Indi's quasiparentage, or "Why I have alphas"

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Content notes for this page: Alternative relationships, D/s

Look we all know that "Alpha" as a wolf-pack thing is bad science. At the same time, it's undeniably resonant in D/s circles (especially furry ones), serving as an excellent gender-neutral and expectation-neutral term for "entity in charge."

But let's look a little deeper than that. The reason "Alpha" is bad science is because it presents a wolf pack as a set of unrelated folks with a complex and rigid hierarchy, an impression that originally came from over-reading the relationships of wolves in captivity. Wolves in the wild, in contrast, essentially live in family groups, the 'alphas' are the oldest and apparently in-charge because they're the parents of the rest of the pack, and there's no reason to name them otherwise. Unless, for instance, you want a word for 'parent' that doesn't carry some of that word's baggage.

Let's turn the whole thing on its head now and look at those captive wolf packs where 'alpha' hierarchy was first observed. If unrelated wolves form packs with apparent 'alphas', what else can we call this but an ad-hoc family? "Found family" may be a bit over-generous in some cases, particularly when they were forced together by humans, but it's not far off the mark; wolves find themselves organizing in family-like shapes with unrelated wolves when they have to (albeit with some strife, something that other non-hereditary families are certainly familiar with as well!)

As I've maneuvered through years of D/s relationships, I've tried lots of agreements, configurations, and labels, and the ones that have fit best for me are ones that are the most 'parental'. My dominants are in charge of me, responsible for me, and set goals and guidelines for me, but they don't expect any more service than the average family would, and emphasize nurturing and support over discipline. Saying 'Dom(me)' or 'Owner' or 'Master/Mistress' gives the wrong idea and also feels wrong, but specifically parental terms are prone to their own sorts of misinterpretation (I have no problem with 'Mommy' or 'Daddy' as a term of endearment (and in fact I've been known to use them), but in relationship contexts they tend to actually suggest less authority than the other terms listed). So, in my head, 'Alpha' communicates the whole package, even if it takes several paragraphs to explain why. ;)