Omegaverse is as diverse as the people writing it. Despite that, there are a few staples of the worldbuilding trope that tend to crop up time and again. One of the biggest issues that omegaverse explores—whether intentionally or not—is that of consent.
Consent is curiously absent from a lot of romance novels. But a/b/o stories tend to play with this in a more intentional way. A lot of stories featuring a/b/o dynamics feature dubious consent—but does it have to be that way?
Why Does Consent Matter in a Romance Novel?
Consent is a cornerstone of romance—or at least it should be. A fair number of romance novels tend to ignore it. It’s not uncommon to see situations where a female MC is saying no, but the male MC simply ignores her.
This is a really problematic patriarchal trope: it assumes women don’t really know what they want. They simply need a man to show them.
In omegaverse, we can call this “alpha knows best.” An omega character might object, but “alpha knows best.” In these books, “no” means “yes.”
Our tendency to write this into our romance novels without further exploration should probably trip us up a bit. How many times do women have to assert “no means no”? How many times have we heard that someone was “asking” for it? This trope feeds into the idea that women don’t really know—that they shouldn’t trust their heads or their hearts.
Dubious Consent Is Par for the Course in Omegaverse
Omegaverse stories tend to be even worse about consent. Yet, many of them are more intentional about how they approach dubcon in particular.
This is the result of one of omegaverse’s most common tropes: the heat cycle. Omegas undergoing a heat are commonly thought to be “not in their right minds.” This usually means they’re incapable of giving consent.
At the same time, omegas are irrational, but they’re also completely insatiable. Heat is depicted as being uncomfortable for the omega, so they’re driven to find relief.
This can result in a situation where an alpha violates the omega. The omega didn’t consent beforehand, and the alpha “takes control” for the omega’s “own good.” I’ve read some very good, very dark fic featuring this take on omegaverse.
Alternately, an omega can also be guilty of rape in these scenarios. While alphas are usually stronger and bigger than omegas, there’s the off-chance the omega overpowers the alpha. And let’s not forget about omega pheromones and the effect they have on the alpha mind.
In short, both the alpha and the omega are likely to “lose control.”
Omegas Must Be Controlled
This worldbuilding usually leads to a dystopian take on the omegaverse. Omegas may be oppressed, with the view that they need to be tightly controlled for their own “safety.” This can mean repressive regimes that force omegas to marry young or bear children. Control and abuse by alphas is commonplace.
Omegas may even be seen as a threat to otherwise cool-headed alphas, making them do things they don’t want to do or things they’ll regret.
How We Get to DubCon
These worlds establish that omegas can’t give consent during a heat episode, because they’re not in their right minds. Yet, in the heat of the moment (or throes of passion, take your pick), many omegas do give their consent.
This is why many omegaverse sex scenes fall into dubcon rather than noncon or even “enthusiastic consent.” Even if the omega is begging the alpha and saying they want it, there’s a moral dilemma.
Some omegaverse writers circumvent this by ensuring omegas give their alphas very clear consent beforehand. Others prefer to play with the dubcon.
Yet others will run almost straight into noncon territory with their stories. The text will set up how society views an omega’s ability to consent—or not—as well as an alpha’s. If they’re both “out of their minds,” then the situation will be treated as dubcon or noncon, even if both characters are fine with the outcome.
In some cases, we can see that this presents a problem for the characters themselves. It’s a break between what they know is right for them and what the law might say. In other stories, the characters may be left feeling uneasy or used.
We Need to Label Dubcon as Dubcon
One of the less savory sides of omegaverse—and romance by extension—is that it often doesn’t recognize dubcon.
This is easy enough to spot when it comes to omegaverse. An omega will go into heat and “lose their minds.” An alpha might “help” them through it, even if they didn’t negotiate beforehand.
Even if the omega is “asking for it,” the consent is dubious, at best.
Some texts engage with that, while others don’t recognize it as dubcon.
This is a larger trend in romance more generally, where dubcon is not labeled as such. Instead, it’s played off as being super sexy or romantic.
There is something to be said for a partner knowing what the other wants or needs. But in so many of these scenarios, this set-up is used to justify any of the male/alpha character’s actions.
In the worst cases, it’s demeaning and dehumanizing for the female/omega character. Saying they don’t know what they want or what’s good for them strips them of their agency.
Some omegaverse writers engage with this tension very well, while others prefer to gloss it over. Those who gloss it over usually don’t call attention to the fact they’re writing dubcon.
Can Consent Be Sexy?
One of the most common objections to writing consent into romances is that consent isn’t “sexy.” People seem to have this idea that the characters (most often the male lead or “alpha” character) just automatically know what the other wants.
In theory this can be sexy—voicing desires can be difficult. More often than not, it leads us to dubcon situations. When a male lead tells the female MC simply to trust him, we might see that as kinda sexy.
But when this happens over and over again, we end up in “Father Knows Best” territory, where the female MC (or omega character) is too naive or stupid to know what they want. They have to be taught about their own pleasure—and the male/alpha MC is the right guy for the job.
If your character is a virgin or they’ve only been in bad relationships, then this might make sense. Otherwise, why do we have naive little angels populating romance? This trope walks right out of the Victorian era.
It also allows men to exert control—such as “trust me, you’ll like it.”
In many cases, the female/omega MC does end up liking it, so maybe our intrepid hero is onto something. But it also smacks of patriarchal control—especially if the omega character is resisting, but their “body is saying yes.”
No Means No, Except in Romance
This is a huge problem in romance—and it’s one consent solves. Instead of the “alpha male” machoism, we see instead a partner who checks in to make sure it is good.
This reverses the power in the scene. No longer is the “alpha male” in total control and the omega character just needs to shut up and trust. Now the omega character is in control, allowing the alpha character to experiment and bring them pleasure.
This is incredibly sexy, in both new relationships (where the partners are learning about each other) and in established ones (where the partners want to try out something new).
More importantly, it feels safe.
Safety is something that romance tropes often stomp all over. The (female) MC is told to just shut up and take it. The alpha male knows what’s best, after all.
Alpha Knows Best Leads to One Outcome
This kind of arrogance leads us straight into dubcon. It sometimes goes even further, to scenes that are rape-adjacent, if not straight-up rape. How we are supposed to accept that as “romantic,” simply because the omega MC’s body “was saying yes” is beyond me.
That’s not to say we can’t write an alpha male character who does guide a naive omega or that we can’t write dubcon where the male lead asks the female MC to “just trust” him.
But we need to properly label those scenes for what they are.
Mainstream Romance Needs to Get Better at Recognizing Dubcon
Many m/m omegaverse stories do actually call out their dubcon content—although not always in such stark terms. Dystopian stories and setups that make it very clear omegas are second-class citizens usually advertise this to us. Not every author adds dubcon—indeed, some might actually invert the trope. But this sort of worldbuilding not only allows for it—it asks the reader to expect it.
And that’s fine! The argument here isn’t that we can never write or read or enjoy dubcon stories. The point is more that we should be more cognizant of what dubcon looks like—and how much of the romance genre actually includes dubcon.
The bigger issue is that most romances don’t see these sorts of scenes as indicative of a dystopia. In fact, they’re often presented as being romantic or even desirable.
Romance is often accused of presenting what amounts to abuse as an idealized romantic relationship—and not without warrant. The plethora of dubcon sex scenes presented as strictly romantic are proof of that.
Simply labeling these stories accurately helps a whole lot. And including explicit, enthusiastic consent can help us avoid stepping into dubcon when we don’t mean to or want to.
The Conundrum of Omegaverse and Consent?
This leads us back to the crux of the issue within omegaverse. Omegas (and even alphas) are so often presented as unable to give consent. Yet the characters proceed to sexy time anyway.
This is a prime opportunity to explore the issue of consent—which many omegaverse authors do take up.
There is, of course, room for stories of all natures—whether it’s dubcon for dubcon’s sake or the worldbuilding presents a bleak landscape for omega rights, or whether we have a mushball alpha character who keeps checking in to ensure they have the omega’s consent. All of these stories can and do (and should) exist. We just need to be cautious about what we portray as unquestionably romantic, and we need to apply the correct labels.