Recently, I was at a kink community dinner party w/ my omega, Cuddles. Nothing formal, just a bunch of kinky friends and chosen family having a pot-luck, but before we started, our host explained the protocol would be for Doms to get their food first (either get it themselves or send their slaves to fix them a plate) and then the subs could get their food. And then, our host turned to me and said, “You can… go whenever.”
I was actually confused for a moment. Being a sub, I was already taking it for granted that I’d go as part of the second wave, after the Doms all had their food on their plates. Then, in a second, my brain caught up. Oh, I have a collar. But I’m here w/ Cuddles and he’s wearing my collar. So, they think maybe I’m a switch, and I’m his Dom…?
However, I’m not a switch, Dom, or Top. I’m a beta pup!
“Puppies fuck up everything.” That’s the running joke Justin St. Clair (author of Bark!) started, by which he points out how most of the usual M/s and Leather rules get thrown right out the window as soon as pups arrive on the scene. It’s true. Most everything that is a given in M/s-Leather world is all screwed around in the pup community.
I think for most of the community, the easiest protocol to understand is: if a boy has a collar on then he is owned by someone. He is property. However, most puppies regard a dog collar (and sometimes the dog tag as well) as part of their gear. It’s something that helps w/ headspace. Many “stray” pups who are un-owned wear collars, and some pups wear “pack collars” even if they don’t have an Owner.
One convention that is somewhat common in the pup community – although hardly universal – is that a collar w/ a lock signifies ownership. Personally, I really like this approach. In my pack, two of the six puppies wear locked collars, me and Loki, and we are also the only two who are owned property. The collar Cuddles wears was a gift from me to him, beta to omega, but it’s not a “collar of ownership” like I wear or like Loki’s locked chain. It's more like a collar of protection and mentoring. I consider him my omega, but I don’t consider Cuddles my property. I don’t own him… I just surpass him in the pack order and have a very close beta-omega relationship w/ him.
omega pup Cuddles, beta pup Emrys, and Alpha pup Hunter
Which brings us to the whole Alpha/beta/omega thing. Typically, this is how modern pups sort themselves out. Traditionally puppy play began in gay leather bars and clubs as a way to punish and humble boys. So the boys were submissive bottoms, presumably owned and collared by a Daddy or Master, and puppy play was an activity they were “forced” to engage in. In this traditional leather model, the relationship dynamic fit w/in the usual definitions of M/s or D/s… and some pups still fit this mold. (We call them “curs” or “slave-pups”… and I tend to find them more common in the hetro-FemDomme community than among gay pups.) However, the majority of modern puppies sort themselves out by Alpha, beta, and omega and doesn’t really fit w/in this traditional M/s or D/s mold… and part of the issue is that, while M/s and D/s exist as diametric poles, Alpha/beta/omega exist as points long the same continuum.
I used to define Alpha pups as pups who are Dominants/Sadists/Tops. In the course of the last year, now having the irrepressible HunterGreenee as my Alpha, I’ve come to re-think this. Today, I think of Alpha more as pack leader. So f you ask me if a lone pup who is a Sadistic Top is an Alpha… my answer would, now, tend to be, no. Because now I see this title as more of a relationship thing, so I think you kind of have to have beta pups under you to be an Alpha. In much the same way that (e.g.) you can’t call yourself an Owner if you don’t have property you own, right?
So, Alpha is the dog in charge of the pack, the leader, the one who makes the decisions and issues the marching orders. And, yes, he’s probably also a Dom and a Sadist – but that’s not, I would argue, the defining trait of an Alpha.
Hunter being all in charge
A beta, like me, is often involved in training and caring for the omega and then may also offer advice to the Alpha. Sometimes betas step-in for Alpha and then sometimes betas haul the luggage up to the hotel room along w/ the omega.
Some define omega as the most submissive of the pack… but I see it just as often as the one who is low-pup-on-totem-pole more by virtue of being youngest, newest, or most inexperienced. I like to explain my relationship w/ my omega as being like big brother/little brother or mentor/mentee. We’re both submissive. Neither of us is a D-type, but I’m the more mature dog, the more experienced, and higher up in the pack order.
My FetLife profile makes it clear enough. It says:
owned and collared by shdwkitten
submissive of HunterGreenee
“Protecting” Cuddles is a pretty accurate translation, in my mind, of the beta’s role towards his omega. (I also offered Cuddles, as an option, “mentoring” – he chose “protecting.”) I am looking out for him. I do appreciate it, as a courtesy, when people ask me, “May I?” before they do this or that or whatever to him… but I don’t require that or get bent out of shape if I don’t get asked. (As long as they ask him!) Likewise Cuddles doesn’t need my permission before he plays w/ someone or hooks-up w/ someone. That’s all him. I offer advice, I try to steer him in a positive direction and foster his growth, and I do look out for his safety… but he’s not my property, I’m not his Owner, and we’re both subs (although I’m a much better behaved submissive than he is - pugs are brats!)… and, at least in bed, he’s actually more of a Top than I am. (Thank goodness b/c my pug is hung!)