Omegaverse, also known as A/B/O (an abbreviation for "alpha/beta/omega"), is a subgenre of speculative erotic fiction, and originally a subgenre of erotic slash fan fiction. Its premise is that a dominance hierarchy exists in humans, which are divided into dominant "alphas", neutral "betas", and submissive "omegas".[1] This hierarchy determines how people interact with one another in romantic, erotic and sexual contexts.[2]

Genre characteristics

The Omegaverse has abstract premises for which it could be considered a fantasy genre according to the conventions established by Todorov, but the high specification of its characteristic elements suggests that it could also be considered a literary genre in itself.[3] Its main peculiarity is that characters have two sexes: a main one (male or female), decided by their external sexual organs, and a secondary one, that manifests during puberty, determined by their internal reproductive system.[4][5] It's usually chosen from one of the following, each of which also corresponds to some distinctive character traits:[6][7][8][9]

Reproductive systems in the Omegaverse[10][11]
Male Female
Male
genitals
Uterus Male
genitals
Uterus
Alpha Green tickY Red XN Green tickY / Red XN[a] Green tickY
Beta Green tickY Red XN Red XN Green tickY
Omega Green tickY / Red XN[b] Green tickY Red XN Green tickY

Omegaverse fiction typically focuses on wolf or other canid-like behavior in humans, especially as it pertains to sexual intercourse and sexuality, which is described as instinctual, responding to animalistic physiological stimuli.[1][2] This includes rutting and heat cycles, pheromonal attraction between Alphas and Omegas,[12] penises with knots (used to "knot", or tie, the partner to an Alpha during copulation, an action known as "knotting"),[1] scent marking,[13] imprinting,[8] breeding, mating rites, pack structures[14] and potentially permanent psychic bonds with a mate.[6] Between Alphas and Betas, only females can carry on a pregnancy, but male Omegas are often envisaged as being able to become pregnant via a uterus connected to the rectum,[14][15][16] and Alphas can impregnate regardless of their main gender.[17] To make penetration and impregnation easier, male Omegas often have self-lubricating anuses.[9]

Since Omegaverse is a type of folksonomy, some of its aspects are included or excluded at the discretion of the story author.[8] Sometimes Betas are absent, or other intermediate designations such as Deltas and Gammas are added.[17] The genre often features other fantasy elements, such as the presence of werewolves or other fantastical creatures.[1] Some works introduce a rigid caste system, where Alphas are depicted as the upper class elites while Omegas are at the bottom tier and face discrimination and oppression because of their physiology, creating an example of biological determinism.[7][18][19] In darker stories, this results in non-consensual or dubiously consensual intercourses, forced pregnancies, Omegas kidnapping and sexual slavery.[20][21]

Omegaverse works are most frequently focused on male-male couples composed of an Alpha and an Omega,[6] though heterosexual Omegaverse works have been produced,[13] and by 2013, about 10% on Archive of Our Own were labeled male/female.[8] Some subvert the genre tropes, telling stories about illicit relationships between Alphas, Omegas who hide their smell using chemical pheromones so that they are not a victim of biological prejudices,[22] or dominant Omegas and submissive Alphas.[2] Non-traditional couples are often featured in Japanese Omegaverse works.[23]

While the terms "A/B/O" and "Omegaverse" can be used interchangeably, the first one often refers only to the sexual dynamics, while the second one is preferred when the story is set in a new ideological world.[12] Some prefer to avoid use of the term "A/B/O" as its spelling resembles a racial slur towards Aboriginal Australians.[9]

History

Tropes origins

The tropes commonly associated with the genre are not exclusive to it: they can be found across fandoms of various media, but came together in the Omegaverse in what Professor Kristina Busse has described as "a seemingly perfect storm".[22] The concept of mating and heat cycles among humans was popularized by the 1967 episode "Amok Time" of the American television series Star Trek, which introduces the concept of pon farr, the Vulcan mating cycle wherein Vulcan males must mate or die, which became a popular plot concept for fan works in the Star Trek fandom, particularly fan fiction focused on the Kirk/Spock pairing.[24] Ursula K. Le Guin also wrote, in her 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness, about an extraterrestrial androgynous world with hermaphroditic characters and mating cycles named kemmer.[2] Animal transformations like werewolves are included in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight, Teen Wolf and Harry Potter, with the latter's fandom popularizing bestiality kinks.[25]

Genre history

The origin of the Omegaverse is typically attributed to the fandom surrounding the American television series Supernatural, as a fusion between werewolves and the male pregnancy subgenre of erotic fan fiction.[1][25][26] Another source of inspiration could have been the science fiction drama Dark Angel, where Supernatural actor Jensen Ackles plays a soldier with feline DNA, and female characters go into heat.[25] The first works recognized as A/B/O were published in mid-2010:[6] that year in May, a writing prompt was shared on a LiveJournal community dedicated to Supernatural, mentioning "alpha" males having knots on their penises, and "bitch males" without the knots, inspiring user tehdirtiestsock to write I ain't no lady, but you'd be the tramp, a real person fiction work focused on actors Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles as an Alpha and an Omega, which was published on July 24.[2][19] Despite not using the term "omega", the story created many of the characteristics later associated with the Omegaverse genre.[2]

Over the next few months, other anonymous authors shared similar stories, until on November 9 a new writing prompt mentioned Alpha, Beta and Omega men for the first time, spurring the creation of three works. By June 2011, the term "Omegaverse" and its dynamics had become commonplace; the following month, the first femslash Omegaverse work was published, and the first use of the tropes outside the Supernatural fandom was recorded.[9]

The genre subsequently expanded in popularity to other fan communities: first to those focused around Sherlock and X-Men: First Class, then it quickly reached other fandoms like those of television series Hannibal, Teen Wolf, Glee, Doctor Who and movie The Avengers.[1][9] A Chinese translation of an A/B/O Sherlock fanfic posted on website Suiyuanju around October 2011 introduced Omegaverse to Chinese slash fan circles, from which it spread to danmei original novels.[27]

In 2012, the notion of "fated mates" was introduced.[28] In 2014 Omegaverse gained strong traction in Japan,[23] acquiring market value with the publication of the first A/B/O manga in 2015.[29] In 2016 the discrimination and power dynamics between Alphas, Betas and Omegas began to be outlined, and the idea of the mark or bite that chemically and biologically links couples together was created,[30] while in 2018 the concept of the "inner wolf", an animal instinct guiding Alphas and Omegas, arose.[31] Through her work Kanraku Alpha Enigma, manga artist Shinshi Nakai subsequently tried to add the "Enigma", a new type of character who can mutate their secondary gender, but the novelty was resisted by Omegaverse fans and had no impact or continuity.[32]

Reception and analysis

Omegaverse has become both extremely popular and controversial in fandom circles. Some condemn it as revolting and sick, affirming that it reinforces patriarchal values and a rape culture,[33] objecting to its roots in bestiality fiction and the power imbalances between genders.[6] Conversely, others appreciate how it deconstructs bodies and gender roles, offering subversive social commentary on queer identity and oppression.[33][34]

Academic opinions are equally divided between those who believe Omegaverse shows a new type of gender essentialism combined with homophobic and heteronormative elements, and those who see the space to give it a transgender reading.[6] Delgado Díaz, Ubillus Breña and Cappello do not believe that the Omegaverse is linked to queer theory or transidentity, despite containing allegories to gender identity and the female condition (Omegas, both male and female, could be considered embodiments of the traditional role of women as housewives and mothers), whose purpose, however, is only that of frameworks to plots ranging from melodrama to horror.[35] According to researcher Milena Popova, "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",[36] and it is used by writers and readers "as a tool to articulate and think through consent issues in unequal relationships".[37] Similarly, Laura Campillo Arnaiz argues that dark Omegaverse works serve to gain control on the feelings of helplessness and humiliation that characterize it, creating a cathartic experience.[38]

Angie Fazekas wrote that "[i]n the omegaverse, fans use traditional tropes of gender and sexuality to imagine a universe where queer sexuality is the norm and normative gender roles are often skewed and upended",[34] but that they fail to offer real progressiveness since, like most of the other fan fictions, their works are predominantly focused on relationships between white men.[39]

Impact

The Omegaverse exploded in popularity in 2017, quickly becoming a frequent subject of fan fiction writers.[31] As of July 2018, over 39,000 Omegaverse fan works had been published on the fan fiction website Archive of Our Own,[9] and over 165,000 as of 2023.[40] In addition to these derivative works, Omegaverse has emerged as its own genre of original commercial erotic fiction: roughly 200 Omegaverse novels were published on Amazon from January to June 2020.[1] It has also become a subgenre of both commercial and non-commercial yaoi (manga featuring male-male couples).[23][41][42] Given the positive reception in Japan, South Korea started its own production of Omegaverse manhwas, as well as China, although the censorship applied in this latter country has limited the genre popularity.[43]

Beginning in 2017, the "Dom/Sub Universe" subgenre gained popularity, particularly in yaoi works in Japan; it uses BDSM elements, positing dominant and submissive as secondary genders, and draws inspirations from Omegaverse in its depiction of caste systems.[44] In the "Cakeverse", a small part of the human population is divided into "forks", who have no sense of taste, and "cakes", people with a particular flavor that makes them irresistible to "forks".[45]

Notes

  1. ^ Depending on authors' choices.[10]
  2. ^ Depending on authors' choices.[11]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Alter, Alexandra (23 May 2020). "A Feud in Wolf-Kink Erotica Raises a Deep Legal Question". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 11 June 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Valens, Ana (21 December 2020). "Welcome to the 'omegaverse,' the kinky erotica genre reimagining bodies". The Daily Dot.
  3. ^ Delgado Díaz, Ubillus Breña & Cappello 2022, p. 148.
  4. ^ Delgado Díaz, Ubillus Breña & Cappello 2022, p. 134.
  5. ^ Algavi, Leila; Volkova, Irina; Kadyrova, Shuanatl; Rastorgueva, Natalya (2021). "Online literary creativity of digital natives: genre and thematic analysis". SHS Web of Conferences. Vol. 101, no. 3048. p. 6. doi:10.1051/shsconf/202110103048. Retrieved 4 April 2022.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Popova 2018, The Omegaverse
  7. ^ a b "《2019年版》おすすめオメガバースBL漫画17選【初心者向けから上級者向けまで】" [Top 17 Recommended BL Omegaverse Manga for 2019]. BookLive! (in Japanese). 11 July 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d Quill Ink Books Limited vs Rachelle Soto A/K/A Addison Cain (United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia September 9, 2019), Text.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Fazekas 2020, pp. 97–99
  10. ^ a b "BLにおける「オメガバースの事情」【アニメイト編集部BL塾・応用編】". Animate Times (in Japanese). Retrieved 9 April 2022.
  11. ^ a b Weisser, Jess. "Gendering the Pregnant Male in Fan-Fiction Communities" (PDF). Newcastle University. Archived (PDF) from the original on 15 February 2023. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  12. ^ a b Busse 2013, pp. 289–290
  13. ^ a b Tanjeem, Namera (18 July 2019). "The Omegaverse Plagiarism Lawsuit, One Year On". Book Riot. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  14. ^ a b Shrayber, Mark (18 June 2014). "'Knotting' Is the Weird Fanfic Sex Trend That Cannot Be Unseen". Jezebel. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  15. ^ "男も妊娠する世界…BLの人気設定「オメガバース」ってご存知ですか". 現代ビジネス (in Japanese). 10 July 2018. Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  16. ^ "2ページ目:BLにおける「オメガバースの事情」【アニメイト編集部BL塾・応用編】 | アニメイトタイムズ". Animate Times (in Japanese). Retrieved 7 April 2022.
  17. ^ a b Sung, Morgan (26 April 2021). "What The Hell Is The Omegaverse, And Why Is It All Over TikTok?". Mashable India. Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  18. ^ "傷心教師の赴任先は、妖し男子が集まる学園…羽純ハナの最新BL、ドラマCD化も決定". Natalie (in Japanese). 6 December 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  19. ^ a b Campillo Arnaiz 2018, pp. 118–120
  20. ^ Campillo Arnaiz 2018, pp. 122–123
  21. ^ Fazekas 2020, p. 104
  22. ^ a b Busse 2013, p. 294
  23. ^ a b c "発情・妊娠・身分差だけじゃない!! 日本で進化中の「オメガバース」を徹底解析" [Not only estrus, pregnancy, and status difference!! A thorough analysis of the evolving "Omegaverse" in Japan]. Chil Chil (in Japanese). 3 January 2018. Archived from the original on 14 January 2021. Retrieved 4 April 2022.
  24. ^ Busse 2013, p. 290
  25. ^ a b c Busse 2013, p. 291
  26. ^ Fazekas 2020, p. 96
  27. ^ Xu, Yanrui; Yang, Ling (2022). "Between BL and Slash: Danmei Fiction, Transcultural Mediation, and Changing Gender Norms in Contemporary China". In Welker, James (ed.). Queer Transfigurations: Boys Love Media in Asia. Asia Pop!. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-8248-9223-4. OCLC 1314618796.
  28. ^ Delgado Díaz, Ubillus Breña & Cappello 2022, p. 139.
  29. ^ Delgado Díaz, Ubillus Breña & Cappello 2022, p. 143.
  30. ^ Delgado Díaz, Ubillus Breña & Cappello 2022, p. 140.
  31. ^ a b Delgado Díaz, Ubillus Breña & Cappello 2022, p. 141.
  32. ^ Delgado Díaz, Ubillus Breña & Cappello 2022, p. 146.
  33. ^ a b Fathallah, Judith (8 January 2017). "The White Man at the Centre of the World: Masculinity in Sherlock". Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Cultural Texts. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. pp. 65–66. doi:10.5117/9789089649959. ISBN 978-90-485-2908-7. OCLC 1003641144. S2CID 185007623.
  34. ^ a b Fazekas 2020, pp. 100–101
  35. ^ Delgado Díaz, Ubillus Breña & Cappello 2022, pp. 134–135.
  36. ^ Popova 2018, Consent and the Omegaverse
  37. ^ Popova 2018, Negotiating disjunctures in sexual scripts
  38. ^ Campillo Arnaiz 2018, p. 124
  39. ^ Fazekas 2020, pp. 101–102
  40. ^ "Alpha/Beta/Omega Dynamics - Works | Archive of Our Own". archiveofourown.org. Retrieved 17 November 2023.
  41. ^ "New Omegaverse(A/B/O) Titles Coming to Renta" (Press release). Anime News Network. 22 December 2019. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  42. ^ "オメガバースといえば…"ビーボーイオメガバースコミックス"!2019年4月10日より第3期コミックス刊行開始!1作目「きみはもう噛めない」(あさじまルイ・著)は超待望の..." [Speaking of Omegaverse... "B-boy Omegaverse Comics"! The third comic will be published from April 10, 2019! The first work "You can't bite anymore" (written by Rui Asajima) is the long-awaited first comic★]. PR Times. 10 April 2019. Retrieved 6 April 2022.
  43. ^ Delgado Díaz, Ubillus Breña & Cappello 2022, p. 145.
  44. ^ "【作品追加】本能… 抗えない究極の主従関係! Dom/Subユニバースが話題" [[Addition of works] Instincts... The ultimate master-slave relationship that cannot be resisted! The Dom / Sub Universe is a hot topic]. Chil Chil (in Japanese). 22 January 2017. Retrieved 9 February 2022.
  45. ^ "オメガに続け!?甘々、シリアスなんでもござれ「ケーキバース」とは" [Following Omega!? What is the sweet and serious "Cakeverse"]. Chil Chil (in Japanese). 3 November 2016. Retrieved 6 April 2022.

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