I’ve been on and off this since since I was 19!(34 now). I think It takes most younger people some time to fully realize their sexuality. Even if they know they have a particular fetish, there might be a sense of embarrassment that comes from fully acknowledging it and exploring it more deeply. We’ve all had those conversations with people who’s said something along the lines of: “I never Really felt comfortable exploring my sexuality until much later in life”.
My main fetishes, for footed blanket sleepers and medically required masks, came to be well before I truly understood sexuality. I'm 45 now and was 9 or so when I remember getting so excited about seeing a girl my age in footed pajamas. And that night was very embarrassing. When my babysitters daughter came out wearing her pink, footed blanket sleeper (zipper front, vinyl soles and toecaps. Very 80's, but I still like them that way mostly), my heart slammed into overdrive, my breathing was elevated, and I kept discreetly sneaking looks at her over on the other couch (this was in a living room, while we watched TV). I seem to remember my babysitter asking if I was OK.
It took until the late 90's (early/mid 20's age) for me to actually feel OK, or even consider, going to fetish websites, thinking maybe these strong feelings as I described above were fetishes. First a Yahoo! group centered around young women in footed pajamas. Then some Japanese site called “Maskgirls”. I'm not sure why all of a sudden I was interested in exploring these feelings as fetishes. Maybe just desperation and wanting to enjoy my full being and knowing I wasn't alone.
I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but yes, I feel like I've “lost time”, so to speak, by not knowing about fetishes until so late. I feel like the general concept should have been addressed in my sex ed. It would have made my adolescence more enjoyable, and adulthood far more so.