Tuppy Owens: I Was Censored By Feminists

Tuppy Owens
Tuppy Owens

Since the 1960s, Tuppy Owens has been a sexual libertarian: she has campaigned tirelessly for sexual freedom and set up groups that fight for sexual rights for disabled people. As a woman fighting for the sexual rights of women (as well as men) to enjoy sexual pleasure without guilt, she might once have been embraced by the feminist movement; yet since the late 1970s, she has been repeatedly attacked by anti-sex feminists. Here, she describes some of her experiences.

 

My name is Tuppy Owens and I am a woman. I started the Outsiders Club in 1979 for disabled men and women to gain confidence and find partners. Feminists immediately started attacking me, accusing me of encouraging disabled men to be “as disgusting as other men”. I can remember them sitting in the front row at conferences I spoke at, hurling abuse. I chose to ignore them.

For 25 years of my life, I published the Sex Maniac’s Diary, a jovial pocket book featuring sex positions of the day, kinks of the week, and international listings for sexy hotels, swing clubs, fetish clubs and places to enjoy commercial sex. Many people bought it as a joke Christmas present but in reality the information was very seriously researched and presented.

There were obviously more commercial establishments for men than for women (as there still are), but feminists therefore decided the little diary was “sexist”, and slowly printers refused to print it and criticism abounded – its charm and innocence were lost. I was very upset, but there was nothing I could do, anti-sex feminism was “in”.

Rather reluctantly, I was persuaded by its organisers to join Feminists Against Censorship. I didn’t really go along with their way of working and had nothing in common with the members. One of them asked me, while scrounging a lift in my car, “do you still fuck men?” “Yes”, I replied, why not?”. “Well, men just do what they want.” I thought about this and told her, “Yes, men do what they want and women do what we want. That’s what makes sex so great.” “Oh” she said, and sat silently.

Feminists Against Censorship decided to produce a book. I suggested they call it “Tales from the Clitoris” but it ended up with the rather vulgar title, “Tales from the Clit”. I was to be given a chapter, to write about Outsiders and my work with disabled people.

I wrote it from the heart. Midway through, I expressed my concern with what was happening a great deal at the time (late 80’s, early 90’s) when women felt their genitals were rather like a trophy which would be shared only in very special circumstances. I watched women swagger around as if they held this precious object between their legs, not to be shared. “Where had the generosity gone? How sad it was for disabled men who would never live up to the required standards, and never get to taste their delicious pussies and share their pleasures.”

Or something like that. Well, this paragraph was censored out, and I declared “I’ve been censored by Feminists Against Censorship!”.

Sadly, things have got much worse now. Feminists have joined forces with religious groups to get rid of all the wonderful striptease joints in London and elsewhere. Why can’t they listen to the women who are strippers before campaigning to close their places of work? Why are they allowed to get away with this? Probably because the feminists have kicked the balls out of the politicians, council members and journalists who might, in the past, have stopped them behaving so outrageously.

Feminism makes me not wish to identify as a woman, or a human being for that matter. I think I’ll opt for just being a mammal.

17 thoughts on “Tuppy Owens: I Was Censored By Feminists”

  1. As a wheelchair user and campaigner for keeping striptease venues open I so feel for Tuppy and respect all the work and achievements she has made so far. You wonder how some feminists can complain about privilege and yet expect to keep certain privileges from others. Having seen the vitriol from the feminist section of mumsnet about the “rights” and need and expectations of disabled people and basically how if no one wants you well so long as it doesn’t interfere with their view of the world thats fine.

    Some disabled people chose to use a sex worker because they have no other choice, yet the act on both sexes for choosing this as their only option to experience physical intimacy well some feminist comments show not only how little they understand but also how little their care from behind their rose tinted glasses.

    1. Well, there is mutually rewarding sex and masturbation as an alternative to commercial sex. It sounds like Tuppy was working hard to overcome some of the barriers that disabled people face to finding sexual partners and for that I applaud here, but the implication that disabled people have no choice but to use women in the sex industry is outright offensive to the many disabled people I know who would never dream of doing such a thing.

      Furthermore with the way the DLA cuts are going, particularly with mental health, you will see more and more disabled women pushed into the sex industry to survive. They are not entering the industry because of a desire to have sex, but a desire to keep a roof over their heads.

      The sex industry is a disability rights issue, but not in the way that you seem to think.

      1. As a disabled person I have spoken to many who have exclusion issues, mutual relies on both parties being physically able to some extent. Some are not. I have been involved in several groups online that discuss sex and the disabled. Not saying there aren’t people who would not engage in a commercial sex option but by criminalising customers (based on the sweden model) you may deny people who feel that they have no other choice. Or get criminal charges against the disabled (actually good idea lets see them jail me). Certainly Scotland are discussing the Swedish model.

        Many people have this attitude that disability means we should accept what we are given and not exercise choice. Commenting from a position of privilege of not being disabled about what you assume disabled people would think seems a little self centred. How many disabled people have you actually asked? I have been in online groups of over 4,000 before and 90% would choose a sex worker if they could (quite a few had)..

        I am not an expert on mental health just related to physical disability so I can’t judge on that area.

        1. I think there is a role for care workers to facilitate sexual activities either solo or between mutually consenting and desirous partners, but I’m getting the impression that is not what you are meaning – you are talking about paying a woman to have sex with you/allow you to have sex with them, when were there to be no payment, they would not do so.

          I am unaware on what basis you make the assumption that I am not disabled, but yes, it is a correct one.

          Of those 3600 people who would choose to pay for sex, how many were women? I know not a single disabled woman who has ever paid to have sex with someone, I know quite a number who has accepted money for sex because they were in dire financial or practical straights.

          I also know of formerly healthy women who have been left disabled after being involved in the sex industry, either through sexual trauma, or through physically abusive experiences.

          Its not a question of “accepting what you are given and not exercising choice”, its about holding disabled people to the same standards as everyone else. Being disabled doesn’t give you a “get out of gaol free” card.

          1. Of the 3600 most were male, I know about 15 or so women who would but as they explained they are already judged on their disability, judging them on a whole other level would be too emotional for many. The women are less likely to open up on even closed bulletin boards.

            As to how I knew you were not disabled your privilege shines through like a beacon.

            As to consenting men/women who are willing to act as sexual surrogates do you want them to be paid like social workers? Would that not make them sex workers just employed by the government? We are talking about people who would not otherwise be able to attract a sexual partner.

            I see we have different opinions, yet there is no need for a get out of gaol card as prostitution in and of itself is not illegal in the UK at present. Soliciting and operating a brothel (i.e more than one sex worker) is illegal of course.

  2. Well, that’s not what happened at all, Tuppy. Your final paragraph seemed downbeat and I asked you if you wouldn’t like to end on a more upbeat note. You decided to clip the paragraph rather than just edit it. The end.

    1. To be frank, your potted version of events reads as something of an excuse compared to Tuppy’s, without the benefit of further details. Care to elaborate on what happened?

      As for finishing your post, “The end.”, that comes across as pompous and self-important. This may come as a huge surprise to you, but you don’t have any authority on this blog…

      1. Well, there isn’t much more to it than that. It was a friendly discussion over the phone, we were both laughing, I loved her article, but I thought the one paragraph right at the end ruined the tone and suggested she lighten it up. When she got back to me, she said she’d decided to cut the paragraph rather than re-work it.

        That’s it. There was no drama, no big deal. That’s what I meant by “The end” – that there was no antipathy or huge dust-up or big scene or complaints from Tuppy. It was her decision to cut the paragraph rather than re-write it, and it wasn’t an argument at all – and certainly not a disagreement about content.

        1. It’s a shame that the concluding paragraph wasn’t retained in some form, whatever the circumstances. I may ask Tuppy in private whether her recollection of what happened squares with your account here.

  3. Having contributed to Tales from the Clit, I’m a little dismayed by this article. It would also appear that one individual’s reaction to Tuppy’s take on the world has been extrapolated out to include everyone from FAC. Feminism is a broad church and those of us who were involved in the 80s and 90s are aware that FAC was often at loggerheads with other ‘feminist’ groups that did not share our views on sexual freedom. And for Tuppy to bunch us all together with those feminists that have made a decidedly unholy alliance with church groups is unfair and unwise on her part.

  4. The vast majority of western women are liars and hypocrites when it comes to equality before the law…this is my commentary to western women. When they are ready to step up to BEING equal? Give me a call. I won’t be holding my breath…it’s only been 30 years, right?

  5. I’ve been meaning to comment here since this article went up but haven’t found time until now so I’ll mainly just reiterate the response I left on the FAC Facebook page:

    I’ve liked Tuppy on the occasions I’ve spoken to her and I like what I know about Outsiders but, overall, I’m confused by this article. It certainly doesn’t reflect my experience of the long-standing FAC members I met when I joined the group back in 2000. I appreciate that it speaks of an era before this but I’ve personally never heard anyone in the group making disparaging comments about fucking men per se. It always struck me (and still does) that this was a group of women who embraced the idea of fucking whoever you happen to fancy at the time. Still, I accept that I may not be aware of whoever Tuppy is referring to.

    However, there is at least one definite discrepancy in the piece: the statement “Feminists Against Censorship decided to produce a book” makes it sound as if ‘Tales From the Clit’ was the first. but there were four others before that one:

    http://www.fiawol.demon.co.uk/FAC/facpub.htm

    Tuppy actually has an essay in ‘Bad Girls and Dirty pictures’. It’s called ‘Sex on My Mind’.

    With regard to censorship, Avedon has already said that the removal of Tuppy’s final paragraph in ‘Tales From the Clit’ was Tuppy’s decision anyway but, fwiw, I don’t think it could be automatically classed as censorship even if the paragraph in question *was* cut by an editor. Wouldn’t that make ‘I Was Edited by Feminists’ a more accurate title? If this just won’t do, I think I will have to complain to every single editor who has ever removed anything more than a typo from my writing, on the basis that they’ve “censored” me.

  6. Excellent article! I’ve been censored by feminists, anarchists, queers, and a long etcetera. People wnnting to stop us could be anything and they could be saying they are this or that. But for me, feminism is something else, not related at all with victimization of women nor sexophobia. The censors are not feminists, are just frustrated assholes, and I think we should start calling them by their names, instead of “include” them inside feminism.

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