Kate Mulvey: Here comes summer, and already the prudes are telling us to put it away

Ever since Eve tempted Adam to eat her apple, women have been exalted for their beauty rather than for their brains
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The Independent Online

Here we go again. As summer gets under way and über-gorgeous babes strut their stuff in micro minis and cleavage-enhancing tops, along comes another "neo-prude" telling us to put them away. This time it's Anna Diamantopoulou, 44, the EU's social affairs commissioner, who wants to censor "sexist" television programmes and adverts, which she claims are an "affront to human dignity". In an extreme move, Diamantopoulou wants to hand the courts powers to block TV shows that include what she claims are stereotypical portrayals of women.

If these proposals do become law, they would affect programmes aimed at predominantly male audiences such as BBC2's motoring show, Top Gear, and raunchy advertisements like the controversial "hello boys" Wonderbra poster. Billboard ads like the infamous one for Opium perfume would also be outlawed. That advert caused the raising of feminist hackles, when it depicted a buxom Sophie Dahl draped sensuously over a chaise-longue wearing nothing but a come-hither smile. The protests led to her figure disappearing from the billboards. Now another of our precious freedoms will disappear if Ms Diamantopoulou gets her way.

So is there no end to the humourless, politically correct brigade? Do they expect no more boobs on the Beeb? Sex sells, always has and always will. Ever since the first blonde bombshell, Eve, tempted Adam to eat her Granny Smith apple, women have been exalted for their beauty rather than for their brains. When it comes to female icons, it is not the compassion and self-sacrifice of Mother Teresa that is imprinted on the popular imagination; it is the explosive breasts of a young Marilyn Monroe with an air vent wafting up her skirt and her bottom on full display.

Take Kylie Mynogue. She has an average voice, her songs are mindless jingles, but with her pert sexuality and her perfect derrière, she eclipses countless female singers who concentrate on complicated chord structures instead of working out in the gym. We may have gone to the moon and developed global communications systems, but when it comes to the portrayal of women, it is the same old cliché.

Scientists from Charles Darwin to Richard Dawkins say there is a scientific explanation for the "phwoar factor". Rather than God ruling mankind, it's sex that dominates. We are, according to popular scientists, mere "gene carriers", and it is the perpetuation of our genes that is the prime and most powerful motivating force in man. In other words, it is not the man's fault if his head turns 360 degrees every time a 21-year-old babe-licious female walks by; it is biology.

This is where Diamantopoulou and her disapproving sisters are getting it wrong. She says that sexism has ruined her life since childhood. Any woman who has lost out on opportunities, been turned down for a job, or suffered harassment will sympathise. But her distress has only led her to confuse serious sexism and misogyny with the natural order of things.

In the wild, the female baboon shoves her reddened rump into the male baboon's face when she is feeling horny. Women may not be quite so brutal, but when we put on lipstick and a padded bra it is just another way to signal to the male that we, too, are up for it. Walk into any bar, party or indeed down any street and you will not find women wearing shapeless sacks and slapping men round the face who dare to look in their direction. Not a bit of it. They are out there flashing eyelashes, smiling provocatively and enjoying every minute of the oldest game in the book - the courtship dance. Part of the job of TV and advertising is to reflect what is going on in society, even if that means that women are shown as sexual objects some of the time. And overcoming sexism can mean playing up the powers that your sex bestows on you.

I am not offended when I see women draped over Ford Fiestas, or Britney Spears gyrating to the sound of Brit pop. Seeing breasts on TV is hardly an "affront to human dignity". Why, women have been known to laugh at it.

So, Ms Diamantopoulou, don't take yourself - and sex - so seriously. Should you want to spend your time campaigning there are many other causes that really are an affront to human rights.