SWAPPING the bustle of Mayfair for a croft in the Highland hills has not ended pioneer Tuppy Owens campaign to help us get real about sex, writes Margaret Chrystall
IT turns out that the natural habitat for a sexpert is a croft in the Highland hills.
The foothills of Ben Wyvis may not be where youd expect to find a pioneer of porn, erotic film star, trained sex therapist, founder of a charity to help disabled people find partners and a campaigner whod like the UK to get real about sex and celebrate ourselves.
But these days, that is where Dr Tuppy Owens lives known to locals, she laughs, as that sex woman on the hill.
She explained: I lived in this cellar in Mayfair for 32 years and I just thought Its time I saw the sky!.
Me and my boyfriend just drove up with our ferrets in the back of the car and the puppy, came up for one weekend and found this croft.
These days Tuppy spends a lot of time working on Outsiders, the charity she founded 27 years ago to help disabled people find partners. She also mans the Sex and Disability helpline. And she organises one of the worlds biggest erotic events The Night of The Senses in London and the Erotic Awards showcase to help raise funds for Outsiders.
But not surprisingly for the woman who at the age of 40 celebrated her discovery of punk by stage-diving, Tuppy still likes to test new boundaries.
Though confessing to being very shy, Tuppy performed her first striptease at the Erotic Awards showcase in London last year aged 60 and got a standing ovation for her daring.
And she now has plans to create an erotic dance and film festival in London next May possibly also to go on tour.
But testing herself has always been part of Tuppys philosophy.
In her early thirties, she embarked on a brief career as an actress in erotic, sex world movies.
Tuppy explained: I was 32 and I thought I havent been in a porn movie, if I dont do it now no-one will ever ask me! Then I ended up being in two!
It was a big learning curve for me because it made me realise I was very shy. the reason why I did the first one was because it was being filmed by a guy who was trying to change the world, an Italian anarchist who made really beautiful films.
It was funded with quarter of a million pounds by American gangsters so that he would make the best erotic film ever!
It was called Sensations and it was beautiful, but it was very Seventies and very slow, laughed Tuppy. The other one was called Lady Victorias Training and it was quite famous at the time. I show it at the Sex Workers ShownTell presentations I do and it has everyone in hysterics!
Tuppy is also one of the national Sexual Freedom Coalition team which campaigns for the sexual freedom of consenting adults.
I had quite an interesting experience when I went on the BBC in Inverness as part of a programme about womens right to sell their bodies as sex workers, she said.
Afterwards, I got into the taxi to come home and because it was all in my mind, I said to the taxi driver Are there any brothels in Inverness?.
He said There used to be two. But if anyone got in my cab and asked me to take them there Id want them to get out of my cab!.
He had 25 minutes of driving me home and by the time he got here, he said You know, I think Ive changed my mind!.
He learned sex workers can be great therapists and can help to cheer older people up and fulfill the needs of disabled people and help people who just need someone to talk to. Once people know all these things, they become much more tolerant. While theyre prejudiced against sex workers they arent sexually free in their own minds.
Wanting to get involved in the community shed come to live in, Tuppy got in touch with the Highland Learning Disabilities and Relationship Group and contributed to the Highland Sexual Health Strategy.
I think the people here are totally lovely and open and up for a laugh and accepting. And I havent had any problem with people thinking Im disgusting. But I think that the authorities are sexphobic and sex negative and its such a shame because Scotland and the Highlands especially, have been told theyve got to do something about teenage pregnancies and high level of STIs (sexually transmitted diseases) and there has been an initiative.
But it does seem like there will be a policy document and that will probably be as far as it goes.
I saw this article in a Sunday paper saying the only way of dealing with this is to encourage pregnant teenagers to have their babies and then have them adopted. Appalling! That means they are condoning the unsafe sex teenagers are having Im sure its much worse to have a baby and have to give it up. So how ridiculous is it that that sort of thing gets into the papers and I think Why? Is that an expert view?.
Tuppy didnt set out to be a sex expert, it all happened almost by accident.
I started life as an ecologist and took an office job working for the government. It was pretty dull.
But I had a boyfriend whose father was a printer and I wanted to see a printing press working I thought it would be exciting.
We went along but what he was printing was a really shabby set of magazines. I said Thats awful I could do much better than that!. So I went off and took some pictures and produced a sex position book just when the Ann Summers shops were opening in the late Sixties.
My books really sold, they made a profit and I was able to finance a whole range of books published myself called The Holiday Sex Manuals for different seasons of the year.
They had to be photographed outside because I wasnt very good at indoor lighting!
It was good fun, couples posing and because we took them to places like traffic islands or public places, I had to be quick!
Then I started to produce something called The Sex Maniacs Diary which really took off.
Though it didnt make the bestseller lists, it was selling around 100,000 copies a year.
I researched all the sex clubs round the world. I just tried to become an expert in that field and put all my experience into this diary which became fatter and fatter. It was the sex handbook of the world!
The book came out between 1972 and 1995.
I had also started Outsiders in 1979, explained Tuppy. At the end, I was just producing the one book a year and that is how I had the time to do Outsiders.
I was quite knowledgeable about sex by then. Id done a sex therapy course at St Georges Hospital, part of London University. So I became a qualified sex therapist. But at the same time it was very difficult for outsiders, because if you can imagine a lot of disabled people belonging to a club to find partners, its already edgy, plus youve got this woman running it who has starred in pornography, produced sex books. At the same time the feminist movement was saying that everything to do with sex was sexist and all that we were doing was encouraging disabled men to be as disgusting as other men. We got a real battering from all sides and I think were only just coming out of the other side really.
Tuppy also feels there is still a lot of work to do getting news of Outsiders and the sex and disability helpline out to Highlanders is one thing.
Ive realised that I have never had any helpline calls from a disabled person in the Highlands and we have never had an Outsider member in the area. It must be the only region in the whole country where disabled people dont feel good enough about themselves or positive enough to join or ring up and ask questions about their sex lives.
Though Tuppy would like to see an end to the double standards where sex is used to sell everything and anything and everyone loves to pretend to be outraged she reckons we Brits are hiding our lights under a bushel.
I think we allow the government to tell us what to do sexwise because the easiest way to control people is to control their sexuality. Theres nothing wrong with seeing porn except most of it is so bad!
We have always had these dreadful laws here weve been the last country in the world to have pornography allowed and its still not completely free, swinging parties have only just been allowed.
I remember being told by a brothel-keeper that they preferred British girls because they were much more inventive, sexy and less money-grabbing.
We have a reputation abroad of being stiff-upper-lip and rather secretive about sex, but when it comes to it, were probably the most uninhibited. Until people talk about it openly, I dont think we stand a chance of giving people real sexual freedom. I think a lot of people are very unsure and quite nervous and not confident about their sexuality. One of the greatest things about the SFCs Sex Workers ShownTell show is you get a completely ordinary-looking woman with spots, not particularly great figure, suddenly transforming herself into this amazing stripper with amazing skills and then she talks about her life as if she has just got an ordinary job.
At the Erotic Awards Showcase last week it was great to see the strippers turning up, all shapes and sizes and none of them particularly glamorous. Lots of people in the audience said it was so empowering for women, not like watching a fashion show with size 10 models.
I think it is so important that that sort of message gets out to people, so thats why I thought it would be a really good thing to put on.
Tuppys own one-off public striptease last year at the Erotic Awards was to promote the acceptance of old age.
But shes taken it close to home before when she headed into Inverness with a friend for some fun at the pole-dancing night that used to be held at former city centre venue The Yard.
I had a gay friend up visiting me who had won stripper of the year. I said to him,If you win, the prize is £100 and that would have paid for your fare!
So we decided he would strip and I would play the granny in the corner who wanted to do it too, but hed be telling me off!
But by 11 oclock when the winner was announced, it was only the drunk ones left and when the voting came, he didnt win! laughed Tuppy. We went home sulking!
She said: Ive always been shy in front of people, I dont really like people looking at me. So doing the strip was a big challenge to me.
But Id met a striptease artist who had reached 40 and decided shed stop stripping professionally. But because she was so good, I suggested that she run her own striptease school and she opened the first school for striptease in the country. I gave her lots of encouragement and in return she gave me free lessons. My first lesson was ridiculous the clothes Id brought along were too tight so I couldnt get out of them!
I did my striptease as a sort of political act really and to say no matter how old you are, you can still be beautiful!
For information on Outsiders go to www.outsiders.org.uk for the sex and disabilities helpline call 07074 990808 and for Night of the Senses go to www.nightofthesenses.com
Dr Tuppy Owens at home in the Highlands.