Content warnings: this installment deals with purity culture and descriptions of oppression that parallels our gender based forms of oppression.
The Norm: Virgin Omegas or Bust
How It Looks/Works
Omegas (who are or were – at some point in their evolution – a type of being that could get pregnant) are expected to be “pure” by their society and they’re punished for not remaining pure/virginal.
This punishment can take the form of corporal punishment like whipping or public humiliation like stocks. Primarily, however, it takes the form of societal punishment. This means that omegas who are “ruined” – and yes, this unfortunately includes sexual assault – are punished by having their limited in-universe societal options removed.
They stop being worthy partners, they lose marriage opportunities, in some stories they are placed in asylums or “omega homes”. Alphas and betas, obviously, take on the role of the patriarchy in the normal world and so they are never punished for having sex. In fact, alphas that have never had sex before are subject to humiliation in-world.
Non Traditional Take
Short answer? Omegas get to thot it up. Longer answer? Creators develop worldbuilding that recognizes that a world with a focus on biological imperatives and breeding instincts wouldn’t punish people for going forward with those instincts. If you build a world where every 1-6 months (depending on the author) omegas and alphas go into breeding cycles that need to be stemmed with sex… why did you put together a world where only omegas are punished for having sex according to what you build their body to do?
Thoughts on Thoughts
What tends to happen is that in a lot of omegaverse people can’t imagine a world where folks just… have and enjoy sex. Well, they can, but… it’s usually only alphas and maybe betas who are seen as “default” humanoids so male betas are the same as alphas and female betas have a little more freedom/agency than omeas do. I think omegaverse is a great way to explore repression as a thing layered onto many of our experiences as queer people, as AFAB people, etc –
However, a lot of what we get (even the kink stuff) shows that too many of us haven’t figured out that we can fully subvert our own thing.
I know the hot new thing in fandom is pretending, simultaneously, that fandom doesn’t mean anything but also it means everything. However, when it comes to the politics of omegaverse, it’s interesting and important to recognize that we are literally the only people responsible for this kind of content.
Omegaverse is a fandom thing. It may be to a point of popularity where you can buy omegaverse erotica romance novels on Amazon or even pick up an author’s latest in Barnes & Noble, but it is a fandom first Trope or world-building device. Therefore, what it is comes from fandom. There is no point where you can seriously tell me that we can’t criticize omegaverse because it’s not fandom’s fault omegaverse is Like That because…
Yes it is.
I understand that there is a freedom in writing characters whose escape from purity culture and binarist gender roles comes in the form of heat sweeping away the anxiety or an arranged marriage sticking an omega to the “perfect” alpha.
It’s why Laurell K Hamilton makes both of her self inserts – necromancer Anita Blake and fae princess Merry – have external reasons to have sex. Anita has the “fuck or die” succubus disease of the ardeur and Merry has to get pregnant in order to protect her people. Hamilton, who talks about growing up with a strict grandmother who punished her for being anything other than a perfect princess, clearly can’t unlock the door separating her brain from “oh shit people can just have sex”. So instead of sex for pleasure’s sake it’s either a necessity or for procreation. Pleasure happens, of course, those books are erotica… but it’s not the driving factor?
For many people in fandom, we’re also still trying to negotiate with our desire and the shame we’re told we should have for feeling it. Omegas, who are clearly a fandom-wide “self inserts” (we are so often omega aligned starting from the fact that it’s called the omegaverse), seem to represent a fannish primal self. They go through what we do in patriarchal (or, in their cast… alpha…archal) societies where our bodies are not our own and if “used”, are seen as “damaged”, but they have an “out” –
Omegas have heats. They have alphas. They have a built in reason to fuck and especially if they’re with thier alpha, they’re given someone who takes the stress away and looks after them when they’re insensible within the throes of the breeding instincts.
It’s not that “virgin omega” stories are inherently bad. Being a virgin isn’t a bad thing. Lots of people including in fandom are virgins. Virgin omegas and even stories where omegas are like “and so i have lost my virginity to my One True Alpha” aren’t even close to being A Bad Thing.
However, I would like to reimagine the attitudes that come with the trope – systemic oppression and often unchallenged narratives that frame virginity as the main value an omega has. If it’s your kink, it’s your kink, to be clear. We work through a lot of our own issues with oppression as queer people and femmes by apparently… being very horny about it.
I don’t actually think that many people are sitting there – especially in a post-Roe world – like “this is valid, omegas deserve this”. I do think that because the “real world” is so awful, we haven’t yet hit a point where the default is omegas getting to be openly sexual without punishment because we’re always looking over our shoulders for someone to punish us for desiring.
But what if we tried to make the default omega state one that was celebratory and sexual? Where being an omega was good enough whether or not they had had sex before? Where we’re not echoing the purity culture we’re fighting against in our offline lives in the setting of our stories?
One thought on “Reimagining (Aspects of) The Omegaverse: Purity Culture”
This is such an insightful perspective. I can’t believe I’ve never asked why a world so fundamentally built around sex would shame people for participating in it. Just another example of how deeply social conservativism impacts our perspectives even in primary progressive spaces.