Fans have long speculated the beloved cartoon character might be homosexual. Others are mystified to discover that sponges have sex organs, let alone a sexuality. Squarepants has never addressed his sexuality publicly or privately with friends, neighbors and co-workers on his hit children’s show. Nickelodeon’s proclamation raises serious ethical questions — a decision that is usually deeply personal, private, and prolonged has been hijacked by a publicity stunt.

More than ever, Squarepants’s relationship with his best friend and sidekick Patrick, a starfish, is under the microscope. Learning from a third-party that an intimate friend is homosexual often leads to a deep sense of betrayal and confusion with many relationships unable to weather the storm. It can also lead to violence, particularly in male friendships where the other party becomes suspected of being the lover.