Got thinking about this while writing my most recent comment on the "Superiority" thread a bit down.
One of the things I see a lot of in the fractal edge between the vanilla world and the kinked world is this notion that kink is clearly visible and obvious to others, that one can tell who is 'us' and and who is 'them' easily, by some set of tells. I see it in the discussions of Those Kind Of People in some spaces -- which have often led to me starting to put That Kind Of Content occasionally into my discussions there in response. In the discussions of things like dress codes -- formal or otherwise -- at certain sorts of events, even reasonably open-access things like the Fetish Flea or the Folsom Street Fair.
I've been in email correspondence with another submissive woman I met in the friends-of-friends way, and she commented something to the effect of, "I tend to think it's obvious in the way [my partner] and I interact". I flagged her as probably a sub because she came to dinner wearing a collar, and probably would have missed it otherwise -- she flagged me as something of the same in significant part because I played up some of the subtle interactions I have with my liege in order to try to communicate that back to her.
I negotiated a business transaction recently through Craigslist, and when I met the woman I had been corresponding with, I said, "Yup, rainbow Pride license plate frame and ... isn't that a leather pride flag?" Didn't notice a single bit of kinkiness aside from the sticker, in her or her partner.
I suspect that this feeds into a bunch of issues with prejudice around kink, because there is that invisibility -- and even if people are putting their leather pride stickers on their cars or doing other reasonably low-key communications, that doesn't necessarily break through the symbol-knowledge barrier. (With the woman I'm chatting in email with, I suspect that if I weren't BDSM-aware I'd have flagged the collar as being part of her, to nick her phrase, "punky biker chic" kind of look, with which it was entirely consistent.)
When I say I'm 24/7 or non-scene-delineated or whatever else, I sometimes get the impression from some folks that they can't wrap their heads around it because much of my life is so normal. I'm not wearing a collar and leather bangles and going on all fours and master-this and master-thatting all the time. I refer to my liege by his name in general conversation rather than some set of titles. I am reasonably competent, am not looking for a get-out-of-responsibility-free-card, and make my own decisions about the major matters of running my life. I don't wear fetish stuff all the time -- I mean, at the moment I'm wearing an old ink-stained school t-shirt for the math team, which while I'm sure it's someone's kink ....
And I've gotten the head-snapping, "Wait, what, you're a submissive?" response from people. One who had, say, the image of the snivelling whiner who thinks kink is about not having to think because Master does it. Or the person who's constantly blatantly expecting other people to engage with their dynamic. Or whatever else.
And I'm here, relatively stealthed, with all these little cues -- like the way I do small favors for my liege without him prefacing the requests with anything other than the expectation that I will do it, the way he touches my neck and shoulder when we're out together, the way I will occasionally sit on the floor when he's on the couch and rest my head on his leg and get petted. Stuff that I think is reasonably clear cueing, at least. And when I explicitly mentioned the d/s relationship to a friend -- the one who introduced me to the woman I'm corresponding with, actually -- she started visibly and said, "Oh really."
And so I'm sort of wondering how to deal with the stereotypes, in the whole pro-SM sort of way, the presenting things, because -- y'know, damn, it's not like I don't talk about kink. I wrote a trip report in my livejournal that included mentioning my liege dropping me into subspace in a bistro a couple days ago. And still people don't seem to notice, really. Which makes it hard to back up far enough to get a sense of what people understand about kink (I tend towards education as activism in all my weirdnesses), because there's this sense that the stuff that isn't obvious and fitting the prejudices just goes under the radar. (And this isn't just the sort of relationship d/s that I do that goes invisible -- witness Trinity's comments about being invisible as a female top as another example.)
It's an interesting problem for education and activism, really. How to express the breadth of what exists without necessarily needing people to be blatant about their private lives. How to shift the stereotypes so the quieter folks get recognised as existing at all. I know I'm at a loss.