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20 September 2012 @ 09:53 pm
A/B/O Primer  
In fanfic, the alpha/beta/omega trope is actually a collection of a whole bunch of other tropes. There are so many variations that’s it’s really hard to say what a/b/o fic is. For every definition, it seems like there’s at least a handful of exceptions which clearly still count as a/b/o. It’s a whole lot easier to talk about what a/b/o fic can be.

Generally, a/b/o society is broken up into three groups, designated by the three Greek letters alpha, beta, and omega. These three groups generally (though not always) include both men and women. Each group often (again, not always!) has certain characteristics:
  • Omegas - Periodically go into heat, tend to be socially/sexually submissive, can get pregnant and bear children (generally but not always including the males). If male, have natural anal lubrication.

  • Alphas - Tend to be socially/sexually dominant. If male, they usually have a penis with a knot, similar to a dog’s penis, which has given rise to the whole knotting trope. If female, they may have a penis with a knot, some similar penetrative sexual organ, or only standard female reproductive organs.

  • Betas - The “normal” people, that is, people with anatomy and physiologically just like ours. There doesn’t seem to be much consensus on what social role betas have. (All the more room for experimentation!)

In addition to these common (but not necessary!) interpretations of the individual groups, tons of additional tropes have sprung up. The following is a list of some other things that also crop up in a/b/o fic. They’re definitely not mandatory, for the trope or for this fest, but can add spice to your a/b/o world:
  • Social roles determined by whether you are an alpha, beta, or omega.
  • Heats - periods of sexual insatiability, experienced by omegas
  • Ruts, which are like heats, only for the dominant person in the relationship (usually the alpha)
  • Super-human senses of smell, which a/b/o people depend on more for social information than we do. In some fics, one group (for example, alphas) has a better sense of smell than the other groups.
  • Various and technological developments which deal with the presence of alphas and omegas, including but not limited to heat suppressants, laws about omega/alpha relationships, all kinds of social mores
  • Discrimination or prejudice against one or more of the groups from members of the other groups
  • Packs – units of alphas, betas, and omegas living together in groups ranging from just a few people to an entire community. (Common in werewolf fics, which often also have a/b/o and knotting.)
  • Soulbonding or Mating or other terms referring to a binding lifelong biological and social commitment between two or more people. Sometimes a person has only one possible mate and has to find that person; sometimes mating occurs during a key sexual event, for example an omega’s first knotting.

There are a number of other articles around fandom about what a/b/o is and what some examples are. Here are a few:

Conclusion: a/b/o isn’t so much a list of rules as it is a collection of suggestions that authors can take or leave as they choose. That’s one of the things that’s so much fun about the trope: you can do darn near whatever you want with it. So have fun. :)
luzita2luzita2 on June 23rd, 2013 03:17 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for this primer! I've come back to the fan fiction world (reading Supernatural) after years away and keep tripping over the a/b/o trope. Which I find strangely fascinating, despite the fact that I am squicked by mpreg, don't much care for knotting, and prefer het to slash. I think your primer is the best description of the trope I've found, because it emphasizes the many variations that are possible.
a_b_o_ladiesmoda_b_o_ladiesmod on June 23rd, 2013 06:11 am (UTC)
Hurrah, I'm glad you found it useful! FYI, if you're interested in het specifically, there is an occasionally-updated list here of a/b/o fic involving women, including quite a few from SPN.
luzita2luzita2 on June 24th, 2013 01:54 am (UTC)
Thanks for the link. And for the a/b/o ladies community! I found St. Salieri's BtVS/SPN cross-over on AO3 and loved it, which is what lead me here. Also loved your Sam/Jo fic. I have some ideas for an a/b/o series, some parts of which might fit this community. Though some will be from a Dean or Sam POV, which I guess wouldn't qualify. Anyway, hope to post here sometime.
a_b_o_ladiesmoda_b_o_ladiesmod on June 27th, 2013 10:59 pm (UTC)
You are welcome to post any a/b/o fic here that is lady-centric. We would love to have you! However, for SPN there's also take_the_knot, which talks all a/b/o fic regardless of focus. :)
Samone: Dark Angelviolettablack on March 16th, 2014 04:01 pm (UTC)
I found this review on a/b/o relationships & tropes very helpful. Thanks for making this.
a_b_o_ladiesmoda_b_o_ladiesmod on March 18th, 2014 01:24 am (UTC)
You are most welcome!
(Anonymous) on April 3rd, 2016 06:17 pm (UTC)
Females alfa and omega
I still have a question regarding females.
When they are alfa but don't have a "penis with a knot" or "some similar penetrative sexual organ"s, "only only standard female reproductive organs", how do they impregnate omegas (male or female) ?
That and with female omegas, how does the heat and fertility work? from what I've recollected, they suggest that they would always be fertile, only more fertile during heat. Which doesn't make that much sense... (or does it? I'm at loss... I really don't know :S )

It's very interesting, the a/o/b dynamics, and people seem to be using it to make metaphors with gander roles, class and sexuality in real life, which is uber cool (IMO) :)

Thanks in advance! (and sorry for the questions, is just no one seems to be paying attention to the Ladies! :/ )
(Anonymous) on April 3rd, 2016 06:19 pm (UTC)
Re: Females alfa and omega
OP here!
*gender roles, sorry for the typpo!
(Anonymous) on August 16th, 2017 04:35 am (UTC)
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