50 Shades of...Alpha? Dom? Whaaa???

Until I began attending professional romance writer conventions, I though BDSM stood for "bi-directional sado-masochism." Thankfully, new books, new writers (and a new kindle) have introduced me to a rainbow of romance flavors. I've developed quite the taste for paranormals, and one of my Carina Press sisters kindly agreed to send one of her hotties over to teach me (and you) some...nuances.
Remy Says: Alphas aren’t Doms

Remy (Remus) is a new character in Seleste deLaney’s Blood Kissed series. If you haven’t read the short story prequels, those are available from Decadent Publishing and many other online retailers. The first novel in the series, Kiss of Death, is now available from Mundania Press.

Too many years of killer vamps have triggered the curse of the Blood Kissed. They’ve awakened the bloodline that can alter their world, because her blood has the power to control them all—even make them destroy each other. 

Jocelyn thought her troubles with vampires were over when she drove a stake through her boyfriend Max’s heart a year ago. Even though she’s engaged to Chad now, she’s never really forgotten him. Now Max is back, and Chad is taking her into the heart of the vamp community—and they’re the ones trying to keep her alive. The ones who love her and each seek to claim her for their own. Because once the elders know who she is, they’re all going to want her… or want her dead. 

This is sadly Remy’s last post for the tour. After today if you want to find him, you’ll have to look within the pages of Kiss of Death (). For today though, he’s going to explain to us the difference between a dominant male, an alpha male, and a Dominant male. You have the floor, sir. 

I do so love it when she calls me sir. Now, there is a bit of confusion in some circles about dominant men and I’d like to clear a bit of that up. To put it simply, the range of dominance is very much like the range in shades of brunette hair. There is a color that is such a dark brown that most people can’t tell the difference unless they put it right next to someone with black hair. And then there’s that sandy shade that is almost, but not quite, blond. That’s the range we’ll work with. (Also, I’m focusing on men here, but the same things can probably be used in regard to women. However, as I’m not a woman, I’d only be guessing.)

First, dominance in general is a personality trait. A dominant male can be any shade from the sandy to the almost black. These men like to be in charge and are uncomfortable in situations where someone else has control. For instance, they can make the worst backseat drivers. Those are the situations for which ball gags and restraints were truly invented. Now if you notice, I said they can make horrid backseat drivers. That’s because some dominant men have learned that while there are situations they can’t control, they are always in control of themselves. This degree of self-knowledge makes it so they don’t eternally have to assert their dominance. A dominant male who knows himself that well is a beautiful thing.

Moving along, we’ll discuss alpha (or Alpha) males. The term alpha comes from wolf packs (were or otherwise). The Alpha is the one in charge of keeping the pack in line. He can do this through whatever means he feels fits the situation from dominant behavior, aggression, violence, etc. Because of this, Alphas are almost always dominant males. (I only say almost because I hate people pointing out exceptions. It makes me want to go all dominant male on their asses.) The thing is, in any pack situation, you have a number of dominant males who want to be Alpha since the position basically says, “I’m the most dominant of the dominant, all should bow before me and lick my nuts.” (And yes, I once heard a werewolf say that. However, it was in French, so it sounded much nicer.) The point there being that an Alpha always has to defend their title against challengers.

This is very similar to the non-wolf world. There, alpha males (Since they aren’t really Alphas of anything, they don’t get the capital.) are in charge of other things. They are often the boss at work or an officer in the military or career cops. Also, alpha-types can go the opposite way and become criminals, often leading a gang of other criminals (in this case, they become much closer to the wolf-pack scenario than other real-world cases since fights for the top spot can often end in injury or death.)

And so we come to the Dominants. Dominants can be alphas, but they need to be much more than that. (Remember those dominant males who aren’t horrible backseat drivers?) A Dom is in charge and in control, but a key thing is they should always be in control of themselves and the situation before exerting their control over others. (And yes, if you haven’t figured it out, we’re talking BDSM Dominants here.) An out of control Dom can be just this side of an abuser (and can, in fact, easily cross that line.) It’s one reason the most respected Doms in the lifestyle have gone through training and have references they will supply to interested submissives.

Unlike Alphas, Doms don’t need to defend their position. They are the Dom—period. Depending on the contract/relationship involved that status may or may not be bedroom (or in some cases, dungeon) specific. Many Dominants do not use violence/pain at all, even as punishment. (Though really? Where’s the fun in that?) Doms exert their dominance in a variety of ways, but their position is clear in the way they carry themselves and behave. The point is, once you start seeing Dominant males, seeing that glint in their eye, you can’t unsee it. A Dom doesn’t have to announce that he’s a Dom—people will just know.

For a very clear example, take the latest Star Trek movie. Chris Pine (medium brown hair) portrays Kirk as an admirable alpha. He’s in charge and has to challenge for the spot. Then there is the amazing Zachary Quinto (with hair dark as a dungeon with no windows) as Spock. Spock doesn’t need to be Captain, and he truly only strives for the spot because he believe Kirk is a fool (not necessarily without cause). When it becomes clear Kirk is the man for the job, Spock steps back. But if you notice, he never loses that edge he carries throughout the film. Even when he loses control, he comes right back to steady and calm. Kirk might be alpha, but Spock—glorious Spock—is the Dominant.

So to summarize in a confusing way that should put you right back where you started… Both alphas and Doms are dominant males. An alpha can be a Dom and a Dom can be an alpha, but they don’t necessarily have to be.

And in case you’re wondering where I fall on that spectrum… my hair is black.

You can find more Remy in the pages of Kiss of Death, and you can find Seleste all over the internet, including Her website and blog; on Twitter as @Selestedelaney; and on Facebook at both her profile and author page.