People in the scene always guess that I'm a sub. It's possible that some of them pick it up via some kind of kink-dar, but I'm pretty sure that my being young, female, polite, and usually wearing a dress has more to do with it. It's no radical notion that, by the standards of Fucking Patriarchal Society, femininity = weakness = deference. Even I have some trouble picturing a lady dom waltzing into a party dressed like June Cleaver. (Or Betty Draper to you young hooligans.) That would be unimaginably hot, but that's beside the point.
In certain kinky circles, I get talked down to because I identify as a sub/bottom/masochist, or because people assume that that's how I identify. When Mina and would go to parties and people would see us play, some (very few) of them would approach the two of us afterward, but only actually address Mina. I can understand that some kinksters are used to certain kinds of protocol - having to ask a dom permission to approach his/her sub, for instance - but for crying out loud, we have always played in zero-protocol environments. Especially given that Mina and I have never done any public power exchange, there has been no reason for anyone to assume that we are anything other than a sadist and a masochist with an egalitarian relationship. (When I talk about Mina in the past tense, it's because she left the state for school. Boo! She is still very much a part of my life, and I'm sure I'll continue to write about her.)
A friend that I'll call Bella (yeah, I'm going there) once introduced me to one of her friends at a play party. "That's her dom, over there," she said, indicating an area across the room. I looked around, expecting to see the friend's dom, until I realized that Bella was talking about Mina.
The funny thing is that in settings where no one had seen Mina topping me, some people would assume that she is a sub. Once, at a munch, a new male acquaintance was talking excitedly about an upcoming party. There were a couple of guys at our end of the table, and he turned to them as he detailed the equipment he thought might be there, which included a hanging cage. Then, he turned back to Mina and me and asked, "Which of you is going in the cage first?" I raised my hand gleefully, distracted by the thought of toys. It took me a moment to realize what immediately made Mina bristle: he had never asked about our orientations. There was little chance at that point that Mina, sadistic switch and public top, was going to climb into a cage at a play party, but this guy assumed that she would, presumably because she is a pretty young woman, precisely the kind of person that this guy likes to top. I realize that I am now making assumptions here, but Mina and I conferred afterward, and she agrees with me.
A simpler explanation for people assuming that Mina and I are bottoms is that, at least in this particular scene and I think in general, there are more female than male bottoms and more male than female tops. When I see a man/woman couple at an event, and there are no visible signs of power exchange, I usually assume that the woman is bottoming to the man. I am usually right, but I'm also wrong often enough that it's silly to make the assumption.
Let me also add that I'm usually right *as far as I can tell*. Like I said, people who saw Mina and me play at parties might comfortably assume that I always bottom to her, which is untrue. I might see two other ladies playing, make a similar assumption, and have no idea that the one doing the flogging (for instance) identifies as a service-oriented slave and a sadist, and that her partner is a masochistic switch who likes inflicting pain sometimes as an assertion of dominance.
Of course, there's no reason that I should know this. We are under no obligation to reveal everything about our proclivities at all times. But still: our assumptions influence who we choose to spend time with and get to know better. They influence how we treat others right off the bat. We will be doing ourselves and our community a favor if we make an effort to assume that we don't know that much about the various sexual identities of the people around us, and that the people who seem to fit comfortably into distinct categories probably don't.
This is all very preschool, yes? Except for the sex part.
Then, there are the ways that we assume sameness. But of course we are all liberal, college-educated, poly atheists! And probably geeks.
Yes, in a large, loosely-tied group of people brought together by being slightly outside of the sexual mainstream, these are all very fair assumptions.
Take note of my scorn.