“Subjects” is the term Hal and Orin use to describe the women that Orin seduces, and the word reflects the reduction of women to tempting, druglike objects at the cost of their full humanity. It is strongly implied that Orin is a sex addict, with particular sexual neuroses that include a fetish for married mothers. (Again, it is strongly implied that this is the result of his own strained relationship with his overbearing mother, Avril.) The similarity between the words “Subject” and “Substance,” and the fact that they are both capitalized in the novel, indicates that Orin is addicted to sex rather than just promiscuous. It also suggests that women can have the same overpowering, harmful effect as addictive substances like drugs and alcohol. Orin treats his “Subjects” in a callous, transactional way, usually losing interest in them as soon as they have sex. (One notable exception is Hugh/Helen Steeply, an American agent who seduces Orin as part of the government’s effort to obtain the master copy of the Entertainment, and to whom Orin becomes devotedly attached.) Orin’s dismissive treatment of his Subjects arguably reflects a larger misogynistic attitude toward women within the novel as a whole. Of the dozens of main characters, hardly any are women. Women are often discussed in a sexually objectifying manner (or, in the opposite extreme, called “Feminazis”). Although it might appear that the novel condemns Orin’s behavior toward women, this behavior actually aligns with the treatment of women in Infinite Jest as a whole.
The timeline below shows where the symbol Subjects appears in Infinite Jest. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...overtly political. Orin admits that he is interested in all this because of his latest Subject, Helen, who he claims is different to all his previous Subjects. He questions Hal about... (full context)
...to tell them everything he knew about Joelle’s whereabouts. They have exposed their first “test Subject” to the Entertainment, telling the Subject that he could repeat the film if he agreed... (full context)