In his paper, Jonathan Hsy notes that “in chapter 74, Margery expresses an inordinate desire for contact with lepers.” While he focuses heavily on the question of same-sex desire in this chapter (as well as the connection between leprosy and lechery), I would offer another reading. The chapter in question makes explicit in the beginning Margery’s will do die (or impatience for death) “turning over in her mind the time of her death, grievously sighing and sorrowing because it was so long delayed,” and shortly after having the wish to kiss lepers “very full of the disease.” (Penguin pages 216 + 217).
It seems to me that this is connected, that on top of any sexual connotations the kissing of the lepers might have, that this kissing is primarily an attempt at accelerating towards the death which she impatiently awaits.
While I do not think that it’s any of my business to be commenting on the sexuality of another person, let alone a woman who lived nearly a thousand years ago, I will concede that there is perhaps something going on in chapter 74. After speaking of kissing female lepers on the mouth, the text makes note of a virgin woman with ‘many temptations,’ and states that Margery ‘went to her many times’. She is the only leper in this chapter who is singled out and so it seems plausible that Margery fancied this woman, or at least got some sort of pleasure by visiting her. Again, it seems foolish to try and make such an assumption, but when reading I couldn’t help but think it (especially since the woman is identified as having trouble with sexual desire).
It seems to me, though, that Margery did not care who she kissed (as long as it was a leper with a mouth) and that the chief purpose was to degrade or possibly infect herself.