One of the new terms floating about in the online BDSM world right now is the “alpha sub.” It’s showing up in my Tumblr more and more, and while I always take Tumblr kink with a grain of salt – putting your porn through a black and white filter doesn’t necessarily make it artsy, folks – I do enjoy the community at large, and BDSM is a subject close to my heart. That’s why this term, “alpha sub,” is pissing me off, and the subject of this blog post today.
The intent behind the term “alpha sub” is to distinguish between a person who is sexually submissive but not submissive in real life and a person who is submissive all the time. it’s generally used for women; I don’t think I’ve ever seen the term used for a male submissive. An alpha sub is a woman who often has a position of power in her day job, who is nobody’s doormat, and who the casual observer would not guess to be a sexual submissive. The term originated, undoubtedly, as a way to show how sexual submission doesn’t mean weakness, showing that alpha subs can be sexually submissive while not being submissive in the other aspects of their lives. It’s intended to be empowering, I think.
By these definitions, I’m an alpha sub. I’m a confident woman, an extrovert, sex-positive and in control of my life. I don’t need a partner to feel whole. I’m a sexual submissive, but I’m never going to be mistaken for a doormat.
So why shouldn’t you call me an alpha sub?
The term “alpha sub” presumes that there is a default correlation between a person’s role in consensual power exchange – Dominant or submissive – and that person’s life outside of the bedroom. The term assumes that most sexual submissives are submissive all the time, so the ones who aren’t need a special term to define them. If you don’t identify as an alpha sub, you must just be a pushover. The fact that the term is used to define female subs rather than male subs speaks to another prejudice, that female subs are more likely to be “naturally submissive” all the time and therefore need a special term to define the “outliers” who, of course, aren’t really outliers at all. While well-intentioned, it’s another term that separates us and puts us in imaginary competition with each other. “Oh, I’m better than other subs. I’m an alpha sub.”
In the kink community, I’ve met many Dom/mes and subs. Some fall into these roles both sexually and personality-wise, but just as many don’t. In the same way that looking at a stranger doesn’t reveal their kinks, neither does looking at a person in a kink scene reveal their non-sexual personality. Don’t call me an alpha sub because I’m “different than the other submissives.” No, I’m not. Lots of us are confident, outgoing, – dare I say it? – dominant outside of the bedroom. Those who aren’t, the shy ones who tend toward submission all the time, are no less worthy of respect than the confident ones. I try to write a variety of women in my books. Bridget from Purely Professional is confident outside the bedroom and a sexual submissive. Emma from Playing Knotty take a little longer to develop her confidence in real life, but she enjoys both topping and bottoming in bondage. In the upcoming Tied Score, Iris is a confident woman who learns to embrace her sexual Dominant side, but her submissive partner Owen is no shy wallflower himself.
I call myself a sexual submissive because that’s what I am, but it doesn’t mean anything about the rest of my life. When I’m not wearing a collar, I’m a smart-talking wiseass just like anyone else. When I am wearing a collar, I’m doing so because I choose it, because it brings me sexual pleasure, because submission is my kink and kink can be a lot of fun.
Call me by my name. Call me a submissive. But don’t call me an alpha sub.
17 thoughts on “Don’t call me an Alpha Sub”
What a wondourful article. Thank you! I had a new friend (that just realized his own Dominance) call me an aggressive submissive and many just say that I’m obviously Dominant as opposed to submissive. All of this points the same way…we are what we are no matter what we are called.
BTW, my Friend said how much of a turn on that I was (as he put it) an aggressive submissive.
Meh. I see the point, I do… and maybe the use of Alpha Sub is mislead in many occasions, but even outside BDSM and M/s lifestyles, some people are alphas and some are not. Not all betas and omegas are pushovers. But they are certainly not alpha types. This post definitely covers that a great many subs have dom traits in other parts of their lives and that doing so is often the with of their Dom in particular, therefore making their dominant acts motivated out of submission. All good stuff. But none of that makes a person a true alpha. So I suppose I agree and disagree because an alpha can still submit to a mate or partner and be an alpha. In many animal social structures the alpha female is still submissive to the alpha male. To me, that is what Alpha Sub means.
an alpha submissive girl
“If you don’t identify as an alpha sub, you must just be a pushover.”
This puzzles me immensely. Submission is not for the feint of heart. It is one of the hardest things for a person to do (even if naturally submissive) and requires an incredible amount of trust, imo.
I think alpha sub has more to do with personality type.. There are a lot more characteristics involved than just being a strong woman outside of the bedroom. Many Alpha Subs also have common characteristics like only being submissive to one Dom, and requiring extra respect and understanding to be interested in giving someone submission. It is an important term because this type of sub is often excluded and not considered a “real” sub. For me, learning this was a thing was really empowering because I had always felt pressure to reconcile my dominant personality traits with my desire to be submissive, and I never knew where I fit in before.
I think your last comments hit at why I find this term so problematic: there is a tendency to exclude confident women from being considered “real” subs, and an expectation that “real subs” don’t have dominant personality traits. I feel like the more we perpetuate “alpha sub” as a concept, the more we continue to divide subs into normal and outliers. I don’t feel like the personality traits with which you identify are uncommon within submissives at all. If there are women who don’t require extra respect and understanding to give someone submission, then that feels unhealthy to me. Submission should be earned. Rather than differentiating within submissives, I feel that we should spread more understanding that submission does not gravitate toward any particular personality type, and to assume otherwise is offensive.
Thanks for your comments!
Am male, and alpha sub is a very good descriptor for me and used by my dom. I am normally dominant in all other relationships and IRL, but I choose to be submissive to him and him alone.
I am not a sub, I’m not a slave, I don’t have a submissive mindset. But I am HIS little alpha sub.
My opionon for a what it’s worth….. FYI I’m new to the BDSM world,… Learning….
However regarding personality and such….. I’m don’t know all the terms but I do understand the description.
I don’t feel that it is or should be labeled to just women …… Seems to be your major issue with it.
I’ve always been more attracted and or turned on by strong confident females…. Granted I don’t mean the insecure type that walk around with a chip throwing there weight around….. But the quite strength that isn’t flaunted
The power transfer that comes naturally anytime time is spent around them….. There confidence increases trust……
That role of submission by a strong confident female in my case is an amazing turn on…..
And sometimes I want to submit as well…..
I like the term myself but think it applies to both male and female
Thank you thank you thank you. It does seem to be an online or recent thing this alpha sub moniker. Having started the journey in this lifestyle in 1993 (yup that long ago) this is new to this girl. And it seems asking what or even why this ‘role’ exists raises a huge fight among many. Oh for the days when a sub was a sub and we supported each other. Stood proud strong and content in our dynmics and choices. Now we have to define ourselves even further in an effort to prove ourselves.
I don’t fully agree nor disagree with your definition of alpha sub.
Typically I and most of those around me see it in a poly or quasi-poly relationship where one sub may have a position (for whatever reason) where he or she holds more power or authority than the others. Sometimes with or without the dom’s Presence depending on the dynamic. Or perhaps a hold a position of trust to complete or supervise tasks.
I came upon this blog and I just wanted to share a someone different perspective on the subject
That is definitely a valid definition of alpha sub to which this post doesn’t apply. I am familiar with that use of the term, and that use is helpful instead of problematic. In the years since I’ve posted this, the annoying use of alpha sub has fallen more out of favor, which I consider a positive trend. Yet this post still gets a lot of mileage. 🙂
i too also think the term refers to a poly relationship where there is more than one sub. But even in that context I don’t really like using “Alpha sub”. To me I see it as more like equal sisters. If one were an alpha, then she would be dominant over the other. It may work in some relationships, but most subs are purely submissive and don’t want to dominate another person at all. But I agree that the term is definitely overused.
Well said, my mistress and I was just speaking of this the other day. Thank you for sharing this. I am a submissive completely and whole. She owns my heart, mind, body, and soul. I wear her day collar always and even in my vanilla life I will continue to serve her.
The newer usage of this term, which irks me, is what you are describing. However an alpha sub is an actual term in poly dynamics for the sub entrusted to help the D type with the other submissives.
Yes, I have heard it in D/s polyam circles as well, and think that use makes far more sense than whatever has happened to it elsewhere.
This helped me a lot on seeing the term on a new angle, especially I am analysing my usage of this term to myself. But this post made me wonder where it all began. Do you, by any chance, know who coined it and when? I’m about to write a story about this and I hope I can fully know the history background of the term before I even start using it in my writings. Thank you so much.
Thanks for your interest, Evan. Honestly, I’m not sure where the term originated. At the time I wrote this blog, six years ago, I had been seeing it a lot on porn Tumblr (RIP porn Tumblr) for at least a year. I did one of those Google Trend searches:
And it shows high frequency back in 2004, which is the farthest back the trend search goes.
Good luck in your research, and thanks for supporting this blog!