Alpha/Beta/Omega

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Trope · Genre
Synonyms: Alpha/Omega, Alpha/Beta, A/B/O, A/O, ABO, AO, omegaverse
Related: Knotting, Mpreg, BDSM AU, Dominance Hierarchy, Bonding, Heat, Mating, Werewolf
See Also:
Tropes · Slash Tropes · Tropes by Fandom
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Contents

Alpha/Beta/Omega or Alpha/Omega (occasionally Alpha/Beta) is a kink trope where some or all people have defined biological roles based on a hierarchical system, with the terms originating from animal behaviour research. There may be werewolf, knotting, or other animalistic elements involved, or the characters may be otherwise purely human.

Alphas are generally dominant and able to impregnate Omegas. Male Alphas usually have a knot when aroused.

Betas are subordinate to Alphas and may or may not be able to impregnate Omegas; in some fanworks Betas aren't present and the trope is known as Alpha/Omega, in others they take the role and functions of Omegas and Omegas aren't present.

Omegas are generally lowest on the hierarchy (although in some fanworks Omegas are rare and prized). Male Omegas are self-lubricating and have the ability to become pregnant, sometimes referred to as being bred or mated. Lovers may form pair-bonds with a special connection with telepathic or empathetic qualities. Paired Alphas may be jealous and possessive of their mate, while the Omega may become submissive. Omegas and Alphas may go into heat and need to have sex; this may be the only time Omegas are fertile.

History

The trope was popularized in Supernatural fandom as a natural extension of its popular werewolf and knotting kinks [1], although a similar premise was already used in Life from the Ashes in X-Files fandom in the 1990s. This kink meme prompt, posted to two different Supernatural anon memes in November 2010 and January 2011, inspired several fills:

"There are three types of men, alpha males, beta males, and omega males. Alpha males are like any ordinary guy with the exception of their cocks, they work just like canines (the knot, tons of cum, strong breeders, etc) The beta male, is an ordinary guy without the special cock. Omega males are capable of child bearing and often called bitch males."[2]

In March 2011, the NCIS Gibbs/DiNozzo Centaur-fic Heat was posted by Kathana-grey, positing many of the same concepts used in early Omegaverse works but without the same terminology. Omegaverse elements included the submissive character going into heat, differentiated male biology, self-lubrication, fights for dominance, specific body postures to show submission, marathon sex, and a culture structured around differentiated biology.

There are also similarities with BDSM AUs, where the characters are Doms (sometimes called "Tops"), Subs, or (sometimes) Switches. Helenish's Stargate Atlantis BDSM AU Take Clothes Off As Directed offers a dissection of this trope[3] -- as a Sub in the military, John is subjected to harassment and insubordination. Parallels can be drawn between the role of Subs in society and that of women, LGBT/queer people or minorities to examine prejudice and discrimination caused by "designationism."

The Ragnarok takes a similar approach of Alpha/Beta/Omega AUs in her Inception fic The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized, in which Arthur is heir to the ruler and keeps his Omega status a secret, as Omegas are not believed to be capable of serving in the military or making political decisions. In this universe, both Omegas and Alphas go into heat, and Alphas are more capable of restraint than Betas when faced with an Omega in heat. Female and male Alphas can impregnate male Omegas, and male Omegas need medical treatment to conceive.

By 2013 the trope was so saturated within fandom culture that Kristina Busse included the essay "Pon Farr, Mpreg, and the rise of the Omegaverse" in Anne Jamison's fanfiction academia anthology, Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World.

Statistics

Graph by destinationtoast showing the increasing popularity of omegaverse on AO3 over time

In August 2013, destinationtoast created an analysis of Alpha/Beta/Omega fics based on how these fics are tagged on AO3. The statistics look at how A/B/O fic fits into the general categories on AO3 including how much is slash, femslash, or het, how it is rated, and how much is marked with the archive warning. The stats also explore popularity over time, common co-occurring tags, the relationship with mpreg, which fandoms produce the most A/B/O, and popularity within fandoms.

The conclusions (in full) included that:

Example Fanworks

Reactions/Reviews

[more examples are needed]

"Omegaverse is really a fascinating fandom invention. 50% of it is totally problematic and reinforcing a lot of fucked up patriarchal, rape culture values. The other 50% is some of the most insightful, subversive social commentary I’ve ever read on gender identity/gender roles/queer oppression."[4]

Resources

References

  1. see The nonnies made them do it! (Fannish history. SPN. A/B/O)
  2. The prompt, Request- J2- AnimalTraits, Claiming, Knotting, DomJared, SubJensen, Impregnation was posted at spnkink_meme on November 8, 2010 and received one fill, "Heat" by miss_lv. The same prompt was later posted at blindfold_spn on January 10, 2011 (now locked). See netweight's timeline outlining the evolution of similar prompts that led to the invention of the A/B/O genre. See also Knotting.
  3. The story was a response to Coming Home by Xanthe where these characterizations didn't impact the social standing of the characters or the kind of jobs they could take; that was criticized as not realistic. (see comments to the original LJ post of Take Clothes Off As Directed)
  4. Okay you know that one fic trope in which a character magically wakes up in a differently sexed body? dated July 24, 2014.
  5. reference link.
  6. Wayback copy; Webcitation copy.
  7. Wayback copy;Webcitation copy.
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