If you want to point fingers, point them at the popular TV show, #Supernatural. No... really.
Have you ever heard the term, "Omegaverse"? Chances are that if you've ever read fan-fiction or romance, you've at least come across the genre. It might be one of the more obscure sub-genres of romance and we're going to dive right in!
I first heard the term "Omegaverse" during my early days of romance exploration when I discovered the #Boundarylands series by Callie Rhodes. I had never heard the term before and upon reading the synopsis of one of her books, I had thought I was getting into a wolf shifter series. I was very into shifter romance at the time and was desperately looking for new series to obsess over. I was very surprised to find that, despite all the mentions of alphas, omegas, and betas in the Boundarylands series, there were no shifters at all. Curious yet?
What is Omegaverse?
#Omegaverse is a sub-genre seemingly inspired by many existing concepts such as heat cycles and hierarchies seen in wolf packs. Books of the genre are not always the same, but they share common attributes, the most repetitive ones being knots, heat cycles, and a very defined hierarchy. The omegaverse often explores and pushes the boundaries of domination.
When the genre was first created, it was created as a fan-fiction inspired by Sam and Dean from the popular TV show, Supernatural. It began as a M/M genre and made the concept of M-preg (male pregnancy) much more popular. There are also F/F stories in the A/B/O genre and of course, F/M was introduced and made popular soon after.
In this universe, society usually knows and understands the alpha/beta/omega (A/B/O) system. Most often, alphas are larger, more powerful, and the dominating force in any social system. Betas tend to be the middle ground. Weaker, but they make up the majority of the population. Omegas are often very rare, much weaker than common folk, and many times treated as objects. They are also the only ones capable of breeding with alphas, which makes them desirable.
Despite the wolfish characteristics of this genre, Omegaverse does not always have something to do with shifters... which was my first assumption.
I have never come across a book of this genre that did not involve knotting of some kind. Alphas typically are much larger than the average person. They tend to be very dominating and very powerful and yet very protective (in most cases). The most common reason they need an omega is because breeding with betas is either impossible or very difficult. Omegas, despite being smaller in most cases, are built to... ehem... take the knot.
If you know anything about dogs, you know that they develop a knot at the base of their member that swells during breeding and locks the pair together to ensure successful insemination. This concept was integrated into the A/B/O genre, but like I said, it doesn't always have to involve shifters. Nor does it always involve a man and a woman.
heat cycles are times in which an Omega must breed. Usually, this is uncontrollable and an omega becomes a slave to their heat cycle and needs release, usually from an alpha. omegas can often lose themselves to their animal urges and in some cases, take suppressants in order to live a normal life if they are unmated. Depending on the book, a heat cycle, if unanswered, can cause major health issues and extreme discomfort, a concept we've seen before in the vulcan culture in Star Trek. During this heat cycle, an omega is very fertile and often times, alphas can pick up on it so strongly, things can become violent.
While the hierarchy on the omegaverse does draw inspiration from a traditional wolf hierarchy, there are major differences. Yes, alphas are the top of the top, but in a wolf pack, the alpha can be male or female and will only breed with a male or female alpha. The betas play the important role of being the meat of the pack and an omega is arguably the weakest (or strongest, depending on research) member of the pack. The outcast and yet a very important member. They are denied first dibs on food and even denied the opportunity to mate.
In the omegaverse, it's somewhat different as omegas are the ONLY ones capable of mating with alphas... and yet they're often mistreated... this is a concept that I have never really understood, but it's what it is😂
Other Traits of A/B/O
Other traits that may or may not be included in the omegaverse are nesting, scent marking, biting, m-preg, fated mates, and shifting. Nesting is the act of an omega making a "nest" using things that often times smell like their alpha. It's meant to be a place of comfort and a place that makes them feel safe and protected. Scent marking is the act of making one of both parties smell like the other in order to mark their ownership for other alphas.
The appeal of omegaverse has been a controversial one. While many would argue it's a sick genre promoting concepts like bestiality, unhealthy power displays, and abuse and rape culture, others would say that the genre is a way of stripping us of our common societal expectations and uncovering the more animal characteristics beneath. It eliminates gender roles in many cases and pushes boundaries. When it began, it was popular among gay and queer readers as most stories made those sexualities commonplace while heterosexuality was more rare. And, when a partner is predetermined through genetic traits, relationships are simplified.
Researcher, Milena Popova, said, "the features of the A/B/O genre allow for the exploration of themes of power, desire, pleasure, intimacy, romance, control, and consent in a variety of ways," and it is used by writers and readers "as a tool to articulate and think through consent issues in unequal relationships".
Where is it today?
Despite everything, the genre has grown exponentially in only twenty-some years. From being merely a concept on LiveJournal to multiple fanfics and even to manga, it grew in popularity. Around 2020, over 70,000 #fanfics were published in the A/B/O genre on one site alone. Since then, it found its way into commercial works and is now even a genre for professionally published romance novels. I have to admit, the genre is appealing, but if you're getting into it, be aware that they can be vastly different. I can love one omegaverse book or series and absolutely despise another for pushing too far for my taste. it is definitely not for everyone and if you're thinking of dipping your toes into it, shop around! There are tons of them out there.
Need more of a visual lesson? Watch my very awkward video!😂
Interested in "The Boundarylands" series by Callie Rhodes? Read my review here!