Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What was Steve and Peggy's Relationship?

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When I first read Hayley Atwell’s comment to the effect that she thinks Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter did have sex back during the war, I wasn’t entirely sure what to think.  Okay, my immediate knee-jerk reaction was to think, “of course they didn’t:  He’s Captain America!”

After mulling over the question for a while, however, I came to the conclusion that it isn’t quite so cut-and-dry.  So I’m going to quickly go through the arguments in favor of and against the proposition that Cap and Carter were sleeping together.  Why?  I’m not entirely sure.  But let’s do it anyways.

Arguments in Favor

Argument 1:  War Speeds up Relationships

When a man is going off to war, he is much more likely to enter into a marriage quickly because tomorrow may not come.  In other words, if you wait too long, it might be too late before you get married.  Marrying before deploying also makes sense from a financial standpoint because it ensures that your wife will receive benefits while you are away… and also receive death benefits if you leave her a widow.

Based on this argument, I think you could make the case for all relationships being accelerated by war.  And that would apply to the relationship between Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter just as much as any other couple.  So it is entirely possible that they could have jumped to having sex much more quickly under wartime pressures than they would have otherwise.

Argument 2:  “They are Soul Mates”

This is ultimately the argument which Hayley Atwell uses for why she thinks they had sex.  Peggy and Steve felt a serious connection from their first meeting:  they both struggled against the odds to overcome the standards of their day.  They also worked very closely throughout the war, from Steve’s first actual mission until she listened to his last transmission before going into the water.  One of the best parts of Captain America: The First Avenger may be the chemistry between Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell, which really carries through into their characters’ relationship.

The first two arguments work well together:  because they “are soul mates,” they may believe that they will be getting married anyways after the war, so there’s no reason to wait until then.

Argument 3:  Their Grieving Process

An argument can be made that while one will go through the grieving process for anyone who dies or otherwise leaves them, the grieving process is different based on the closeness of the relationship.  Specifically, a person will react much worse to the loss of someone with whom they have been either emotionally intimate or physically intimate.

Seeing at the way that Peggy grieved Steve both at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger and in Agent Carter season 1 (and the One-Shot), she was very intimate with him—more than a single kiss would suggest.  And seeing Steve’s grief in Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Avengers: Age of Ultron, the intimacy was not one-sided.  Is this more evidence of their “being soul mates,” or did they have sex?

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Arguments Against

Argument 1:  Steve’s Character

This may be the biggest argument against—and the reason that so many Captain America fans dislike and reject the idea of him and Peggy having had premarital sex.  Simply put, he’s Captain America.  He’s a Boy Scout.  He represents the highest moral standards of his day—and that was before the Super-Soldier Serum enhanced everything about him, including his moral fiber.  Captain America as he’s traditionally portrayed in the comic books would not sleep around, and Captain America would not sleep with a woman to whom he is not married.

Based on this argument, regardless of their feelings for each other—and regardless of any mutual desire—Steve Rogers would not be able to bring himself to have sex with Peggy without first marrying her.

Argument 2:  The Standards of the Day

I’m not saying that the Greatest Generation was perfect—far from it.  There were bad relationships.  There were playboys sleeping with anything wearing a skirt—including Cap’s other best friend, Howard Stark.  However, this behavior was generally looked down upon by the honest, hardworking people who created Steve Rogers (not to be confused with the mad scientists who created Captain America!).  In general, my understanding of the culture is that men were brought up to respect women in relationships and not to press intimacy before marriage… that’s something that didn’t come into general practice until the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s-70s.

Based on this argument, even beyond Steve’s innate character, his upbringing would have prevented him from engaging in pre-marital sex, even with his soul mate.  In fact, based on these two arguments, the case could more easily be made for a secret marriage during the war than straight-up sex during the war… not that I’m suggesting they got married.

Argument 3:  The Timeline of Their Relationship

This may be the most tenuous argument since Captain America: The First Avenger makes a time-jump of a couple years.  However, based on what we see of their relationship in the movie, I don’t know if they’re at that stage in their relationship when Steve goes into the ice.  At the beginning of the movie they become friends, and we even see some fondness on Peggy’s part.  From there they clearly get closer after the experiment and then when they go through the stress of the first mission.  Then after that mission, Peggy comes in to see Steve kissing the secretary/assistant, and gets extremely angry at him.  After Peggy shoots at him to “test” the vibranium shield, we don’t see too many more scenes between them apart from when she comforts him after Bucky’s apparent death.  They clearly have feelings for each other (the fact that he has her picture in his compass is evidence of that), but until their last mission I don’t really see evidence that they acted on those feelings.  In fact, when I watch the movie my assumption is that their first kiss is the one right before Steve infiltrated the Valkyrie.

Is it possible that over the course of those two years their relationship progressed much further than we saw?  Yes.  But just based on the theatrical cut of Captain America: The First Avenger, I don’t think they acted on the feelings they had for each other before that kiss.

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Argument 4:  “The World’s Foremost Expert on Waiting too Long”

Ultimately, the clinching argument against comes from Avengers: Age of Ultron, when Steve is talking to Bruce about the obvious feelings that Romanoff has for him (meaning Banner).  During this conversation, Steve calls himself “The world’s foremost expert on waiting too long” before telling Banner not to wait.  The key here is that Steve says he waited too long.  The only woman he could possibly be talking about is Peggy Carter, the “love of his life” from the first movie.  She waited until the last moment to initiate their first kiss, and he in turn waited until he was about to crash into the ocean to ask her on a date.  And when he was finally able to follow through, 70-something years had passed.  If that’s not “waiting too long,” I don’t know what is.  And if they had actually had sex at some point over the course of their friendship/relationship, I don’t know if he would think of it as “waiting too long.”


Ultimately, I think it’s up to the viewer what they want to think on this point—at least until Agent Carter answers the question definitively one way or the other!  I personally think that they did not have sex (and even less do I think they were married), but I can see the arguments in favor of the opposite position.

Sound off in the comments:  Do you think that Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter had sex during World War II, or is Captain America a 90-year-old virgin?

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