The story of the Somerset gimp, the rubber-clad mystery man terrifying pedestrians at night, has had women across the country shuddering this week.
After 23-year-old Abi Conroy reported being harassed by the pervert on her way home, local police questioned two men about what they knew about the gimp – and whether they might even be the culprit themselves.
But it’s not just the residents of Somerset who are upset by the incident.
A number of self-confessed gimps – bondage enthusiasts who get off on wearing tight, restrictive outfits – have come forward to express their outrage at the creep’s activities, and to stress that he does not represent their community.
Humphrey, a doctor in his 40s who loves wearing skintight rubber and latex suits in his free time, said he was shocked and upset by what happened in Somerset.
‘There’s a huge difference between consensual fetish play – the type of stuff I do for fun – and being a predator,’ Humphrey tells Metro.co.uk.
‘I’ve met dozens of men and women who love rubber costumes, and none of them would dream of lurking around in the shadows grunting at non-consenting pedestrians.’
He hopes the incident wouldn’t lead the public to be overly suspicious of rubber fetishists.
‘I’m sure you can find sleazy types in any subculture,’ he said. ‘If a birdwatcher was caught chasing women, you wouldn’t automatically assume that anyone with binoculars was a creep.’
He also gave some clues as to what kind of person might be behind the mask, saying: ‘Underneath the suit probably hides a deeply frustrated loner who doesn’t understand how to deal with his urges.’
Andrew, a 32-year-old IT specialist in London, said that most people into rubber aren’t weirdos.
‘People hear stories like this and assume that everyone into dressing up is an oddball, but there’s actually a pretty big fashion scene – particularly with latex,’ he tells us.
‘Many rubber enthusiasts get a sexual kick from it, but certainly not all of us. Similarly, most people would be hesitant about dressing up in public – and they’d definitely never try to force it on anyone.’
Humphrey and Andrew stress that, as proud submissives, the last thing they want to do is frighten women – who they consider as superior beings with the right to boss them around.
On behalf of all gimps, they apologise to Abi, who was left terrified after her encounter, adding that they hope the perpetrator will be caught and held accountable.
It isn’t known how many people own gimp suits in Britain, but it certainly isn’t a cheap hobby. A decent suit costs around £500 from specialist retailer – although knock-off versions can be purchased online.
Enthusiasts enjoy the unique feeling of full body immersion and the fact that even their most basic actions are at the mercy of their dominant. One of the most distinctive features, for example, is the zip over the mouth which makes it impossible to talk without permission.
Not all members of this community, though, are on board with the word ‘gimp’.
Mistress Absolute, a London dominatrix, tells us that the term, popularised by the infamous scene in Pulp Fiction, makes her shudder.
‘The word ‘gimp’ has very negative connotations,’ she said. ‘A lot of rubber fetishists take pride in their hobby and, even for those that like to be dominated, they won’t all be comfortable with a term which suggests they’re stupid and useless.’
The skilled disciplinarian, who runs a special club night where men are forced to wear slave collars and forbidden from sitting on the furniture, is also keen to point out that the actions of the Somerset gimp are at odds with BDSM values.
‘Everything we do is about consent,’ she explained from her London dungeon. ‘To involve non-consenting bystanders in your fetish activities – particularly people who will be scared or offended – is a serious breach of ethics.’
Hopefully the backlash against the Somerset gimp will have encouraged anyone who might consider donning fetish gear and chasing strangers to think again.
But for curious folks seeking safe and consensual fun in skintight rubber, it’s good to know there are like-minded types out there – and that one creepy guy isn’t indicative of the entire community.
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