#6 – Omegaverse, volume I

#1 – The Repsondents [on tumblr]

#2 – Discovering slash fanfic [on tumblr]

#3 – Slash: the Good, the Bad, and the Subversive [on tumblr]

#4 – Is slash subversive? [on tumblr]

#5 – Smut, kinks, squicks, and the porn/ratio [on tumblr]

Omegaverse is that weird trope that has been popping up across all fandoms over the past few years. It tends to polarise, both due to the nature of the smut and because of the issues it deals with. In these final two sections of my slash survey analysis, I’m going to take a look at what my 441 participants have to say on the matter.

Here is what awaits you in #6 and the final post in this analysis:

  • Part 1: What is Omegaverse
  • Part 2: How did my respondents first discover Omegaverse? Was it love at first sight?
  • Slash Survey Results #7: Omegaverse – social commentary or abhorrent misogyny?

The majority of my participants read this fanfiction genre – 39,7% ticked yes, 36,1% say they read Omegaverse sometimes. 15,4% tried it but found they dislike it. The remaining 8,8% were excluded from the follow-up questions.

omegaverse read

Thus my survey yields a sample of 402 people to discuss the trope in more detail. Obviously I cannot quote each unique view, but I am able to note certain trends and common denominators.

*

Part 1: What is Omegaverse, or A/B/O (Alpha/Beta/Omega dynamics)?

The premise of the trope is rooted in biology: humans in A/B/O-type stories are classified not along a male/female binary, yet as either Alphas, Betas or Omegas. Not all Omegaverse fics have Betas, but if they do these are usually identical to “us”, in terms of physiology.

Alphas are seen as dominant, Omegas as submissive (with exceptions that flip this dynamic on its head).

Alphas can sprout a knot, an erectile tissue structure on the base of the penis that inflates when aroused or after climax. Knots are a feature of certain canid animals and serve the purpose of locking two mating animals together. Similarly, Alphas can impregnate Omegas. The animal-like behaviour doesn’t stop there – Omegas go into heats at regular intervals (heat cycle), and during the period (a few days to a week depending on the fic’s specific world) they tend to lose control over their bodies. Not having sex during a heat is at least uncomfortable, and in severe cases fatal, depending on the fic you’re reading. Pregnancy is an important topic in this genre, with mpreg being a frequent feature.

This biological premise grows into many, many different types of societies: Omegas may be cherished as life-givers, or they might be treated as nothing but creatures to be bred by the ‘advanced’/’stronger’ Alpha. Demographics also differ, from Omegas as rare and priced beings to making up a third or half of the population.

For more information, see Fanlore or either of the great primers that exist on AO3 (x, x).

The way A/B/O societies mirror issues of gender equality and use stereotypes of strong/weak, dominant/submissive, earner/carer dichotomies is hard to miss, and it was this political potential of the trope that first intrigued me. Like Jay (female, grey-a, demiromantic, 18-25, Germany) says, “It took me a while to recognise how much social criticism was hidden behind the porn.” Searafina (female, heterodemisexual, 18-25, USA) echoes this: “A/B/O dynamics in the beginning was all about heats and pregnancies, at least in my experience. Now it’s expanded to much more.”

Sure, Omegaverse has a lot of sexually explicit content and is filled with kinks from mpreg to heat cycles, to knotting, bonding, soulmates, slavery scenarios, and an entire range of dub-con and non-con aspects. However, it also has the potential to hold a mirror up to nature and demonstrate – in an over-the-top way, maybe – how gender inequalities shape our lives.

Not everyone will agree with me, but more on that in #7.

*

Part 2: How did my respondents first discover Omegaverse? Was it love at first sight?

The minority of my participants entered Omegaverse through recommendations, whereas most simply stumbled upon an A/B/O fic by browsing for reading material.

Other variations of ‘first contact’ may prompt readers to seek out Omegaverse fics:

“I was curious. I wanted to know why it was so popular.” (Alessnox, female, heterosexual/heteroromantic, 40-50, USA)

“I saw the tags, but didn’t immediately read the fic. Believe it or not, I researched it first, reading some essays from fans about the history, or meta. Some seemed to relate it a bit to Sentinel fic, so I went and investigated that, too. Then I started reading both types, Sentinal and Omegaverse.” (MK, female, straight, 40-50, USA)

“I first heard about it listening to a fanfic panel discussion at a manga/anime (etc.) convention just a few months ago, and looked some up as soon as I got home. Not unconditional love at first sight, more surprise and curiosity, but it certainly does appeal to me.” (Peter, male, homosexual/homoromantic, 30-40, Finland)

Many describe how they had no idea what the Omegaverse-related tags meant and consequently were completely surprised when they realised what they had discovered.

“It’s just something that I would see in a lot of pairings I’m a fan of. It took me quite a bit to wrap my head around it because theres a lot of structured world building and universe rules, and the fact that it was so explicit was a bit much at first.” (Liz, female, demiromantic asexual, 18-25, Canada)

“I found omegaverse from destiel the first time. It’s such a strange au and I remember being really confused because it had all these dynamics that hadn’t been explained. The idea of learning a new verse made me really excited.” (Americandilemma, female, biromantic asexual, 15-18, USA)

“I read werewolf AU’s and clicked on an Omegaverse fic without knowing exactly what it was. Imagine my surprise when no one actually turned into wolves… It took me reading nearly five other Omegaverse fics before I realized there was a definite difference. But by that time I enjoyed the trope so much I continued reading more.” (Katsa, female, bisexual, 15-18, USA)

“I ran into it in Supernatural fandom and it took quite awhile to grow on me, but I really like it now I got past the squick.” (missingscenes, female, straight, 25-30, Israel)

“I think I liked it immediately. It was an interesting universe that changes societies gender dynamics, which I thought was fascinating. Not to mention the sex parts were often really hot.” (Roxy, female, bisexual, 18-25, USA)

Reactions vary, as one can easily imagine. Here are some numbers, derived from the 168 people who went into detail:

  • 43 respondents say Omegaverse was “love at first sight”.
  • 54 participants needed some time to get into the trope but eventually found they like it.
  • 32 people describe their relationship to A/B/O as ambivalent. Either they are natural about the concept in general, or only read Omegaverse from certain authors they like, or only when the summary sounds enticing. Several said they enjoy it sometimes but don’t seek it out.
  • 27 respondents explained they tried reading Omegaverse but eventually gave up because it wasn’t for them.
  • The remaining 12 participants hate the trope with a passion and were very vocal about their misgivings, which I’ll expand on in #7.

One recurring motif that I found was the importance of the gateway fic. If a reader dislikes the first Omegaverse story they come across, they rarely go back for seconds unless prompted by rec lists or friends to give another fic a try. The reverse applies if the reader loves their gateway fic, obviously.

Furthermore, the way a fic explains the universe – or not, mind you – is incredibly important. As Pellewen (female, bi, 18-25, Australia) explains, they “came across a long, finished fic of James Bond/Q on AO3 and decided to give it a try. It was written so well, it completely turned me around on ABO and Mpreg. Prior to that though, I didn’t enjoy it.” Emily Goldstein (female, bi, 18-25, USA) paints a similar picture, but has grown less enthusiastic: “At first I was kind of turned off, because the first one I read was a smut one, and a badly written one, so I hightailed it out. Then, I found some better written ones with unique take on the Omegaverse, and I read those. I only go into it from time to time, though. Has to pass the acid test of “is it the same fic I’ve read 100+ times? Is it unique? Well written? Okay.” So yes, a reverse trajectory is also possible. In ii’s case (female, asexual, 18-25, Poland), she “used to like it, then got bored. It’s also usually connected to mpreg.”

Regardless of whether or not my participants like Omegaverse in general, they had A LOT to criticise about the genre. Intriguingly, aspects that some respondents tore apart for valid reasons, others praised for just as logical ones.

This is a fascinating topic, which is why I have decided not to add it to this post, but rather to give it its own write-up.

Read on:

  • Slash Survey Results #7: Omegaverse – social commentary or abhorrent misogyny? (link to follow)

 

 

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One thought on “#6 – Omegaverse, volume I

  1. Pingback: #7: Omegaverse – social commentary or abhorrent misogyny? | Multifandom-Madnesss

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