Sexual Ethics in “Steven Universe”

Spoiler alert: This post contains mild Steven Universe spoilers. I’m mostly avoiding more specific spoilers, although I’m fine with spoilers in the comments.

garnet amethyst fusion

So Ingrid and I have been binge-watching/ obsessing over the animated TV show “Steven Universe.” And I noticed something the other day that I wanted to share.

I was thinking about “fusion” (a process by which the Gems, magical superheroes, fuse together into a larger, more powerful being). Let’s assume that fusion is some kind of metaphor for sex. It’s not much of a leap (although I don’t think sex is the only thing fusion is supposed to be referencing).

So in the “Steven Universe” universe, what are the ethics about fusion?

Fusing with more than one person is fine. Fusing with more than one person at a time is fine. Sometimes people get jealous — or envious, I guess might be more accurate — if other people are fusing and they wanted to be in on it. But there’s never any suggestion that there’s anything wrong with having more than one person that you fuse with.

It isn’t, however, right to be dishonest about fusion: to fuse under false pretenses, or in any way to deceive someone into fusing.

It isn’t right to fuse with no concern for the consequences.

And it’s seriously, profoundly not right to force fusion on anyone.


Sexual Ethics in “Steven Universe”

7 thoughts on “Sexual Ethics in “Steven Universe”

  1. 1

    It’s pretty great to see these kind of lesson in healthy relationships, especially in a show made for children, one of the reasons I’m glad it keeps growing its following.

    But fusion as a metaphor for sex kind of breaks down when we take Garnet into account.

  2. 3

    I have to wonder what the ethics of Lapis’ decision to fuse with and then dominate Jasper are. She was clearly the one who didn’t want to be in that situation, but then she subverted Jasper’s intentions into an outcome that was bad for both of them.

    I suppose she could have simply refused? I don’t think fusion can be forced when the parties are aware. But then Jasper would still be around to hurt herself and Steven, who are all she seems to care about right now.

  3. 6

    Callinectes : That is an excellent point. It was why I argue that fusion isn’t a metaphor for simply sex: It is a metaphor for a relationship (they say that Garnet is the perfect relationship, after all). And that can involve sex, romance, whatever else, or not. The “relationship” in question doesn’t have to be good or healthy. You can have some form of relationship even with someone you don’t love, or even like. And usually the product of the fusion reflects on that.

    All of the Crystal Gems seem to imply some level of sexuality in their fusions, and Greg declared at some point that his relationship with Rose Quartz was fusion (and that it resulted in Steven). But Connie and Steven fusing doesn’t seem to have any of those elements. Because they are kids and innocent and their relationship doesn’t have a sexual component to it yet. In addition, fusion is introduced in the show when Amethyst and Pearl fuse, and I didn’t notice any of the sexual-esque elements there either, which makes sense considering that they do not have much positive chemistry with each other. This could just be because I missed something, or because they didn’t add the sex metaphor in until later in the series.

    But the counterpoint to looking at a general relationship instead of strictly sexual relationships: the fusion experiments. Part of why they react in horror to these is because they were forced to fuse. If fusion is just a general relationship, it isn’t that bad. If fusion is sex….that is horrific. And probably the most sick and twisted thing ever put into a kids’ show.

  4. 7

    I think it’s occasionally a metaphor for sex – like with those terrible fusion experiments because WOW they invented a whole new fictional war crime, and it can stand as a rape metaphor all by itself in a way I think children would get without it being heavy handed – but mostly it’s a metaphor for relationships, and the actual thing it stands for shifts depending on the participants and the tone of the episode. I think that’s kind of lovely, how it makes it clear that those relationships are all different and produce different results and that’s OK, and how being in a good one is a constant matter of negotiation and consent (Garnet is a conversation! and the conversation Steven and Connie have about if they want to stop and unfuse! Amethyst and Garnet getting carried away with how great they feel to be together!).

    Jasper and Lapis both went into it with bad intentions (Jasper wanted to use Lapis to help her destroy the crystal gems, and Lapis wanted to lash out at someone, anyone, after everything she’s gone through – even if it’s keeping Steven safe, there are… probably some other options she could have gone with, there, considering how powerful she’s been demonstrated to be), and what resulted was/is a terrible abusive relationship (they’re *really* bad for each other) that they’re now both trapped in and which is in danger of subsuming their individual identities. They might have both consented, but they did it for the ‘wrong’ reasons by the show’s logic and to use Malachite to hurt others, rather then because they wanted to be in that relationship.

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