Is the main character/protagonist in the story "Lust" really lustful or do readers judge her based on their gender?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main character of Susan Minot's short story "Lust" is a young woman who uses sex as a way to tell herself that she is control of relationships, that she is free to do as she pleases and that she is capable of doing what she wants with whomever she pleases.

We can ascertain that she is lustful. This is because she has an evident preoccupation with intercourse and clearly enjoys it when she gets her opportunities. She also sees it as a key to liberate herself and break with every expected moral or social code of behavior. Moreover, it seems as if this is all that she worries about: How to find a sex partner, where to get one, or what to do before and after. In all, her focus on intercourse is certainly greater than the average woman. If she were not lustful she may have looked for another way of controlling men. Yet, as she says herself, she is not to be deemed a mere "tease".

 So, if you flirted, you had to be prepared to go through with it. Sleeping with someone was perfectly normal once you had done it.

We also know that there is another side to her behavior: She needs sex to feel validated. This does not make her less lusty but it certainly is another reason why she would choose sex as a social and emotional weapon.

When she tells the way that her encounters begin, she alludes to our senses and confesses the pleasure of the encounter and the sensuality of it all. However, once the sex is over, she disappears.

You do everything they want. "Then comes after. After when they don’t look at you.They [ ...  ] stare at the ceiling… You’re gone. Their blank look tells you that the girl [.....]is not there anymore. You seem to have disappeared.

Hence, she knows exactly what happens after each and every encounter. She knows that she is being used for a momentary pleasure. She also knows that she will end up forgotten in a corner of the room. She even admits to the loneliness that follows. Then, why continue to do it? Why, of all the humiliations that she could suffer at the hands of men, would she want to be submitted to the worst form of them all?

There are only two possible answers to this: Either she is a masochist that enjoys being victimized as well as victimizing herself, or she is so lustful that she is willing to take the chance, as long as she gets what her body aches for.

Conclusively, the readers of then and now can still see in her character nothing but a silly, hyper-sexed girl who just doesn't get it. Whether this is a story of women searching for their identity through sex, or not, the fact remains that our main character, who is continuously looking for it, is clearly not willing to let it go.

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