It happens to the best of us because arousal is a strange phenomenon that no one completely understands, but most people try not to think about SpongeBob SquarePants in a sexy way. This weekend, however, Nickelodeon kind of forced the issue when they included the hapless sponge in a tweet in support of Pride Month. Not only did they feature him alongside other, less famous characters who are nevertheless known to be part of the LGBTQIA+ community, but they also disallowed replies so no one could object or force them to explain further. It's the Twitter version of dropping the mic. Not to stan a global corporation, but respect.
What does it mean, though? Many have pointed out that SpongeBob's creator Stephen Hillenburg stated in 2005 that he "never intended [his characters] to be gay" and "consider[s] them to be almost asexual," but this tells us exactly nothing. Few parents intend their children to have a particular sexual orientation, but it happens regardless. My parents "considered" me a genius; that doesn't make it true. Maybe SpongeBob was asexual when the show began, but he's spent several years reexamining his feelings before making this decision to come out otherwise because it's a sponge's prerogative to change his mind. Maybe that's why he's not specifying: He doesn't need your labels. Sexuality is a spectrum, y'all. It grows and changes throughout our lives, like terrifying little cuttlefish.
It's also not a mutually exclusive kind of deal. There is some evidence that SpongeBob is at least biologically asexual -- he's seen reproducing by budding -- and while asexuality alone would place SpongeBob squarely under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, that doesn't mean he can't also be gay. Asexual people may not be aromantic, and they can and do have gender preferences. SpongeBob certainly seems to. He briefly lives in a marriage-like relationship with Patrick when they adopt a baby scallop, he never shows much interest in lady sea creatures, and while that's not notable on its own for a character on a children's TV show, he does openly flirt with Squidward.
Then again, maybe it's not a sexuality thing at all. Maybe SpongeBob is finally comfortable letting us know that he's not 100% masculine. After all, he's a prolific wearer of dresses and makeup and absolutely delights in being told he is a pretty girl.
We may never know -- and ultimately, it's none of our business. SpongeBob has every right to keep his private life as private as he wants, and if that means coming out as something but not telling us exactly what, we have to respect his boundaries. We can only hope that he's living his best life in that fragile fruit he's bafflingly chosen to live in.
Top image: Nickelodeon Animation Studio