"This article was written by a married woman lawyer with children and called 'In Defence of Chastity'."

As is clear throughout The Bell Jar, young women in 1950s America were expected to keep themselves 'pure' for the man they were going to marry, whilst at the same time being under pressure to make themselves sexually desirable to their dates.

The Catch-22 situation is summed up very neatly by Anne Stevenson (whose own American upbringing coincided with that of Plath) in Bitter Fame, her biography of Plath, when she says: 'Everything was permissible to girls in the way of intimacy except the one thing such intimacies were intended to bring about' (p.19).

However, as Esther Greenwood found out, there was no shortage of advice: