This article seems relevant, so I'm leaving it here.
x I'm going to warn that there is gendered language used in my essay and in the comments. I want to emphasize that this is because the misogyny I am criticizing is inherently cissexist; misogyny is about how society limits anyone perceived as female or feminine, whether they are female identifying or not. I would be very interested in a trans* reading of omegaverse.
x I've been trying to figure out how to incorporate this into this piece for a long time and I'm very sorry if anyone was offended by it before now (or even now). I should go through and edit the essay to make it less gendered (switch to feminized/masculinized), but (even nearly 10 months later) these posts still send me into near panic attacks, so it'll have to stay as it is. I'm very sorry again, though, to have offended anyone by it.
x If you are reading this, you sought it out. It was clearly labeled and it’s only on my journal in full, and it’s in an entry of its own. You couldn’t have accidentally read this unless someone besides me linked it to you without full warnings and I’m sorry if that’s the case. My journal entry is not in your way with regards to enjoying fic. It wasn’t linked directly on erik_charles and the link was removed by four or five comments from the original fill on the meme. Both places it was explained and easily ignored.
x I do not agree with all of the comments below that claim to agree with me. It’s important to me that we are critical of everything in this thread.
x I wrote this because I felt, as a woman, victimized on the kink meme (not within fic, but outside of it) and I needed to reconcile that with my love of fandom.
x I do not mean this as kink shaming. This is a conversation about how we talk about omegaverse outside of fic and fantasy, not within it. I had to dissect the trope to get to the point that I was trying to make. I believe that we can think critically about something while still enjoying it.
x Yes the internet is a happy fun place, and yes the kink meme is a “safe zone,” but it is also a community that I am proud to be a part of. By nature of being a community where people gather socially, the internet has social issues the same as anywhere else. Addressing things explicitly and with a critical lens doesn’t mean that what we do is wrong and it isn’t meant to violate a “safe” or “fun” zone. To me, it is a sign of respect. We have a real community and we can talk about it.
x We need to address things differently. Wording and rhetoric are the problem here. No one who participates in this trope thinks men are superior to women naturally, I’m sure, just as they don’t think rape should happen in the real world. But we address these things differently in fandom. Rape/non-con is listed as an official thing we have to warn for. So is misogyny. Why do we think it is proper and right to say “omegaverse, tw: non-con,” but not “omegaverse: tw: misogyny and non-con”?
Omegaverse as a subject or genre might imply misogyny and rape (at least dub-con), but we don’t treat the misogyny as something that should be warned for. We need to explicitly recognize it as a trigger within this trope, not just let it fall under the blanket of the title “omegaverse.” We warn for non-con and dub-con despite the implications of the trope title, and yet we ignore the misogyny. Remaining silent on that point, or assuming the title speaks for itself is the unconscious validation of rape culture and misogyny that I’m taking issue with. This isn’t about what or how people are writing, it’s about how we’re talking about it.
x Thank you for talking about this. Discussing it with you has helped me to clarify and focus my own opinions and I hope it’s done the same for all of you.
This is how I see alpha/omega fic dynamics: the application of misogynistic ideas of sex and sexuality onto our “safe” male/male pairings in fandom.
I need to start this by saying that I’m sure barely any of what I’m reading into this was done intentionally. I’m not trying to personally accuse anyone of anything—except that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m going to accuse all of us (myself included) of following the misogynistic values that linger in our society and in our subconscious. This is not necessarily our fault, but it is important to recognize it, acknowledge it, and address it where we see it.
I realize that not all alpha/omega fic approach the trope in the same way, and I realize that some fic even address these very issues that I am talking about, but the problem itself is still there and it’s important to talk about it outside of fic.
Okay. So the alpha/omega trope has always confused me—I’ve never really been a fan of mpreg and it just seemed to me like an easy way to get to that (and also another way of writing D/s fic—but that is a huge part of the problem in itself, when we see the connections between D/s, alpha/omega, and male/female), but I recently saw an alpha/omega prompt on the X-Men: First Class Kink Meme that inspired me. So I filled it. And as I was filling it, the issues I had been seeing in the trope in general became very clear and very articulable. As I began to receive comments on what I’d written, these issues just seemed to deepen. I was (and still am) horrified at what I saw being reflected in the prompt, what I had written, and the responses I received (again, not that anyone was wrong or purposeful). I had to say something. So here it is.
By making one partner the omega, by giving him the ability to go into heat and have a baby, we are giving him a female role (no matter how you look at it and no matter how misogynistic that role is or how much we don’t think it applies to us). This reduces the female role—the omega—in general to uncontrollable sexuality for the sole purpose of reproduction. He has no control over sexual desire/sexuality, he cannot be satiated, he loses the ability to recognize right from wrong, he loses the ability to assert control over anything, and it is often portrayed as hurting him. And, maybe most importantly, while his sexuality is all that defines him during this heat, he only exists for his partner (the alpha, the male) during this time.
Likewise, we make the alpha partner take a misogynistic male role, if only because it fits the male/female dichotomy that is part of misogynist rhetoric. Because he is the opposite side of the male/female dichotomy, male role maintains many of the things that the female role was stripped of, while he is merely allowed to escape from others. He retains control over his sexuality/sexual desire (although not always, but I’ll get to that), his needs can be met, and he has control over the sexual actions (and over the person in the female role). What is important to note about the male role in this trope is that he is always allowed to blame his sexual desire/activity on the (inferior and uncontrollable) female. If he can’t control his sexuality, it is only because the female role is so wildly out of control that the omega (his “pheromones” or his words) forces the alpha into sexual action. It becomes inconsequential what is right and wrong for the alpha because he is merely following nature/biology--and how can that be wrong? The male role is never reduced the way the female role is, and instead, he is given the opportunity to blame the female role for whatever faults he might exhibit during the course of the story.
By reducing these gender roles to biology (alpha and omega, which aren’t even really present in human biology!), we dehumanize the female role and strip it of agency. But biology here also works as an easy explanation for common sexual encounters in society—it becomes an explanation, if not a justification, for rape culture.
Rape is a common feature of alpha/omega fic where it is often addressed as something that is a morally wrong but perfectly natural action. While it might not be admirable, the male role is perfectly within his biological bounds to rape the female role. More than this, that rape becomes the fault of the female role, the victim. This perfectly exemplifies misogyny and rape culture and the fact that it appears so often in fic signifies to me a number of different things.
1. There must be something in society outside of fic that this is reflecting. Rape Culture definitely exists;
2. We are aware of the problem of rape culture in our society and attempt to address it, even fix it, in fic;
3. We often validate it through the use of the misogynistic categories of alpha and omega.
To explain these things, I think I should use the example of the prompt, fill, and comments I spoke of earlier.
I want to say here that I absolutely do not mean this as an attack against the people who wrote the prompt or the comments. I am sure that they did not intend to say anything that I discuss below.
The prompt reads: Omegaverse: Non established relationship, confined space plot. Omega Charles goes into heat and begs Erik to fuck him. Because Erik is not a dumb animal, he refuses.
Even here we can see both the misogynist ideals and the rape culture reflected. Charles, the omega, the person in the female role, is unable to control his sexual desire/sexuality. Beyond this, his uncontrollable sexuality is the only feature of his personality requested. He is his sexual desire. Erik, on the other hand, is merely implied to be the alpha by the dichotomy of “omegaverse.” This allows him to be defined by something else, his sexual desire completely secondary.
While the comment “Erik is not a dumb animal” so he can control his sexual desire is primarily a comparison of Erik to other alphas, who apparently cannot control their sexual desire as well as he can, the fact that the alpha and omega exist in a dichotomy, a binary, also makes it a comparison with Charles. As an alpha and with the male role, Erik can control his sexual desire, so he is not an animal, but Charles, as an omega and with the female role, cannot control his sexual desire, so he is an animal.
The misogynist undertones seem very clear to me in this, given my explanation of alpha and omega, and I think that the undertone of rape culture is just as clear. The alpha and omega, the male and the female, are in a situation where rape would be natural, and Erik is supposed to resist the temptation of Charles’ biology because he is better than it (or at least better than his own biology). Rape is the norm here; the prompter is looking for something different, something where biology and nature are overcome for the sake of morality.
I struggled with writing this fic. I was originally drawn to it for the confined space plot where I would just make the alpha/omega story a secondary feature, but it soon became clear that I would actually have to address it head on. I tried to fit Erik into a society (a common one in alpha/omega fic) where alphas (males, I couldn’t stop thinking) are in explicit, not merely assumed, control of omegas politically and socially and still have him refuse the nature of the situation. This proved only slightly harder than I thought. My real troubles came with writing Charles, and when it came down to it, I couldn’t write him the way that the prompt asked. Reducing Charles so completely to his sexuality while elevating Erik for his morals rubbed me the wrong way and instead, I tried to make Charles just as resistant to biology and nature as Erik was. This was nearly impossible given the confines of the alpha/omega trope and it made me realize just how deep the misogyny ran within it. The female role cannot, in this setting, control its sexuality no matter its morals.
I have to imagine that this is an indication of something deep within our society given its prevalence in fic, and that terrifies me, as a woman. No matter my morals, or the morals of those around me (see: Erik’s high moral ground as a person of power), will I always be reduced to my sexuality and my sexual nature?
However much writing the fic disturbed me for the misogyny, receiving the comments on it was even worse because of the acceptance and validation of rape culture I saw there. Every single comment up until this point (posting this) has been essentially the same: congratulating Erik for not taking advantage of (read: raping) Charles. Not one commenter said anything about Charles’ actions during the main action of the story, his agency in his sexual life or his own resistance to nature and biology (which, in my opinion was just as admirable as, if not more so than, Erik’s), nor did any comment criticize Erik for his multiple discriminatory comments and views. This, to me, clearly shows an acceptance (however unconscious) of rape culture by my readers.
While helping me hash out this essay, my sister articulated my feelings towards this issue more clearly than I ever could, saying, “the trope [as seen in the comments on my fill] makes rape feel natural… and [says] that it takes energy and courage to not rape.” This is utterly appalling to me. I do not understand the comments I received. I was tempted to ask the moderators to take my fill down because of them. As a woman, I do not pat every man I ride an elevator with on the back and say “Hey, thanks for not raping me! I’m sure that was hard for you!” The fact that I have Charles do essentially that in my fill indicates a problem within the society that I was writing about, and clearly, from the comments given outside of the society of the fill, that problem exists within our society as well.
Alpha/omega fic highlights the dangerous problems of misogyny and rape culture within our society, and if it is not dealt with appropriately in fic, it can often perpetuate those things. Fic provides a wonderful, safe setting in which we can address these issues, but we need to be smart about how we word things and how we discuss things both inside and outside the story. We cannot praise the powerful for doing what’s right. We have to criticize the power for its faults and lift up the dis-empowered, or else we fall prey to misogyny and to rape culture.
This is only a general analysis with one example, in one fandom, but I would love to see any other more in-depth analyses about this. I also think it’s important to note that I only dealt with the male/male alpha/omega trope. I think the meanings are similar, but change in significant enough ways when applied to male/female or female/female alpha/omega fic that that would need to be looked separately. Again, I’d love to see it.
x Sorry anon commenting was screened. I've fixed that now. Feel free to use or abuse anon as much as you'd like.
x Even if you agree with everything I've said here, please try not to kink-shame in your comments. This is all about becoming more aware of how we speak in fandom and the messages we might be sending, so please be sensitive.
x I received a wonderfully detailed PM from someone (who I will keep anonymous) about this and I would really like to send a response, but they've activated their privacy settings for messages. So if you happen to see this, PM me again or email me. I'd love to talk more.