TV & Radio
Puberty Hotline counselors plagued by prank callers - Mainichi Daily News
Every year when summer comes around, the number of phone calls young boys make to the Puberty Hotline suddenly increases rapidly, with callers often making such claims like they're masturbating into their mother's panties or peeping into their sister's bedroom.
But it's the silent and prank callers who really irk the counselors working the Puberty Hotline.
Each year, the Puberty Hotline (<03>3235-2638) receives over 6,000 calls, 4,362 of which came from boys. Boy callers outnumber girl calls by 2.3 times.
Perhaps because they realize the counselors are women, many of the calls made by the boys really lack any urgency. Boys getting all excited about using a telephone counseling service and getting all excited over a woman they can't see exceeds the bounds of absurdity and goes into the realm of being pitiful. When I, a man, take over the phones, it's interesting to note that the number of prank calls declines dramatically.
The Puberty Hotline involves dealing with people over the phone, so you can't tell what the atmosphere is like around the caller. Things are fine as long as a conversation continues, but when a caller goes silent, there's nothing that a counselor can do.
Who knows what message is really being sent to would-be helpers who receive a silent phone call? It's easy to say these calls are just pranks, but there could be more to them than that. What if there is a child who has something that is really bothering them and musters up the courage to talk about their problem to an adult, but is scared by the formal response they receive when somebody answer's the hotline phone and the words simply don't come out? There are plenty of factors at play.
Some boys will call the hotline and ask to be given a female counselor if a man answers the phone. Many of these boys go on to talk about problems directly related to men, such as their genitals or dealing with masturbation. There are many times when it seems the boys lack confidence in dealing directly with members of the same sex and there are times when that feeling manifests itself in the caller not speaking up. In times like this, counselors are instructed to give the caller instructions such as to hang up, think again about what they want to say and try calling back later or to write down their worries on a piece of paper and call back again.
Prank calls create worries and frustrations for counselors. It seems like the number of prank callers has increased recently. There's no way you can catch somebody you can't see and don't know where they're calling from. In these cases, the phone becomes like something of a weapon. In fiscal 2004, there were 490 prank calls made to the Puberty Hotline. They are a powerful way to destroy the enthusiasm of counselors who try hard to help people.
Some of the prank callers can be crude and vulgar. There are times when a counselor will pick up the phone to be greeted by shouts of "Bastard. Hurry up and die!" Other times, children will sit there and repeat the phrase, "Hello," pretending they can't hear the counselor on the other end of the line.
Sometimes, the caller is clearly masturbating as they talk. Some use the hotline as though they were engaging in telephone sex and they're being turned on by the counselor's voice. Just the other day, a boy confessed to me that he uses the hotline this way.
"When a woman counselor has no problem is saying words like hard-on, premature ejaculation, dick head, phimosis, semen or sex, those words just stay embedded in my memory. I know it's not good, but I secretly tape the conversation and afterwards listen to the recording while I masturbate," he said.
Learning that the gentleness of the counselors could be used as an extension of sex talk has given me pause for thought about the hotline.
There is one caller, clearly a middle-aged man, who repeatedly calls the hotline, gives a different age with each call and then asks for help on a wide and wonderful variety of made-up subjects. When told that the hotline was set up to help troubled children and asked to hang up if he wasn't seriously in trouble, the man violently slammed down his phone.
At other times, counselors are plagued by callers prying into the counselors' private lives, asking such questions as "How old are you? How would you like some sex?" We instruct counselors to reply with the question: "How do you have sex on the phone?" When asked: "What color are your panties?" counselors usually dismiss the caller by saying, "I don't know you and have never met you, so we won't be talking about my private life."
Dealing with prank calls is an important task for phone counselors. (By Dr. Kunio Kitamura, special to the Mainichi)
Kunio Kitamura is head of the Japan Family Planning Association. He specializes in dealing with issues such as sex, birth control, abortion, puberty worries, sexually transmitted diseases, child-raising (he is a father of five), general gynecology and domestic violence. If he cannot handle directly a problem he has been presented with, he will draw on a wide variety of specialists to provide assistance.
August 7, 2005