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A while back now, I was asked to speak on a panel at 9world con. I was going to get 7 minutes to talk about an AU of my choice and the first thing that came to mind was ABO. In the end, I decided to go with gender-switched AUs because, well, I didn’t want to be THAT WOMAN who was the ABO woman for the entire convention. But I also didn’t think that I could do this most problematic of tropes that I love proper justice in 7 minutes at a convention. But over the course of the convention I ended up having this conversation a few times anyway so I figured I might as well write it down. This is why I personally enjoy ABO-verse stories.

The basics first. ABO is short for Alpha/Beta/Omega. This kind of AU proposes a world where people are born with an orientation that is either to dominance or submission. Alphas are extremely dominant, omegas are extremely submissive, and beta’s fall somewhere in between. There are several other things that often come into this - there’s the common sub-trope of omegas needing an alpha, either as a law of that society or as a biological necessity. There’s the heat, a period where the omega experiences an intense sexual urge (kind of similar to a sex-pollen or a fuck-or-die setup). There’s also knotting that sometimes comes into this as a crossover to the imaginary wolf-pack dynamic we invoke when we talk about alphas and omegas.

Basically, it’s an atrocious trope that uses fake-biology to justify writing about a world which is how 1950s sexists imagined it to be - where men are men and women and women and women are naturally subservient to men and can’t help but do as they’re told. Only replace men with alphas and woman with omegas. It’s all very problematic.

But I love it.

Why?

Now, the easy answer is that I enjoy writing subversions of the trope. I enjoy writing about Phil who is an Alpha who feels he should have been born a beta and Clint who is also a beta and how the system keeps them apart and hurts them. I enjoy writing omega!Phil throwing alpha!Clint out of their appartment for not respecting his authority in the field. I love writing about Alpha!Phil who is an avid supporter of omega rights and how even with this system, he managed to build a relationship with Clint based on trust and love.

And all that’s true, but I also enjoy it played straight. I love Clint the eternal fuck-up of an omega who needs alpha!Phil to come into his life and sort him out. Dominate him. Take control away from him.

I’ll say it again, it’s problematic. But it’s okay to like problematic shit. If I limited myself to only things that aren’t problematic I’d be very bored. But accepting that I like it and it’s problematic isn’t enough for me personally, I want to know what I get out of it. So let me unpackage it for you.

I am...not discontent with my life but my life is not what I wish it could be, in an ideal world. I mean, even an ideal world short of the one where I have a seven figure book deal and am married to Hayley Atwell. And I often feel powerless to change that. I’m trapped by a job that doesn’t pay much, by my own fears of change, by the fact that I’m comfortable here, if not happy. But my own clawing fear that if I change something too much I might slip back into depression.

To me, when I read ABO, it’s an escape. I’m allowed to be a fuck-up who doesn’t know how to drive my own life and it’s okay because someone else is going to come along and take care of it for me. I’m allowed to just sit back and let things like finding someone to care for me happen to me without my input. I’m allowed to be passive and lost but still loved and valued. I’m allowed to let someone else just take care of my life for a while.

Would I want that in real life? Fuck no! I can recognise that in real life that kind of dynamic is actually the opposite of what I need. That it would be actively harmful to me. But in fiction? Yeah, sometimes I want that.

So, in full recognition that it is messed up and imperfect, I defend ABO. Because sometimes my daydreams are problematic and sometimes that’s okay.
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