Occasionally an interesting question comes in of which I think the answer could be beneficiary to a lot of people. Instead of answering the question privately, I will try to answer it extensively and post it here instead (keeping the privacy of the person who asked in mind of course). Do keep in mind that this is just my opinion.
What would you advice a relatively young (but 18+) newcomer to the “rainwear scene” wanting to make new friends and possibly meet up in real life?
This is a question I have gotten more than once, and while there are several articles already on this site mentioning specific parts that would be part of the answer I have not created a write-up that brings it all together. To keep the answer somewhat general, I will go over a total of three steps and try to connect it to my own experiences. You will have to see if these steps fit with you, and how to apply them to your specific situation.
1. Accept you kink / fetish
The very first thing, in my view, is that you need to accept your fetish. Having a fetish is nothing special; lots of people experience sexual excitement in response to an object or body part that is not typically sexual. Some research even indicates that maybe half the population could be classified as having a fetish, with a fetish for feet, lingerie, impact play, and role play often being mentioned as most common. Having a fetish for rainwear is much more unique though, although you could make the case it should be added to a more general classification of fetishes for smooth materials like rubber, latex, satin, leather, and PVC. Either way, having a fetish for rainwear is neither gross nor abnormal. And that realization is the first step to self-acceptance. As long as all participants are consenting adults, you deserve your happiness and should be able to pursue your desires.
Acceptance is possibly a temporary stage
Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the “five stages of grief” model in 1969, and even though there has been plenty of criticism, it has become one of the leading and most recognizable models of stages people go through when confronted with adverse events. While having a kink or fetish should not be an adverse event to begin with, it is how many people would experience it at first as it diverts from what is seen as “normal”. The five identified stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.
The sequence of these stages is not set in stone and it is not abnormal to experience falls backs to an earlier stage. Especially if you have discovered your fetish for rainwear at an early age you have probably gone through several stages multiple times. I remember I had periods in my life where I accepted the idea how special rainwear was for me, only to later feel embarrassed and grossed out by the idea of such normal items evoking such emotions. This fallback to earlier stages seems quite common with a recurring theme in online discussions of people having thrown out their complete collection of gear only to regret it later again.
The reason to reach a stage of acceptance first is that there is a chance you will go through the mentioned steps again at some point. And finding regret from buying some raingear, enjoying it, and throwing it away is a small thing, the feelings of shame or guilt when you actually met up with other people based upon your rainwear fetish could have a much bigger impact. If you are not at a stable point in accepting your own fetish, you might find yourself on a rollercoaster ride of emotions at some point. For your own mental health it is advisable to work on yourself first before starting to include other people in your activities.
The impact on other people
As soon as you start to include other people in your activities, your acts will have an influence on them as well. If you are full of doubts, experience regret or shame, or enter an emotional rollercoaster after meeting up there is a chance you bring the other person down with you as well.
Another thing I have regularly heard about is that people have not fully accepted their fetish, plan a meetup, and change their mind at the very last moment, possibly without fully informing the other party. Meeting up with someone new is exciting already, let alone when it is a big step for you personally with your fetish, so be sure you are ready for it before actually setting a date and having the other person waiting for you.
2. Set boundaries
Before venturing out looking for (sexual) pleasure, it is important to set boundaries to protect your mental and physical health. This step might sound “too calculated and analytical”, but in my view it is an important method for keeping your autonomy and sanity. At times your judgement will get influenced by emotions and by setting boundaries beforehand you can limit the risks of damage. Most people have boundaries set already; for example to avoid bodily harm by practicing safe sex in order to avoid STDs or an unwanted pregnancy. Adding further boundaries to protect your mental health should sound like a logical step.
Boundaries do not have to be set in stone, and it is only natural to change them over time as you collect experiences and gain insights. But the decision to move your boundary should always be made with a clear mind and not under the influence of someone else or (temporary) emotions. Especially when you start meeting new people you run the risk of someone trying to coerce you into doing things that are not necessary in your best interest. Or at times when emotions take over, be it anger, loneliness, or just plain horniness, you will be more willing to do things you might regret later.
For myself I have set lots of boundaries as well; some of which I have explicitly communicated on this site already. For one I know that I am quite naïve and I tend to romanticize things a lot, meaning once something new gets introduced I can only think how great it will be and am ready to jump in. But from experience I know that these feelings of wanting to do something, or buying something, will slowly disappear again and get replaced by the next thing that comes along. One of the boundaries I have set for myself, to protect both by savings account as well as my mental health, is that I am not going to purchase new items I fall in love with right away. If it is really something I want, I should easily be able to wait a few weeks before purchasing it when my emotional state is a bit calmer. For example I am contemplating buying a pair of thigh-high waders for maybe a year already, but as long as I don’t see a good use-case for them I can just as well wait and purchase them later.
Other boundaries are related to my privacy, being careful with the information I share, keeping the content of my site relatively clean, and focusing on the gear in pictures without trying to get more followers or likes with sexy poses and showing more skin.
Setting boundaries gives you a way to monitor your own behavior; can you stay within your own boundaries and only chose to extend those boundaries with a clear mind? As soon as that becomes an issue, you might want to make sure you are not moving towards a fetishistic disorder where your fetish starts to negatively impact your life (finances, relationships, or work).
The final part of advice would be to simply experiment within your limits. There is only one way to figure out what brings you joy and excitement and that is by trying it out. It would be a waste to hold back your urges to buy some specific raingear or use it in a specific situation, only to find out decades later that it brings you the greatest pleasure you could imagine.
Your first focus with experimentation should probably be aimed at yourself. This is actually some old-school feminist advice: don’t be dependent on a guy for your own pleasures. The same rule goes for men as well of course. There are nowadays toys enough for sale, which are both affordable and easy to get, for both men and women, so you can create your own experiences without the need for a partner.
This does not imply that you should not look for a partner anymore. The idea is simply to not be dependent on someone else for your pleasure and see them more as an addition to your (sex) life. With this in mind you can also set up clearer search criteria what you are looking for. Is it simply someone to talk to and bond with, do you want sexual experimentation but nothing more, or are you looking for the complete partner where you possibly spend the rest of your lives together?
More practical advice about how to actually approach contacting other people can be found in an earlier article: coming out and dating. And of course, for protecting your mental health, I would also like to point back to my previous article about the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). So where to actually start contacting others? For that I would refer back to my article on the rainwear community in general.
As the question was specifically aimed towards someone in their late teens (but 18+) or early 20s, let me add that you are now at the best time in your life to build new contacts and experiment. I graduated not too long ago and even though I blamed it on covid first, I now realize that life completely changes when you join the work force and “start getting old”. Where only a few years ago I could organize a paintball tournament on a Wednesday afternoon and find 15 willing people within a few hours, I now have trouble meeting up with more than 3 people during a weekend because everybody has a partner, a tiring job, kids, or other hobbies. And where I could talk to anybody in the gym at the University and make friends in minutes, most people in their later 20s and older are not looking for new people to meet anymore as they have settled into their current life already. So make use of your young age as you are at the best point in your life to meet new people.
Why don’t you follow your own advice?
When you read through the three steps I described you might wonder why I am barely following my own advice. I got a decent collection of gear, seem to know what I want, and have enough exposure to easily meet new rainwear people on a weekly basis for any type of activity. Still, the content I am publishing is very tame and I am spending months contemplating if I should buy a new pair of boots or not.
Here I would say that everybody is on their own journey. We all have different starting points, different ending points, and a different speed we feel comfortable with. Like so many I also follow lots of people online who are younger than me but are steps ahead already. This does not bother me though; I look through their profiles for inspiration but am comfortable with my own actions. I do this at my own speed, and so should you. Start out slow to see what the effects are, and build it up when you feel ready. In the BDSM scene you can find information about the “sub drop”, which basically means you reach such ecstatic levels of pleasure during play that the rest of your life becomes relatively dull and depressing. With a slow buildup, where you afterwards monitor the effects, you can more easily find a speed and level of intensity that works for you.
And to put everything in perspective: we are talking here about a fetish and/or sexual pleasures; it is hopefully only one part of your complete life. You need to find a balance between your career, mental health, physical health, family, friends, hobbies, and your fetish. In the most ideal situation you get pleasure and enjoyment from every part of your life and you are not dependent on your fetish for certain needs. If you are, you run the risk your fetish will take over; where it morphs into a fetishistic disorder and it becomes a drain on your finances, mental health, or ability to concentrate on anything else.