Matilda wants to have sex.
Matilda has autism and she wants to have sex.
The fact that she has autism shouldn’t matter — she’s horny, just like a majority of teens (except, of course, those who identify as asexual). The fact that she isn’t neurotypical shouldn’t be a factor.
But unfortunately, her peers don’t see it that way. Her crush Luke only sees her as “a friend” (aka the most heart-wrenching words you can hear from someone you like).
And when she later debriefs the situation with his friend Zane, they agree that the only reason he doesn’t want to sleep with her is because she has autism.
She’s pretty — that, everyone can agree on. (In real life, actress Kayla Cromer has a modeling background and even with the make-under she went through to become Matilda, she’s still clearly beautiful).
But boys don’t view her as sexual. She even has to convince Zane to have sex with her, despite him being “a typical horny teenage boy.”
His hesitance is written all over his face. But she convinces him that she’s a willing and able participant.
Even afterward, you can tell he feels strange about it. He asks her not to tell anyone, clearly afraid of what his friends would think. Did he just take advantage of someone with a disability?
Matilda’s silence doesn’t last long. She tells her sister Genevieve, who quickly tells her friends, who quickly confront Zane in public.
Genevieve yells at him, “What’s wrong with you? She has autism!”
Even Matilda’s own sister doesn’t see her as a sexual being who can make her own decisions.
This is a problem that many people with disabilities face. There is an inaccurate stigma that people with disabilities don’t have sexual desires. But just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you can’t also be horny AF. There are absolutely zero correlations between disabilities and sexual desires.
English actor Mat Fraser, who has thalidomide-induced phocomelia, told The Atlantic a few years ago,
“When you are disabled the two things people think you can’t do are fight and have sex … so I’ve got a black belt and I’m really good at shagging. The physical pleasures in life are really important to me.”
The desexualization of people with disabilities is well documented in academic studies as well as in mainstream media.
In Netflix’s series Special, Ryan (who has cerebral palsy) struggles to engage in romantic and sexual relationships. It’s partly because of his own insecurities but also partly because of his well-founded fears that the guys he likes won’t like him back because of his disability. He even decides to hire a sex worker in order to lose his virginity.
And then there’s that scene in Speechless where JJ meets his girlfriend Izzy’s father for the first time, only for her father to deem him non-threatening due to his disability. Determined to prove him wrong, the two of them (along with a little bit of help) get him into her loft bed and take off his pants to show he could easily be just as much as a scumbag as any other guy.
There have been a few attempts to introduce characters with physical disabilities as love interests in the past few years (mostly in teen television). Think Campbell (RJ Mitte) as Daphne’s boyfriend in Switched at Birth and Isaac (George Robinson) as a potential future relationship for Maeve in Sex Education season 2. But rarely, if ever, do we get a hot and heavy sex scene a la Riverdale or Gossip Girl.
Everything’s Gonna Be Ok did give us a sex scene — it might not have been the stuff of romance novels but it was real (and a bit awkward). This will hopefully just be the first of Matilda’s sexual experiences. Because it’s time society stops desexualizing people with disabilities.
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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, and Tiger Beat. Her favorite Housewife is Bethenny Frankel and when she’s not watching RHONY, you can probably find her obsessing over her tuxedo cat Tom or hoarding drugstore lipsticks.