Image source: theartofcharm.com
I’ve been seeing a LOT of posts regarding Alphas vs. Alphaholes lately. Maybe, because it’s approaching April, which is (among many other things) Sexual Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month.
I just read this amazing post over on Naughty Quills that I agree with 99%!
There is so much more to it than just Alpha vs. A-hole, though. The role of Alpha Male has become so misconstrued it’s practically a stigma. I think much of this has to do with crossing genres – or rather, readers who read a variety of genres and sub-genres – to the point where Alpha has now become a “Stereotype.” [stares blandly]. So, let’s see if we can clear up some of the confusion.
- All Alpha Males are bossy, chauvinistic, unyielding forces of nature that are most likely dangerous and rich. A true Alpha doesn’t gloat, has manners, has the respect of almost everyone around him because he’s not an a-hole. True Alphas are more like wolves, who take care of their pack, respect their elders, cherish their young and mate for life or at least make a good effort at it. Alphas don’t announce they’re alphas. It just comes naturally.
- All Alpha Males are BDSM Doms. Um, no. No, they are not.
- All BDSM Doms are Sadists. Uh, no. Domination is more about control than inflicting pain. Doms come in just as much of a variety as Alphas do.
- All submissives are masochists. No. No. Just stop labeling!
Okay, got that little rant out of the way. Now, let’s look at Genre basics:
Contemporary Romance: It’s romance, possibly chock full of sexual tension, but there aren’t really any graphic details about the act itself. Sex is a byproduct and not the main theme. If the male protagonist is of the Alpha variety, he’s among the most valiant of Alphas, even if he has scars, but most likely he’s just your average male with a balanced personality type that might have some Alpha qualities. Must have a HEA (Happily Ever After).
Erotic Romance: It’s a romance novel with explicit, graphic, detailed sex scenes and a HEA. It covers all of the sub-genres, to include SSC (Safe, Sane, Consensual) BDSM. Even if it skirts into the darker areas of Kink, it is Consensual. These Alpha Males are the widest variety of personality types ranging from Valiant Alpha to starting off as an A-hole, but once you get past his armor of self-preservation, you find a lot of redeeming qualities.
Dark Erotica: It’s not necessarily a romance novel. It’s not even required to have a HEA. If there’s BDSM, it’s more than likely RACK (Risk Awareness Consensual Kink) which covers the heavier areas of BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Sadism and Masochism) like extreme sexual torture and blood play, or sexual slavery / abduction. It might also have non-consensual and other taboo scenes in it. It’s DARK for a reason. It doesn’t have to play nice and neither does its characters, especially the ALPHA A-HOLE protagonist who may or may not ever show a single redeemable quality. Ever.
Genres serve a purpose. Most readers are well aware of which they like and which they don’t, but with the astounding influx of Indie authors that fall under the “Erotic” category, it can get confusing on what’s what. So keep a close eye on those genre listings. If you don’t like A-hole Alphas, I would seriously avoid Dark Erotica. If you’re unsure of a genre’s definition, look it up before you purchase the book.
I agree that as writers we should know the layered variety of Alpha Males. I fully believe that it’s our job to RESEARCH more than repeat, copy or ‘wing-it,’ especially, if we’re diving into an area we’re not really familiar with. Writing is our passion, so we should always be learning and evolving and digging deeper- but, I also think that readers should take some responsibility for their choices. If you didn’t like the way an author portrayed their Alpha Male, then don’t read that author or that series, or that particular genre by that author.
That doesn’t mean that every author writes their Alphas the same. And if you didn’t realize it was a “Dark Erotica” even though it was listed as such, that’s an oops on you, not the writer. Trust me, I’ve been there. I’ve done this. It was my mistake, though, not the author’s. I just wasn’t paying attention to anything other than the fact that the blurb sounded interesting and the cover was all kinds of HAWT. Those can be so distracting!
Now, here’s where it gets even more complicated. Not all authors stick with just one genre or sub-genre. I happen to be one. This is my crazy
- Contemporary Romance
- Erotic Futuristic Romance
- Erotic SciFi Romance
- Erotic BDSM Fantasy Romance
- Erotic Paranormal Romance
- Dark Erotic BDSM Paranormal Romance
ALL of my male leads are Alpha Males. NONE of them are the same. They cover just as much a variety of personality types as you would meet in real life. They are just as varied as my female leads. Let’s not even get into the massive, downright horrible female protags I’ve read over the past couple of years. I’m probably a rare breed who finds more fault in female characters these days than any of the males. It seems like the focus of personality is a little one-sided, lately. Both in writing and reviewing.
Another confusion I see is readers/reviewers trying to measure a paranormal ‘hero’ to a human ‘hero.’ Hello, they’re not human! That yardstick shouldn’t be anywhere near them. Why in the world would a [insert supernatural creature/alien here] have the same personality traits as your real life idea of Mr. Right? Come on, now.
Here’s the bare bones truth: A bad book is a bad book. A good book is a good book. That hasn’t changed, no matter how many new authors there are, or which genre is more popular.
Here’s the 1% I don’t agree with from any of the Alpha vs. A-hole articles I’ve read: Telling writers how to write their characters. That should never be our agenda, just as we should never tell a painter how to paint or a musician how to make music. Writing is an ART and art is a form of expression that should NEVER have restrictions put on it of any kind. Creative freedom should not be meddled with. You maintain your freedom to write a scathing review, if you feel the need. No one is making you read anything you don’t want to.