The Bell Jar takes a long, hard look at the place of sexuality in 1950s American society, and, ladies and gentleman, it's not pretty. For women, sexuality is divorced from any expression of love or passion. While it's considered natural for men to have sexual desires and to indulge these desires outside marriage, women are expected to remain chaste until they marry, and when they do marry, sex is all about having babies – it has nothing to do with romance or intimacy. The darker side of this sexual double standard is that sex is often associated with violence in the novel in ways that blur the line between consensual sex and rape: the sexual act is portrayed as another way for men to assert their dominance over women. The intimacy between Joan and DeeDee offers an interesting contrast to the violence associated with heterosexual sex.
The Bell Jar examines the way that chastity and virginity are terms used to restrict women's sexual independence.
The Bell Jar shows how violence is almost an inevitable consequence of sexual relationships between men and women in a society where women are considered inferior to men.