Aspiring night in the Mayhem nightclub in Southend. About a dozen girls, all in tiny hotpants and towering wedge heels, with dark fake tans and shiny, straightened hair, made their way over to a group of men who were standing by a large, empty bed.
The men's job was to choose who should enter a Babes On The Bed competition.
Of the hundreds of women selected to pose on beds in nightclubs all over Britain for this contest, one would be given a modelling contract with Nuts magazine.
In this context, modelling means glamour modelling, the coy words for posing almost naked for men's magazines. 'I want to do it to make my mum proud,' said one young woman, Lauren, in denim hotpants and tight, yellow crop top.
The girls got on the bed one by one, as Cara Brett, an established glamour model, took the microphone and began to direct them into more and more suggestive poses.
'Why not on all fours? Let's get those off,' she urged impatiently. 'If you're going to be a winner, you've got to show some skin.'
A plump young woman in mauve bra and knickers was one of the first to slip off her bra and jiggle her breasts at the cameras.
As the display became more sexual, the underwear unpeeling from the smooth skin of teenage women, the men in the club began to chant, heavily and fast, and to press nearer and nearer to the stage.
The men were using their phones to video and photograph the girls as they took off their clothes. One girl, who was a bit too fleshy around the middle and not fleshy enough around the chest, came in for boos rather than cheers. She looked tearful as she went back into the line.
The shortlisting was done at top speed - only women who flashed their breasts or their thongs for the crowd were called back for the final four.
'Come on,' said Cara impatiently, 'let's show some skin, girls. Let me help you out of these.' She dragged the hotpants off one girl, showing her sequined thong. The crowd erupted, and that girl was judged the winner.
As I saw for myself that evening in the Mayhem nightclub, and as one can see any night of the week in clubs up and down the UK, images that a previous generation often saw as degrading for women have now been taken up as playful and even aspirational.
For more than 200 years, feminists have been criticising the way that artificial images of feminine beauty are held up as the ideal to which women should aspire.
From Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman in 1792, to Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth in 1991, brilliant and angry women have demanded a change in these ideals.
Yet far from fading away, these ideals have become more powerful than ever. What's more, throughout much of our society, the image of female perfection to which women are encouraged to aspire has become more and more defined by sexual allure.
Of course, wanting to be sexually attractive has always been and will always be a natural desire for men and women. But in this generation, a certain view of female sexuality has become celebrated, and it's one defined by the terms of the sex industry.
The narrowing of what it means to be sexy - slender with large breasts on show - arises from the way that the sex industry has moved from the margins to the mainstream of our society.
This is thanks to the resurgence of glamour modelling; to the sudden growth of lapdancing clubs in town centres; from a new fashion for poledancing, to the popularity of memoirs of prostitution that suggest selling sex is a great way for a woman to earn her living; and, above all, to the much greater presence of pornography in the lives of many young people, driven by the internet.
This highly sexualised culture is often positively celebrated as a sign of women's liberation and empowerment.
It was indeed an aim of the women's liberation movement of the 1970s that women should be released from conventional morality around sex, which had confined them to idealised chastity on the one hand or contemptible promiscuity on the other.
The fact that women can now be sexually active and experienced without being condemned is a direct result of that feminism - and all aspects of the current 'hypersexual' culture are seen as proof of women's growing freedom and power.
Glamour modelling is seen by many who participate in the industry as a marker not of persistent male sexism, but of women's new confidence.
This equation of empowerment and liberation with sexual objectification is now seen everywhere, and is having a real effect on the ambitions of young women.
Ellie is an articulate, well-educated woman who went to private school and a good university, and was brought up to believe she could do anything in any profession - law, medicine, politics.
Instead, she decided she wanted to be an actor, but when jobs were hard to find and she found herself financially desperate, she took a sideways step in her 20s by going to work in a lapdancing club in London.
She didn't feel, at first, that it would be very difficult. She told me she had picked up messages from our culture that lapdancing was pretty straightforward and even empowering for the women who do it.
'People say that, don't they,' she said. 'There's this myth that women are expressing their sexuality freely in this way, and that as they can make lots of money out of it, it gives them power over the men who are paying.'
This was not what she found, however. She was shocked to discover quite how demeaning and dehumanising she found the work. In the situation of the club, women became more like dolls than people.
'You look like cartoons. You give yourself a fake girly name, like a doll. You're encouraged to look like dolls. No wonder the men don't see you as people.'
Gavin Lloyd runs the PR for Mayhem club in Southend.
'Girls come in here every night wearing just their underwear,' he explained to me.
'The sort of thing you might expect just to see in your bedroom on a special night once upon a time. They're all getting breast implants now - 18-year-olds who a few years ago would be saving for their first car, they're all saving for a boob job.
'I know six, seven girls who've had it done in the past six months. They all think it'll be a route to their fortune. For some girls it is - you look at Jordan or Melinda Messenger or Jodie Marsh. That's what they are all thinking of. That's where they'd all like to be.'
In 2006, a survey was carried out among teenage girls suggesting that more than half of them would consider being glamour models, and a third of them saw Jordan as a role model.
The growth of a culture in which so many women feel that their worth is measured by the size of their breasts rather than by any other possible yardstick arrived in the UK apparently out of nowhere.
Dave Read, head of Neon Management, the agency which employs glamour model Cara Brett - yes, she's the one who shouted at those girls in Southend to take their clothes off - is clear that these young women are often fuelled more by desperation than liberation.
'There are so many girls coming through,' he said with some honesty. 'They don't have to look like a Pirelli calendar, it's this girl-next-door thing - just a sexy girl who puts pictures of herself in her knickers online or in a magazine.
'You don't even have to pay those girls. You go to nightclubs in London like Chinawhite any night of the week and you see all these girls milling around, all desperate to bag a footballer and be a glamour model. They come down to London on the strength of one shoot, with stars in their eyes, and they end up up to their ears in debt, pulling pints, lapdancing, prostitution...you name it.'
The effect of these choices, when we look across society, is to reduce rather than increase women's freedom.
Many young women now seem to believe that sexual confidence is the only confidence worth having, and that sexual confidence can be gained only if a young woman is ready to conform to the soft-porn image of a tanned, waxed young girl with large breasts.
Whether sexual confidence can be found in other ways, and whether other kinds of confidence are worth seeking, are themes that this obsessively sexual culture does not seem able to address.
Feminists discouraged women to cease seeing a good woman's life as defined through service to others, as it had been throughout the 19th century, and instead encouraged them to focus on their own desires and independence.
But that focus on independence and self-expression is now sold back to young women as the narrowest kind of self-objectification.
The belief that even young girls will want to 'express themselves' through perfecting their appearance means that girls as young as eight or nine are being expected to devote energy to dieting, grooming and shopping.
American writer Joan Jacobs Brumberg is a historian who has looked at the diaries of young girls to see how the idea of self-improvement has changed over the years.
She says: 'Before World War I, girls rarely mentioned their bodies in terms of strategies for self-improvement, or struggles for personal identity. Becoming a better person meant paying less attention to the self, giving more assistance to others, and putting more effort into instructive reading or lessons at school.
'In 1892, an adolescent diarist wrote: "Resolved not to talk about myself or feelings. To think before speaking. To work seriously. To be self restrained in conversation and actions. Not to let my thoughts wander. To be dignified. Interest myself more in others."'
A century later, Brumberg found a typical diary entry of contemporary girlhood: 'I will try to make myself better in any way I possibly can with the help of my budget and babysitting money. I will lose weight, get new lenses, already got new haircut, good make-up, new clothes and accessories.'
Recent surveys have discovered that nearly three-quarters of adolescent girls are dissatisfied with their body shape and more than a third are dieting; one study found that even among 11-year-olds, one in five is trying to lose weight; another study found that most six-year-olds would prefer to be thinner than they are.
The online social networking that forms an intrinsic part of almost all young women's lives relies on careful self-presentation, and this often conforms to an aesthetic shaped by the semi-pornographic images they find elsewhere in their culture.
'They are all taking photographs of each other,' one mother of a teenager said to me, 'and it's so often a very sexual, provocative type of photography. These 11 and 12-year-old girls - all of a sudden they look like a 16-year-old advertising herself for sex.'
If this early sexualisation of young women was all about their liberation, and they were in control of it, we would not see large numbers of women saying that they regretted their first sexual experiences. But just as the number of girls having sex early has grown, so has the number of girls who look back with regret.
In a study carried out in 2000, 80 per cent of girls who had sex aged 13 or 14 said they regretted it. Since one in four girls has sex below the age of 16, that's a lot of regrets.
Emotion and sex have become divorced for young women, who see themselves solely in terms of their sexual appeal. I talked to a group of teenage girls who summed up the view of sex that many young women now have.
'We were saying that one week we should go out and try to notch up as many lovers as we can, with the most variety possible - age, gender, jobs, backgrounds...' said Ruby.
'You know that bit in Sex And The City when Miranda got an STD and had to ring all the people she had ever slept with, and she was totting them up and couldn't believe how many it was - I thought, that's me one day,' Bella said, smiling.
Far from feeling isolated by their desire to be promiscuous, these girls took heart from the way that the culture around them reflected and reinforced their behaviour. They liked the sexually explicit world in which they moved.
In this universe, the woman who has won is the one who prioritises her physical perfection and silences any discomfort she may feel about doing that.
This objectified woman, so often celebrated as the wife or girlfriend of the heroic male rather than the heroine of her own life, is the living doll who has replaced the liberated woman who should be making her way into the 21st century. And that is a tragedy.
The fail, it hurts!
Right, where do I start? Yes, there has been a sexualisation of our culture, especially with young women and teen girls but that was not caused by feminism! Why would somebody even think that a movement to give women equal rights would lead to chaos and this crap this so called journalist is spouting? How about the media taking a little credit for splashing half naked barely legal women across their newspapers, or let's take a look at the sidebar to the Daily Fail's website and see how often looks/weight/age are mentioned. Maybe the self righteous self appointed guardians of morality should go back to ranting about ASBOs and speed cameras.