One of the staples in omegaverse worldbuilding is the use of the alpha-beta-omega system. Generally speaking, this is used to explain “gender” or “secondary sex.”
What that means is people are still men or women—or occasionally nonbinary. Yet they are also alpha or beta or omega. “Male” and “female” are often still in play as well.
The alpha/beta/omega designations can be applied to almost anyone, though. Someone might be male, but they can be alphas just as easily as they’re omegas or betas.
Which brings us to a question: how the hell does being a “male omega” work?
Omegaverse Designations as Reproductive Roles
In a lot of omegaverse worldbuilding, the alpha/beta/omega designations refer, primarily, to one’s reproductive role. Alphas take on what we would call the male or masculine role: they provide the sperm and sire children.
Omegas take on the “female” or feminine role. They provide the egg, and they undergo pregnancy and childbirth.
Omegaverse Anatomy Gets Screwy
This is where things start to get a little confusing—at least, as long as you’re wedded to a binary way of thinking.
“Male” omegas possess all of what we would probably call the “female” parts, by and large. In most omegaverse stories, they have ovaries and uteruses.
Whether or not they have birth canals—or vaginas—really depends on the story and the author. I’ve seen some stories where the omega has a separate “canal” for mating and giving birth. In other stories, omegas might seem to have something more like a cloaca in birds.
Some authors simply skip right over this issue, basically by not getting too deep into the specifics. In those stories, we’re left to assume that, although our “male” omega has a womb and functional ovaries, he lacks any sort of specialized equipment to give birth. (This is where the term “ass-babies” comes from.)
Female vs. Male Omegas
The next question that comes to mind, then, is what the difference between a male omega and a female one is.
The answer usually lies in how the author has handled that “birth canal” question. Female omegas, if they exist within the particular story world, will likely have the usual equipment: separate vagina. They may also have permanently enlarged breasts, whereas male omegas will only develop breast tissue if they’re pregnant or nursing.
Male omegas usually have cocks as well. Some writers opt to “feminize” their omegas to some degree, mentioning that they have smaller cocks than their alpha counterparts. In some stories, this might be similar to the oversized clitoris we see in female hyenas. The majority of authors don’t go into great detail on this point. Once again, this allows us to imagine the “male omega” is pretty much an “average” or “normal” cisgender guy.
The question of balls is another one that can be a big toss-up when we’re looking at omegaverse tropes. Some authors note that male omegas don’t have testicles, or, like their cocks, their balls might be small and underdeveloped.
In other stories, omegas have big, hairy balls—even if those balls don’t necessarily serve a purpose. A lot of authors choose to make male omegas “impotent” in the sense that they can’t “sire” children by being the sperm donor.
And in yet other cases, some authors choose to make their omegas more hermaphroditic: they can do anything.
What about Alphas?
I’d argue we spend more time thinking about male omegas in omegaverse than we do speculating on female alphas. But female alphas raise the same points of contention. What is their anatomy like, and how do they function in their reproductive roles?
Once again, it really depends on the author and the story they’re writing. Many simply gloss over not just the anatomy but the existence of female alphas entirely.
Those who acknowledge them may not spend much time waxing poetic about the ins and outs of how these characters work. By and large, we can expect them to be the inverse of whatever the male omega is in the story.
What does that mean? It means if the author has chosen to go with “male omega is just a cisgender male with extra fun parts on the inside,” then the female alpha is likely to be a cisgender woman.
In other words, she’s exactly like a cisgender human woman: she has permanently enlarged breasts, a vagina, and a clit. She does not have a cock and or balls.
Other authors might choose differently. If omegas have been “feminized,” then they might opt to “masculinize” their female alphas too. That can range from the enlarged clit to basically giving the female alpha what we would call “male” anatomy, replete with a functional cock and balls.
Why Are We Still Using Male and Female Labels?
As we get deeper into the ways authors employ sex and gender in their omegaverse worldbuilding, something starts to stand out.
The idea of “male” and “female” essentially mean nothing in these worlds.
One way of understanding these designations is to see them as signifying which gametes an organism produces. If the organism produces eggs, it’s “female,” and if it produces sperm, it’s “male.”
This allows us to designate an egg-producing insect with a penis as female. Its male counterpart produces sperm packets, which the female retrieves by penetrating the male with her penis.
It’s also why we designate seahorses the way we do. The males carry the babies in pouches, which the females deposit eggs into. The male then fertilizes them with sperm released into the pouch.
The “male omega” and “female alpha” turn these definitions on their heads. We’re saying that males can produce eggs and females can produce sperm—the labels “male” and “female” mean nothing then.
What’s important in omegaverse worldbuilding is the alpha/beta/omega designation. Those labels are equivalent to male or female. Alpha equates to the masculine role and omega equates to the feminine role.
Now Toss Men and Women into the Mix
Now let’s consider what “men” and “women” mean in the omegaverse then.
These terms become even more unmoored in an omegaverse world. Already, we can see they’re divorced from “male” or “female,” simply by looking at biological realities in our own world.
Yes, a lot of people would like it if “male” and “female” always correlated 1:1 to “male” and “female.”
They don’t for a variety of reasons. One is the existence of intersex individuals who may be raised as one gender, even while their underlying DNA suggests a sex that binary thought would consider at odds with that gender. This is particularly true when we consider individuals with conditions where their genetic sex is “hidden,” such as XY males with androgen insensitivity. These individuals appear to be female at birth, and they’re often raised as girls.
Other individuals may simply be “intersex” in the sense that their genitalia is not more one way or the other. Doctors may recommend surgeries to “correct” this to whatever the doctor thinks is closest to their “true” sex.
Many intersex individuals now advocate for their right to choose—whether that be getting surgery to help their bodies conform to standards, the right to not have surgery at all, and the right to choose how they identify.
Obviously, this leads us to transgender individuals, who do not cleave to the gender/sex binary. These individuals often realize their identity as one gender—as man or woman—is at odds with the sex characteristics of their bodies.
Everyone in Omegaverse Might Be Trans
This connects us to the omegaverse, where the idea of a “male omega” is redundant. What’s more important here is whether the omega in question sees themself as a man or a woman. Perhaps there’s some biological difference between “male” omegas and “female” ones. Yet, as we established, male and female really don’t mean anything—the terms alpha and omega are more relevant.
“Man” and “woman” are completely divorced from any notion of sex and gender then. The omega is the one who takes on the “feminine” or “female” role, but in so many stories, they identify as men.
And in just as many stories, alphas also identify as men. Female alphas might just be trans women. Here we see binary thinking breaking down. If you can have an omega man and an alpha man, then “man” isn’t attached to any kind of reproductive role.
Can Alphas and Omegas Switch Roles?
Okay, so now we’ve established that “sex” is governed by the a/b/o dynamics in omegaverse, not by whether someone is “male” or “female,” and certainly not by whether they’re a man or a woman or anything in between or outside of those roles.
Thus, the terms “alpha” and “omega” are tied to biological function. Some people might wonder if “alphas” and “omegas” could switch roles.
If we mean something as simple as switching who’s topping and who’s bottoming, then yeah, absolutely.
The question about whether, say, an alpha could get pregnant is more convoluted and complex.
If we follow the logic that alphas in omegaverse are performing the “masculine” function we associate with Y chromosomes, then no. Alphas could not “swap” roles and become pregnant like an omega.
At least, not without some sort of scientific intervention. Basically, if we’re having alphas get pregnant, we’re simply reinventing mpreg—which hinges on the idea that “cis” guys can get pregnant.
Omegaverse Already Kind of Does That
I’ve argued before that omegaverse is both a queer trope and intrinsically an mpreg one. After all, part of the “function” of the omega role is to make it possible to “feminize” characters who we’d otherwise call men.
Basically, the whole thing exists to make mpreg possible. Not everyone uses it that way, and some of the foundational works certainly ignore that possibility. But at its core, omegaverse is about playing with notions around sex and gender. The idea that a “male omega” is someone with an XY chromosomal setup who can also get pregnant is pretty much the core of every mpreg story.
So if we then decide that alphas in our omegaverse stories can get pregnant, we’re simply wrapping right back around to the original premise. The character performing the “masculine” reproductive function can perform the “feminine” one instead (or in addition).
It’s like reinventing the wheel.
Why the Question Still Matters
The question, though, also shows us how deeply embedded our notions of sex and reproductive function are. As I noted, “alpha” and “omega,” at a certain point, are really just replacing the words “male” and “female,” which allows us to more easily incorporate trans identities for our characters. Yet if you look at omegaverse stories, you’ll see “alpha” and “omega” are often extremely bound up in traditional notions of “male” and “female,” “masculine” and “feminine.”
Even our tendency to still want to label “omegas” as male tells us something about how difficult it is to let go of these notions.
Omegaverse, though, invites us to at least try to escape these binary modes of thinking. When we do, something like a “male omega” isn’t necessarily an oxymoron or a redundancy. Instead, it allows us to think beyond the current binary.
Breaking down binary thinking is difficult, in part because it’s so entrenched. Writing and reading omegaverse, then, is one way of at least starting to think through the process—and in turn challenge notions about what’s “natural.”