' when their typing starts getting screwed up," says St. John. "Guys will start off typing their instructions perfectly, and then twenty minutes into the call you'll see them start misspelling words or accidentally shifting into all caps. That gives you a pretty good idea that they're getting off."
Club XTC also offers two-way audio hookups, but St. John says her thousands of customers prefer to talk with their hands instead of speaking. "Most men even have problems telling their wife what they want them to do," she says. "They're a lot more comfortable typing 'Bend over, bitch' than saying it."
St. John estimates that 90 percent of the company's business comes from out-of-state callers, 30 percent of whom come from foreign countries. Distance: That's one of the reasons strippers say they love working for the company.
"Dancing in clubs can be really awkward," says Chase, a 23-year-old Anna Nicole Smith look-alike who's been working for Club XTC since September. Via computer, she portrays a nurse ("Schedule an exam and you'll throb with excitement!"). "If someone you know comes in, you still have to dance for them. But here we know exactly who we're performing for. I don't have to worry about it."
To avoid exposing herself to anyone who might know her from outside Club XTC, Chase refuses to take any calls from her home state of Tennessee. "I don't want any family friends to see me," she says. "I'm also not taking calls from California anymore, because my ex-husband got one of his friends to call in. Here you have a choice. In the clubs, you don't."
Club XTC's setup provides St. John and what she calls her "silent partners" with the same sort of anonymity. Men and women in power suits walk past the office (located on the same floor as a dentist and a brokerage firm) without even giving its nameplate (a bland corporate-type moniker) a second glance, except when a beautiful and very conservatively dressed woman emerges. Club XTC zealously guards its privacy; a sign on the inside of the office door reads: "Girls, do not leave the office unless you are fully dressed."
St. John and her Web technicians work in the front office. The place looks so innocuous that even a delivery man who stops to use the phone doesn't seem aware that in the next room two naked women are cavorting with each other in front of a digital camera.
"This business," says a Club XTC Web technician, "is invisible."
Revenue, however, is not. The statuesque St. John, whose tight sweater and jeans showcase a body rivaling those of her employees, says that on a busy day Club XTC can rack up over 2,000 minutes of calls at $4.99 a minute (two girls for $9.98 a minute). Strippers say they can earn more than $300 a shift.
St. John got her start in the porn business after eight years in mortgage banking. When the mortgage company went under, she says, she found herself unemployed and collecting welfare. She started working phone sex, but after seeing how much money the company she worked for was pulling in, she quit and went out on her own.
It didn't take her long to realize that the long-distance sex business was going to be moving in a new direction. "Guys want to see the women," says St. John, "not just hear them."
To meet this demand, Club XTC was born in 1996. "Most sites just have some trailer-trash girl sitting on a chair in front of a camera," says St. John. "We've gone with theme rooms and recruit only the best-looking, most charismatic girls. The combination really brings the fantasy together."
The key to Club XTC lies in the $12,000 worth of computer and video equipment in each of the five back rooms. In each, the women use a remote control to direct the camera. Sometimes one woman chats with the client via keyboard while another undulates.
St. John and her partners seem to have all the angles figured out. This isn't actually Internet sex. After men get access to the Web site via the Internet, they are told to download software that will connect them directly with the club's computers.
Because of the private modem-to-modem connection, she says, callers feel comfortable asking for, well, anything. She says she even brought in a professional dominatrix to coach her girls. And St. John swears that she has a famous clientele, though she won't reveal names. "Because of the quality of our girls and the secure nature of the hookup, we tend to get a lot of upscale professional types," she says. "If they're famous or well-known, they won't go into a strip joint or a jack-off shop and ask for what they really want."
Club XTC's Web site is raunchy but also a wee bit paranoid. Each user has to agree that he is not a "law-enforcement agent... attempting to obtain any evidence...for the purpose of entrapment." And customers have to fill out a detailed form with their correct names, addresses and credit-card numbers. For the customers' protection, credit-card bills show a harmless corporate name, not Club XTC. In return, however, St. John, like Saint Nick, knows exactly which of her customers are naughty or nice.
The club touts the tightness of its workers' private parts, but nothing is as tight as the club's own procedures. It takes about three minutes for a potential customer's credit-card and banking information to be processed, and if any part doesn't check out, the caller is locked out of the Club XTC site.
"We have guys call in all the time who try to put their names down as 'Joe Blow,'" says St. John, "but we won't accept it. You've got one chance to tell the truth. If you don't, you're gone.
"We know everything about the guy; they know nothing about us."
Which makes this electronic joint nothing like a strip club, St. John points out. "In a strip club, the guy has the power," she says. "They can put down money or not. It makes me sick when I see some beautiful girl dance a whole set for five bucks. It's humiliating. A lot of our girls have worked in strip clubs before and have been taken advantage of."
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Adding to the female-friendly environment is the fact that St. John hires women as shift supervisors. There are only two men at Club XTC, both employed as technical support staff. "We bring a female perspective into the office. We aren't in here hitting on the girls or making them give us blow jobs," says St. John, a mother of two.
These strippers even get medical benefits. The place is as low-key on the outside as it is lusty inside. Paychecks and tax forms contain no sexual references, and the office maintains a separate "Mom Line" so that family members can call in without knowing that it's a porn joint.
To Chase, the working environment really is pure ecstasy. "I feel safe here, like I have a connection," says Chase. "And you don't have to deal with drunks or guys breathing on you so hard you can smell their lunch.
"I mean, it's hard work when you have to keep smiling after having anal sex with yourself for thirty minutes. But if you're going to be in the sex business, this is the best place to be. Especially if you're an exhibitionist.