If you hadn’t guessed yet, I read a fair number of omegaverse stories. (And I write them too.) I’m definitely in the m/m romance camp, though, so I tend not to interact with too, too much M/F omegaverse. (Indeed, I don’t really like reading regular M/F romances unless they’re queer—so I don’t interact much with “straight” omegaverse.)
One thing that almost always strikes me, though, is across the a/b/o genre, there tends to be a distinct lack of alpha females.
What’s going on here? Where are all the alpha females?
Omegaverse and the Feminized Male
I’m not saying there are no alpha females in omegaverse stories. It’s just that they tend to be rarer than even the poor, put-upon beta, who often does a disappearing act.
This is in direct contrast to the proliferation of omega males. Within the omegaverse, “omega” tends to be a (hyper-)feminine status. So, when we see omega males, what we’re usually seeing is feminized males.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For one, it forces us to rethink what counts as “masculine” and “feminine.” If men in omegaverse stories can have babies, is that a masculine thing or a feminine one?
It also challenges us to see femininity differently, as associated with men—and maybe in a more positive light.
It can also lift the veil on misogyny. In our day-to-day lives, the treatment of women and feminine people seems normal and even acceptable. As soon as we start applying the same attitudes toward male characters, we begin to see how oppressive and troubling these social ideologies are.
Slapping Feminine Stereotypes onto “Men”
Omegaverse can be problematic, though, in the sense that sometimes, all it does with a “male” omega is slap them into stereotypical female roles. This can be problematic if the author doesn’t engage with why these stereotypes are an issue. In some contexts, authors use this to push back against stereotypes—but not every author or every text takes a moment to examine them.
In that case, the reader leaves with the sense that these roles are natural and normal—as well as acceptable. When that happens, texts can subtly reinforce bioessentialist ideas about people who do child-bearing, which then reinforces myths around femininity.
The Omega Male’s Counterpart: The Alpha Female
As we’re busy slapping men into “feminized” roles as omegas, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to think we should also encounter their “gender-flipped” counterpart: the alpha female.
The alpha female is the inverse of the omega male. Whereas the omega male is feminized, the alpha female is masculinized.
This has the same effect as the omega male. It challenges readers to rethink what is “masculine” and what is “feminine.” It asks us to reconsider gender, almost entirely.
The problem? Alpha females tend to be rare.
Why Is It Hard to Find Alpha Females in Omegaverse?
Once again, I am not saying alpha females don’t exist in omegaverse. I’m saying they’re a lot harder to find than omega males.
That might seem puzzling at first, but it really isn’t: it’s a subset of the misogyny problem.
Why is the invisibility of alpha females in omegaverse stories a misogyny problem? Quite simply, including alpha females—and presenting them in a positive light—tends to upset the bioessentialism that underlies a lot of omegaverse stories.
Omega males are feminized in the m/m genre, because it satisfies the largely female reading base. This base tends to fetishize men—and there are a lot of straight women reading and writing m/m romance. These readers still want to read “straight” stories, in that one character acts “like the man” and one is “the woman.”
This is absolutely not how queer relationships work most of the time (although are most certainly femme gay men out there), but readers and even writers often try to apply the heteronormative framework—replete with all its problematic stereotypes about the “feminine” and the “masculine.”
This is why gay men who write outside the heteronormative framework—who write authentic queer experiences—tend to get trounced by the cishet female reading base for m/m. The reading base is uncomfortable with these stories because they forcibly challenge the heteronormative framework.
This is also true of alpha females. The existence of omega males implies the existence of alpha females, but we rarely see them on the page, precisely because they challenge the heterosexist framework.
New Genre, Same Old Problems
This is not new or surprising, nor should it be. I see book communities on social media having the same discussions we had fifteen, twenty years ago in fandom.
At that time, there were questions about where all the lesbians were. There was a metric fuckton of slash pairings, but trying to find the femslash was much more difficult. Femslash writers got shit from both sides of the divide. Het writers and the m/m writers might have been at each other’s throats about whether such-and-such a character was gay, but they could all agree that femslash was icky.
This continues to be the discussion. M/M readers tend to be militantly anti-female, such that they will discount trans men characters as being “not men” and suggesting they don’t want any “pink” in their romances, thanks.
That suggests discomfort with female anatomy, which has roots in misogyny. Female bodies are abnormal and strange. In many religious doctrines, to be “female” is to be unclean and shameful.
This discomfort is often one of the reasons straight women engage with m/m in the first place. It’s not the only reason, of course, but many suggest they find female anatomy on the page uncomfortable. They don’t want to read about it.
The masculinized alpha female is a huge problem in this regard. Since this character is “alpha,” they’re going to adopt “alpha behavior.” They have desire—because desire is masculine.
This makes many people uncomfortable. It’s one of the reasons butch lesbians tend to be less visible in media—and more vilified when they do appear, because they break the “boundaries” of gender by being more masculine.
The Alpha Female in Heterosexual Omegaverse
Straight omegaverse stories abound these days, but almost all of them focus on alpha male/omega female. Very rarely do we see the alpha female outside of queer works.
The adoption of omegaverse into M/F circles is sort of an ass-backwards thing that ignores the queerness of the trope. That M/F writers and readers so readily adopted “alpha males” and “omega females” isn’t a surprise—they’re primed for this shit by basically every other book in the romance genre.
So, it’s incredibly rare to see alpha female/omega male if we’re talking about straight omegaverse. Yes, it does happen, but most writers stick to the more tried-and-true “alpha male” and “omega female,” because that’s what their readers expect.
Queer writers have more leeway, but the alpha female remains something of a rarity even there. There are relatively few stories that pair an alpha female with an omega male. If an omega male appears, he’s much more likely to be paired up with an alpha male.
Sapphic writers might include more alpha females, but that the alpha female remains almost exclusive in this space only is a disservice to omegaverse’s gender-bending potential—and a very clear statement of the genre’s attachment to both misogyny and bioessentialism.
How Can Het Pairings Be Queer?
The alpha female’s rarity may also be grounded in discourse around what “counts” as queer. Heterosexual writers and audiences much prefer alpha males and submissive females, thank you, so the alpha female is usually a queer phenomenon.
An alpha female/omega male story is one that might seem “straight” on the surface. People will debate if it is “really” queer or if it’s “queer enough.” Meanwhile, the straight crowd rejects it—it’s too weird for them, in all likelihood.
The discourse here is trying to “divide and conquer,” as it were, by cleaving bi/pan individuals from the queer community. In effect, you have to “pick a side”—you’re either straight or you’re queer, no in-betweens.
The alpha female/omega male thus tends to receive poor reviews from large swaths of the reading public. The cishet audience is uncomfortable with a feminized man and a masculine woman. The queer community wants to quibble over whether this really counts as “queer”—when it very clearly is queer to heteronormative standards.
Thus the alpha female tends to have very limited appeal. In many ways, she seems threatening or disturbing. At the very least, she tends to be unpopular—except in sapphic works—and thus she’s left by the wayside while omega male characters proliferate.
Again, this isn’t new or surprising. In fact, given the usual reaction to lesbians, tomboys, butches, and misogyny more generally, this is just the natural extension of the bioessentialist move to ensure “women” are characterized as stereotypically feminine and “men” are stereotypically masculine.
What Can We Do about It?
Write more alpha females, first and foremost. That’s the simple and easy solution. Put more alpha females out there, in straight omegaverse stories, in queer omegaverse stories, and everywhere in between.
Making the alpha female more common will go a long way to making her more accepted. Yet, of course, there’s the concern about what audiences want, and to date, they haven’t fully embraced the alpha female.
This is a much harder problem to solve, one that involves addressing the misogynistic roots of our society. Omegaverse already does a lot of work when it comes to challenging misogyny, by pasting it onto “male” characters and illuminating how pervasive misogynistic attitudes really are.
Yet we are limiting the critique if we stop with the “feminized” omega male. What about the masculine and masculinities? Why can we accept “feminized” men, but we reject “masculinized” women?
Addressing audiences’ resistance to the alpha female is thus much more challenging. Simply writing more alpha females won’t necessarily make audiences fall in love with them. It falls, to some degree, to readers to challenge themselves and their own hang-ups around masculine women, masculinities, and misogyny.
Of course, not every reader wants that challenge, which means the market for alpha female stories will stay small. That, in turn, limits the number of people who wish to write them. Yet there is likely a market—much the same as there was a market for pulp lesbian fiction in the 1950s.
It may not be a sure fire path to the bestseller list, but it is certainly one way to further the gender politics omegaverse embodies.