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INSIDE TRACK: Our confused attitudes towards female sexuality

Rihanna's capacity to make headlines is one of the wonders of contemporary culture.

No sooner has the fuss about the glittery see-through dress she wore to the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards died down (slightly), than another begins, this time about a new risque poster for the singer's new perfume, Rogue.

This may have something to do with the fact that Rihanna appears in the poster naked but for a pair of high heels. (Do you detect a theme here?) When the ad was spotted in a shopping centre a complaint was made to the ASA, claiming the poster was "overly sexual and demeaning to women" as well as being inappropriate for children.

Defending the poster, the perfume's manufacturers, Parlux, argued that the image placed the singer in a "position of power" and reflected her "courage to challenge boundaries", an argument the ASA did, in fact, accept. Even so, it felt the poster was best kept away from children's eyes if possible, and restricted its use.

How much of a difference will this make when Rihanna usually appears in her videos and on the covers of her albums in various states of undress, you may ask. The singer is clearly a woman with few obvious body issues. "My tits bother you?" she said to one reporter at the CFDA Awards. "They are covered in Swarovski crystals, girl." In short, Rihanna is a signifier of either pop's commodification of sexuality and/or female sexual confidence. You choose. She is also a 25-year-old woman and how many of us would want to be held to account for the decisions we made at that age?

There are other ways to be provocative, of course. She could speak out against domestic abuse or - if that's too close to home - argue for equal pay at the bottom of the pay scale as well as the top. But if you want front-page publicity it's possible a see-through dress may be the more reliable route.

There is another - very similar - poster controversy making the headlines this week. In the United States the Motion Picture Association of America has rejected a proposed poster for the new film Sin City: A Dame to Kill For featuring the actor Eva Green wearing a sheer bathrobe. The MPAA ruling has rejected the poster because it displays "nudity - curve of under breast and dark nipple/areola circle visible through sheer gown". The result is that the poster is now all over the internet.

As a culture our attitudes towards sexuality - or to be more specific, female sexuality - are hideously confused. We ban it and at the same time we exploit it to sell everything - from records to perfume to movies. Compare that to the way we objectify masculinity. Or don't. Apart from maybe David Beckham or Ronaldo, how many men sell themselves on their physicality?

And did any men turn up in see-through tux at the same fashion awards as Rihanna? Thought not. The world looks through male eyes.

One more thing. If you do Google the Eva Green poster there's something else on display other than the actor herself. In her hand she has a gun. And that tells us what? That guns don't get posters banned, it seems. Semi-naked people do.

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