So the infamous Spider-Man story Sins Past is about to be retconned, according to some leaks that have just come out about the end of Nick Spencer’s Spider-Man run. I’m… not looking forward to it. (You’re bound to hear all about it on harryosborn.net.) For a start I suspect it’s not going to deal with the actual sin.
In the years after Sins Past came out there was so much complaining about how the story “ruined” or “tainted” Gwen. But let’s look at what she actually does in the story, shall we? Not much, because the story doesn’t seem nearly as interested in her as it is in her uterus, but-
Gwen finds herself attracted to Norman after he (during one of his spates of non-villainy) helps rescue her and her dad. Okay, fair enough. Gwen actually wasn’t technically Peter’s girlfriend at the time, and even when she was it didn’t seem completely exclusive, since Harry and MJ were in the mix there too. So she was really free to pursue whoever she wanted. Norman is, uh, an odd choice but his design was based on Tommy Lee Jones around this time and I’m sure Tommy Lee Jones had his share of female admirers, so whatever.
Now let’s look at what Norman does in the story!
He has a girl young enough to be his daughter turn up at his house and fawn over him. Norman must have known Gwen as a teenager at least a little, surely, since she and Harry were close friends since high school. He must have some idea of her personality, that her mother was dead and she was devoted to her father. And then…
What exactly passed between them to make them instantly fall into bed together? We don’t know, but we do know that it’s heavily implied this is the first time Gwen had sex with anyone–
-that Norman wielded quite a lot of power and influence at the time, even without bringing his superhero alter-ego into things-
-and that, this is rather crucial I always thought, they didn’t use protection! That’s where the twins came from!
Does any of this sound like a regular “affair”? No! You know what a decent man does if a girl so much younger makes a pass at him? He SAYS NO!
But that’s not what happened. Gwen soon found out what sort of man Norman was and found herself pregnant. (You’ve got to wonder if she considered getting an abortion, but the story isn’t interested in that.) She gave birth to the twins and then Norman murdered her. The Death of Gwen Stacy was written long before Sins Past came out but one thing SP didn’t retcon was that Gwen meant less than nothing to Norman.
Oh, and eventually he then proceeded to creepily hit on her alternate self too.
….Where there was an even bigger age gap, I’m assuming.
Long story short, Norman is a misogynist who took advantage of a younger woman, and Sins Past just never really acknowledges it. The Gwen/Norman encounter is treated like a regular affair, albeit one where superpowered sperm is involved (ugh) but it wasn’t. Yes it was between two consenting adults, but oh god the power dynamics. It’s a story that plays out time and time again in real life and yep, always ends badly for the woman.
Gwen was Norman’s victim in all of this but was treated like his collaborator. That’s the real sin of Sins Past.